Practicing Wing Tsun Changed The Whole Life Of Ralph Haenel
Promoting Chinese boxing caused the East German Government to sentence him to jail for treason.
History of Wing Tsun
Three hundred years ago in a small village in China, there was a girl named Yim Wing Tsun. This village had a villain who tried to force Wing Tsun to be his wife. Her worries turned her into learning a unique self-defense form from a nun named Ng Mui. She then managed to beat the village villain based on what she had learned.
Afterward she also taught her husband these intriguing martial art skills. Her husband named the style Wing Tsun to honor his wife and began to promote it far and wide.
The interesting thing is, that 300 years later this Kung Fu system managed to flow through the "Iron Curtain" and lead the man Ralph Haenel from East Germany to a different path in life.
The Founding of Wing Tsun in East Germany
Ralph saw in a rare occasion one of the Bruce Lee movies when he was a young child. This created a lot of interest in him about martial arts. Being 12 years old, he started to learn Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and Karate, none he didn't excel on it.
At that time, East Germany had forbidden anybody to practice any kind of fighting sports except Olympic Sport disciplines. So he could only obtain a few smuggled in martial art books with the help of the sailors and practice on his own.
He really began to feel the kind of kung fu he would like to learn was such a gulf of difference compared to the kind of competition martial arts so bound by rules and strict regulations.
At the same time, he had been writing to various martial art clubs in West Germany to seek out for new opportunities to study.
Finally, he found the European Wing Tsun Organization In Hamburg. They replied his letters and promised to supply training material and allowed him to pursuit a more ideal direction.
At that time East Germany had about 16 million people, but Ralph was the first one who entered into the world of Wing Tsun Kung Fu. Between 1985 and 1986 West German Wing Tsun instructors used the excuse of invitation for sight seeing tours by him to enter East Germany. This was the beginning of his Wing Tsun instruction.
The first instructor was uncovered by the East German Government after giving instruction only two times and they revolted his travel visa. So there was no way for this instructor anymore to enter East Germany, not even to visit relatives. (let alone Wing Tsun instructions)
Due to the diligence of Ralph's efforts, Wing Tsun began gradually spreading in East Germany around this time. But his features emphasis was on individualism (contrary to communist teaching) and more linkage with West Germany for his martial art teaching.
However, this attracted the attention of the East German KGB. Through 6 years of investigation, under the pretense of organizing a secret society and treason as indictment; he was sentenced to torturous imprisonment for severe crimes he supposedly committed.
He and another inmate shared a cell of the size of 6 square meters. They suspected each other identity, not knowing if the other one might be a spy. Nobody was even allowed to have a pen or a piece of paper (under such condition).
He recalled these painful days. Every day around bedtime, under the pretense of a security check, the guards would turn on the lights to disturb the sleep of the inmates. The guards also transferred later these political prisoners to co-habit with murderers. The purpose was to break their (political prisoners) will.
Because of the strong disciplined training of Wing Tsun, he learned to maintain cool and to keep a calm spirit. Ralph would have been definitely not able to survive the inhume treatment.
This is the first article of a two part series.