Sifu Jerry Liau 易揚 - Insights into his Kung Fu journey from New York to Beijing
1. Of all the choices in martial arts available, how did you end up taking up on Ving Tsun, especially under Grandmaster Henry Moy Yee?
As a child I wasn’t athletic and a bit chubby for a ten year old. My parents were worried for the future of my health due to my father’s family history of diabetes. Growing up watching Kung Fu movies, I was willing to try Chinese martial arts. But I didn’t exactly choose Ving-Tsun because I didn’t know what it was. I was unfamiliar to the many styles within Chinese martial arts. I just thought I was going to be training high kicks and splits, like what I saw walking past the many Karate and Tae Kwon Do studios at the time.
It was a different environment for me because I started my first four years at Sifu’s house. At the time we hadn’t established uniforms or level requirements, just a small handful of us practicing in the garage or backyard. My seniors were all adults but one, Siheng Mark, who was only a year older than me. So I was lucky to have a training partner who was around my size and height, but not weight (yet).
2. It’s pretty common for kids to start in a martial art and then veer off to other activities. What made you stick with it so long?
I was lucky to start my martial arts under Sifu Henry Moy at a young age. Because aside from learning Ving-Tsun, he also taught me Shaolin and weapon forms early. So I ended up working on those high kicks and splits after all! His teachings in other styles such as Tai Chi, White Eyebrow, etc. helped me build a better foundation to try other activities. By the time I was in high school, I began practicing Parkour free running and Hip Hop break dancing on the side.
As Sifu’s disciple, I was given other responsibilities such as instructing and choreographing our demonstrations. Our training had moved from his house to the headquarter school we know today. I’ve never put this martial art down because I can’t, I use this as a base foundation to do everything in my career today.
3. How did you end up going to China and establishing your own Kung fu school there? What was the transition for you like?
From 2007-2008 Jackie Chan had held The Disciple, a reality show competition searching for new action actors on Beijing Television. I started competing in the preliminaries held in New York, which brought me to the Beijing finals. In China, I went from 128 finalists to the top 16, I made it to the finale as a bronze medalist. Shortly after, Jackie Chan also took me in as a disciple where I began my career as a performing artist. Since then, I have been based in Beijing, China.
Being that Ving-Tsun is a Southern Chinese martial art, there were less Ving-Tsun schools in Beijing. After the Ip Man movie release many people in the city were interested in learning. As a young and struggling artist, I decided to teach Ving-Tsun on the side. I started with renting dance and yoga studios by the hour, investing in training equipment, eventually moving to a bigger space where I can live and teach together. I began taking in disciples of my own, building a team to develop instructors so that our classes could run even if I was out of town filming. As we became more self sufficient we then opened our official location, Moy Yee Kung Fu Beijing at Parkview Green.
4. How is your school different from the other Moy Yee Kung Fu branches in the system?
Moy Yee Kung Fu Beijing is a part of Philosophy: The Art of Fitness, a gym in the Parkview Green shopping center. Aside from our normal class schedules, we offer open classes once a week for members of the gym. Other than that, I still teach off the basis of the Moy Yee Kung Fu system, but our training methods are constantly updating as I believe all martial arts should.
5. You recently did a mini web series, What You Don’t Know About Wing Chun, on Baidu’s streaming platform. What led upon the project and what were you looking to accomplish with the series?
The director and producer of the project is also a disciple of Jackie Chan, so we started in the entertainment industry together. He wanted to make an educational but also entertaining series for the general public. Given our expertise in stunts and acting, we could attract viewers but also answer some of the misconceptions of the art. The miniseries is made up of 12 episodes, each with a different question towards Ving-Tsun. Many of the episodes have well over a hundred thousand views so Baidu is already supportive of our next season!
6. What were some of the biggest lessons you learned working with Jackie Chan?
During my first few years at Jackie Chan Group, the other disciples and I traveled and worked with Sifu Jackie in movies, music videos, commercials, concerts, as well as charities. Having the opportunity to observe his work ethics and attitude towards his peers, it had been quite memorable. He can lead entire productions and use his free time to give back to communities, earning the title “Big Brother.” I believe this experience alone gave me the tools to work as a solo artist in Asia.
7. What are some goals for your schools/students?
I think Sifu Henry Moy Yee’s teachings led me to many achievements. I hope passing my kung fu to others helps them as well. Disciples have the responsibility of preserving the art, and I wish for my disciples to find their way of spreading the knowledge.