Kahar Saidun, 48, is the son of the late Saidun Jasmon, who was an accomplished Javanese silat practitioner.
Saidun encouraged his son Kahar to take up Wing Chun, long before Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen played the role of Ip Man, a Wing Chun grandmaster.
Wing Chun is a martial art which originated in southern China some 300 years ago.
Legend has it that a Buddhist nun, who was a Shaolin kungfu master, conceptualised this style.
Wing Chun was only taught to a few dedicated students in the early years and it only gained popularity after Ip Man began to teach it openly in China and Hong Kong in 1949.
Kahar said that back then, he just wanted to learn and practise martial arts that reflected the Malay identity.
“But my father wanted me to learn Chinese martial arts as well because he had learnt the Shaolin 18 Lohan Hands kungfu,” he said, adding that after he decided to learn Wing Chun, he searched through the telephone directory to look for a master.
Kahar, then an 18-year-old school leaver, decided to learn a modified version of Wing Chun – known as Yip Kin Wing Chun – from Yip Fook Choy.
Fook Choy’s grandfather, Yip Kin, was a nephew of the famous Wing Chun grandmaster Yip (or Ip) Man of Hong Kong, on whom the Ip Man series is based.
Recounting his early days, Kahar said finding a suitable master was hard because most were reluctant to teach people other than their own family members.
“But I didn’t give up. I searched high and low for a master in the Klang Valley, and finally met sifu Yip Fook Choy, who accepted me as his student at his centre in Pudu in 1991,” said Kahar, who is one of the three Yip Kin Wing Chun master instructors in Malaysia.
He currently teaches the martial art to about 100 students at four centres – three in Kuala Lumpur and one in Petaling Jaya.
Fook Choy, who passed away last year at 83, had about 20 students then, with Kahar and an Indian boy being the only non-Chinese among them.
“My sifu was open-minded when it came to teaching Wing Chun, although he conducted his classes mostly in Cantonese, and could only speak colloquial Malay.
“But it was not a problem for me because Wing Chun mainly comprises movements,” said Kahar, who is also a business consultant and motivational expert.
During his first three months as a student of Fook Choy, Kahar practised only the most basic steps, namely footwork and stance.
“I was told to practise the steps repeatedly until the sifu was satisfied. It took three months and he proceeded to teach me the next movement,” he said.
“Only then did I realise that to master Wing Chun, one must master the most basic steps first, and this called for perseverance.”
In 1998, when Kahar was pursuing higher studies in mechanical engineering in the United Kingdom, he met Michael Steven Yates, who practised the Wing Chun popularised by Ip Man.
“The Yip Kin Wing Chun that I had learnt was a bit different from Ip Man Wing Chun.
“And I had the opportunity to learn some new styles and techniques from sifu Mick (Yates),” said Kahar.
“Many people think that Wing Chun is a very challenging martial art. Not many know that it is a simple form of kungfu that can be learned by all segments of society,” he said.
He said one can also become healthier by practising Wing Chun as it improves one’s breathing, which, in turn, improves blood circulation and prevents hypertension and stroke.
Fook Choy also taught Kahar the lion dance, after learning it himself from Yip Kin, who migrated to Malaya from Guangdong in 1918.
“Yip Kin was among the ‘teachers’ who created the movements for the lion dance in Malaysia,” he said, adding that his sifu would invite his students to perform the lion dance during the Chinese New Year and at other events.
Kahar was grief-stricken when both Fook Choy and Saidun passed away last year.
“I lost the two fathers I loved a lot in the space of a year. They were responsible for what I am today.
“They are the ones who sparked in me the desire to perpetuate this unique art of self-defence, and I can’t thank them enough for their sacrifices,” he said.
“I promised myself I would help to keep this heritage alive.” — Bernama
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