The Black Belt’s Yip Ching interview

I present here an interview of Yip Ching, published in July 1995 in the Black Belt magazine [1].  This interview was conducted by Steve Lee Swift, a Wing Chun instructor from the United States, student of Yip Ching, as well as Eric Montclare, a student of Steve Lee Swift.

I find this interview particularly interesting because Yip Ching mentions anecdotes about his father, Yip Man. This type of interview makes it possible to keep track of the past on the life of the Grand Master through the testimonies of people who lived with him directly.

The Black Belt’s Yip Ching interview

Black Belt (BB) : When did you begin your education in Wing Chun Kung Fu ?

Yip Ching (YC) : I learned when I was very young. I learned siu nim tau [sil lim tao in the original interview] from my father, Yip Man. In 1962, when I was older, I started from the beginning. I later helped my father teach Kung Fu in Hong Kong. I taught the beginning students siu nim tau. My father was nearly 70 years old by this time, which is one reason why I helped him so much.

BB : How popular was Wing Chun in Hong Kong by the 1960s ?

YC : In 1962, Wing Chun was already highly regarded in Hong Kong. A lot of police were learning Wing Chun.

BB : Did people come to the school and challenge you, your father, or your older brother, Yip Chun to fight ?

YC : No one would come and challenge us, but a lot of sparring matches did occur.

Kam Chan Chau (Jin Shan Zhao en mandarin) faces Yip Man in Wilson Yip’s 2008 film Ip Man. This fight of Yip Man against a Master in a Northern style is inspired by a real event.

BB : Do you remember some of these matches ?

YC : Before the Chinese and the Japonese War, there was a man from Kong Sai who was skilled in Eagle Claw Kung Fu. He came to Fatshan [Futshan in the original interview] because there was a Jingwu 精武 [Chin Wu in the original interview] school which allowed everyone to join ; it was not restricted to any one style. The man went to the school and nominated chief instructor because he felt that none of the instructors had good Kung Fu. “You’re Kung Fu is rubbish”, he told them. Martial artists in Fatshan were extremely angry about this remark. As the result, they decided to nominate someone to defend Fatshan and fight this man. Nobody wanted to go, so Yip Man was selected to challenge the intruding Sifu (instructor). The fight was held on the city hall stage. It was like a boxing match ; people had to buy tickets to watch. When the Eagle Claw Master tried to grab Yip Man, Ip parried with a bong sau to laap sau combination [bong sao to lop sao combination in the original interview] . He pulled the guy off stage, knocking him into the seats below. The guy hit his ribs against the chairs and could not continue. In a half-minute, the fight was over and everyone went crasy. People booed because the fight was so lopsided. Yip Man decided to calm the people down by demonstrating his Kung Fu style to them. He opted to perform Wing Chun’s biu tze form [Wing Chun’s bil gee form in the original interview]. After this, everyone knew who Yip Man was and, henceforth, called him Ip Sifu. He was only 35 when this incident took place. [note]

BB : Was it difficult to gain acceptance in the Kung Fu community when you and your brother began to fill your father’s shoes ? Were others jealous of you, and did they expect you to be as talented as your father ?

YC : I got along with all of my Kung Fu brothers because I never had any financial competition. There was never a Kung Fu brother who was unhappy with me.

Yip Ching and Yip Man

BB : When did you start taking over the Wing Chun instruction for your father ?

YC : During the last five or six years of his life I was his assistant due to his increased age.

BB : What part of the Wing Chun system did your father focus on most ?

YC : He concentrated on siu nim tau 小念頭 [sil lim tao in the original interview], the stances and the punches.

BB : What was your father like when you spent time together away from the martial arts ?

IC : Grandmaster Yip Man was a humorous person, full of knowledge about society and life. Together with his experience and personality, I gained more from this than just learning Wing Chun techniques. I felt that life outside the Kung Fu school, as well as inside it, was very happy.

BB : Since your father’s death in 1972, what have you and your brother done to promote Wing Chun ?

YC : Yip Chun and I, together with senior instructors and students, established the Yip Man Wing Chun Athletic Association to develop Wing Chun. It is a shame that students can waste their time, money and effort learning poor techniques from inexperienced instructors. It is this that it most detrimental to the promotion of Wing Chun. We have no way of stopping it. The only thing you can do is try to validate good Wing Chun by forming an association. But if someone does not wish to join, we cannot force him.

BB : You and your brother have been traveling around Europe and the United States, conducting Wing Chun instructional seminars. What do you teach to seminar students ?

YC : We have one main theme – siu nim tau [sil lim tao in the original interview]. We try to have everybody who attends the seminar gain an understanding of the use of energy. We do demonstrations to show corrects Wing Chun techniques, and we take time for people to ask questions. This makes the students attending the seminars happy.

BB : Do your ideas about chi sau (sticking hands) practice differ from your father’s or brother’s ?

YC : Each person is different. Teachers have different builds and interests, and come from different cultures, so each teaches differently. Chi sau 黐手 [chi sao in the original interview] is the most difficult thing to teach in Wing Chun, but it is the most interesting to learn and you can gain the most satisfaction from it. I believe my chi sau is very similar to that of my father, but he was more experienced in his teaching of the art. My brother and I are different in term of age, body build and education, so our performance of chi sau is different because of these things.

BB : How would you describe your father as a Wing Chun instructor ?

YC : I cannot deny that he was the most successful and respected Kung Fu instructor. He didn’t only teach his students good Wing Chun ; he would guide them in their personal development. He would first thoroughly analyse the mentality, character, physical fitness, physique, education standard, culture and power absorption of each student. Then he would teach the students ways and means, according to their different needs, to make sure that every student would absorb and learn easily. I also follow this method.

BB : What do you remember most about your father’s character ?

YC : I respect my father as an honest, generous person. He taught his students how to deal with all life situations.

Bruce Lee and Yip Man playing chi sau 黐手 (arm-clinging)

BB : Did you have an opportunity to see your father teach and/or train with Bruce Lee ?

YC : I remember his relationship with Bruce Lee. They still had good relationship even after bruce Lee developed his Jeet Kune Do. They visited and took tea together.

BB : Didn’t some kind of conflict develop with Lee after your father died ?

YC : When my father passed away, Bruce didn’t show up at the funeral. He was criticized by the martial arts world for that. Later, Bruce phoned me to say I had not informed him of the funeral and that he had been unaware of it because he had been busy filming a movie. We discussed how to solve the situation. I advised him to say nothing to the newspapers or magazines, but to wait until sam cha, which is the remembrance ceremony traditionally held 21 days after a person passes away. It was going to be attended by sons and daughters, close family, and students of my father. I advised Bruce to attend the ceremony, which he did. After that, the matter was forgotten.


Yip Ching indicated this event took place before the Japanese invasion, that is to say before 1938 in the region of Guangzhou. Then he mentioned that Yip Man was 35 at the time of this event in Fatshan. This episode would therefore have taken place in 1918. Note that Yip Ching was born in 1938, so he did not witness this story that he told.

For more details on this confrontation, I refer you to my previous post.


[1] Black Belt, July 1995, p60-62 and p64, Rainbow Publications


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