Tribute to Sifu Jim Fung
My Father, The Grandmaster
Grandmaster Jim Fung, 16 May 1944 - 18 March 2007
By Tristan Fung
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the day an unforgettable man passed on from this world: a man whom I admired as my master, my teacher and my father.
Each day I feel equally amazed and humbled when I remind myself that Jim Fung, the man who fills my memories with his warm smile and gentle presence, is also remembered and revered by countless students who were inspired by his art and now continue his monumental legacy.
As a young boy growing up in Hong Kong, my father’s passion for Wing Chun was sparked when he witnessed a smaller classmate effortlessly overpower the school bully. Amazed by the speed and power of the boy’s defence, he inquired further and, through the generosity and support of my grandfather, he began training privately under Chu Shong Tin, a skilled and patient disciple of Yip Man. After many years of intensive one-to-one tuition, my father began to see Wing Chun as so much more than a way to defend against school bullies; he was fascinated by the intricacy of the system, the science and logic of a martial art that channels unbelievable power without the need for brute strength.
My father became so enthralled by Wing Chun that when he moved to Australia to study, he continued to train and practise after hours in his garage with a small group of friends. Slowly but surely, word spread about Jimmy Fung (as he was then known), and many students of different martial arts came to challenge him. They were highly sceptical about his abilities: no one had ever heard of Wing Chun, and as a man of small stature, my father didn’t seem to present that much of a threat. However, after sending a few challengers flying out of his garage, his proficiency as a genuine martial artist soon became clear. It was one of these challengers who infamously convinced him to give an impromptu workshop at his university - this led to my father commencing public classes through a Wing Chun club that he ran free of charge.
After graduating from university, the demand for his teaching became so great that my father set up a small, permanent facility where he taught in the evenings after working during the day as an accountant. He ran the ‘CK Martial Art School’ entirely on his own, working late into the night and on weekends, sustaining long hours to make his dream a reality: he wanted to share Wing Chun with as many people as possible. Against all odds, and in spite of the gruelling hours he worked, my father grew the school to a hundred students - from nothing. In 1983, he decided to quit his job and teach Wing Chun full-time.
Everyone warned him against it. His family, his friends - no one thought his school would last, and by refusing to return to join the family business, he was ultimately burning all of his bridges.
But that didn’t matter to my father. His perseverance, determination to succeed and love of the art were the essential qualities that led to him becoming a world-renowned Wing Chun master. He had expanded his school to Sydney by 1985 and by 1989, the International Wing Chun Academy had become the first martial arts school in Australia to receive official government accreditation through its Certificate IV in Wing Chun Instruction - an achievement that my father regarded as one of the highlights of his career.
Famed for his ‘one inch punch’, my father was as humble and respectful as he was skilled and formidable. He never held himself above others and always attributed his ability to the teachings of his own master. He made time for every single person who walked through the doors of the Academy, whether they were a member or not, and treated everybody - without exception - with kindness and acceptance.
But most of all, the driving force behind my father’s success as a martial arts master was his devotion to Wing Chun. He believed in its transformative power; he believed it had the potential to change lives. He stood by the Wing Chun system, even when others continually sought to undermine him, because he had full confidence that people would always want to learn this rare and unique art – that people should learn it, not only for its effectiveness as a means of self defence, but because of its profound benefit to all aspects of life.
The past ten years have not been easy. When my father passed away, my mother, brother, sister and I barely had time to grieve. But even in the darkest times, giving up was never an option, because I knew that my father himself had created this movement in the face of adversity. I remember driving my father to the Academy in his second last week of life, his body ravaged by chemotherapy and him barely able to eat. He’d slept for most of the day so he’d have the energy to go into the Academy that night because he ‘had to teach the instructors’. He was a true fighter, and his passion for the art and dedication to his students never wavered.
It is in this spirit that the International Wing Chun Academy continues to thrive today. In recent years, those loyal to my father’s legacy have ushered in a bold new generation of students who are laying the foundations of the Academy’s future. Together, we’ve explored ways of incorporating more contemporary coaching and learning principles to ensure that this amazing art continues to be accessible to future generations. At our heart, we remain faithful to the teachings of Sifu Jim, to the values of my father. We are inspired and motivated every day by his qualities as a true Wing Chun master and continue his unassailable legacy proudly, with honour and gratitude.
To my father, Sifu Jim. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Your legacy lives on.