Folklore legend says the Kungfu style “Wing Chun Kuen” or Wing Chun Fists was first introduced and created by Lady Grand Master Ng Mui (五枚師太) who was a buddist nun in the 1700s period. It was the essence of genuine Southern China Shaolin Kung Fu, differently not to imitate animals’ predatory and defense movements, but rather it was created based on geometrical and physics principles.
The name “Wing Chun” was framed by LGM Wu Mei after she met and taught this system of Kungfu to a slender young girl named Yim Wing Chun, to lower the attention of Ching Dynasty officials since Shaolin kungfu disciples were regarded as rebels at that time. Thereby, not many people knew of this kungfu style, and those who knew and practiced it were members of the “Red-boats”. Red-boats were a community of Chinese opera actors, who lived and travelled along river deltas in Southern China and wore colored make-ups on and off stage to disguise their identities (as rebels).
Eventually Wing Chun Kuen was taught over a few generations, and to a young chivalric man named Leung Jan during the late Ching Dynasty (mid-1800s) who resided in Foshan and taught outside of the Red-boats community to students there.
One of Leung’s leading student was Chan Wah Shun (nicknamed “Jou Chin Wah” or Money-Exchanger Wah), who helped carried on the heritage and opened public schools to teach to other locals, including his own son Chan Yue Min and later Ip Man. Chan who was a master of Wing Chun taught to a young man named Chiu Chow in the early years of 1900s.
After following years Chiu Chow received two students, Pang Nam and Chiu Wan (cousin of Chiu Chow), who was then just 8 years old when he started learning.
In the war-torn years of the 1940s, Chiu Wan, then a police officer, was forced to flee as a refugee to Hong Kong when the Communist government took power in China in 1949. Upon arrival in HK, he found Ip Man (who originated from the same Foshan township) and became close friends. Due to traditional Chinese heritage of meeting people of the same origins and spoke same dialect, in such turmoil times, instantly made Chiu and Ip “relatives-like”. While Chiu Wan knew Ip Man’s Wing Chun skills had excelled, it was natural for him to seek Ip’s acceptance as a student and offered Ip with an official “3-kneel, 9-bows” ceremony. It was known that Chiu was the only student of Ip’s to have done so in any of his student acceptance ceremony.
Ip Man came from a wealthy bureaucrat family and was the last student of Chan Wah Shun in Foshan. He studied from six to thirteen years old until Chan passed away. At the age of fourteen, he left to Hong Kong to continue his academics, and thus met his second Wing Chun teacher, Leung Bik. Leung was the eldest son of the Leung Jan. It was believed that Ip’s Wing Chun excelled greatly during these years learning and practicing with Leung Bik.
Hong Kong in the mid-1950s to early 1970s saw a boom in learning Kungfu as it was a very popular hobby and activity amongst the locals. It saw many teachers (Sifus) of different disciplines residing and teaching in Hong Kong. Many of whom like Ip Man and Chiu Wan, were immigrants of war-torn China in the late 1940s. Wing Chun flourished under Ip Man’s teachings and many students flocked to greet and asked for his acceptance as students, as they saw how Wing Chun was fun-learning and can be used effectively, especially in street-fight scenarios. Many lineages were also thus formed, and one of which was Chiu Wan’s. It was during Ip Man’s 75th birthday banquet party in 1968, when Chiu was confidently selected and asked by his Sifu Ip Man to perform “Chum Kiu” on stage in front of a crowd of many Sifus, that made Chiu Wan instant fame. Many sifus saw his performance represented of what true Wing Chun was and responded with roars of applause.
Chiu Wan opened his first Wing Chun school in 1964, and for the next ten years he accepted well over 300 students from all walks of life. Some of which later became famous HK Kungfu movie stars, such as Guy Lai, Ti Lung and Lee Hoi San to name a few. All of whom are great Wing Chun practitioners and Sifus to this day.
In 1972, Ip Man fell ill of cancer. During his last healthy days, he purposely one day wrote a sign using traditional Chinese calligraphy – “True Genuine Wing Chun – by Ip Man”, and donated it as a gift to Chiu Wan to hang on the cellar wall of his new academy’s grand opening. This sign was the only one that Ip ever preciously wrote and donated to any of his students, evidently signifying of his acknowledgment of the Wing Chun skills Chiu Wan and his lineage possessed.
Ip passed away peacefully a few months after, as a true legend and father of Wing Chun. Ironically, Chiu Wan also suffered from cancer the following year and sadly passed away in late 1973.
Since his passing, Chiu Wan’s lineage of Wing Chun has been proudly carried onwards by his two sons Chiu Hung Kwan, and Chiu Hung Kwok; who both have schools and are actively teaching the Wing Chun in Hong Kong today.