Grand Master Chris Chan (陳成)
Grandmaster Chan Kam Shing (Christopher Chan) was born in Hong Kong in the Year of the Dragon. As a teenager, he trained in local recreation center learning basic kung fu exercises. One day in 1955, a friend invited him to witness a kung fu challenge match on a rooftop in Hong Kong. It was there that he saw Wing Chun Kung Fu for the first time. He was so impressed with the effectiveness of the system that he immediately sought to become a student of the late Great Grandmaster Yip Man.
At Yip Man’s Hong Kong School, the young Chan met and trained with Bruce Lee. When Bruce left for America, he kept in touch with Grandmaster Chan. Bruce wrote a letter telling Grandmaster Chan how the American public knew nothing about Chinese martial arts. He also mentioned how easy it was to obtain students and earn a living teaching because of Wing Chun’s superiority to the other arts taught in America. He advised Grandmaster Chan to apply for immigration to the United States so that he too could simultaneously attend college and earn a living teaching kung fu.
Grandmaster Chan left for America in 1960. Before leaving Hong Kong, he trained intensively for 12-16 hours a day, 7 days a week, under Yip Man’s close guidance.
After arriving in San Francisco by boat, he earned a living teaching Wing Chun while studying engineering in college. He earned his degree in mechanical/structural engineering and began his career as a Mechanical Engineer. Over the past 40 years, he has taught privately and semi-privately, maintaining a low profile yet establishing a well-respected, worldwide reputation as an extraordinarily powerful and knowledgeable martial artist.
Grandmaster Chan was the first Chinese instructor to teach the Chinese martial arts to the American public at a time when it was always kept very secretive and hidden from the public eye. Chan’s first American student was a notable U.S. Olympic Judo Team silver medallist, the late Professor Bill Paul. During the 1960’s, Grandmaster Chan and his friend Bruce Lee introduced and spread the popularity of the Wing Chun system throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. They visited many martial art schools (Japanese/Korean karate and Chinese kung fu), challenging the instructors to friendly tests of skills, and would successfully defeat each one, demonstrating the power and effectiveness of the Wing Chun system. They rapidly earned the reputation of being the unbeatable young Hong Kong Chinese sifus. More than forty years later, their reputation still lives on.
Over the years, Grandmaster Chan has shared his knowledge and experience by instructing thousands of students in the art of Wing Chun. In addition to providing effective self-defense skills, his teachings have transformed many students, enabling them to improve themselves in many other areas of their lives, especially their health.
Grandmaster Chan was the chief director in charge of promoting the FIRST U.S. Chinese Kung Fu Exhibition in 1967. The event was held at San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium. Attending the event were the late famous Bruce Lee and Ed Parker, and Professor Rick Alemany.
In 1974, he was the FIRST emigrant direct disciple to return back to Hong Kong to visit the grave of late Great Grandmaster Yip Man.
In addition to teaching Wing Chun kung fu, Grandmaster Chan promoted the first and only 3 full contact “Kung Fu versus Karate” tournaments (1975, 1981, 1988). He was also the founder and vice president of the U.S. Kung Fu Federation founded in 1987, and an executive director of the Northern California Kung Fu Federation founded in 1985.
In 1984, Grandmaster Chan traveled to Taiwan to participate in the FIRST international cultural exchange of kung fu between the USA and Taiwan.
Grandmaster Chan has only demonstrated publicly a few times in his life – once in San Francisco, once in Los Angeles, and once in Honolulu. On July 21, 2001, he performed for the first time in public since 1971. July 21, 2001 marked a historical event in the history of the U.S. Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy, when Grandmaster Chan presided over a mass promotion of over 125 students to various rankings, including 2nd Level Sifu, 1st Level Sifu, and Senior/Junior Levels. An article in the August 2002 issue of Inside Kung Fu covered details of the momentous event.
In early 2002, Grandmaster Chan was a featured segment on San Francisco Bay Area’s local television show “Bay Area Backroads.” He was also a featured performer at the San Francisco Chinese New Year of the Horse celebration, and a martial arts demonstration at the media pre-launch party for Sega’s “Virtua Fighter 4” video game.
Grandmaster Chan continues to increase his deep knowledge of Wing Chun through tireless research. Part of that research involves taking numerous trips to Fatshan, China, home of the Wing Chun system. It was during these trips that he met with old masters of Wing Chun and discussed various aspects of the system. As a result of the many conversations with the old masters, empirical knowledge of the system, and observing first hand the different Wing Chun styles in China, Grandmaster Chan was able to confirm further the theories and philosophies that were handed down to him from Yip Man.
It was one of Yip Man’s dreams to take engineering classes in Hong Kong and apply the principles of engineering and physics to Wing Chun. Grandmaster Chan has fulfilled this legacy by utilizing his engineering knowledge and experience to enhance his understanding and application of the Wing Chun system. To paraphrase one of Grandmaster Chan’s quotes, “Wing Chun is the highest and most sophisticated form of human engineering.” All his students also benefit from this deeper understanding, proving the quality of his teaching, as well as the quality of his students, is unmatched.
Grandmaster Chan founded the U.S. Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy and is currently the President and Chief Instructor.
Other honorary officers of the U.S. Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy include:
- Sifu Ken Chun, Executive Vice President
- Sifu Steve Androvich, Honorary Vice President
- Sifu Osama Naser, Honorary Vice President
- Sifu Larry Mann, Honorary Vice President
- Sifu Brad Pappalardo, Honorary Vice President
The Academy is headquartered in San Francisco, California with branch schools spread out in Northern California (Marin County, San Ramon, Santa Rosa, southern Peninsula), Seattle, Hawaii, and Germany.
Grandmaster Chan’s students include men, women, and children ranging in age from 10 to 67 years old. Everyone is welcome to visit and gain the benefits of the invaluable instruction he has been providing for over 40 years.
Written by: Joe Vaughan
Edited by: Sifu’s Ken Chun and Tito Pedruco