This page is dedicated to memories of Grandmaster Moy Yat.
Just after his 50th birthday Gun-Gun had a place a bit into Little Italy,
a block or two away from Chinatown. He was interested to see how a Mah-Jong store would do.. selling the boards and whatnot. We talked about a lot of things including that Moy-Wo-Tin (Rex Aperauch) could not attend his 50th birthday party…. Gun-Gun had missed him.
Moy-Wo-Tin was the first branch school here in the states after learning in Chinatown.Gun-Gun just as an aside told me then that those who missed his 50th party would have to wait til his 60th (the next big birthday year)… and then said “I will probably only live for 10 or 15 more years”. Gun-Gun lived for 12.5 more years… leaving us when he was 62.5 years old. I never imagined his words would come true.
Just days before his passing Gun-Gun gave me a beautiful bust of himself, he had just received some from China. He checked it out and looked at it… seeing if the ears and other details were correct. Sharing his satisfaction in the work with me he then inscribed his name and the year with the engraving tool and presented it to me.
We had looked at plans for my new house in the Catskills. Gun-Gun planned to move there when it was completed and spend a lot of time painting, he was very excited by it all and had ideas for his room and work areas, there would be a lot of room in the house for everything. He said “New York City has had me for 27(?) years…. now everyone must come to the Catskill Mountains to see me… I will bring the kung fu there”.
When Gun-Gun left us it certainly didn’t seem real. I had playfully pat the bust on the head and said “good night Gun-Gun” just the night before his passing…. we all miss him so much!
Mo-Wo-Tin, Moy-Hop-Gee, then came me… and then my students… first I taught in Miami in the 80’s when Sifu Smith first retired (Moy-Hop-Gee)… then I came to New York and spent a good deal of time with Gun-Gun. He later (88?) made me a Special Student. Sifu Smith had opened my hands and taught me the kung fu, I was first his special student, now Gun-Gun tested it and added kung fu life. Thoughhe told me “now you call me Sifu” he allowed me to continue to call Robert Smith Sifu in respect and appreciation for all the time he spent to teach me and I greatfully call him that to this day… and he continues to teach me.
Sifu Moy Yat told me to call him Gun-Gun which means loosely “daddy or granddaddy”… he said it was even better than calling him Sifu. He was very understanding.
So now we were at his funeral, Sifu Rex Aperauch who opened the first branch school, Sifu Robert Smith who was Gun-Guns first Grand Special Student, myself who Gun-Gun took as his own and made me a Special Student, then came my current batch of
talented and dedicated students… also with us was my Si-Suk, John Siriani…. so now we had four generations of kung fu in the car… and all of us with personal memories of a man who touched each of us deeply.
At the funeral I could not bring myself to wear a white sash with the other Special Students but instead wore a black armband as Sifu Smith, being the first Grand Special Student as well as my reason for having any kung fu… wore a black armband.
I felt such gratitude to him for his patience in teaching me and for bringing me to Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu… out of respect to him I wore the black armband and not the white sash…. it was hard for me as I am not humble… though I don’t have much to brag about.
For a year of two I treated Gun-Gun with acupuncture and also some sophisticated acupressure which he said would be the topic of a chapter in the autobiography that he was planning to publish. He also had planned to have me teach some when we went to China. We spoke a lot about acupuncture and many things as we both shared an interest in acupuncture and were both practitioners.The treatments helped him a lot and helped assure quality of life. I was so happy to be able to do anything for him.. he had done so much for us all. Each of Gun-Guns students that were close to him,
related with him in a special way.
Gun-Gun loved to have all sorts of people in the family, pharmacist, lawyer, teacher, and on and on.. it was like an ecosystem, each student with a unique talent. With all the ideas Gun-Gun had he could easily call someone in the family to help make it happen or to carry on a discussion about the idea.
Spending time with Grandmaster Moy Yat was always a learning experience. At the last birthday party we could have with him so many kung fu brothers and sisters were there as well as of course, his immediate family. We ate at the Silver Palace in Chinatown as we often did. Many pictures were taken and many became GSSA that night.
We presented him with a plaque from the international star registry naming a star after Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu. Outer space seemed the only place not yet touched by Gun-Guns efforts.. so we wanted to touch base there too!!! We also met soon thereafter for the book signing of Gun-Guns enlightening book on the Luk Dim
Boon Gwan. Kevin and Pete demonstrated the Gwan that night with great skill. Gun-Gun was pleased.
One of those nights Gun-Gun raffled off the self portrait of himself that was featured on a magazine.. a beautiful piece like no other! Mickey Chan won the raffle and happily received the painting. A week or so later Gun-Gun privately told me that God himself
made sure that Si-Bak Mickey got the painting in that raffle.
What was the learning experience? I had become very sick when I left Gun-Gun the night before the book signing however he was intent that I should be there at the book signing (He didn’t know that I was so sick). My students drove us there and back but I was a bit out of it. After dinner we chatted and laughed and time went by. I was so spacey I didn’t send my students for the Explorer until we were leaving the restaurant.
Gun-Gun waited downstairs for five minutes and then King showed up in his car. Gun-Gun got in and turned to me and said “King has better kung fu than you” and left. He was right. I later told Gun-Gun that it would never happen again…. and it didn’t.
Timing, economy and efficiency of motion, of thought, of resource, all these things are Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu.
Gun-Gun surprised me one night. I picked him up to take him to Chinatown for a banquet dinner as I had often done. When we arrived at the restaurant it was time to begin, a few hundred people were waiting upstairs ready to begin. Several dozen students were downstairs waiting to go up with Gun-Gun.
Gun-Gun said “Tom Chi, come with me”. We walked several blocks to the Vegetarian Paradise restaurant. “Gun-Gun, the banquet is waiting” I said. He told me not to worry and we went inside the restaurant. He proceeded to order me a five course vegetarian meal. he wouldn’t eat and he wouldn’t let me rush. He only drunk tea.
When I finished he asked me if I was satisfied. I said yes. It was the only time that I did not get to apy for dinner as he would not allow me to do so no matter how much I protested.
We arrived at the banquet almost an hour late. There wasn’t much vegetarian food at the banquets. This was one of Gun-guns ways to let me know he was pleased with me.
The year prior to his passing Gun-Gun hadd become fond of a vegetarian Chinese restaurant near his home.
We went to have lunch there. I told Gun-Gun a joke that really made him laugh so much he almost couldn’t stop. That was the kind of fun we had together. There was never a question of my respect for him so in informal situations we were really playful.
Gun-Gun had many students and a number of close students. Each had a very special relationship with him.
Anyway, after the jokes we were just quietly eating and the waiters and managers at the restaurant were eating 2 tables away from us. I heard them say “Lofan” or “opposite, but it really means “foreign devil” and they were apparently speaking about me. Gun-Gun got up and yelled at them some angry words in Spanish. Then he walked to their table and yelled at them in Chinese.
The restaurant was full and had become silent. The employees got up from their table and went into the kitchen. Gun-Gun returned to our table.
After about ten minutes the employees came back out, each carrying a small dish. One had spring rolls, one had special sauces, each dish was different and their were 6 or 8 of them.
They came to our table and bowed at the waist in front of me and then set the food in front of me and each repeated “Shifu”. I said nothing. Gun-Gun passed soon after that and I didn’t go back that restaurant for a year.
Gun-Gun and I talked about many private things when I treated him. Most of our relationship
was time that he and I spent just by ourselves. I made him laugh, even when he resisted. He had planned a trip to China and asked me to come along, was somewhat insistent because the acupuncture and soft-tissue therapies allowed his natural vibrancy to be fully present plus it made the pain go away. In his case it would last a week or so and then wed repeat it.
Had I been in closer touch during the first year when the stroke initially happened I could have assured him a full and complete recovery instead of maintenance therapy. He didnt complain.
I was happy about the planned visit to China and during the 2 years before his passing we grew much closer than we had ever been. I had not gone with him the last time due to my perceived busy schedule.
He had been surprised at my abilities with Chinese medicine as he had never really been interested in receiving the therapy from me before what with all of his Chinese medical friends readily available.
Now he found out that the Ving Tsun had honed my senses allowed me to sensitize my hands to see as well with my fingers touching tissue, as my eyes could see the room around us. We achieved
results far beyond what he had previously seen. That is what he told me. Having already done 85,000 treatments I knew what to expect.
Si-Mo had always been so very welcoming and considerate to me, right from the first time that we met. The rest of the family are also very, very nice people. William would end up the new head of the system and he had been preparing for that for a number of years though none of us realized that the end would come so very soon.
The time I spent with the family and with the rest of the Kung Fu family was limited there were many top students that I had never known and I had never been to a Special Student Association meeting.
Really, it was all about the special relationship we had when it was just us. Gun-Gun and I.. and possibly one of my students. We laughed and laughed. And of course Anthony, Pete, Miguel
and others had their own deep and meaningful connections. Gun-Gun knew when you were truly his own and couldnt hide his love, though he still had an irascible nature.
What did we talk about? The world will never know. Yes he was interested in everything, that we shared. But many stories of Kung Fu will never be told. Let the magazines carry the fantasies of the underachievers and charlatans the included pictures tell who is really a Ving Tsun adept and who has no clue though fame knows no standard of achievement and is based upon perception only in many cases.
Suffice it to say, it is still very difficult to find a qualified Ving Tsun Sifu such is life…
And certainly most students who claim to have studied Ving Tsun… have to be completely retrained….
when we come to a qualified Sifu, we rejoice, we know it is a rare and grand opportunity….. our life
changes…. and we carry it with us forever.
Moy Yat is in everything that we do… he embodied economy, efficiency, innovation, love, audacity and humour.
copyright 2002 Tom Chi
Some stories I can tell… some I can’t… I’ll think about it and write more another time.
Come back later. Thank You