Grandmaster - Leung Sheung
Leung Sheung was born in 1918 in the Canton Province. By the time of his
early youth, he was in the Macau area, a Portuguese Colony at the mouth of
Pearl River, located near Hong Kong. At 14, he started his formal martial
arts training in Choi Li Fut, White Eyebrow, and Dragon style.
By 1949, Leung Sheung had developed quite a reputation in several areas,
one as a restaurateur, another as a lion dance performer, and as a martial
artist. Leung Sheung was very, very fond of the Lion Dance. During this
period in Hong Kong, merchants would extend a collection of vegetables from
their second floor balcony for the Lion Dancers. Attached to the vegetable
bundle would be a red envelope containing "lucky money." Toward the
conclusion of the Lion Dance, the "lion" would take the vegetable bundle
and money. The performers, usually a three-man team, would be required to
climb upon each other so that the "lion" could take the money in his mouth.
All the lion dancers wanted Leung Sheung, a big man, probably 5'10" to
5'11" and weighing around 200 pounds, as the base.
As a restaurateur, by 1949, Leung Sheung had been in the restaurant
business for some time. In recognition of his abilities in the restaurant
business, Leung Sheung was selected as an officer in the Restaurant
Association in Hong Kong. The Association owned a flat in the city of
Kowloon. They used the flat as an office and for lodging for people coming
from main land China, escaping the Communist rule there. As an officer in
the Restaurant Association, Leung Sheung had some level of influence in the
use of this flat. It is important to remember that at this time, lodging
in Hong Kong was extremely scarce. The massive influx of people into Hong
Kong was putting an extreme strain on the housing and job market.
Typically, the Restaurant Association would provide the flat as a place to
stay for their restaurant workers, cramming 40 to 50 people into this
small, one-room flat. So, typically, when bedtime rolled around, the back
door would be opened, and the "cots" brought out, and they would line up
out the back door. When daylight approached, the cots would be folded back
up and moved against the wall. Residents would then depart to their
various restaurant jobs in and around the city of Kowloon and Hong
As a martial artist, Leung Sheung was well respected for his proficiency in
Dragon Style. He taught White Eyebrow in the flat. As people "hot bunked"
(slept in shifts), there was room to teach and practice during the day and
night. Leung Sheung had heard about Wing Chun since he was quite young,
but as Wing Chun was quite secretive and well protected, he had never seen
it; but, this martial art intrigued him, as did the stories about one of
its teachers, Yip Man. The thought that he would take Wing Chun at his
first opportunity was beginning to emerge as a prominent thought in the
back of his mind.
Lee, also an officer in the Restaurant Association, in 1949, found out that
Yip Man was currently in Hong Kong. Knowing Leung Sheung's interest in
Wing Chun and Yip Man, he informed Leung Sheung that Yip Man was in town.
Leung Sheung urged Mr. Lee to introduce him to Yip Man. By the time they
met, Leung Sheung had already decided that he wanted to learn Wing Chun
from Yip Man. He would provide the flat for Yip Man to teach in. In
addition, Leung Sheung would turn over his White Eyebrow class to Yip Man,
and he would become a student again.
Leung Sheung promptly introduced Lok Yiu and Tsui Sheung Tin
to Yip Man, and the three of them became the first batch of Wing Chun
students in Hong Kong. Both Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu resided at the
Restaurant Association's flat during this time. Yip Man would now live in
the flat, having no place to stay, and from 1949 until 1955, Leung Sheung
and Lok Yiu trained under Yip Man intensively.
In 1955 Leung Sheung returned to Macau, and taught Wing Chun during the one
year he was there, returning to Hong Kong in 1956.
In 1956, Leung Sheung began to teach Wing Chun publicly, along with Lok
Yiu, Tsui Sheung Tin, and Wong Sheung Leung. They formed the first
generation of teachers from Yip Man's class, and were widely recognized as
the best students Yip Man ever produced.
From 1956 though 1978, Leung Sheung taught Wing Chun
continuously. During his entire teaching career, he maintained a very low
profile, never advertising his school. His famous saying from this period
was, "You find me, you are lucky."
Leung Sheung's teaching philosophy in Wing Chun was to think of students as
drift wood. As a teacher, figuratively, he lived on the bank of a wide
river, and from time to time, driftwood came up on the bank in front of his
house. Occasionally he inspected the driftwood, and from time to time,
he'd find a piece that interested him. He'd drag the select piece up the
bank a bit so it wouldn't wash away. As the pieces accumulated higher on
the bank, he would find one piece that interested him enough to take it
into his shop and begin to shape it. As with all things, the external
appearance does not always show what lies beneath. Some driftwood will not
be molded, either because of too many knotholes or other various failings.
However, he would keep the driftwood that molded at the master's hand.
Deeming a student as appropriate, a piece of driftwood to be kept, Leung
Sheung would then become very demanding on that student. It was back into
the river for those students with "too many knots."
In 1968, when Bruce Lee returned to Hong Kong to shoot a movie, he
attempted to have a (daily) friendly dialog with Leung Sheung. Bruce Lee
always payed him "high respect" during their meetings. Both Bruce Lee and
Tsui Sheung Tin referred to Leung Sheung as their older brother.
In 1970, Leung Sheung had a kidney stone removed. After the
stone's removal, Leung Sheung's health began to degrade steadily from that
point onward. Leung Sheung passed away in 1978.