Ip Man’s Win Chun Rules of conduct, Wing Chun Jo Fen 葉問詠春祖訓
Yip Man or Ip Man葉問 (1893 – 1972) was a master of Wing Chun kung fu, 詠春拳 or 永春拳, and was most well-known for one of his students, Bruce Lee. In fact, Wing Chun was an unknown kung fu style until Lee became world famous and mentioned that Wing Chun was his martial arts background.
Today I am not going to write about Ip Man or Bruce Lee as their biographies have been written by many others who are probably much more qualified to write about them.
What I want to write about is Ip Man’s biggest contribution to the martial arts world, the introduction of Wing Chun rules of conduct. Unless you have practiced Wing Chun this Jo Fen should be new to the readers. We have studied Funakoshi’s Niju kun. I believe it is interesting and educational to learn and study this code of conducts.
But first I would like to touch on a little history and the origin of Wing Chun. The exact origin and the accurate date of this style are not known nor historically documented. Due to the particular age and period during middle of the 19th century, when this fighting art was created I suspect it was impossible to create and keep such a document. The time of creation of Wing Chun is said to be in the period after the destruction of the Southern Shaolin temple by the Qing army that attacked and burned the Monastery. According to the legend, the originator is believed to be the young woman, Yim Wing-chun 嚴詠春. She had supposedly learned a fighting style from a Buddhist nun, Ng Mui, who was one of the Shaolin Monastery survivors.
This fighting style is said to be inspired by the nun’s observations of a fight between a snake and a crane. So you can easily guess the techniques of this style. Wing Chun is a striking art, utilizing kicks, punches, elbow strikes, knee strikes and open-handed techniques, primarily used for close-range combat. It is very interesting to examine the style Lee created, Jeet Kune Do 截拳道 and compare it with the techniques of Wing Chun. You will find that there is very little resemblance to his original art. As this is not an article about Lee nor Jeet Kune Do, I will not go any further than one statement. I know there are many blind followers of Bruce Lee and my statement may not please them but I dare to reveal this because of the great respect I have for Ip Man. His deviation was not based on the technical discovery or improvement as Lee wanted us to believe. It was mainly because he needed to adapt the style to look good on the screen. This is not to blame Lee for having done this as he was a movie actor before a martial artist. It was a very natural thing to do and he was very successful with what he did. He should receive the rightful credit for what he did which was to popularize Asian martial arts around the world through the movies he starred. But I must stress that we should never blow up his image more than what he really was and create a god.
OK, let us look at Wing Chu Jo Fen that consisted of nine rules.
Ip Man’s Win Chun Rules of Conduct 葉問詠春祖訓:
We will examine each rule. I will put the original Chinese rule then the translation underneath. The rules are fairly straight forward so there will be little added explanation over the translated sentences.
Chinese writing for rule 1
Remain disciplined and uphold yourself ethically as a martial artist.
Chinese writing for rule 2
Practice courtesy and righteousness, love your country, honor your family and respect your parents.
Chinese writing for rule 3
Love your fellow students, be united and enjoy working together in a harmony.
Chinese writing for rule 4
Control your bodily desires, preserve the sound spirit and stay healthy.
Chinese writing for rule 5
Train diligently and keep practicing, keep your skills throughout your life.
Chinese writing for rule 6
Learn to develop your chi (ki), avoid the attitude of arguments and aggression.
Chinese writing for rule 7
Your character in your daily life should be always moderate, kind and gentle in your manners.
Chinese writing for rule 8
Help the weak and the disadvantaged (old and young), use your martial skill to keep the justice.
Chinese writing for rule 9
Pass on the tradition, preserve and uphold these Rules of Conduct.
In addition to these 9 rules there are three things the martial artists must refuse or avoid. I found them to be interesting so I will list them.
1. Refusal to teach government officials.
2. Refusal to teach local bullies (gangsters)
3. Must not have dis-respectable employment.
What do you think of Wing Chun rules of conduct? Can they be useful to you? By the way, Ip Man died from the throat cancer and it happened coincidentally in the same year Lee died, 1972. It is very true that Ip Man became a legend and made Wing Chun a well- known style. I also consider Wing Chun Jo Fen is a valuable teaching code and we all must respect it even if we do not practice Wing Chun. Despite all these, I must end this article with this sad fact that Ip Man was addicted to opium. One of his former students revealed that Ip used tuition money to support his opium addiction. He created many students and Wing Chun became famous but I wonder how he coped with his deviation from the rules of conduct particularly of Rule #4; “Control your bodily desires, preserve the sound spirit and stay healthy.”
Regardless, I hope you agree that all of us can learn some important teaching from Wing Chun Jo Fen and we may want to adapt it in our karate discipline to improve ourselves.
For the additional reading;
Yip/Ip Man: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yip_Man
Wing Chun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_Chun
Yim Wing-chun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yim_Wing-chun
Jeet Kune Do: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeet_Kune_Do