“Attack me, anyway you like” … Just as I did, I suddenly felt stunned, and I had Hawkins’ fist in my face. He smiled. “Did you feel the shock? Did your mind ‘blank out?'”
Hawkins Cheung is one of the original Ip Man students, starting with him in 1953. He was a Kung Fu brother of Wong Shun Leung and a classmate of Bruce Lee’s from before they started studying Wing Chun.
Hawkins has taught here and there but mostly seems to have spent his life studying different arts. He was with Ip Man on and off for 20 years. He earned a fourth degree black belt in Goju-Ryu Karate. He studied the Wu style of tai chi as well as the Yang, Chen and Sun styles.
Most unusually, he seems to be the one guy everyone in the Wing Chun world likes. He was friends with Wong Shun Leung and Leung Ting and William Chung and Gary Lam and everyone else, it seems. So he occupies an unusual position as the one person who knew and talked with them all.
Wing Chun, as you may or may not know, is a bit splintered, since Ip Man did not name a successor. There is a lot of contention over who is the “Grandmaster.” I’ve counted at least eight teachers using this title or having others use it of them, and I haven’t really made an exhaustive search.
Hawkins was to some degree my teacher’s other teacher, besides Gary Lam, living nearby in L.A. and spending a lot of time at Sifu Lam’s house, the location of his school from 1997 to late last year.
Hawkins was one of the few people able to intelligently follow Bruce Lee’s development of Jeet Kune Do. He was in touch with Bruce from before he knew any martial arts until his untimely death and in various videos and articles he has discussed and analyzed Bruce’s contributions to martial arts.
For instance, in one of his videos from the 1980s, Hawkins theorized that Bruce developed his strong hand/strong foot forward style for JKD because he was someone whose drive to perfection made him have to be number one.
When he was teaching the big Westerners in Seattle, the square facing of Wing Chun did not give him enough advantage, so he brought his very fast right hand and foot closer to the opponent with a slightly angled stance.
Hawkins was also an early chronicler of Wing Chun, filming with a 16mm camera many of the great teachers and fighters of the art. He has released some of this film in his videos but I hope he plans to release more in the future.
Hawkins has recently started doing a bunch of video on his Youtube channel – he says he wants to get this information out while he still can – I for one thank him very much. I think he is my Si-suk? Something like that – my great-Kung Fu Uncle. I’m proud to be in the same lineage!
Sifu Hawkins Cheung passed away on February 3rd 2019, leaving behind a long legacy of martial arts teaching, research, and development. For an in-depth examination of his life, with many links to great interviews, check out the article on Kung Fu Tea, Hawkins Cheung and the Making of Modern Wing Chun History (which cited this article, shocking the hell out of me).