Best Kept Secret of Ving Tsun

By Aaron Vyvial | August 23, 2014

An Old Article About Moy Yat

Since the death of Yip Man in 1972, there have been many who have tried to fill the void left by his absence. Where once there was only one ving tsun family, now there are many. Before, there was Yip Man’s ving tsun. Now, there are many systems, each looking a little different from the rest, with most claiming to be “authentic” ving tsun. This is not to say that all modern-day ving tsun is bad or wrong. True ving tsun is what is simple, efficient, and agrees with the principles on which that system is based. Anything else is wasteful, unnecessary and simply not ving tsun. Whether a system is true ving tsun or not should be based on these concepts. Authentic ving tsun, as taught by Yip Man, employs certain methods, which were created as part of the system, to advance the student through various stages of development. These methods are an important part of the system as they provide the most simple and efficient way to become proficient in ving tsun. It is easy to teach someone techniques, but to use them properly requires an understanding of the principles in ving tsun, because it is based on principles, not techniques. The techniques are simply tools used to apply the principles. The methods are the means with which to teach those principles.

Few in Number

Those who teach authentic ving tsun and who understand the importance of its methods are probably few in number. One such person was Yip Man himself. Another is one of Yip Man’s closest disciples – grandmaster Moy Yat. Moy Yat was introduced to Yip Man and ving tsun in 1957 by his friend, Moy Ving Wa, and received most of his early training from one of Yip Man’s senior students, Sihing Mak Po. It is customary in ving tsun for the sifu to give the introductory lessons and then turn over responsibility to the senior students (sihings). This allows him to concentrate his efforts and time toward teaching his senior students and disciples. In those days it was very hard to break into that usually small circle. Moy Yat turned out to be an exception to this rule as he and Yip Man became very close early on in his discipleship. Later on, during the last years of Yip Man’s life, the two were seldom seen apart. As a disciple, Moy Yat followed Yip Man wherever he went and did all of the things he did. In this way, Moy Yat learned much of his kung-fu indirectly, which is how Yip Man taught the deeper aspects of the system. This has come to be known as “kung-fu life”. Because Yip Man lived the kung-fu life, everything he did was an example of ving tsun principles. By living the art instead of just practicing it in a classroom, the principles become a natural part of the practitioner and can be applied without effort, thus making everything he does simple and efficient. Moy Yat once spoke of an experience relating this concept.

True Ving Tsun Concepts

One day as Yip Man and two of his disciples, Lee Ving and Moy Yat, were walking to the Tea House as they did each day, an illegal street vendor selling ink remover approached the three and intentionally splattered ink on Yip Man’s clothing. Then, seeing a policeman approaching, the Hawker (as they were called) tried to run away. Before he could escape, he was grabbed by Lee Ving, who was very upset by what this man had done to his sifu. Without incident, Yip Man and Moy Yat continued on to the Tea House, because during the commotion Yip Man had noticed MoyYat grab a bottle of the ink remover and slip it into his pocket. The most simple and direct thing to do was to go to the Tea House as they had planned to do in the first place and take care of the stained clothing in private. Anything else would have been excessive. A confrontation with the Hawker surely would have accomplished nothing except to sidetrack Yip Man from his original intent. Yip Man applied his knowledge of ving tsun principles to resolve this situation in the best way possible. Moy Yat lived the kung-fu life with Yip Man for 15 years, developing into one of his top disciples. At the age of 24, he became the youngest sifu trained by Yip Man. During the last five years of Yip Man’s life, Moy Yat was responsible for taking care of much at the school, such as organizing important events like Yip Man’s birthday and the annual Ving Tsun Athletic Association meeting. Even the physical appearance of Yip Man’s school was, and still is, largely due to Moy Yat’s artistic talents. His presence is still felt there; much of his artwork still hangs on the walls of the Association building.

Moy Yat still follows the examples that Yip Man set and to this day utilizes the same methods to teach his own disciples and students. By using the ving tsun principles in his everyday life, Moy Yat teaches them indirectly (kung-fu life.) Those students who spend more than just classroom time with him benefit most because they live their ving tsun. This is how authentic ving tsun, as Yip, Man taught it, is learned. Moy Yat lives his life this way, spending his days living and teaching ving tsun through kung-fu life, never drawing unnecessary attention to himself or those around him. He was once even called the “ving tsun recluse” because he tends to shun publicity rather than seek it.

A Family Affair

Because the extensive Moy Yat family follows his example, they go largely unnoticed by the general martial arts public. They simply teach and learn and live ving tsun kung-fu, never looking for public approval. Much like the gentle giant, they have no need to prove to anyone what they already know. Do not be fooled, however. The Moy Yat ving tsun family is very large indeed, numbering in the tens of thousands throughout the world. More importantly, however, is the quality of the ving tsun in each of them. Size of the family alone is insufficient, for if their individual kung-fu is no good, then to have thousands, or even millions of members, is meaningless.

Individual kung-fu runs strong in the Moy Yat family and the impacts its members have made on the martial arts world, though never before made public, have been great indeed. Examples can be seen in just a few of the accomplishments of Moy Yat disciples. His first disciple, Grego Wong, wrote the very first book on ving tsun, and his schools in England, South Africa, and Canada have produced many top-notch practitioners. Before his book was published, Chinese martial arts were generally referred to as “Chinese boxing”. Because of his use of the term, “kung-fu” became common when describing Chinese martial arts. Also living and teaching in Canada is Moy Yat disciple Sunny Tang (Dun Wah), who is president of the Canadian Kung Fu Federation. He has produced numerous books and tapes on ving tsun and has developed over 20 branch schools.

In South America, disciple Leo Imamura is credited with making ving tsun a part of the college curriculum in the Brazilian university where he also holds a professorship. Even the president of the Yip Man Ving Tsun Association, Sam Liu, is a disciple of Moy Yat.

Accomplished Fighters

The Moy Yat family has also had its share of accomplished fighters. One of the most talked about modern-day challenge matches in China took place between a well-known white eyebrow master and a Moy Yat disciple named Jeffery Chen. With only nine months of ving tsun training under Moy Yat, Chen defeated this master of ten years experience. Another disciple named John Chen, better known as Moy Four, had the opportunity to prove his skills to the well-known and respected master, Dan Inosanto. While in Los Angeles on business, Moy Four visited Dan Inosanto’s school. Introducing himself as John Chen without mentioning his background, he was instantly recognized by master Inosanto as the Moy Yat disciple, Moy Four. Inosanto decided to test Moy Four and provided him with six challengers from different martial arts disciplines. Inosanto was so impressed with Moy Four’s fighting skills that he invited Moy Yat, along with ten members of his kung-fu family, to visit him in Los Angeles at his expense. To this day Inosanto remains in touch with Moy Yat, even remembering his birthday each year.

Despite the extensive martial arts contributions and accomplishments of the Moy Yat family, little is known or heard of this great ving tsun grandmaster. This is simply because of his quiet and private nature. Moy Yat is usually content just to live his life without notoriety in New York City’s Chinatown where his school is located. Occasionally he ventures out, usually with his son, William Moy, and his closest disciples.

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