Special Interview with Wing Chun Grand Master Yip Man’s Nephew, Sifu Lo Man Kam in Taiwan
by New Hero Magazine
A Retired Army Major – The first person to bring Wing Chun Kung Fu to the Taiwan public
In 1950, Grand Master Yip Man began teaching Wing Chun at the Kowloon Mess Union. His early followers at that time included Leung Sheung, Lok Yiu, Cheu Sheung Tin, Jiu Wan, Yip Bo Ching, and others. However, not many know that Lo Man Kam, Yip Man’s nephew through his oldest sister, also began studying Wing Chun at that time, training with Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu on the rooftops of the Mess Union, along with another student, Yip Man’s good friend, Lee Ming. From the Mess Union, Grand Master Yip Man moved his school to Hia Ten Street, Lee Da Street, and later Lee Jenwou Village. For nearly 10 years, wherever Yip Man moved, Lo would always follow.
Then in 1960, persuaded by his uncle, Sifu Lo moved to Taiwan to enroll in military school. Over 3 years special forces training, he learned many kill techniques, defense tactics, and other martial arts skills like Judo and Chin-Na Shou for close-quarters combat. After graduating from military school, he was assigned to serve at a special union and, due to the nature of his job, frequently had chances to utilize Wing Chun and other martial arts skills that could be combined together to form a very unique close range combat system. As a result, though Sifu Lo left Hong Kong, his Wing Chun never became rusty, much like the old Chinese saying “Kung-fu always stays with you.” During his time in Taiwan, Sifu Lo also had a chance to meet his kung-fu brothers such as Lok Yiu, Jiu Wan, and Sam Lau.
After meeting with his cousin, Yip Chun in Taipei in 1974, he was encouraged to develop and spread Wing Chun in Taiwan. Shortly after retiring from the Army as a Major in 1975, Sifu Lo opened his first school in Taipei. Before long, the Chinese kung-fu action star Bruce Lia also joined his school, training under him and even cooperating on a few kung-fu movies together. Since that time, Sifu Lo has always kept his school open to the public, making teaching his full-time job, career, and mission. Almost every day and every night has been focused on developing and maintaining the high standard of Yip Man’s Wing Chun in Taiwan.
In October 1975, Sifu Lo accepted his first foreign student, Daniel Duby, a son of a chief of police from the French island of Réunion. Having a foreigner come to Taiwan study kung-fu was quite unusual, since Taiwanese society was very conservative. As such, the Taiwanese Foreign Affairs and Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission helped and provided all necessary support to Sifu Lo and Daniel Duby. Publicity about Sifu Lo’s kung-fu school spread and became hot news, as this was the first Taiwan school to open its doors to foreign students of Chinese Kung Fu. Taiwan would gradually become more accessible to the rest of the world, with many people coming to do business, study Chinese, or even teach English. And because Sifu Lo had studied at the Hong Kong Wan Chai English College, teaching kung-fu to foreigner was never a problem for him.
Word spread quickly of his enthusiastic teaching, with many foreigners desiring to study Chinese kung-fu coming just to him, until it made Sifu Lo’s school what might be described as a kind of kung-fu “United Nations”. Aside from Hong Kong and Macao, students have come from the US, Germany, France, England, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, India, Saudi Arabia, and many more to study Wing Chun under Sifu Lo. As a result of his “Kung-fu UN,” tournaments in Taiwan steadily became popular. Whenever a foreign team has visited Taiwan, Sifu Lo has always been on the panel of ambassadors represents Taiwan. Even early on, when former Hong Kong Chinese Martial Arts Association chairman So Yuen would bring tournament participants over, he would always pay a visit with Sifu Lo, while also getting together with other Sifus and mutual friends like Lo Kay and Xie Kwong Yin.
Some readers may remember an article from Yip Chun mentioning Sifu Lo’s having provided some help to Mr. Deng Sheng (a former Hong Kong Chinese Police Detective and the first chairman of the Wing Chun Athletic Association). When we asked sifu Lo about the matter, he would only say that it was just “a little favor” without any need to talk about it. It turns out that small favor was providing help not just to Mr. Deng Shen, but also to all his police colleagues when they came to Taiwan, including Chan Kam Pui, Chan Jiang, Fai-Zhai B, and Chan Xin, with whom he has since become good friends. When Mr. Deng Sheng was injured in a horse-riding incident, Lo provided physical therapy for him every day. From what we’ve heard, Sifu Lo has always had a good relationship with people in Taiwan, ever happy to help without promise of return. But though he is very proficient in Chinese medicine and physical therapy, he nevertheless chose not to focus on such skills for a career, opting instead to follow his passion and spread Wing Chun throughout Taiwan and the world, which he believes is the best way to thank his uncle, Yip Man, for the many years of teaching and encouragement, as well as his cousin Yip Chun for his support, which has led to Sifu Lo being the only Wing Chun master in Taiwan.
The long years of Taiwan Special Forces training have helped Lo fit the old Chinese proverb, “Once you move, I will move faster; and my power will be like the mountains coming to you.” By applying his own theories to kung-fu, he has also been able to create a unique style, underlining Yip Man’s saying that, “Kung-fu has no life of its own, a person must bring it to life.” Within this style is a key concept that one should always stick with and control an opponent at every chance, never letting go and always following-up, even if one needs to throw or apply joint-locks. His moves, techniques, and training methods were loved enough by Europeans that, over time, they began to call it “Lo Man Kam Wing Chun”. Sifu Lo says of his methods, “It is fighting with Wing Chun theories and not giving slack, once on the attack.”
Developing training with hand-to-knife combat
Sifu Lo has also taken aspects of other styles and combined them with Wing Chun “sticky hands” techniques, often favored by intelligence and law enforcement personnel for their effectiveness, and passed them to his son, Gorden, which led to his being selected to join the Army’s martial arts team and act as an assistant instructor. After a 1991 speech at the Taiwan National Police Agency First Headquarters on the topic of “How to promptly restrain a criminal with police defense tactics,” Sifu Lo was immediately invited by general commander Lu from the 1st Headquarters to be an instructor on defense tactics. The special training courses he conducted during that time actually utilized real 45cm long machetes and US military combat knives, because he felt that “Frontline law enforcement needs to have very good skills and realistic experiences to react to; and this is the first time this kind of realistic training was given in Taiwan.”
Later, a major break-in in Kaohsiung showed the police to be under-prepared, and so Sifu Lo was assigned to make a proposal to create a national SWAT team. He was put in charge of all police defense tactics, including hand-to-hand and hand-to-weapon combat. The outstanding outcome of the training resulted in Lo’s being invited to teach at the Taiwan Investigation Bureau for 10 years.
In 1993, general commander Lu was promoted to preside over the Taiwan Police College, so again he invited Sifu Lo to teach at the Police College, as well. By now, Lo’s son Gorden had finished his military service and, with his added Wing Chun skill, was also qualified to help his father there as an assistant instructor. From the experiences gained there, Gorden improved his skills and has since accompanied his father many times to teach police groups and Wing Chun seminars overseas.
Over in the US, another good friend and kung-fu brother of Sifu Lo, is Sifu Duncan Leung who, similarly, had developed a very good relationship with law enforcement departments over there. While Sifu Lo was master instructor at the police college, Sifu Duncan brought the Virginia Beach City Chief of Police to Taiwan for a visit. The American police chief was impressed with what he saw and praised the demonstration and training highly, as it was so different from other methods. Sifu Lo has always felt that Sifu Leung had given him a great favor, because of the professional recognition in America that this visit brought to him.
The first Chinese to be Sifu to an Emperor
To be Sifu to an Emperor is surely an admirable goal to reach for, because one must be unique, special, and selected from thousands to have such an honor. In ancient China, such a position would be something higher than an imperial bodyguard. An opportunity like this opened itself up one day in early 2001, when he received a call from the Brunei embassy in Beijing. Someone there had seen or heard of a National Geographic program interviewing him that covered the special training he provided to the Taiwanese national SWAT team. So, after some organization and paperwork, Sifu Lo flew to Brunei. Two diplomatic officers received him at the airport and took him to his hotel for a short rest, after which a limousine came by and drove him to the Sultan’s palace. He was informed that his student would be the Sultan’s younger brother. They would train nearly every day for a period of time.
The Sultan himself was in England and unfortunately was not able to meet him that time, but the opportunity arrived in July 2006, when Sifu Lo was invited to the Queen’s Gym, where he presented his book “Police Kung Fu” to the Sultan. After some conversation, the Sultan set up a training schedule for him to practice Wing Chun and some special moves with Sifu Lo. The next day, when the Sultan arrived for training, he also brought his bodyguard and requested that he first spar with Sifu Lo a little. Despite having anticipated that this kind of situation would happen, he realized there really was no way to avoid it. As the Chinese say, “If I don’t have the skill and the courage, I will not approach the warriors of Leung Mountain.” The bodyguard initiated and Sifu Lo countered with Wing Chun techniques, unequivocally striking him, then changed techniques to follow-up, rolling his body out of range, and returning to a fighting stance. When the man’s next move came, Sifu Lo applied more Wing Chun fighting theories: attacking to defend; covering and controlling; and giving and taking by use of the opponent’s power until finishing the fight with the famous chain-punch and chase once the man’s guard was down. The moves left a good impression, everyone saved face, and no one was hurt. The Sultan now knew and trusted Sifu Lo’s skills more and began his training under him immediately. Thus was how Sifu Lo Man Kam became the first modern kung-fu Sifu to an emperor.
The first Chinese to instruct the US Army
That Yip Man’s nephew could be an instructor on defense tactics and martial arts to the most powerful country in the world must mean that he has something unique and special. But it should come as no surprise, after following his uncle’s Wing Chun for 10 years, then completing years of Special Forces training in Taiwan. He has a deep understanding and comprehension of martial arts and has never relented in his studies. His theories and books have been widely recognized and published in Chinese, English and Russian.
Since the beginning of the Iraq war, US soldiers have known they would be in danger in situations of close-quarters fighting. In 2004, Sifu Lo was invited and flew to the US Army’s 284th Base Support Battalion in Germany as close combat instructor. Historically speaking, this may make him the first Chinese martial arts instructor to instruct the US Army. Sifu Lo’s close range fighting system of choice for their Military Police (Most soldiers deployed to Iraq receive this training for their duty there). This was a great honor for Sifu Lo and even more so, as they also look forward to having him return to train with them again.
Registering the name and spreading the art
Due to his wide success and recognition, Sifu Lo and his son Sifu Gorden decided to legally register and establish the Lo Man Kam Wing Chun Kung Fu Federation in Taiwan. From there, they began to build and extend their organization in the US and Europe, and conduct yearly seminar tours. The 2006 seminar in Paris was a great success, hosting not only the local French, but also Wing Chun groups from Germany, Holland, Belgium and USA, who came to participate and train. Attracting people from five countries for a seminar is no simple feat, adding it to the list of Sifu Lo’s accomplishments. He also has given a few seminars in Hungary, with more participants joining each time, beginning with some 60 people, increasing to over one hundred, a lofty goal many kung-fu instructors strive for and look forward to.
Grand Master Yip Man’s Wing Chun Kung Fu has gained worldwide fame and success, but it should not be allowed to stagnate. Later generations must continue continue to spread it even further. That Sifu Lo has himself garnered so much recognition really owes to his following in the footsteps of Yip Man and his principal that, “Kung-fu has no life of its own, a person must bring it to life.” Similarly, Sifu Lo Man Kam has passed his skills and his successful experience to his son and Yip Man’s grand-nephew, Sifu Gorden Lu, now the third generation from the Yip Man family. Sifu Gorden has already made successful strides in teaching and developing Yip Man Wing Chun in the US, with his personal position following the Chinese proverb, “The importance is not on the first to begin his studies, but on the first to reach his goals.”