By Aaron Vyvial | August 9, 2015
Ving Tsun Kung Fu has been preserved and passed down through generations in its authentic form through a series of Grandmasters. The written history of Ving Tsun appears to have begun with a doctor named Leung Jan who lived in Foshan, a town in southern China. One of his renowned disciples was Chan Wah Shun, who in taught the system to Yip Man, who is considered the Grand Master of modern Ving Tsun. In 1949, Yip Man brought the style out of Fatshan, China to Hong Kong and eventually, through his disciples, to the rest of the world. In recent times, the greatest Master of the Ving Tsun system was the late Grandmaster Moy Yat, who was Yip Man’s closest disciple for 15 years.
The Ving Tsun Kung Fu Clan now has the largest following in Hong Kong. The once little known style has become one of the most popular martial arts in the world today.
Ving Tsun in the Modern Era
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 systems, each looking a little different from the rest, with most claiming to be “authentic” ving tsun (Wingtsun, Wing Chun, Weng Chun). 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.
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.
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 was one of Yip Man’s closest disciples – grandmaster Moy Yat. Moy Yat was introduced to Yip Man and ving tsun in 1957. 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. 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.
Until his death in 2001, Moy Yat followed the examples that Yip Man set to teach his own disciples and students. By using the ving tsun principles in his everyday life, Moy Yat taught them indirectly (kung-fu life.) Those students who spent more than just classroom time with him benefited most because they live their ving tsun. This is how authentic ving tsun, as Yip, Man taught it, is learned. Moy Yat lived his life this way, spending his days living and teaching ving tsun through kung-fu life, never drawing unnecessary attention to himself despite the extensive martial arts contributions and accomplishments of the Moy Yat family.
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.