Chan Wah Shun


Chan Wah Shun (1833–1913) ( Jiao Chin Wah, Ngau Ching Wah, Wah Gung) (Chen Huashun) originally worked as a moneychanger (someone licensed to convert currency denominations) and was hence known by the nickname Jiao Chin Wah (Zhaoqian Hua, Moneychanger Wah). His stall was located in the marketplace close to Leung Jan’s pharmacy on Fei Jee Street.

Chan was a very robust person; due to his profession, he had to carry very heavy loads of coins everyday around town, and built up very strong muscles over the years. Legend says that he was able to split several copper coins by the grip of his palm. He had studied martial arts from others before learning Wing Chun from Leung Jan, and was agile and strong.

In around 1858 at age 25, Chan Wah Shun was able to secure training under Leung Jan and went on to become one of his most prized students, winning many challenge fights, earning the nickname Ngau Ching Wah (Niujing Hua, Bull Wah). Yip man’s Oral Account suggests that Muk Yan Wah , who was already learning from Leung Jan, Started teaching Chan Wah on the side. Chan Wah was also said to spy on Leung Jan teaching other students prior to him being officialy accepted as a student. Additionaly it is said that Muk Yan Wah introduced Chan Wah to Leung Jan and vouched for his character.

Muk Yan Wah “Wood Man” Wah got his nickname from allegedly breaking the Mook Yan Jong during practice. Leung Jan only taught instructions and explanations. So Chan figured out a different way to learn. He made friend with Woodman Wah and learned from him informally. Since Chan was very good martial art material, he picked up very quickly from Woodman Wah because he had been watching for an extended period already. The brief instructions from Woodman Wah pieced the puzzle together.

One day while Leung Jan was out enjoying tea, his two young sons were in charge of the clinic. Woodman Wah and Chan entered the clinic. Leung Chun didn’t believe Chan was any good without formal training and challenged Chan to spar. Chan was good enough to make Leung Chun lose his balance and break his father’s favorite chair as he fell. They put the chair back together hoping Leung Chun’s father would not notice. When the chair fell apart as Leung Jan sat on it, the youngsters had to tell the truth about what happened. Leung Jan asked Woodman Wah to summon Chan. Woodman Wah thought Chan was in deep trouble, so he advised Chan to flee. When he told his master that Chan was missing, Leung Jan knew what the young men were thinking. Leung Jan explained that he just wanted to see if the Wing Chun student who he had never met was as good as his son claimed. The surprised Chan’s dream came true; he finally became a formal student.

Chan was not as well educated as Leung’s children, however, he had a talent for martial art. As a result, he did Wing Chun better than his fellow students despite his late start. Because of his profession, he had many opportunities to use his Wing Chun skill to defend his business, and actually got more combat experience than many of his peers. He often represented Leung Jan and the Wing Chun System in Challenge matches, just as Leung Jan had done.

The Qing government on one occasion had attempted to enlist Chan to be the head martial arts instructor for the army. Chan declined the offer. Like Leung Jan and his student, Chan Wah, both knew that their ancestors fought against the Qing and would never share the Wing Chun System so easily.Both men also loved help the sick.

In 1868, at age 35, Chan Wah Shun gave up the money changing business to work as an osteopath, a trade which he learned from Leung Jan (Chan also passed this down to Chan Yiu Min and Lai Miu Hin). The exact time when Chan Wah started teaching is unknown but is believed to be after 1870, some accounts suggest as early as 1877.

The first two students Chan Wah accepted were the brothers named Ng Siu Lo and Ng Chun So. It wasnt for a period of time that he finnaly mentioned to Leung Jan that he would like to teach a few students on top of running his osteopathic clinic. The Third student was named Lui Yu Chai. Lui was a master of Ng Lui Kuen or 5 Thunder fists. Lui owned and operated a local grocers store located near Chan Wah’s house. In those times, many Chinese didnt even have out houses, and had to use a public waste system of sorts. So Chan walked down to the closest bathroom or water shed as they were called, and over heard martial arts training. He peeked into the yard and saw Lui Teaching his methods. Chan was noticed by Lui Yu and he ask him “are you interested in learning?” Chan issued him a vieled challeng that wasnt apparent to a direct man such as Lui, by saying “why dont you teach me a few fighting moves?”. So Lui told Chan to attack him. Lui didnt expect Chan to move so fast, and like lightning Chan over ran Lui and trapped his arms. Lui ended up getting knocked down onto the ground. Instead of being insulted Lui took the chance to learn from Chan. And because he made Lui loose face he had to accept him as a student.

Around 1885, Chan Wah Shun’s Son had grown to be a pain in his Pocket book. Chan Yiu Min was fond of gambling and actually lost several medical books that were passed down to him by Leung Jan.

By the 1910s, according to Yip Mans Oral and Written Accounts was teaching out of the Ancestral Temple of the Yip family in Foshan’s Song Yuan (Mulberry Gardens). Yip Man was the 14th and last student Chan Wah accepted at age 70. Chan Wah’s teaching career lasted almost 36 years. Some Oral Accounts suggest that Chan had a Stroke within 7 or 8 months of accepting Yip Man as his last Student. At that Time Chan Wah asked Ng Chun So to continue Yip’s training..

In 1911, Chan Wah Shun, at that time known as Wah Gung (Hua Gong, Grandfather Wah) retired from teaching. Many Oral Accounts suggest he suffered a stroke and became partialy paralized. Chan Wah passed away two years later.


Sources:

  • Oral and Written Account Yip Man
  • Oral and Written Account Chan Family
  • Oral and Written Account Pan Nam
  • New Martial Hero
  • Wulin Magazine
  • Leungs Publishing