The Richmond Moy Yat Kung Fu Academy celebrated its anniversary this past weekend. Founded in 1986 by Grandmaster Anthony Moy Tung Dandridge, the school has been passing down the authentic Ving Tsun (wing chun) system for more than three decades, a testament to the power of the kung fu he learned from his sifu, Moy Yat.
There is a saying in the Ving Tsun system: “Kung Fu cannot be taught or bought; it can only be caught.” In the early days of the Richmond Academy, sometimes some students would say that Moy Tung ‘doesn’t teach.’ This kind of thing was also said about Moy Yat and Yip Man. Sometimes people still say things like this about Moy Tung. This is interesting, because his school has been open for over 30 years, and he has three generations of students actively teaching Ving Tsun Kung Fu in his lineage.
People may come into the school with expectations about how kung fu is taught – part of the experience is learning how it’s actually passed on. Moy Tung has commented periodically over the years that he sometimes teaches too much; students quit for this reason, too. As difficult as it may be to learn Ving Tsun from Moy Tung, he’s never lacked for students who value the kung fu highly.
Whatever the truth is about teaching too much or too little, Moy Tung workshops are not open to the public – they are limited to active Moy Tung-lineage students, and Moy Tung’s invited guests. Around seventy people participated in some or all of the thirty-plus hours of training that went on this past weekend, including sifus and students who came from halfway across the U.S.
In addition to sifus from three generations, there were four generations of Moy Tung-lineage students present from 16 schools around the US: From VA: Richmond Main St Academy; Chesterfield; West End; Southside; Virginia Beach; Roanoke. And further out: Milwaukee; Austin; Houston; Detroit; MD; CT; KY; DC; ME; Brooklyn.
The energy in the school was palpable the entire weekend. Dozens of people training Ving Tsun Kung Fu together creates a lot of energy and information. This is one of the greatly rewarding opportunities that come with learning Ving Tsun in the Moy Tung lineage – the kung fu family getting together for these marathon training sessions.
All three Main Street training chambers were used on all three days, with Saturday packed and some people even going out back. At Moy Tung’s direction, on Saturday afternoon after the lunch break, training continued at a local park. It was a beautiful sunny day, and nice in the shade. Training outdoors, in nature, at the beach and in the mountains, is something the Moy Tung clan does every year, another kung fu blessing to be thankful for.
Moy Tung was heard to comment at one point during the weekend that if all students get to do is a lot of Ving Tsun training, they can be happy with that. People came to Richmond to train, and they did. Ving Tsun students were still training past 3 am on Friday and Saturday, and there was a full day of training on Sunday.
Moy Tung was at the school most of the time, agreeably allowing students to work out as much as they wanted. Moy Tung advises people to train hard, to challenge oneself, and to rest and take breaks when needed. It’s what he did, and it’s what he’s been teaching Ving Tsun students to do for over 30 years.
As is his custom, Moy Tung spent time in his office with the sifus and senior students and some lucky juniors, hanging out and sharing kung fu life, the way a great deal of kung fu is passed on – informally, through students paying attention and learning. Moy Tung is social and friendly to all, but he doesn’t hang out with everyone all the time. His life’s work is being a sifu to sifus, and during workshops, he likes to spend time with serious students, who’ve put in time and done good work, even traveling great distances and making sacrifices to see him, treating the kung fu as something valuable.
Moy Tung would give his sifus and seniors instructions to work with the classes on, and everyone was kept busy. Periodically he would appear in each of the three main training chambers. Sometimes he would give instructions to the group, creating an hour or more’s worth of training on an exercise in just a sentence or two, and then disappear. Sometimes he could be seen observing the training that was going on, wandering through the rooms, saying hello to people and giving out details, technique demonstrations and other information to individuals, small groups or the whole class, as he wished.
Now and then Moy Tung would divide the groups up by years training or generations, so that students would be working out with those at their level in time training; with their kung fu siblings or cousins only; or mixed with everyone. Most of the time men and women train separately, but at workshops sometimes all work together. Moy Tung would variously instruct the groups to observe, reverse or ignore the standard sihing-sidai roles. Everything was worked on, from the basics to the advanced.
While there is plenty of detail in the Ving Tsun system, and Moy Tung teaches it to those who are listening, one of his primary teaching techniques is simply having students work together in ways that challenge the body and the mind. By doing this, students are able to taste the kung fu and figure things out for themselves.
The first part of the training on Saturday was capped off with a traditional family-style dinner at the Full Kee, one of Grandmaster Moy Yat’s favorite places to eat when he visited Richmond. The kung fu family and guests relaxed, socialized and enjoyed a lengthy and delicious multi-course meal of authentic Chinese dishes. Afterward the group posed for a photo and socialized some more, before students went back to Main St for more training.
Workshop Sundays are generally more informal – some people travel on that day to get home, others may be burned out, sore, happy and needing rest and recovery after hours of disciplined Ving Tsun Kung Fu training. This Sunday, there were 25-30 present for some or all of the 6+ hours of training. Moy Tung has commented in the past that when he sees students working hard on kung fu, he is moved to teach even more. This day was no exception, and he made sure that everyone had plenty to do.
At one point Moy Tung gave a demonstration of fighting applications of shifting with Bong Sao and Lop Dar, and then had everyone drill the techniques in different ways with different partners. Two rows of pairs of students were lined up, filling the room, an extension of the material covered in the Lop Sao line in the park.
The demonstration was filmed by Sifu Barry O’Brien, and Moy Tung directed that everyone who attended the training get a copy of the video. If you were lucky enough to be there, you’ll be able to replay the events, getting fresh perspective, seeing new things your eyes didn’t see at your previous level of kung fu.
After training on Sunday, Moy Tung and a dozen students had a meal at City Dogs down the street. The group that hung in there to the very end – which included people from senior sifus to very junior students – was rewarded with a slew of stories and insights into kung fu training, fighting, life and more. Again, these informal gatherings to share food, drink and time together are how a great deal of Ving Tsun Kung Fu is passed on. Everyone caught the kung fu they could – and there’s no end to the opportunities to learn more.
Moy Tung is an authentic Moy Yat Ving Tsun master – the kung fu martial arts skill in the hands and horses of his great-great-grandstudents is evidence of this. And he is a person who says things like, “I’m a very open person, I love making friends. I’m basically…peaceful. Non violent.” Whether he ‘teaches’ or not, it’s a blessing to be able to learn from him. With the foundation laid 30 years ago, Moy Tung’s Kung Fu is making its place in Ving Tsun lineage history. Moy Tung Kung Fu is Moy Yat Kung Fu – true, authentic, pure Ving Tsun from the heart – in the tradition of Saam Faat.