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Fri, May 07, 2010
The Star/Asia News Network
Enter the Malay Ip Man

PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA - Long before the Hong Kong movie Ip Man made the Wing Chun form of kung fu famous, the son of a silat master here has been practising the traditional Chinese martial arts for years.

Kahar Zaitun, 36, started learning the fight form since 1991 after completing his secondary school education.

He credits sifu Yip Fook Choy for breaking the stereotype and taking him as student. He said many other kung fu masters had refused him prior to that.

"My father told me that if I were to learn martial arts, I will have to also master Wing Chun as it is the most comprehensive of all exercises," said Kahar who found Yip via a telephone directory.

"He is a very famous Wing Chun master," said Kahar. "From that day onwards, he became my other father and I call him sifu.

"Sifu is a very open-minded person. Race was never a consideration for him," he added.

The Nottingham Trent University mechanical engineering graduate continues to be an avid Wing Chun follower until today.

Kahar, a translator with Perodua, became Yip's assistant coach in 2001 and now helps train about 50 students here, in Kuantan, and Kuala Lumpur.

"There are still people who are shocked to see a Malay instructor teaching kung fu," said Kahar. "Many people, especially the Chinese, do not believe that I know Wing Chun until they see me coach," he said.

Kahar, a father of a three-year-old son, said Wing Chun had shaped his character and his entire life. Yip, 67, said Kahar was one of his most faithful students throughout his 60-odd years of teaching martial arts.

"Even though he is from a different race, he truly respects me as his sifu," he said.

"I do not treat him differently. I just accept him for who he is and teach him all that I know."

-The Star/Asia News Network

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