On January 23, 2001 the world said goodbye to respected and renowned Artist and Ving Tsun Grand Master Moy Yat, who passed away in his home in Queens, New York. He passed from this life at the age of sixty-two as quietly and privately as he had lived it, dying in his bed in the early morning. Unconcerned about celebrity, Moy Yat lived life simply, following the principles of the system he was revered and respected for, Ving Tsun. Often referred to as “Kung Fu Life” by him, Moy Yat not only put himself into the Ving Tsun system, he put the system into himself. He used to say, “Let the system be your guide”. He led his students by example not just in his Martial Arts but in everything he did. A true Martial Artist to the end, Moy Yat never stopped exploring the system, always searching for an even deeper understanding. Ving Tsun became his life’s work and love; a treasure he never stopped cherishing. His was a life of discovery, accomplishment and sharing.
Moy Yat was born Moy Yat-Kai in You Kum Chuen, China on June 28, 1938. He grew up in the village of Doon Fun, Toi Shan, China. After finishing school in Kamgong in 1953, he moved to Hong Kong wherey friend Moy Bing Wah introduced him to Ving Tsun in 1957. Moy Yat started his Ving Tsun training under Yip Man at Lee Chang Oak Chuen in Hong Kong. Later the school was relocated to the Hing Yip building on Tai Po Road. By 1962 Moy Yat had become the youngest Sifu recognized by Grand Master Yip Man at age 24. His first school was located on Bute Street in Hong Kong, close to his Sifu’s. In 1963 after teaching for a year, Moy Yat left his beloved Sifu and went off to spend a year as a seaman, traveling around the world.
In 1964 Moy Yat returned to Hong Kong where he married the love of his life Helen Moy and started his family. Moy Yat continued his Ving Tsun with Sifu Yip Man and also began producing students of his own. In 1967 he became one of the founding committee members as well as graphic designer for the Ving Tsun Athletic Association in Hong Kong. While teaching his own students, Moy Yat continued to serve his Sifu, contributing to the VTAA in any way he could. Much of the artwork still hanging on the walls of the VTAA today are the work of Moy Yat. He remained close by his Sifu’s side until Yip Man’s death in December of 1972. Soon after Yip Man’s funeral in 1973, Moy Yat moved to the United States to join brother Moy Yit-Dean. A year later in 1974 Moy Yat started his first US school in NYC, NY.
Moy Yat continued to actively teach and spread his Ving Tsun throughout North and South America for over twenty five years. In 1997 Moy Yat celebrated his 60th Birthday Party with the formation of the Moy Yat Ving Tsun International Kung Fu Association. He also announced much to everyone’ s sadness his retirement from formal teaching. This did nothing to stop him from continuing to add to his list of achievements however. In 1998 Moy Yat traveled to Dayton to celebrate the realization of one of his long awaited dreams, the opening of the Ving Tsun Museum. A strong supporter and founding member of the Museum board, Moy Yat contributed his time, efforts and many artifacts on display there including the famous Ving Tsun Chops.
Throughout his life, Moy Yat received numerous awards and recognition as a Master in both the Martial and artistic communities. His contributions to Ving Tsun are far reaching. Through his artwork and his skill as a teacher, Moy Yat has influenced Ving Tsun from Hong Kong to the United States as well as Canada, Mexico and South America.
With the opening of his first school Moy Yat began what was to be a long list of accomplishments and contributions to the art of Ving Tsun. He has published many books including “108 Muk Yan Jong by Moy Yat”. This was the first book on Ving Tsun Kung Fu published in the United States by the Moy Yat family. Over the years he continued to write and publish many books such as “Ving Tsun Kuen Kuit by Moy Yat”, “A Legend of Kung Fu Masters by Moy Yat”, “Ving Tsun Trilogy by Moy Yat ” and “Kung Fu for young people – the Ving Tsun System”. The first books ever written and published about Ving Tsun Kung Fu for children. His last few books, “Voice of the Ving Tsun Kung Fu System,” “Dummy-A tool for Kung Fu” and “Luk Dim Boon Kwan” were published in the last few years; the latter completed not longArticles before his death. Moy Yat also produced many videos over the years including over thirty instructional tapes between 1987 and 2000 alone.
One of Moy Yat’s most well known accomplishments was his dream to provide a place where all Martial Artists could go to share their knowledge. This was a dream passed on to him by his Sifu, Yip Man. This dream was realized with the opening of the Ving Tsun Museum in Dayton, Ohio. After five years of planning and hard work by Moy Yat along with his student and current Museum Chairman Benny Meng as well as the other members of the first Ving Tsun Museum committee, the doors opened to the public in October of 1998. The Grand opening brought much attention worldwide with some of Yip Man’s greatest students in attendance. Among them were Yip Man’s two son’s Yip Chun and Yip Ching as well as other Ving Tsun legends Chu Shong Tin, Mak Po, Moy Bing Wah and Hawkins Cheung.
Moy Yat was well known for his knowledge and accomplishments in Ving Tsun. But, he was not limited to only this in his contributions to the world. Moy Yat was also a very talented and respected Artist. In his lifetime, Moy Yat produced numerous works of art including stone, metal, watercolor, and oils. His artwork has been displayed in many art shows as well as some of the world’s most respected Art Museums. Some of his greatest works include the Ving Tsun Chops. The Chops were seen by the general public for the first time as a featured item at the Grand Opening of the Ving Tsun Museum.
Another of Moy Yat’s most notable and unique accomplishments are the painting style created by him and known as “Blush Strokes”. Anyone who has had the opportunity to see these original pieces by Moy Yat can understand why he used the word “Blush”. Those who study the paintings however will see and appreciate the unique way in which Moy Yat explained principles of the Ving Tsun system though his artistic nature.
Perhaps Moy Yat’s greatest achievements have been in that which lives on even after his passing; the many students he has produced who have earned respect and admiration amongst their peers. Moy Yat always believed and taught that no matter what you do in life, you must always put 100% into it. Anything worth doing was worth doing right. This was one of the values he instilled in his students. I remember him saying once that he would get upset when someone would say, “I’ll try”. He said this was a defeatist attitude and the person was already setting himself up for failure along with excuses to explain it. He said, “when your Sifu gives you a task don’t tell him you’ll try. Just go do it without discussion before during or after. Let your hands do the talking. This is how you will earn the respect of your Kung Fu brothers.” This was the kind of humble confidence he displayed and expected.
I’ve heard it said that a man’s worth can be measured in what he leaves behind. Many of Moy Yat’s students have repeatedly proved his worth by their accomplishments and contributions to Ving Tsun over the years. Realizing that each person has unique gifts, Moy Yat guided his students to develop their own Kung Fu. He has produced many knowledgeable and skilled students who have honored their Sifu with their unique accomplishments. Some of his students, Jeffrey Chan and John Chen among them, became skilled fighters. Others such as Mickey Chan, Henry Moy, Sunny Tang, Pete Pajil and Javier Ramirez became talented Teachers. Some such as Greco Wong, Miguel Hernandez, Leo Imamura carried on Moy Yat’s tradition of using art to discover and express Ving Tsun by becoming writers and artists. Still others such as Sam Liu, the Yip Man Athletic Association Chairman, and Benny Meng who is Chairman of the Ving Tsun Museum have used their skills to become leaders in the world Martial Arts community.
Those who knew of Moy Yat respected him as a Teacher and Artist. Those who had the good fortune to know him respected and loved him as Moy Yat the man. Never placing himself on a pedestal, Moy Yat was always approachable and personable. To those he saw as sincere he would give his undivided attention and time openly and honestly. It was not unusual for him to display his nature openly, never hiding his feelings for the sake of appearance. He displayed this many times when discussing his beloved Sifu Yip Man. It was this unhidden human nature that made him a joy to be with above and beyond anything one might gain from his presence.
I think it is true that we are remembered not only for what we do in life but, even more for what we lead others to do. This is evident by the values displayed within Moy Yat’s family as well as the thousands of his students, Special Students and Grand Special Students around the world. Moy Yat accomplished a great deal in the 62 years of his life. But, I believe the extent of his accomplishments will be seen for generations to come. His influence has and will be far reaching for those who knew him as Moy Yat the Teacher, Moy Yat the Husband and Father, Moy Yat the Man.
Moy Yat is survived by his wife Helen Moy, son William and daughters Vieven and Viva.
Grand Master Benny Meng