Director Wong Kar-wai's biopic The Grandmaster is about to hit movie screens, making 2013 a year of kung fu.
Lui Ming-fai is excited about that prospect. He is a wing chun master and the sudden hype gives him a chance to spread his love of the martial art - especially as he once trained under one of Ip's apprentices.
Lui was a young man then and has since been practising and teaching wing chun for more than 40 years in Hong Kong and Macau. Recently, he returned to the birthplace of nearly all Chinese martial arts - Foshan . He is now leading wing chun classes there in a newly opened studio at Lingnan Tiandi.
His students over the years have come from all walks of life, and from China and abroad as well. "When I was in Macau, I once taught an American who was a police officer of some sort," the wing chun master recalls. Although a respected figure now, Lui started out as an ordinary apprentice when he was 14. He went on to master every move patiently, step by step.
In the beginning, Lui acquired the core skills of the martial art by practising "siu lim tao". The three-syllable phrase means "little thoughts" literally but refers to footwork in the context of wing chun.
"Siu lim tao is a series of basic moves - slow and basic," he says. "It may seem boring, but the practice can train our patience and endurance."
A solid foundation is essential to wing chun students. They need to perfect siu lim tao - on both the physical and spiritual level - before moving onto the next stage. Wing chun's philosophy is all about being nimble and direct. Using the shortest distance to strike the most explosive blow is what every wing chun practitioner strives to achieve.
Outsiders often associate the martial art with action-packed movies, starring Bruce Lee and Donnie Yen, who played Ip in a 2008 film.
In these movies, the heroes perform amazing feats of leaping, somersaulting and side-kicking before landing on their feet again. But Lui says traditional wing chun promotes practicality rather than gimmickry. Those acrobatic moves in action films may look amazing, but they are unnecessary. "They do it for the visual effects," he notes.
To show off the merits and skills of true wing chun, Lui participated in a documentary fittingly called Wing Chun. It was directed by Hong Kong-based Irish director Seamus Walsh.
Ip Man-themed action films may give the audience a big thrill, but for real kung fu lovers, the martial art is not about flailing feet and fists of fury. It's a lifestyle that requires great dedication, focus and stamina.
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