Sifu Ken Chun (陳禮達)
Sifu (Master) Ken Chun is a native 2nd generation Chinese-American born and raised in the city of San Francisco. His parents were from the Zhongshan, Guangdong province in southern China and has his maternal roots tracing back to the first provisional president of the People’s Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (孫逸仙).
His Wing Chun kung fu journey started in early October 1974 under the watchful guidance of Grandmaster Chris Chan who was a direct disciple of the late Great Grandmaster Yip Man. It was through his close childhood friend, Sifu Greg Yau (nephew of Grandmaster Chan), that he was introduced to Grandmaster Chan in 1973. Sifu Ken later joined Grandmaster Chan’s class shortly after the exploding popularity of Chinese martial arts stimulated by the release of the movie “Enter the Dragon” starring the late famous Bruce Lee.
While training in Wing Chun under Grandmaster Chan, Sifu Ken also briefly studied other martial art systems in an effort to compare the effectiveness of Wing Chun against other arts. The other systems he studied include tae kwon do, kenpo, Western boxing, judo, escrima, and arnis. Sifu Ken always found that the Wing Chun system as taught by Grandmaster Chan was the most logical and effective for achieving his objective of learning how to truly defend himself in real life street fighting.
During his many years of training, he regularly tested his skills in Grandmaster Chan’s private 6-foot circle fighting matches. It was in this confined arena that Sifu Ken would prove whether his skills would be effective enough to survive real life street situations. The many opponents he would compete against were his many classmates who were very experienced in winning actual street fights. Yes, there were many scratches, cuts, bruises, bloody lips and black-eyes he would proudly receive after late night private group workouts. This was the most valuable self-defense training that any student could ask for – training with Grandmaster Chan (who is an accomplished Hong Kong street fighter) and the many experienced street fighters in his class.
It is not very well known that Grandmaster Chan was actually a close friend, classmate, and training partner of the late famous Bruce Lee. During the 1960s, the two of them were well known for stirring up challenge matches with formal karate and kung fu instructors throughout the San Francisco area. It was also during those times that Grandmaster Chan and his close students would venture out on “field trips” to test their fighting skills in the bars, pool halls, and the streets of San Francisco. Grandmaster Chan and Bruce Lee were the first kung fu instructors to break the barrier and teach the Chinese martial arts to the American public. They are credited with introducing and demonstrating the short-distance power technique which they later coined term of “one-inch power”.
While on a sabbatical from his engineering profession in 1995 to 2002, Sifu Ken fulfilled his dream of world travel. It was during those years that while traveling and sightseeing, he also sought out the most highest and reputable Wing Chun masters possible. His travels took him to Hong Kong, China, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and the United States. Everywhere he visited he would search out any and all Wing Chun masters in an effort to study and compare their theories, skills, and techniques against his own. If there were no Wing Chun instructors around, he would visit other martial art schools as well. This not only furthered his education of the martial arts but also confirmed that Wing Chun was the most compatible self-defense system that would benefit him the most. He also learned that Grandmaster Chris Chan’s system of Wing Chun was the only one that used “dynamic tension” to develop internal power. Dynamic tension training is the fastest method to developing devastating power. Having enough power to disable an opponent is the most important skill to have when it comes to real life combat.
Grandmaster Chan regularly states – “if I have the fastest techniques in the world and I strike you 10 times and you are still standing, then everything I have trained for was a waste of valuable time. You must have power and develop that first!” Sifu Ken totally agrees with this statement, and regularly promotes this same philosophy in his classes today.
On February 28, 1981, Sifu Ken competed in his first full contact martial arts tournament in Oakland, California. The tournament was promoted as a “kung fu versus karate” competition. Based on the scores of the 3-round match, Sifu Ken fought to a draw but lost due to a technicality that he did not meet the minimum kicks per round requirement. It was later learned that the co-promoter of the event who provided the karate fighters supplied several “ringers” and that Sifu Ken’s opponent was actually a California state full contact champion.
It was on March 30, 1985 that Sifu Ken was among Grandmaster Chan’s list of 12 students formally promoted to the rank of 1st level sifu. It was an auspicious occasion at the Far East Cafe in San Francisco’s Chinatown that Sifu Ken and his fellow promoted classmates provided a Wing Chun demonstration to a private and intimate standing room only crowd of over 200 guests. The following is a list of those who were promoted by Grandmaster Chan.
(in alphabetical order by last name)
- Bill Araya (deceased)
- Kevin Cavanaugh (deceased)
- Ken Chun
- Chris Diaz
- Joe Diaz
- Mel Garduno (deceased)
- Alfred Leon (deceased)
- John Mikulin Jr.
- Gus Ramirez
- Kevin Shea (deceased)
- Mike Thompson
- Greg Yau
In the fall of 1999 in Foshan, China, the home and settling place of the Wing Chun system, Sifu Ken was among a team of Grandmaster Chan’s students who participated in a friendly competition in street chi sao with several other schools. On the last night of their 3-day visit, Sifu Ken was matched up with the unbeaten “Foshan king of chi sao”. The match transformed prematurely into a real life street fight altercation that resulted in Sifu Ken’s opponent (Sifu Wong) leaving the fight with broken ribs caused by Sifu Ken’s inch-power uppercut punch.
On July 21, 2001, Sifu Ken was assigned the duty of chief director of Grandmaster Chan’s Grand Promotion Ceremony and Wing Chun Kung Fu Exhibition. It was at this important event that Grandmaster Chan promoted his original list of 12 students to 2nd level sifu, which included Sifu Ken. An additional list of over 100 students were promoted to the rank of 1st level sifu and advanced student levels at the landmark occasion.
The standing room only crowd of over 700 guests were wowed by demonstrations of the entire Wing Chun system that evening. Grandmaster Chan also participated in the demonstrations which is the first he has publicly demonstrated since 1968.
Sifu Ken has been serving as the chief judge of the Wing Chun division in the International Chinese Martial Arts Championship (ICMAC) every year since their first visit in 2010 to the San Francisco area.
Sifu Ken was the chief trainer of the team of competitors representing the lineage of Grandmaster Chris Chan at the 2011 competition. Out of 6 competitors in the forms and chi sao categories, 5 were able to place within the top 3 rankings earning a total of 5 medals (3 gold, 1 silver, and 1 bronze).
In September 2012, 7 of Sifu Ken’s own students competed in the ICMAC competition. Six of those 7 students were able to place within the top 3 rankings winning a total of 9 medals (6 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze).
In October 2013, 12 of Sifu Ken’s students competed in the ICMAC competition. Ten of those 12 students were able to place within the top 3 rankings earning a total of 14 medals (6 gold, 5 silver, and 3 bronze).
Sifu Ken graduated from college with a degree in mechanical engineering and currently earns a living in the specialized profession of commercial HVAC building automation systems and commissioning. Because of his experience and knowledge in the mechanical engineering field, he is able to understand and break down the technical aspects of the highly sophisticated Wing Chun techniques and explain them in layman’s terms for his students to comprehend. There are many testimonials from his students who have benefited and reach a clearer and deeper understanding of the effectiveness of this intelligent and technical system.
Sifu Ken is currently the most active senior student who has completed Grandmaster Chan’s system and actively and publicly teaches today. Although most of his time is spent raising his 3 young children with his wife Suzanne, he still makes time to teach his students who are more like his second family. His Wing Chun Dynamics class is located in the southern bay area peninsula suburb of Belmont, California. He accepts students of any skill level or gender. Minimum age to join his class is 14 years.