Born in Hong Kong on May 8, 1935, the eldest son of a Cantonese traditionalist doctor, Wong Shun Leung grew up in the hard world of broken bones, bruises, poultices, and amidst shelves of herbal medicines that had been devised over thousands of years to remedy internal injuries of every kind. As a child he was exposed to fantastic legends of almost superhuman men who controlled and used their bodies like fierce weapons and always against innumerable odds. And because his father was a well acquainted with the local kung fu community, Wong would find himself encountering a fair cross section of Hong Kong’s warrior elite and wondering just how powerful and skilful they really are.
His curiosity and interest in the martial arts, in fact, grew almost on a daily basis. By the time he was eight years old, he could be found sitting in the dark corner of some local cinema watching the last vestiges of silent kung fu movies.
To add impact to Wong’s already blossoming imagination, his grandfather just happened to be a very close friend of Chan Wah Shan, the first of Yip Man’s Ving Tsun teachers. Both grandfather and father would describe Chan’s martial prowess, especially in one particular incident when Chan was already an old man-he publicly defeated a fierce young fighter in Foshan.
As fate would have it, Wong Shun Leung soon discovered his first and most favourite hobby-fighting. School became somewhat a boring proposition for the young Wong, so began frequenting various isolated locations such as the tall apartment complex rooftops and secluded parking lots in Hong Kong, where extracurricular activities could be carried out without interference from the police. Here most local vendettas, gang warfare and personal grievances were settled with a sense of privacy. These duals were not without a sense of honour, however, and Wong quickly learned the rule of etiquette involved-hit first, ask questions later.
As his skills began to improve, he developed relationships with a number of martial art students who eventually convinced him to study formally. Between the ages of 15 and 16, Wong tried a number of kung fu styles and settled first on Tai Chi Chuan, then eventually on Western boxing. He liked boxing the most, because he considered it most practical for street warfare. He found an instructor and began working out in a gym regularly. Unfortunately, a day came when Wong accidentally socked his coach a bit to hard in the face. The coach, infuriated, proceeded to pound Wong into a pulp. Bleeding from both nose and mouth, he then manage to corner his coach and knocked him out stone cold. From that day on there were no boxing lessons; Wong had lost respect for his teacher.