When Grandmaster Lee Shing passed away in 1991 he was European and U.K 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 a lifetime’s dedication to Wing Chun and his impact on the development of Wing Chun in Europe has been very significant and yet it is a largely untold story. Outside of the Chinese martial arts community and the top circles of other martial arts styles, few know of his great achievements. In most books on Wing Chun, Grandmaster Lee Shing receives barely a mention yet, as shall be seen, his contribution was very important. This article is intended as a tribute to the great ability and skill of the Late Grandmaster Lee Shing as a Wing Chun practitioner and teacher. It provides a brief outline of his career and his students and is designed to honour his memory.
Grandmaster Lee Shing was born in 1923 in Hoxan in Southern China. He first studied Gulao (Pien San) Wing Chun at an early age in mainland China under his first teacher Fong Yee Ming, who himself had learnt from Wong Wah Sam who had learnt from Leung Jan. Lee Shing was a keen disciple and was inspired to research the different styles of Wing Chun, He therefore, in his research, went on to study under Fung Sang who was one of the central points of Pien San Wing Chun, having studied under his father Fung Lim and his uncle Koo Siu-Lung (both students of Wong Wah Sam). He then went on to learn from the famous Kung Fu Master Ng Jung So.
After the Second World War, Lee Shing moved to Hong Kong where he met and became friends and eventually the business partner of two Wing Chun experts, Lok Yiu and Jiu Wan. They were two of the four leading practicioners 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 ideas and comparison of styles took place between Lee Shing, Lok Yiu and Jiu Wan.
While working in their offices, 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. Later they all sat to play Mah Jog (a traditional Chinese gambling game). 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, Grandmaster Yip Man taught Lee Shing 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 knife 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 knife form. He was allowed to open up a school on Hong Kong Island in the early 50s - 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.
Grandmaster Lee Shing with his student Joseph Cheng was a key figure in promoting the art of Wing Chun at this time. He had begun studying under Grandmaster Lee Shing in 1965 and was the first person to teach Wing Chun openly in the U.K., opening the first Wing Chun School in Europe in 1970. In 1976, with Grandmaster Lee Shing’s blessing, Joseph Cheng wrote the first book ever published on the hitherto secret techniques of the wooden dummy form of Wing Chun called ‘Chong Woo Kwan Wing Chun’ - The Art of Simultaneous Defence and Attack’.
Other students of Grandmaster Lee Shing had begun to teach and open schools. Eddie Yeoh has a Wing Chun school run by some of his senior students. He currently runs an actors agency in the U.K. Nigel Fan, (who passed away recently) was the first and only Chinese qualified stuntman in the U.K. also studied under Grandmaster Lee Shing. He had established many Wing Chun instructors and had a Wing Chun school in London.
Grandmaster 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 Grandmaster Lee Shing had a close friendship with Grandmaster Yip Chun, eldest son of Yip Man. There was great mutual respect on both sides. After Grandmaster 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 U.K. Grandmaster Yip Chun would visit Grandmaster Lee Shing and stay in his house as an honoured guest to discuss amongst other things the further promotion of Wing Chun in U.K. and Europe.
When Grandmaster Lee Shing decided to emigrate to Canada, he presented the butterfly knives that he had received from Grandmaster Yip Man to one of his students, Joseph Lee, to continue his association - the International Lee Shing Wing Chun Martial Arts Association. He asked Joseph Lee to look after the organisation in the U.K. in his absence and to take the knives as a symbol of his authority. Sadly Grandmaster Lee Shing passed away in 1991 and since that time Joseph Lee has begun to follow in his Master’s footsteps and teach openly the art of Wing Chun.
This article is dedicated to honour the memory of Grandmaster Lee Shing, the Wing Chun Family especially of the Lee Shing lineage. He lives on through the spirit and practise of all of his students and their teachings. It is hoped that his great skill and learning will be better understood. He taught not simply how to be skilful in the art of Wing Chun but how to develop the respect and discipline that is essential for all those who practice martial arts. His place in the history of Wing Chun is secure.
Though he was always one to shun the spotlight, the late Grandmaster Lee Shing should be given full credit for bringing the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun to United Kingdom. Thanks to him, a whole new generation of kung fu instructors have spread the art far and wide. Those who trained under the grandmaster are many and varied. They include Hau Bin Sum, Chan Man Kune, Joseph Cheng, Eddie Yeoh, Sam Kwok, Simon Lau, Nigel Fan, Austin Goh, Joseph Man, Kenny Chan and, of course, Joseph Lee.