Introducing the Moy Yee Kung Fu Couple - an interview with Sifu Russell 易強 and Sifu Angela 易君
1. As disciples who studied under Grandmaster Henry Moy Yee, how do you both teach Kung Fu as two Sifu(s) in the same school?
Russell: When you first meet us, it might seem like our training styles and personalities are very different. I’m loud and engaging, and I can command the room. Angela is quieter and more reserved, slowly guiding her students, and attentive to one-on-one instruction.
Angela: This creates a nice balance in the school, and we can really support each other’s strengths.
Russell: Even though our styles may be different, our method is successful because we both have such a strong foundation in practice and teaching from Sifu.
2. (To Sifu Angela)
Moy Yee Kung Fu at Morris County, New Jersey is part of Sifu Angela Barbara's Advanced Acupuncture and Natural Medicine clinic (ab-acu.com). How does teaching Tai Chi correlate with your medical practice?
Angela: Medicine became a natural extension of what I began learning from Sifu when I joined Moy Yee San Jong in 2006. The simple, yet elegant concepts of nourishing life, movement, balance, and transformation apply in both martial arts and medicine. When I joined the school, I was inspired to hear about how some of my fellow students had overcome chronic pain and other health challenges through training with Sifu. I started to see how my training was not only making me physically stronger, but positively affecting my health and mindset. I remember one of the earliest moments that started me on this path was when Sifu taught me about the use of his own dit da jow (an herbal training liniment, massaged topically to injuries to help with pain and healing). I decided to help others become stronger and healthier, and I studied tui na, (a highly effective form of Chinese medical massage). I then enrolled in a master’s program for Traditional Chinese Medicine, where I majored in Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. When I told Sifu about my decision to study medicine, we had a long talk about being a “good doctor”. I learned from Sifu that the values and goals of a good doctor are the same as being a good martial artist--to help other people. I feel that my patients truly benefit from the influence that my martial arts training has had in all areas of my medical practice.
3. (To Sifu Russell) Sifu Russell Barbara, what is the most significant moment you’ve had in your journey studying Wing Chun?
Russell: About a year into training ving tsun with Sifu, he informed us that we would dedicating the last half hour of our three-hour class to learning tai chi. At that point, I was completely hooked on ving tsun and felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day to train. I didn’t have anything against tai chi, I just thought it wasn’t for me and that it would take precious time and focus from something that I was just beginning to understand. As we began our tai chi training, I realized it didn’t come as naturally to me as ving tsun did and was a bit of a struggle. As time went on, however, I really began to enjoy it and its challenges, and began to understand the value of working outside of my comfort zone. I saw how it complemented my ving tsun and realized that my initial perception that the concepts of the respective arts contradicted each other was incorrect. I became more aware of the medicinal side of martial arts and how to cultivate internal strength and develop a more sustainable and balanced training regimen. This put me on the path toward the study of Chinese medical massage.
4. As life partners and martial arts practitioners, what Kung Fu do you like practicing together?
Russell: I guess my favorite form to practice with Angela is siu lim tao basic drills because it reminds of when I first taught her. We used to tend bar together in Brooklyn, New York, and we would hang out after our shift and talk. After I started at Moy Yee, I would talk about kung fu constantly and I thought I was boring her to tears, but one day she said she would like to learn. I said I would teach her and began lessons soon after. She picked it up right away and, after attending a demonstration by the school, started studying ving tsun under Sifu. I wasn’t supposed to have taught her outside the school, and I was worried when Sifu called me into the office. He said he could tell I’d been teaching her and I confessed and apologized. He laughed and said it was ok and that even though I shouldn’t have done it everything worked out for the best in the end.
Angela: Yes, it definitely worked out, and I think it was learning kung fu that actually brought us closer together and continues to strengthen our relationship. I have warm memories of our tai chi and weapons form performances together for the school shows. I used to be so nervous and hesitant to perform in public, but having Russell as my partner felt so natural, as if we were just doing some training together, except in front of cameras and lots of people! Russell is such a wonderful teacher, and we always enjoy just hanging out and doing kung fu together.