Jun 3, 2022 | Community

A tale of Fire and Transcendence

Author: Pablo Gonzalez

Wing Chun - Brunswick Daily

This story goes back to the 18th century in Southern China. Back then, the Qing Dynasty was afraid of civil rebellions, so they banished martial arts and punished by death those who practised them. Monks and nuns who lived and practiced Kung Fu in the Shaolin Temples were seen as potential rebels so rulers decided to burn these temples to the ground.

Legend tells that five Grandmasters survived this catastrophe. One of these survivors was Ng Mui, a Buddhist nun who escaped the fire and went on to spread martial arts knowledge throughout China. Ng Mui is known to be the originator of Wing Chun, a branch of Kung Fu that has unpretentiously reached many corners of the world, including Staley Street right here in our suburb, right here in Brunswick.

But before travelling its way through time, temples, mountains and oceans to get to Australia, Wing Chun’s principles and technique had to touch on the lives of many heroes. Sifu or Master Andrew Cheung is one of the links in this lineage of exemplary people who have kept alive this unique and ancient art. Sifu Andrew met with us to share one of the episodes of Wing Chun’s journey in which his father, William Cheung, is one of the main protagonists.

Andrew Cheung - Brunswick Daily

Grandmaster William Cheung’s son, Sifu Andrew Cheung. Source: Brunswick Daily

William Cheung grew up in Kowloon, Hong Kong in the 1950s. Back then, martial arts were considered a measure of self-worth and family pride. Challenge matches to demonstrate people’s fighting skills happened in common places. Streets and school playgrounds alike served as fight rings and Cheung was involved in many brawls in his teenage years. He also witnessed a duel that changed his life forever.

During a street fight, an old man whose Kung Fu skills were quite peculiar defeated an undefeated gang leader. The name of this old man was Ip Man, a grandmaster in Ng Mui’s Wing Chun lineage and whose legacy still beats hard in the world of martial arts. William Cheung and his best friend eventually became Ip Man’s apprentices.

Ip Man and William Cheung - Brunswick Daily

William Cheung and Ip Man. Source: Australianblackbelt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Cheung’s friend and training partner was Lee Jun-fan, better known today as Bruce Lee. After four years of daily training with Ip Man, Cheung and Lee became more involved in street challenge fights. After humiliating the Chinese triads causing them to issue a contract on Cheung’s life, his father decided it would be in the best interests of his son’s safety to move to Australia.

William Cheung and Bruce Lee - Brunswick Daily

William Cheung and Bruce Lee. Source: Australianblackbelt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Before coming to Melbourne, William Cheung lived in Sydney to then study Economics in Canberra. While he wanted to share his Wing Chun knowledge with others he wouldn’t break the vow made to Ip Man that prohibited him from teaching Traditional Wing Chun during Ip’s lifetime. Staying true to his pledge, Cheung only started teaching Traditional Wing Chun after Ip Man died and in 1973, he opened Cheung’s Martial Arts Acedemy in Melbourne’s CBD.

Ever since then, Grandmaster William Cheung has trained hundreds of students, formed and presided the Australian National Kung Fu Federation, and coached champions to become a world reference for local community members, Hollywood trainers and movie stars alike.

William’s sons, Sifu Andrew and Sifu James Cheung decided to bring Cheung’s Martial Arts Academy to our suburb to keep spreading his father and Ng Mui’s knowledge and tradition. And while Brunswick may have waited three centuries to welcome Cheung’s Academy, now it’s the time to continue building a story that only new legends will be able to unfold. 

Be part of history and visit Cheung’s Martial Arts located on Level 1, 2C Staley Street, of course, in Brunswick.

If you wish to learn more about Wing Chun history, we invite you to visit Cheung’s Martial Arts website, see Ip Man’s movies on Netflix, or watch the short video “The Chinese woman who created Wing Chun King Fu“.

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