Biography

Person: Chan Wah Shun

Biography

Chan Wah-shun (陳華順) nicknamed Money Changer Wah (找錢華), was a student of the Wing Chun grandmaster Leung Jan (梁贊).

Chan ran a coin changing stall near Leung Jan's herbal medicine clinic (贊生堂) on 筷子街 in Foshan. 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 and was agile and strong.

He had been an admirer of his neighbor Leung Jan and politely greeted his idol every time they met on the street. He had begged to become a student of Leung Jan numerous times but consistently was turned down.

Leung Jan only had few private students at the time including his two sons, Leung Chun (梁春 liang2 ?; loeng4 ?) and Leung Bik (梁壁 Liáng Bì; loeng4 bik1) and another student Woodman Wah (木人華). Woodman Wah got his nickname from allegedly breaking the Wooden dummy during practice. Leung Jan only taught his students behind closed door of his clinic after business hours. Chan was not discouraged by the repeated rejections. He often hid outside the clinic to peek at Leung Jan's teaching through the cracks on the doors. Unauthorized sneaky learning of martial art is a taboo in China and is considered a form of stealing. Watching from a distance didn't work out without getting the verbal 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 the 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 his sifu. He often represented his sifu to take challenges and took victory beautifully.

The Qing government once recruited Chan to be the head coach of the army. Chan turned the offer down. Like his sifu, they both were unwilling to give up their day job. Wing Chun was just their hobby. He also picked up De Da (跌打) healing techniques from his sifu. He opened a healing clinic and closed down his coin changing business. Like his sifu, Chan didn't open a martial arts school. Within his 36 years of teaching Wing Chun as a hobby, he only had 16 students.

He admitted his last student Yip Man when he was 70 years old. He died three years after Yip Man became his student. He asked his second student Ng Chung-sok to continue Yip Man's trainning after his death in 1906 or 1909.