Yuen Kay Shan
Yuen Kay Shan, the legendary Wing chun master from Foshan China, was born into a very wealthy merchant family in 1889(1889–1956). Yuen Kay Shan was the 5th child born to Yuen Chong Ming, the owner of a fireworks factory in Foshan province. Yuen Kay’s nickname was “Yuen Lo Jia” (Yuen the Fifth) or Ng Suk (Younger Uncle Five) or Jia Gung (Grandfather Five).
As a young boy he loved martial art’s, being inspired by the old stories of the era of hero’s and the Siu Lum Temple. Yuen Chong Ming, being a business owner in Foshan, knew the family of the legendary “King of Wing Chun Kuen”, Dr. Leung Jan. Because of his friendship with the Leung family, Yuen Chong Ming was aware there were several branches of Wing Chun developing in Foshan. Even in the times of the late 1800’s the Wing Chun system had split into several different branches that were several generations removed from the original Red Boat Wing chun system. Wanting the very best Wing Chun for his 2 sons, Yuen Kay Shan and Yuen Chai Wan, Yuen Chong hired the famous Wing Chun master Fok Bo Chuen to teach his sons the original, undiluted and unmodified Red Boat Wing Chun. Yuen Chong heard of Constable Fok Bo Chuen’s legendary skill with the “Yee Gee Dao” from the Leung Family, as Fok Bo had learnt along side Leung Jan from Wong Wah Bo. Oral tradition from the Yuen Family states that Fok Bo Chuen also was a classmate of Fung Siu Ching, having learnt from Dai Fa Min Kam at a later date.
The Yuen brother’s were fortunate to have had Fok Bo Chuen move in to the Yuen Family estate, which was known as “Mulberry Garden’s” in those days (today it is the Futsan Fo Yin Road, at the City Bureau). This was the older tradition of learning from a master, where you would support the master, giving him shelter, food, and a stipend, for his passing on his entire kung fu system to you and your family. Fok Bo was a feared Constable, had a comprehensive understanding of the Wing Chun system, due to using it, in his profession, on a day to day basis. Yuen Kay Shan began learning the “Red Sand Palm”, a skill that Fok Bo was famous for. Yuen Kay Shan first began spearing rice in a bucket with his fingers and palms, and then progressed onto coarse sands and continued until he could spear iron sands without hurting his skin. Finally, he achieved a skill so refined, that he could spear his hand into a bag of rice with one blow to retrieve a copper coin placed in the bag. Yuen Kay Shan and his brother Yuen Chai Wan learned the Hand Forms, several different Jong Forms including a Muk Yan Jong, Gwun Jong, and Juk Jong, Gwun, Yee Jee Dao, and Fei Biu (Flying Nail Darts not extinct from Wing Chun) from Fok Bo Chuen, receiving a very well rounded understanding of the Wing Chun Kuen System.
Yuen Kay Shan never had to work for a living even though he qualified as a lawyer and chose to work part time in the city of Foshan. Due to being extremely educated, Yuen Kay was the first to take systematic notes on the Wing Chun Kuen System, Concepts, and Principles. He also meticulously documented the system’s history as transmitted by his 2 teachers. Yuen Passed his had written notes to his only disciple and successor, Sum Num. Which in modern times were stolen by an unscrupulous family member.
Yuen Kay Shan’s Wing Chun techniques reached a very high level. Some tradition states his father was still insistent there might be more to learn. Other tradition states that Fok Bo Chuen suggested Yuen Kay Shan learn from his classmate Fung Siu Chung, as Fung had mastered some different methods like close body locks and throws. Fung was a famous Imperial Marshal (Bo-Tao) in the Ching dynasty. In those days Marshals hunted down criminals and brought them to justice. As such you had to be able to capture without killing the most dangerous criminals in China. Fung Siu Ching became one of the most feared marshal’s in all of southern China.
Oral tradition as passed down by Sum Num states that Yuen Chong Ming invited Fung Siu Ching to visit the Yuen house in Mulberry Gardens, to meet his 2 son’s. Yuen Chong Ming told Fung that Yuen Kay Shan and Yuen Chai Wan had both mastered Wing Chun under Fok Bo Chuen, Fung Siu’s Wing Chun classmate. Contrary to what some in modern times have passed down about Fung Siu Ching, according to Yuen Kay Shan, as he related to Sum Num, both Fok Bo Chuen and Fung Siu Ching both had learnt on the Red Boats and both had the same Wing Chun. The only real difference was Fok Bo Chuen passed down the 3 Hand Form archival method of Wong Wah Bo, and Fung Siu Ching passed down the San Sik method of Dai Fa Min Kam. Fung Siu also specialized in Close body applications, where as Fok Bo specialized in the Snake hand and Bamboo Jong Soft skills.
Some tradition states Fung Siu Ching doubted he had anything to teach Yuen Kay and his brother. Yuen Kay felt that Fung at his age and experience would have to have skills above and beyond, what he had mastered. At his beckoning he had Fung engage him in a friendly contest of skill. Three times they engaged, Yuen Kay San told Sum Num. The first two times it seemed both were evenly matched and neither could prevail. Fung reportedly praised Yuen Kay San and was about to leave but Yuen’s father insisted there be one final encounter. The two engaged. Yuen apparently drove the old Marshal back to a wall and it looked like he had overrun him - in the exact words Sum Num says Yuen Kay San described it “something strange happened”. All of a sudden Yuen was thrown back to the center of the room, due to a shoulder strike! This was apparently the close body method that Fung Siu Ching became feared for, during his time as a Marshal, Bounty Hunter, and Bodyguard. Fung agreed he still had something he could teach the Yuen brothers and agreed with Yuen Chong Ming to accept gratuity for life, in exchange for imparting his skills to the 2 brothers. Yuen Kay San’s education included close body skills like Throwing, Sweeping, Body Wrapping, as well as refined Kum Na, Fa Kum Na, Jong and Gwun method. Fung also taught Bo Tze or finger breaking skill, which was something he used frequently in his profession. This is the grappling of Wing Chun that is lost to most modern day interpretations of the system.
Yuen Kay Shan was also the last generation master to know the Fei bui (flying darts), which were apparently like six inch nails with ribbons attached to them. Other versions, like the ones Cheung Bo used were sharpened Coins. Yuen’s accuracy was such that he never missed what he intended to hit. Sum Num related a story about how he was discussing the accuracy of the Darts when a bird flew overhead. Yuen impaled it with a flick of the wrist. The mechanics of the darts were such that they were invisible. The darts just “appeared” in the target. They were apparently worn in a wrist cuff and snapped into the hand then thrown in a move similar to the Wing Chun punch.
As Fung Siu Ching and Fok Bo Chuen were both famous for their use of the Yee Jee Dao, Yuen Kay Shan was also known for his peerless skill, that he learned from his teachers. Oral tradition states Yuen Kay would demonstrate his knives whilst he was wearing white clothing and his would have his friends throw cotton balls soaked with ink at him. He would than cut and deflect the ink soaked balls with his knives managing to not allow even one drop of ink to touch his clothing. Yuen Kay Shan along side Leung Jan, and Fung Siu Ching was looked at as one of the founders of the “Six and a Half Point Method”.
Due to his Skill and his achievement in the Wing Chun style, the local martial artists publicly regarded Yuen Kay Shan, along side Leung Jan as one of the leaders of the style. Both Leung Jan and Yuen Kay Shan helped refine the Wing Chun system into what we see today. Yuen Kay Shan took a humble and reserved approach when facing unfriendly challenge matches. He always emphasized the morality of the martial arts. When he couldn’t avoid these challenges, he took them as ways of exhibiting Chinese martial arts, and the refined aspects of man and his development.
Yuen Kay accepted a very limited number of students and only had one disciple, Sum Num. Yip Man (The man that brought Wing Chun to Hong Kong in 1949 and first taught the system to the public) and his family, were neighbors of the Yuen’s. Yip Man’s father was a fellow merchant of Yuen Chong Ming. Yip Man’s grandfather had been an opium boat captain and some locals took exception to him gaining wealth in that fashion so burnt down the Yip estate. Yuen’s father took the Yip clan in and housed them in his estate for a time. During this time Yuen Chong Ming asked Yuen to teach young Yip Man some Chi Sau as Young Yip had not learnt this from his quasi teacher, Ng Chung So. Yuen wasn’t happy doing this as Yip was Ng’s student and did different Wing Chun. However, at His father’s urging, Yuen did teach Yip a little chi sau. Yip was asked not to show this to his elder gwoon brothers but later did so, defeating them. Yuen Kay also taught his Friend Wong Jing, who would later pass his art down to his son Mai Gai Wong.
- Oral and Written Account Yuen Kay Shan
- Oral and Written Account Sum Num
- Oral and Written Account Yuen Jo Tong
- Oral and Written Account Zopa Gyatso
- Leungs Publishing
- New Martial Hero
- Wulin Magazine
- Foshan and Guangzhou Jing Wu