Grandmaster Moy Yat

Moy Yat (梅逸佳, Moy Yit-Kai) was born in 1938 in Toi Shan, the province of Canton. In 1953, his family moved to Hong Kong where he had the good fortune to study Ving Tsun Kung Fu under Yip Man. He was a very close follower of the venerable teacher, being a frequent companion as well as a dedicated student.For fifteen years, Moy Yat kept a close relationship with Yip Man, living the ‘Kung Fu Life’. It was at this time that he learned from Yip Man the principles and deeper aspects of Ving Tsun. Never far from Yip Man’s side, Grandmaster Moy Yat eventually developed into one of his top disciples.

Left: Sigung Moy Yat;
Above: Sigung Moy Yat (far left),
Si Tai Gung Ip Man (center)

Moy Yat and his family immigrated to the United States in 1973 where he joined his brother Yit-Dean Moy in New York. At twenty-four, Moy Yat became the youngest Ving Tsun Sifu. It was in Brooklyn where the seed of the Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu family was planted. Moy Yat quickly developed a loyal following of students, many of whom had sought him out to learn authentic kung fu. His students number in the thousands and a good many of the well known Ving Tsun Masters were once his students. Master Moy resided in the New York City area and taught regularly in his Chinatown school. He also visited his branch schools scattered throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.Just as Yip Man had done in Hong Kong, Grandmaster Moy Yat followed his Sifu’s example and utilized the same method to teach his own students. He instilled upon his students the importance of ‘Kung Fu Life’—the use of Ving Tsun principles in everyday life. He always said that Ving Tsun Kung Fu can best be learned outside the classroom. This is how Ving Tsun, as taught by Yip Man, is learned. Grandmaster Moy Yat lived his life very much in this way, spending his time living and teaching Ving Tsun through “Kung Fu Life.”Kung Fu is not the only art Si-Gung Moy had mastered. He was a dynamic and versatile artist. His works have been exhibited in England, Hong Kong, Australia, and Canada as well as in America. He was also one of the foremost seal-makers in the world, and was a consultant to both The Academy of Chinese Arts and The Museum of Natural History. His latest works were the Blush Strokes. Their ingenious, simplistic abstractions are extremely fluid and subtle. A master with the brush, he made a profound impact on contemporary America.Grandmaster Moy Yat retired from teaching physical Kung Fu on his sixtieth birthday, but continued to teach the principles of Kung Fu as well as art and massage. His son, William, now teaches at both the Chinatown School and at the Bayside, Queens School with Sifu Mickey Chan. The Moy Yat Kung Fu family is quite extensive, with students throughout the world spreading the art of Ving Tsun. Moy Yat’s disciples are teaching Ving Tsun in their own schools throughout the United States and around the world with schools as far reaching as Canada, Brazil and Mexico.

Grand Master Moy Yat died peacefully at his home in Queens, NY on Tuesday morning, January 23rd, 2001, of natural causes. Over 1,500 people from all over the world came to pay their last respects on Saturday, February 3rd at the Chinese Cheung Sang Funeral Home in Manhattan’s Chinatown, NY. He was laid to rest the next morning at the Kensico Cemetery in the town of Valhalla, NY. Hundreds of brave mourners endured the sub-freezing temperatures for the graveside service.

Grand Master Moy Yat died peacefully at his home in Queens, NY on Tuesday morning, January 23rd, 2001, of natural causes. Over 1,500 people from all over the world came to pay their last respects on Saturday, February 3rd at the Chinese Cheung Sang Funeral Home in Manhattan’s Chinatown, NY. He was laid to rest the next morning at the Kensico Cemetery in the town of Valhalla, NY. Hundreds of brave mourners endured the sub-freezing temperatures for the graveside service. Words cannot express our gratitude for the love and support that we have received since our great loss. Our father’s life was enriched by the incredible relationships that surrounded him.


The following words were written by Phil Vedova and were read by
Sifu Mickey Chan during the funeral:

“There is no easy way to be a teacher or a disciple, although it must be the greatest joy in this life.”

 Huston Smith
Professor of Philosophy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sifu would often say, “Life is like a grindstone: either it wears you down or it will polish you into a fine jewel.” Life made Moy Sifu into just such a gem of a man.

The horrors and hunger of Sifu’s early life in China were overcome through the strength of character modeled by his mother and the sacrifice of his father. He then had the great good fortune to come to study Ving Tsun with the legendary Ip Man in Hong Kong. It was Ip Man’s expert tutelage and loving guidance that shaped and defined the life of Moy Yat. He saw in the young Moy Yat the makings of a great Sifu, the inspiration of a great artist but most importantly the qualities of a great man.

There is a Chinese character which when written means ‘the spoken wisdom of ten generations.’ It was this wisdom which cannot be contained in books that Ip Man imparted to Moy Yat. Ip Man achieved this most difficult of tasks through the sharing of himself and his time. Through stories, poetry, idioms, calligraphy, humor, and rigorous training the living principles of Ving Tsun Kung Fu were instilled in the young Moy Yat and came to life. Over ten intense and intimate years of Moy Yat’s life with his great Sifu Ip Man acting as his father and guide the course for Moy Yat’s lifetime was set.

Moy Sifu came to call this vehicle Ip Man used to impart his wisdom and knowledge ‘Kung Fu Life’. Each and every one of us who were fortunate enough to spend some time with Sifu got to ride in that very special vehicle. Even the briefest of turns was worth it for a lifetime of memories, for Moy Yat was a man unique among many. Few of us commit ourselves solely to the purpose of one cause, one great effort, one vision, one dream, and one passion for a lifetime. If one could compare Sifu’s life to music the analogy could be made that although his life was composed of many exquisite melodies Ving Tsun kung fu is his symphonic masterpiece and great contribution to the world.

A man of such subtle genius and talent could have achieved the pinnacle of success in any path he chose and yet he daily, faithfully answered the call to be a teacher and a father to so many. He was no ordinary kung fu instructor or mere boxing coach. Moy Yat was a ‘master of the moment’. He always used any opportunity, circumstance or situation that life availed to teach about kung fu or more often than not about life itself. It seemed to whichever student whom was lucky enough to receive this knowledge and spend the time necessary to forge such an intimate relationship with him; his grasp of things sometimes bordered on the sublime.

Only someone who was a living embodiment of Ving Tsun could have impacted so many so deeply. This remarkably generous, artistic, cultured man of tradition was yet modern, contemporary and rooted in the present too. Only someone with his subtle mind could have so successfully bridged the two vastly different cultures of the East and the West and impart to those of us non-Chinese some of the greatest subtleties of thought and experiences of the great Eastern tradition of kung fu.

Sifu was also a man of the future. His students range from many a race, creed, color and station in life. It was his ‘blindness’ to these outward differences that helped us all see one another as brothers and sisters. The world is shrinking in so many ways and Sifu did much to help us see our similarities and our shared love of kung fu as a way to connect with the humanity of another. This Moy Yat achieved while sharing his unique kung fu with the world.

To live a life such as this was no easy task. It was a life that required tremendous sacrifices on Sifu’s part and for those closest to him, for he had little family time. The great irony is through his sacrifice and the sacrifices made by all of Sifu’s children and his wife; great strength came to the family of Moy Yat. Any deficiencies, which lay here, were amply filled by the loving strength of Simo. Without Simo, sifu could not have been our Sifu. Simo accepted many of us as her own children. She gladly fed us on many occasions, tolerated our ridiculously late nights and opened her heart and her home to us. No words can express our deepest gratitude to you, Simo … Thank you.

In each of your children one can find the balance to Sifu’s and your great sacrifices:
In Vivien and Dan; brilliant, deeply spiritual, lovely, loving, gentle, kind and devoted parents of two special sons John and Michael… In William and Elizabeth a couple deeply devoted to each other. Bill is a talented son steeped in his father’s vast kung fu knowledge and full of his mother’s best qualities of generosity, kindness and gentleness yet imbued with Simo’s strength of character and devotion to family… And In Viva, the youngest of the three, was the one Sifu used to call his ‘Bosom buddy’ for she embodies the best of his qualities: Vivacious and bright, artistic in temperament, charming, cosmopolitan and yet sweet and kind…

These wonderful children and grandchildren are the product of your life’s efforts with Sifu and these fine people are a testament to your family legacy Simo.

Like the rainbow after the storm of life it is the best of our efforts and the best of ourselves which remains.

Sifu, a man of Art, a man of culture, a man of knowledge filled with a passion for life, kung fu and fatherly love. A man of the past yet firmly rooted in the present and whose legacy will reverberate long into the future.

As many of us may know “Yat” means ‘One’. Moy Yat Sifu, you were a man who was first in many things. You mean many different things to each of us here today to pay our respects, so now, at this moment of time as we remember your vivid presence we can all truly say you are number one in our hearts. May your soul rest in peace dear teacher, dear friend, dear brother, and dear father: Our father Moy Yat.

The following words were spoken by Tom Kagan at the funeral service.

Some of you may know, I don’t know why I come to train. I was fortunate enough to frequently spend time with sifu. Whether it was morning tea, lunch, after class, or at his home, I tried my best to make time to be with him. But, I really don’t understand why I went.

A few years back, many of you may remember that he “bai si”ed with an Chinese Opera Sifu. He did this so he could learn more about what it must have been like during the days of the Red Boat Opera Company. I remember he was taking some ribbing from some of his closer students and friends. They couldn’t believe that such a famous man would again “bow down” to another person. Sifu said to them: “Always be student – you have to keep learning.” For that day, I knew why I was there.

After Sifu’s second stroke, he spent many days in the hospital. I visited him every day – sometimes twice a day. Again, I didn’t know why. I just had a strong feeling I should be there. One day, I hadn’t gone to visit sifu all day. My wife and I were involved in a back and forth bickering argument that day as sometimes happens between married couples. I wanted to visit Sifu but there were still a lot of things to do at home. Finally, late that evening, I went to the hospital. I arrived well after visiting hours were over. Still, I went up to his room. Sifu was sleeping already. I noticed that he had fallen asleep with a toothpick in his mouth. I reached over and took the toothpick out of his mouth then went home. For that day, I knew why I was there.

And here we are today. And, while I still may not know why, I know what I must now do. I must honor him.

In the coming weeks, months, and years, some of us will honor him by getting together to talk about the old days and our memories of sifu. Some of us will gather and collect paintings and other artifacts. Some of us will find still other ways of remembering him and his legacy. These ways are all noble. However, for myself, I know what I must do. And, that is I must strive to make my Kung Fu good … no, make it great – not just my martial art, but my Kung Fu
You may wonder how I will be able to make my Kung Fu great now that I have lost my sifu. But, even though there is a great void in my life, I feel complete because the most important lesson he taught me was how to teach myself.

You may know, sifu has another name: “Go Yan.” He always told us that it translated as “Tall Man” because he is tall. But, actually, that’s just him being humble. It really translates as “Great Man” or “Holy Man.” Sifu once said to me: “The place where people meet to seek the highest ideals is holy ground.” Well, wherever there is holy ground, we will find “Go Yan.”