Why did Ip Man stop teaching Bruce Lee?

Many of you already know that Bruce Lee was indeed one of many Ip Man’s studentsand one may say that he was also the most popular one.
The relationship between these two Wing Chun, and more generally, martial arts giants is still the subject of many discussions. However, it never gets old enough because many mysteries still surround these two legends.
So, before jumping right into our question: why did Ip Man stop teaching Bruce Lee and what did their relationship look like, some enlightenment about the context is necessary.

Ip Man’s Wing Chun School

Ip Man and Bruce Lee first met in Ip’s Wing Chun School in Hong Kong.
Man opened his first Wing Chun school in Hong Kong in 1949 after the Chinese Communist Party came to power. Ip was already a police officer in Foshan, but the political situation forced him to move back to Hong Kong (where he already attended St. Stephen’s College in his youth).
Ip Man’s success wasn’t immediate after the opening of his school, also because most of his students could only stand Wing Chun practice for a few months before giving up completely.
Ip’s patience and faith prevailed and in some years he was able to effectively train some of his students to the point that they were able to open their own schools.
Indeed, this was a great breakthrough for Ip Man’s reputationand soon the number of his students kept escalating.

How Did Ip and Bruce meet?

First of all, let’s clear out that Bruce Lee wasn’t born as the Bruce Lee that we all remember. As it often happens, behind every great character there’s also a less known side of their past.
Indeed Bruce was already a teenage actor when 15 years old, but did you know that, meanwhile, he was already practicing his acting skills Bruce was on the streets fighting? Not only fighting, he actually led his own little gang called “Junction Street Eight Tigers“.
The constant fighting he was involved in caused him to discover Kung Fu which he thought could help him win his street fights.
Later on, through his friend William Cheungwho was already Ip Man’s student, Bruce requested to join Ip’s Wing Chun School.
William passed on his friend’s request and finally, Ip Man accepted Bruce to join his school.

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Bruce’s Training under Ip Man

After the number of students in Ip’s school increased he wasn’t able to teach and focus on each of his students personally. Instead, he gave this responsibility to his senior students, also as a good opportunity to learn how to teach (and thus learn themselves even more).
Initially, Bruce was assigned as a student to one of Ip’s best senior students Wong Shun Leung who taught him very efficiently about Wing Chun’s practical aspects.

Simply said, Wong Shun Leung taught Bruce Lee how to properly fight and also was by his side in numerous street fights.
We have also written a very controversial article where there’s evidence about Wong Shun Leung’s mastery. Many testify that not even Bruce, after long years of training, was eventually able to keep up with Wong’s skills.
Very soon Wong Shun Leung and Bruce Lee developed a strong relationship.
Don’t be shy and discover more about their bond in the following exclusive Wong Shun Leung interview where this legend shares the best memories he had with Bruce.

Read the famous article with Wong Shun Leung Interview here: Bruce Lee And The Master That He Couldn’t Defeat

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Bruce, a difficult student

Now that we know all about the context we can finally give you an answer.
As mentioned before, Bruce was a child with a complicated background story to the point that Wong refers to him as a “young rascal” (taken from the Wong Shun Leung interview linked above.
However, Bruce’s talent was undeniable and Wong cared about him a lot. He had harsher relationships with his classmates that couldn’t really enjoy his presence. This was mainly due to bruce’s strong character, but on the other hand, his peers developed a certain level of jealousy (because of his acting career).

After some time, Bruce managed to train directly with Ip Man who taught him the core essence of Wing Chun’s philosophy and the “Be water my friend” principle.
Bruce has admitted that when he first came to Wing Chun classes, his intentions were mainly to fight back harder on the streets. However, Bruce also under the influence of Ip, Bruce changed slowly.

So why did Ip Man stop teaching Bruce?

As Wong remembers in his interview (link here) Bruce was a very determined and dedicated student.
He loved Wing Chun to the point that he would arrive at class early just to lie to other students telling them that the master was missing that day. In this way, he managed to obtain private lessons for himself. Of course, this lie couldn’t last for long and when the truth came out, many of the students requested the expulsion of Bruce from the training.
Some say that some of the students appealed to Ip Man because of Bruce’s mixed-race origins. In fact, Bruce Lee’s mother was American but Ip Man had never seen a problem with that.

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Ultimately Ip Man decided that it would be better if Bruce would not attend his classes anymore, but to follow the training with Wong Shung Leung alone.

Bruce Lee (in the middle) with Wong Shun Leung (on the right)

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