“Who realized Ip Man’s skill? All my training brothers respected Ip Man because he never hurt them, nor were they skillful enough to hurt him. Ip Man in the 1950s was the epitome of sensitivity; he could immediately read his opponent’s intention.”
I’ve started to read Benjamin Judkins (scholar and author of the Kung Fu Tea website) new book, The Creation of Wing Chun: A Social History of the Southern Chinese Martial Arts.
Its an academic study (in much the same style as his Kung Fu Tea articles, on the history of Chinese martial arts in the late 19th and early 20th century, focusing particularly on Ip Man and Wing Chun.
Like many academic books, its expensive ($80 or so), but luckily for me, my University bought it so I was able to read it as a perk for working here. If you don’t want to buy it but want to read it, I suggest using your local library’s InterLibrary Loan program. Sometimes they won’t lend really new books (this one came out in September) but you never know.
As a pseudo-scholar of Wing Chun myself, the book has not exactly been full of surprises, although it does conveniently collect into one place most of the useful biographical and historical information. The real value for me so far (I’m about 2/3 of the way through it) has been the historical and cultural context, which helps frame a lot of my otherwise very vague understanding of the history of kung fu.
Although I am a big Bruce Lee fan and spent my twenties obsessing over the fight scenes in his movies, as I’ve learned Wing Chun myself and studied the art’s earlier teachers, I’ve often been struck by the way in which Lee really was a spokesperson for the lineage of ideas that preceded him, coming to him from Ip Man and Wong Shun Leung and other sources.