Ip Man’s Private Student: Wing Chun Master Lee Shing
Master Lee Shing was born in 1923 in Hoxan in Southern China.
Lee Shing moved to Hong Kong where he met and became friends with two Wing Chun experts, Lok Yiu and Jiu Wan. They were two of the four leading practitioners of Wing Chun in Hong Kong who became known in Wing Chun circles as the “Four Kings of Wing Chun”. The other two were Leung Sheung and Tsui Shan Tin. It was not long before an exchange of styles took place between Lee Shing, Lok Yiu and later Jiu Wan.
He was the European and UK president of the Yip Man Martial Arts Association, and founder of the International Lee Shing Wing Chun Martial Arts Association. He was also a member of the Hong Kong Kowloon Chinese Medical Association and was a qualified Chinese doctor. These positions are testimony to his lifetime’s dedication to Wing Chun and his impact on the development of Wing Chun in Europe, which has been very significant and yet it is largely an untold story.
While they were working together one day, an older gentleman entered wearing the traditional Chinese dress. Lee Shing noticed that the others greeted the man very respectfully, so much so that he was curious to know who he was. It was then that the stranger was revealed to be none other than Grandmaster Yip Man, the teacher of the “Four Kings” of Wing Chun; in fact Lok Yiu, a former master of another kung fu style, was Grandmaster Yip Man’s first student in Hong Kong.
Lee Shing was formally introduced by Jiu Wan to Grandmaster Yip Man. At the time Grandmaster Yip Man was teaching Wing Chun in Hong Kong’s Restaurant Workers’ Union. Lee Shing was fortunate enough to be accepted by Grandmaster Yip Man as a student and received instruction privately from him on a one-to-one basis.He was known only to Grandmaster Yip Man’s senior students and later to Grandmaster Yip Man’s eldest son Yip Chun. Over the years, Lee Shing learnt the complete Wing Chun system. He had mastered the three hand forms, the Wooden Dummy form, the Six-and-a-Half Point Pole form and most importantly of all, Grandmaster Yip Man had taught Lee Shing the complete Butterfly Knives form and its applications.
This last form was of particular importance as it represented the highest point of learning in Wing Chun. At the time Grandmaster Yip Man had taught only three people the complete knives form. Lee Shing was allowed to open up a school on Hong Kong Island in the early 50’s – with the opening ceremony being conducted by Grandmaster Yip Man himself.
It was at this time that Lee Shing met Yip Chun who had resumed his studies in Wing Chun. The two became firm friends and henceforth when Yip Chun came to England, he would always stay at Lee Shing’s home.
Master Lee Shing brought Wing Chun to Europe and was a major influence on the development of Wing Chun in the Western world. For many years Master Lee Shing had a close friendship with Master Yip Chun, eldest son of Yip Man.
There was great mutual respect on both sides. After Yip Chun’s arrival in Hong Kong from China they were introduced in the famous Yang’s restaurant by Grandmaster Yip Man. Whenever he visited the UK Master Yip Chun would visit Master Lee Shing and stay in his house as an honoured guest to discuss amongst other things, the further promotion of Wing Chun in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Though he was always one to shun the spotlight, Master Lee Shing should be given full credit for bringing the Chinese Martial Art of Wing Chun to the United Kingdom and Europe. Thanks to him, I have been able to spread the art all over the world.