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ralph haenel, wing tsun kung fu instructor, author, publisher, self-defense expert Your Kung Fu Coach Ralph Haenel, learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu since 1984
Changing lives, one punch at a time.
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Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
Saturday, 24 January 2015

Sense or Non-Sense? The #WingTsun Chi-Sau sections.
WingTsun-CoreConcepts, book by Ralph Haenel, Beyond tradition and technique - training concepts for Wing Tsun Kung Fu students and instructors!
  • Which WingTsun Version is better?
  • Four Stages of Technical Evolution
  • Bandwidth of Performance
  • Pitfalls and Four Groups of Mistakes 
  • The Power Scale
  • Four Training Methods & Categories of How-To of Chi-Sau
  • What do we really learn?

The following are combined excerpts from several chapters of my upcoming book “WingTsun-CoreConcepts, Beyond tradition and technique - training concepts for Wing Tsun Kung Fu students and instructors!”

Many have discussed over the years the sense and non-sense of Chi-Sau sections, Wing Tsun’s ‘two-men forms’. Many have obscured, misinterpreted, or simply not understood the ideas behind them; why Chi-Sau sections were created in the first place.

No musician becomes an artist by simply writing better or more notes, by copying other songs. I am not talking about commercial success here! Some people are good at playing a few cords on a guitar. Some can even perform a few songs. Some are very good studio backup musicians. And then there are the few who become more or less celebrated music talents, composing music, writing and performing music, being creative and even trend-setting, decade after decade.

Some gifted people can pick up crayons, chalk, markers, a pencil, oilpaint, watercolours and draw or paint on just about any canvas, while many of us still draw stick figures.

Chi-Sau sections are blueprints, giving you ideas on how to internalize movement pattern, how to respond eventually intuitive, how to be in the moment.

Example movements to understand concepts.

How inventive, creative, ever-searching are you as martial ARTIST? Do you break taboos? Do you inspire others? How innovative is your teaching style?

As so often in my posts, I stress the factor that a martial ART grows eventually beyond self-defense applications. But it also has to be self-defense. Initially everyone wants to feel safe, learn how to take care of themselves, become more confident, and learn to be mindful and aware.

Looking back, at one point in time, the number of (EWTO) Wing Tsun students was growing exponentially, compared to other Wing Chun or Ving Tsun styles.

Just like the forms, the masters were thinking about a way to standardize the programs, make skills and knowledge accessible to a large number of students, while minimizing the loss of information down the line from grandmaster to masters to instructors to assistant instructors to students.

Why? Remember nicknames like ‘King of Siu-Nim-Tau’, ‘King of the talking hands’, etc.? Instructors are human beings who develop preferences for some programs while neglecting others, which lead to the next generation of students missing components of the system. Some interpret techniques, forms, training programs, applications differently than their own teacher.

Some even argue which Wing Tsun is better:
- the European version,
- the ‘tough’ first generation European version,
- the latest European version
- the Eastern European version,
- the Hong Kong version,
- the North American Hong Kong influenced version,
- the North American European influenced version,  …

I wanted to add a few versions, also to show the absurdity, but you get the point. For me personally it is important that my Si-Fu inspires, researches, changes, adapts. That is what my Si-Fu Keith Kernspecht has been doing for decades. And no, I am not on his pay-roll. I am not even a member of any Wing Tsun organization. Until the year 2000, I learned and trained for 16 years in the EWTO, IWTA, AWTO.

For me personally it is also important, imperative you might say, that my delivery of learning, training and teaching methods fit the needs of us average people. I know that most people don’t want to be called average. I am talking about us average not being over 6 feet tall, not 120 kg heavy, not previously having been knock-out champions, not bench pressing 300 pounds for a warm-up, … well us average people, who are willing to learn and train hard.

One-man or in this case two-men forms preserve fundamental ideas which should be the core of one’s training and learning.

In Wing Tsun it eventually leads to seven sections, showcasing ideas (concepts) as displayed in the ‘tool-boxes’ of the first two forms, the Siu-Nim-Tau and the Cham-Kiu form. Followed today by four Biu-Dje Chi-Sau sections. Plus eight sections of Wooden Dummy Chi-Sau.

The sections are guides that show us most common usages of the techniques, movement ideas, applications. Examples of most often occurring types of (fight) interactions between two human beings.

Some despise techniques as being too limiting. But one has to start somewhere. One can’t jump from nothing to formless.
Example: Take a Tan-Sau in the first form or a Lan-Sau / Cham-Sau response in the first Wing Tsun Chi-Sau section and consider the following four stages.

Four Stages of Technical Evolution

1. idea
2. technique
3. movement
4. whole body motion

1. Any drill, exercise is in the beginning an idea. The student knows what he/she is supposed to do, is practicing movements that may feel uncomfortable, that may appear for example to be too slow, not strong enough.

2. At one point during one’s training it progresses into a technique that often works, yet may still fall victim to a fake-out, or for example may start too early or too late.

3. On the next level one understands the importance of working with the attacker, rather than against him (resisting, ‘wrestling’, breaking …). The basic idea, which evolved into a technique, becomes a movement, which covers more outcomes of any given scenario, but may still lack the ever so important coordination of hand- and footwork.

4. This is the stage we desire to achieve. Our action has turned into a whole body motion, intuitively adapting to the opponents actions, using speed, strength and direction at a moment’s notice without waiting passively.
If one would take a scene apart like a movie strip, you could in still-frames spot a Man-Sau, Bong-Sau, Lap-Sau, Fak-Sau. But trying to repeat the scenario by “doing” the techniques one after another would hopelessly fail.

It’s about how you move, not which techniques you try to apply!

Bandwidth of Performance

Often I get asked as to how I improve my own training. This goes hand in hand with what I call the training of the bandwidth of performance. Say, for example in the training of a Chi-Sau section.
1. Space – I work on responding within the smallest space available to me without getting hit, while employing horizontal, vertical, diagonal, round, straight, spiral whole-body movements.
2. Time – I work on responding in the very last moment possible without getting hit.
3. Strength - I work on responding with the least amount of strength necessary to deal with an attack while having just enough to shock the attacker.

Pitfalls and Four Groups of Mistakes 

The first seven Chi-Sau sections contain almost all techniques of the Siu-Nim-Tau and Cham-Kiu forms, eventually extracting the concepts behind these forms. What could be the pitfalls?

Many points can make or break our Chi Sau performance and more so the skills this training is designed to produce.

- advanced instructors ‘mix’ in their Biu-Dje and Wooden Dummy training induced skills or interpretations
- instructors who ‘must’ always win and thus force their students, future instructors, into a victim role, a role in which they eventually turn into ‘fear-biters’
- taller instructor enforce their personalized solutions onto shorter students
- shorter instructor impose their personalized solutions onto taller students
- stronger instructor force their personalized solutions onto weaker students
- relatively weak instructor enforce their personalized solutions onto stronger students …

Even a somewhat good reflex-like (Chi-Sau) response might end up somewhere on the scale of performance between being:
- too early or too late,
- too little or too much,
- too slow or too fast,
- too weak or too strong.

It’s not the number of techniques in a Chi-Sau section, but the completeness of concepts behind the forms. As a Wing Tsun instructor can you show and demonstrate the logical structure throughout the Chi-Sau sections? The carrying of the theme through the sections or what the Germans mean by the term: “Roter Faden”.

The sections do not follow the forms on a 1:1 basis; some sections may contain technical ideas from other forms. The seventh Wing Tsun Chi-Sau section will be performed differently by someone who is actively working on the wooden dummy form.

Few are early on already interpretative martial artists. We average fast, average strong, average (martial) artistic, average imaginative, we need guiding ideas. The forms are catalogues of techniques and concepts behind them. The Chi-Sau sections are catalogues of movements and concepts behind the motions.

Yes, some schools and instructors and students have turned these sections into meaningless partner dances. Some have turned the learning of the concepts into piles of techniques, far removed from reality. Some have begun to think and act only within the framework of Wing Tsun against Wing Tsun, completely ignoring that our tools, our skills need to work against someone who doesn’t know WT. Someone who doesn’t care about a style, someone who is OK with getting hit, someone who starts right from the beginning with animal like aggression and enjoys violence.

Other instructors have turned Chi-Sau sections into their own instruments of show-off exercises, very far from the original idea of teaching, helping the student.

Most important for an instructor is to recognize what guidance the student needs. Bring talent to the surface; don’t get lost in endless technique A against technique B combative exercises.

Remember the first training days? While considering the law, we learn how to become over time confident, how not to get into trouble in the first place, learn to verbally defuse a situation, or remove ourselves (yes, even running away).

While considering the law we would rather attack the attacker than "running behind" by hastily defending against single attacks.
This means our first attack against the attacker should:
- interfere with or stop his first attack,
- make a second and third attack difficult or impossible,
- force the attacker into non-attacking / defensive mode.

With our actions we learn to take away his:
- time to attack us successfully,
- the space he needs to attack us,
- and the opportunity to do so.

If we are just like two fighters in the ring, checking each other out, we may give the attacker too much time as well as too many options. By attacking we greatly minimize his options thus force him into an immediate decision. We learn to set him up!

Due to the nature of Wing Tsun our type of attack shall be a setup, forcing the attacker into very specific and limited response pattern.

The Power Scale

In Chi-Sau as in any exercise or application of ones skills, the question of the right amount of functional strength comes up. How much is perfect? What is the right amount? Should we just be as strong as we can?

Scenario 1 – While trying to be relaxed, loose if you want, we often end up being weak, brittle. Our Chi-Sau positions collapse.
Scenario 2 – While trying to be strong, we often end up being stiff, tense. Through our resisting Chi-Sau positions we get pushed back, out of balance. We might end in an attempt to wrestle the stronger opponent.

Now visualize a large scale. On one end of the scale we want to move the value “relaxed” to the ideal center of the scale, while leaving the attributes weak and brittle behind.
From the opposite end of this scale we move the value “strength” towards the ideal center, leaving the characteristic stiff and tense behind.
Once the values “relaxed” and “strength” meet at the ideal center of the scale, which is of course from person to person different, these values combined form a new quality: “power”.

A very important factor for our Wing Tsun, the difference between functional and physical strength will be explained in detail in my upcoming book “The practical strength training guide for Wing Tsun Kung Fu (Wing Chun, Ving Tsun) practitioners and fitness enthusiasts.”

Four Training Methods & Categories of How-To of Chi-Sau

We train every element of Chi-Sau in four scenarios:
1. speed – slow motion, regular, fast, 
2. distance – far apart, regular, close ,
3. power – barely any strength, regular, full power ("Bull" Chi-Sau),
4. training variations – supportive, 50/50, going through

That all four scenarios come in three variations is simply for explanatory reasons. You could of course train five variables of the component distance. Three variations can stand for minimum, optimum and maximum of the chosen scenario.

There are four categories as to the how-to of training Chi-Sau:
1. You learn Chi-Sau FROM your instructor.
2. You train Chi-Sau WITH your training partner.
3. You teach Chi-Sau TO your student.
4. With everyone else, who doesn’t fit into the first three categories, you would have to apply what the ‘training method” Chi-Sau has taught you, … if you then must prove your skills.

In his November 11th 2014 blog post “If you build it … Chi-Sau sections” Evan asks: “If we don't know that we don't know, how do we practice potentially useful skills we don't know?”
Post: http://kyklosphaira.blogspot.ca/2014/11/if-you-build-it.html

On January 23rd 2015 he followed up with the post “How sticky is your Wing Tsun Wooden Dummy?” You find it here: http://kyklosphaira.blogspot.ca/2015/01/how-sticky-is-your-wing-tsun-wooden.html

The WingTsun Chi-Sau sections. What is it now? Sense or Non-Sense?
What do we really learn?

At the Langenzell castle, for many years the German WingTsun castle, the international trainer academy, I was once with others waiting for a test to begin. A couple of guys were eager, still training; they seemed to be flying through the sections. Everything looked so great, smooth. They appeared to know so many details and combinations. All of us staring at these guys, our jaws dropped. We were in awe. Then Si-Fu Kernspecht came in, friendly as always, his eyes spotting instantly the team keen to perform, to get tested.
To make a long story short. Poor bastards. They tried to show off their routine, but their timing was always off, they tried to finish techniques even if they didn’t fit, they were easily set up, fell over their own feet.
It was a catastrophe. Even though their training performance looked so amazing.

My Si-Hing at the castle, Sifu Heinrich Pfaff, told me already back then that I must use two tools:
1. “Watch and analyze yourself!” (constantly and consistent)
2. “watch and analyze your teacher/s!”
The tools of the master.

It took me many years to realize and consciously learn, train and teach that the forms and sections are the guitar, the piano of the musician, they are the brush and the paints of the painter.

The Chi-Sau sections teach us through technical recommendations how to:
- work in the right distance
- to maintain balance, especially when pushed, pulled, attacked, grabbed
- to develop a feel for timing
- to get to know the space we are working in, initially through positions and techniques
- how to develop power
- how to be able to deliver that power
- to perfect our coordination skills
- how to become mobile at all times
- how to develop fluidity of all motions (from fingertips to toes)

The two guys at the castle had a perfectly choreographed performance, but not yet the skills Chi-Sau is producing over time.

During a recent seminar I asked: “What should a samurai, a roman soldier, a medieval knight ,,, and a Wing Tsun practitioner have in common?”

They all should know their ‘weapons chambers’. Train with all of their weapons. As a Wing Tsun instructor, can you point out in our forms all the palmstrikes, various punches, Fak and Lan-Sau strikes? Can you cross-reference where they are in our forms and how they are being trained in our Chi-Sau sections? How they come to life in our Lat-Sau programs?
Do you train and teach everything in horizontal motions, vertical, diagonal, spiral, straight, curved? Can you vary your approach for example vertically from underneath, from above, until everything is truly happening in the moment? Until you mindfully move?!

In the 90’s some said that my Si-Fu appears to be bored when attacked by students. He gave the impression of acting ‘lazy’.
Today I read comments under his videos “One (Gyaku) Tsuki on the 12, and the old man is down. He is doing so little. Everyone is just making him look good, playing along.”

Ehm … Then and now a lot of people misjudge what he is doing. It is probably the hardest to unlearn all the many things one could do, and eventually as a master or grandmaster end up doing only what is absolutely necessary, not an ounce more. It looks effortless, even ‘lazy’, when one is only doing what is needed, and only for the time frame necessary. Not a fraction of a second earlier, not a moment too long, or a movement too much. On a side-note; one of my Sihings wrote to me last year, saying: “Si-Fu hits now at 69 more powerful than 20 years ago, when he was younger and stronger.” Think about that one, grasshopper.

In short, the Chi-Sau sections can be an extremely helpful tool to develop:
Fluid motion
Functional strength
Mobile structure

Functional strength is paramount. I can’t say it any better as one of my favourite quotes below.

"To protect yourself with your fists you MUST become a knockout puncher.” ~ Jack Dempsey (1950)

In my schools the transformation from physical to functional strength is one of the most important points of the desired allover performance.

A last word … for today. Someone asked me; you are talking here about the power scale, (WT) technical evolution, bandwidth of performance and more, isn’t Chi-Sau really about ‘sticky hands’, is it not an ‘clinging arms’ exercise?

My answer: Watch a boxing fight, any fight. Now look at the winning combo of punches, how one champion took out the other. Learn it. Let’s say it’s jab-jab-cross. Will you now be able to knock down a champion?
Certainly not. You discover that the real ingredients are power, the ability to deliver that power, timing, balance, positioning, distance, mobility, elasticity and coordination. Remember? Kung Fu is Eastern Boxing.

Since Chi-Sau is supposed to add the level of a tactile (recognition) guidance system to back-up our visual guidance system, it is important to provide these weapons upgrades. Sticking or clinging might end up being the smallest part of Chi-Sau if the delivery, the application doesn’t work.

Fluid motion
Functional strength
Mobile structure

In conclusion: Packaging the typical most often occurring Chi-Sau actions and reactions, the different internal and external elements of our forms into Chi-Sau sections (forms), makes a lot of sense.

It’s up to your teacher to fill it with life, to build and encourage the measurable growth of your skills and knowledge. To ensure that Chi-Sau sections, just like one-man forms, do not deteriorate into useless piles of techniques.

Thought that you might read here about the secrets of the fourth Chi-Sau section? The variations of the third Biu-Dje Chi-Sau section? The differences between the first and second Wooden Dummy Chi-Sau sections?
Sorry. This post is about the blueprint of the how-to of training, learning and teaching. Producing knock-out self-defense skills.

Posted by ralph haenel at 12:01 AM PST
Updated: Sunday, 25 January 2015 8:52 PM PST
Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Donna – My Martial Arts Journey to Wing Tsun
... the Thinking Woman's Martial Art

Donna at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver
I first began martial arts in 1985 after moving to a large UK city and felt that a bit of self-defence would be a good idea.
My first style was Shukokai Karate, and I achieved a “Blue Belt”, which is five gradings over an 18 month period.
Although I enjoyed the stretching exercises, punching and high kicks, I was not so keen on the walking across the dojo with someone on your back or “wheelbarrow races” on your knuckles, and the dreaded breaking of blocks! Although females were not forced into partaking in these latter elements, I felt, by not taking part, I wasn’t a full participant and was not fully competing with the males within the group.
It was a great feeling to know you were more able to fight, read a situation and definitely would have an element of surprise if anyone tried anything. I felt more confident when out, but often wondered how the high kicks would really stand up in a fight. 

I left this group due to moving cities and was unable to find the same style, or the same great atmosphere and camaraderie in my new city.

It always rankled that I had not achieved a black belt in Karate or at the very least a brown belt, so martial arts was always something I wanted to return to.

Unfortunately my break from martial arts lead into two pregnancies and hence child care so it wasn’t until 2005 that I felt I had enough regular spare time to devote to an ongoing commitment.

I began by looking around a few clubs in my area, searching online and then visiting them for a session. Many clubs had only a few women or none, this didn’t bother me but I definitely didn’t want a macho club where I would feel an outsider just because I was a woman. I also wanted a style that I thought would offer good self-defence, whilst not relying fully on physical strength.

As soon as I entered the Wing Tsun School of Sifu Ron Butler I knew I had found something different, although a predominantly a male group I immediately felt at ease, the room was not filled with testosterone fueled muscle men, grunting up an and down the room, but regular guys talking and working one on one. 
 
Ron was both welcoming and approachable, he explained how Wing Tsun (WT) was originally started by a woman in China to defend her honour from an unwanted marriage proposal and as such did not rely on strength alone but on fluidity of movement and by using the whole body to generate power. He also explained and demonstrated how a woman can train and compete with the men on an equal footing.
 
I was fortunate enough that my early training partner was a
woman and this definitely helped in the first few weeks, however we did get to work out with the guys which helped us to see that what we were doing was no different to them.
 
I enjoyed the Siu-Nim-Tau at the beginning of every class, it reminded me of Tai Chi and helped focus the mind for the class ahead, I also enjoyed the ending of every lesson with a punching session, I am sure that most guys know how to punch and form a fist easily, but, as a woman, forming a fist is quite an alien concept, and gaining any strength in the wrist takes time and practice. I hadn’t really punched much for almost 20 years so I relished learning this over again, plus WT’s punching technique was quite different from Shukokai. It was good to see how the power of my punch, over time, was improving.
 
Sifu Ron instructed us in self-defence and in being street wise, this was a great addition to traditional Karate because as opposed to defending yourself primarily against another Karate strike, WT taught you to defended against punches or attacks by people who may or may not have any experience of a martial art, also you learn how to get out of holds or “grabs”, which is particularly helpful for women. The WT BlitzDefence program, learnt in the early weeks of training - is the ultimate self-defence technique, I have yet to see any street attack get past this.

I gained my first four Student grades with Sifu Ron, who then unfortunately emigrated, but left his club in the capable hands of Sifus Jon and Nick Pepper. They were very different to Sifu Ron; they were younger and fresh out of the Langenzell Castle in Germany (then the location of the European headquarters of Wing Tsun) and introduced a new way of training which was more fluid and elastic in movement. This was even more appealing to me as a woman, instead of meeting force with force, you learnt to move around the direct strength of an attack…..
 
Under the tuition of mainly Sifu Jon Pepper both in group class and private lessons, I progressed to 12th Student grade, by this time I was the only female in the club so was regularly training with men both above and below my own grade.

In February 2012 I immigrated to Vancouver. Prior to doing so, I was concerned that, yet again, I would need to drop my Martial Arts training. So, before moving to Vancouver, I researched online for a WT club locally, and came across http://www.wingtsunkungfu.com/. The written explanations and video clips made it look very similar to the club I had just left. The Sifu, Ralph Haenel, was trained at the Castle and this gave me the confidence that I would receive a similar experience and excellent tuition.

On arriving in Canada I visited Sifu Ralph Haenel’s club and was blown away by the level of tuition and the strength of the club. Sifu Ralph was very welcoming and supportive, there were only a few women but the club was very friendly and the guys didn’t mind working with a woman, I felt I was accepted very quickly and became part of the Vancouver WT family.

As I have moved up through the grades of WT I have learnt to use the fist and punching less and to use elbow strikes, palm strikes and movement, this opened a whole new area and as a woman I felt these would be much more effective on a male than a “simple” punch.
Over the past three years I have worked on neutralising an attack with a counter attack, fluidity of motion, working on movement to generate power through 'Folding', 'Sliding', 'Pushing and Pulling', and in the last year leading up to my 1st level Technician grade, I have had instruction in the Wooden dummy form, the Long Pole form and the Bart-Cham-Dao (double knife form). The level of tuition and training at the club is fantastic, Sifu Ralph has plenty of time for all levels of students and is so enthusiastic, but I also receive great advice and training from my WT training partners. I still have a long way to go, but week on week my knowledge and skills increase and it’s great to still have new techniques to learn and master.
 

Donna, training on the Wooden Dummy at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver

 

 

I would recommend Wing Tsun to women as a martial art of choice, because it’s much more than a martial art, it teaches self-defence, body awareness, fluidity of motion, litheness and also offers social interaction. Although Wing Tsun is predominantly a male martial art, there’s no reason why this should be, as it is not an aggressive, chauvinistic or a testosterone fuelled environment. It is often referred to as the thinking man’s martial art but I like to think of it as the Thinking Woman's Martial Art. There’s a whole lot more to it than punching.

Posted by ralph haenel at 2:11 PM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 14 January 2015 2:18 PM PST
Sunday, 22 June 2014

The story of Si-hing Leo, an Olympic weight set and a WingTsun lesson from his Si-Fu

Today I read a couple of Tweets (see below) by my Si-Fu in regard to returning to some of his weight training routines.
 
 
Heavy weight training used to be an integral part of the regular training of many WT instructors. Being loose and relaxed is one thing, unfortunately often misinterpreted. I have personally met (non-WT) instructors who go as far as to forbid their students to even touch weights, because it would make them too tense. This is an outright invitation to just being plain weak. Often did I experience them either brittle or in the end again stiff, for lack of real power.

Some of my younger students recently asked: “Okay, your Si-Fu is 69 years old. No disrespect, but what can he do at this age?” I know, when you are around 19 or 20, any age past 30 seems, well very old. So, I gave them an answer from a recent Facebook message exchange with one of my Sihings in Germany, someone who is very strong and with WT for a long, long time. Here is what he said: “Of course, 20 years ago Si-Fu was stronger, could have lifted more weight, BUT today he can strike more powerful than ever. You want to look around and find the horse that just kicked you out of nowhere.” … and this at 69 years of age.

But back to the old story. My Si-hing Leo arrived at the Langenzell castle, back then the ‘WT-Castle’. Si-Fu was so excited to show Leo a new shiny toy, an Olympic weight training bench. Naturally he challenged Leo to bench-pressing 100 kg. Leo did a set of 10 clean reps. Si-Fu on the other hand did one set of 20 reps.
Now came Leo’s mistake. He said: “Si-Fu, you are 10 years younger. So, for every year you did one extra rep, which means that the bench-press contest is a draw.”

Moments later Leo began to see the error of his ways. The private lessons started, … and Leo’s Wu-Sau was “too low”, the Bong-Sau came “too late”, … you get the idea. So did he. By the way, Leo was a former professional boxer, so having a bloody nose and lips was the most normal to him.
He went to the washroom, cleaned up the blood, used his high-percentage mint-oil on the wounds, put some tissue into the nose and returned to his WT lesson.
Si-hing Leo said that everyone could always ‘smell him’ at the castle, since he used the mint oil very often.

Which reminds me now of another story ….

Leo was well-off and as a former boxer used to smile a bit at some of the martial arts. He visited this Chinese Wing Tsun Kung Fu open house event and met for the first time Mr. Keith R. Kernspecht. Leo was very suspect of those weird rolling arms, the funny form training stance. But he saw this European Chief-Instructor hit some guys pretty hard. Leo told me: “Well, I thought I might as well check it out with the boss personally. Go for a round or two …”

Again, from his boxer perspective Leo was half-joking, half he meant it. “I told this Mr. Kernspecht, if he could knock me out, I will sign up and become a WT instructor.”

To make a long story short; within a minute he was knocked out three times, he asked what the whole job education costs, wrote a cheque for the full sum, and Mr. Kernspecht became his Si-Fu.

And I remember another old story, but maybe another night, another story.

Train hard and have fun!

Posted by ralph haenel at 7:16 PM PDT
Monday, 10 February 2014

I am exhausted. My students are too dangerous!

I often send out little notes after private lessons, beach classes, group classes, intensive 6+ hour seminars, advanced team seminars, open-air classes, etc. Something like this one:

WingTsun Vancouver members with sets of WingTsun-CoreConcepts posters, Ralph Haenel
Email 1: “Great workouts this past Friday and Saturday! Always amazing to see how far you push yourself. The notes, questions and conclusions I receive from you; any feedback is always so important as it gives me an idea regarding the percentage of ideas "transferred' in each session.”
or this one
Email 2: “Do you know why I ask about your experiences in class? Only your comments, thoughts, questions, only your feedback can help to further improve communication and better class formats. So, take a moment and send me a quick reply.”
or I make a list like the following one, which I emailed to all private lessons students of that day. Since you weren’t there, not all points might make sense.
 
photo: Members of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver BC, who won at a seminar a set of the WingTsun-CoreConcepts posters. 

(long) Email 3: “I used the sessions on Saturday once again, to bring a few connected concepts across. Of course I can't repeat everything for everyone all throughout the day. Otherwise it would turn into a dead recital. Just like WingTsun itself, some ideas to support one’s training are born in the moment.

But I will list below the majority of the ideas of this past Saturday. Maybe you will remember more, ... or maybe less. :-)
 
As so often here are now my questions:
What are your thoughts?
Do you have any conclusions?
What questions came, or now come up?
What is confusing? What makes sense?
Comments?
 
And here in no particular order the major concept components we talked about during a variety of physical exercises:
 
- visual vs. tactile guidance system (recognition)
- learning to see what we feel (how does it look like what I sense via touch?)
- learning to feel what we see (how does it feel like what I see maybe in a flash?)

- giving someone the following exercises:
- punch me with your left arm – no problem
- punch me with your right arm – no problem
- throw an elastic punch at me – doesn’t compute, problematic to understand

- transformation of our “technical catalogue” from
          idea – technique – movement – whole-body-motion

- example scenario shown with the conclusion that the pressure or tactile contact was in all three the same, the variation was located ‘behind’ the Chi-Sau contact, the examples being:
          - muscles not responding at all (late and weak)
          - muscles suddenly contracting (early and stiff)
          - instantly and completely adapting to and feeding off incoming movement (the way it should be, right!)

- the very difficult to execute task of our suddenly inserted “now you have hit me” exercises, leading towards a what I call “instant & complete response”; realizing the enormous difference of the mission of yielding or shifting, moving between
          - folding forward (right), as opposed to
          - collapsing backwards (wrong)

- “our” Chi-Sau being the gym for building the elastic WingTsun-Power

- ‘whiplash-like’ or ‘spring-like’ elasticity is Wing Tsun’s functional strength

- especially the last “5 sets” of our Chi-Sau exercises can be evaluated as live isometric exercises, one at a time, in between whole-body motions

- our type of Chi-Sau training, the: “partner supported – Wing Tsun internal** – physical strength to WingTsun power transformation exercise”, which was born out of certain old EWTO Chi-Sau practises

          **the term ‘internal’ here having a double meaning:
          1. as in inner or internal force
          2. internal as in unique to the WT system

- any and all of our responses typically shift between
          - too fast and too slow,
          - too much and too little,
          - too weak and too strong,
          - too early and too late
          - conclusion of it being part of the ‘bandwidth of performance’

- our ultimate goal, the continuous adaptive motion, which can be of a defensive or also offensive nature …

- … the ‘right’ motion is born in the moment!

- relative perception of speed, fast and strong punches can be controlled, while slow elastic punches “slip through”

Now today, on Family Day, British Columbia’s new statutory holiday, I took the time and compiled a Word document of feedback of the past months. It turned into a tightly packed 30-page file.

Well-thought conclusions, provocative follow-up questions, as well as excellent decisions for the next training period. That is what I meant by creating the headline exclaiming that my students are dangerous. They listen intense, train dedicated, compare notes with each other, assimilate helpful ‘outside’ information.

Reading through dozens and dozens of emails, compiling the 30 pages of exciting feedback, that is exhausting, … in the most positive way.
Thank you!
 
Moral of the story?
1. Train basics. Ask questions. Train intense (and smart). Give feedback! 
2. Train basics. Ask questions. Train intense (and smart). Give feedback!
3. Train basics. Ask questions. Train intense (and smart). Give feedback!

Posted by ralph haenel at 5:38 PM PST
Updated: Monday, 10 February 2014 6:25 PM PST
Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Discussions about differences and development of physical strength and Wing Tsun punching power

There were some questions I had about my Wing Tsun training. I am currently starting to focus on punches that have that what we call "can opener" wrist action*.
* aka phoenix-eye fists inch-force issuing power
While you mentioned it many times already in seminars and private lessons, I am only NOW becoming fully aware that it maximizes the power more, using that kind of wrist action. I am trying to find that right balance of getting that wrist power with the punch while not tensing up with my arm. Mentally I am imagining to twist or dig in a sword into the punching bag with my full body behind it when I hit with my knuckles. 
Would you think that this visualization is in the right direction? Would there be anything else I should look out for when training punches with a focus on wrist power?
One of the training methods I am starting now is doing some of those stick drills we had at the Wing Tsun seminar, but I am using a crow bar for added weight. I figure similar to Wing Tsun Chi- Sau where muscle groups are being conditioned, building up the muscle groups supporting wrist power would in the long run give me the opportunity to use force while being still relaxed. 
Am I getting the right ideas about this?

I always start to answer somewhat like that:

If someone tells you to punch with your left arm, it’s not a problem, you just do it.
If someone tells you to punch with your right arm, it’s not a problem, you just do it.
If someone tells you to punch with elastic force or with an impact that I personally call the "can-opener", it's usually impossible without the proper training. We cannot just ‘do it’.

In the same way, as you cannot lift a weight that is too heavy for you. Even if a fitness trainer tells you how to squat, how to angle your wrists, to lift from your legs, ... the weight will still be too heavy to lift.
In the latter example, the person has to reach a specific level of strength first. Then the technical advice will come in handy and make the exercise easier, more economic, pain- and injury free. This does not mean, that a trainer should dare to hold off on the right technique support.

We went, especially during the last Vancouver WingTsun-CoreConcepts seminar, through a set of exercises, which produce over time this, what I call "Wing Tsun Power" or "Elastic Force", as opposed to physical strength.
Only when those exercise groups are practised on a regular basis, the right muscle groups will learn to respond, will activate seamless and in sequence.
Only knowing the muscle groups, trying to access them with sheer will-power, will unfortunately not do the job.

Remember, how I always compare the two different types of physical strength and Wing Tsun power by example?
I compare with student 'A' different feats of strength training exercises. 'A' lifts more weight than I can, does more sets, more reps. Ergo, he is stronger than I am.
I move a lower weight, do fewer sets, fewer reps. Ergo, I am weaker than 'A'.
'A' punches me hard, I walk him backwards, while taking his punches, until his arms collapse or he doesn't have any space left in which he can punch effectively. The end result, no or little effect through the punches based on more physical strength.
When I punch 'A' lightly, he collapses on the spot or gets thrown against a wall, depending on the punch I choose.
Which proves that there is a difference between physical strength and "Wing Tsun Power" (latter chosen short of a scientific term).
I am proven to be weaker, yet can produce significantly more punching power.
All in all, the "secret" is in the punching-power-developing exercises I pointed out during the last WingTsun-CoreConcepts seminar in Vancouver.

Many Wing Tsun exercises turn out to be quite efficient and focused functional strength exercises. You just have to know the how-to!

The 'stick drills' we did, have nothing or little to do with Escrima, Arnis, Kali stick drills. They are simplified drills, derived from the training with the Wing Tsun double knifes, which besides the technical implications means the usage of your muscles is very, very different.

All that does not mean that physical strength is something of a bad boy in the whole equation. The stronger someone is, the more can eventually and with the right training be converted into the most economic punching power. Physical strength into functional strength!

It does not mean that one should discontinue any strength training. Rather the opposite.
I also want to avoid the misunderstanding that strong people can’t punch hard. My point is that almost all the times there is still a sleeping potential which hasn’t been woken up, yet. Many strong students who I worked with, when punching the hardest they could, they were due to tension and other factors only at 20 to 40% of their true potential. Scary thought, eh?!

During that training phase I use that power-scale as a visual example. On one end of the scale we typically try to punch hard, meaning strong, yet often end up stiff and tense.
Once we attempt to punch relaxed, the results are often rather weak or brittle.
Visualising the 'power-scale', we take the relaxed strike, working on leaving weak and brittle behind. We take the strong punch, working on eliminating stiff and tense. At one point during the training, relaxed and strong will meet at a very individual point on that scale, ... and form "Wing Tsun Power".
At which point on the scale might be different due to training intensity, passion and other components.

The stronger student more often relies on his physical strength longer, while the weaker student has no choice but to work extremely hard from the beginning, trying to catch up.

In my experience the somewhat weaker student, who continues to train focused, can eventually achieve more, compared to the stronger, who for too long relies on his strength, until he meets someone stronger and realizes that he also has to 'transform' his strength into punching power.

An enormous portion of the physical strength to functional strength transformation comes from our WT Chi-Sau methods, which are partially based on the then unintentional way of doing Chi-Sau in the 1980's. The how-to of it would now take too long to explain. But just like any strength training, we have to count the hours of this special WT Chi-Sau we do per week. Then we can estimate our results.

To come to a conclusion: the line-up of recent seminar exercises are the key, besides the right Chi-Sau training.

So it would be the coordination and collaboration of fluid relaxed body movement + joint flexibility/independence + proper structure alignment using certain muscle groups = Explosive WT power? With the goal that everything is an explosive coordinated body movement, like a punch, Bong-Sau or Tan-Sau are in reality coordinated body movements?

Many people try to be explosive without having the right tools, meaning the muscles (in fact mainly the fascia) are not properly developed. The WingTsun-CoreConcepts exercise sets are designed to produce this toes-to-fingertips elastic force. Then the explosiveness will come (almost) by itself.

A slingshot doesn't work properly if the rubber-band is too short to stretch or too weak. Or in other words, if you drive an old East German Trabant with a 23 horsepower two-cylinder two-stroke engine, you can stand on the gas pedal; it still takes 21 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h.
Any punches and visible Bong-Sau or Tan-Sau are just still images, one picture out of a movie scene. It's the moving pictures, the continuous scenes that make the movie.

One of the most important skills in Wing Tsun is the fluid non-stop co-ordination of hand- and footwork, with upper body motion/mobility being the paramount feature!

A final note; different Wing Chun, Ving Tsun and even Wing Tsun lineages have of course and thankfully so, different opinions and interpretations.

Posted by ralph haenel at 3:01 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 18 September 2013 4:41 PM PDT
Saturday, 7 September 2013

All the real Wing Tsun secrets on Video! I’ve got it all, and you don’t! Prfft!

If you are following my blog, you surely know that I often want to tease you a bit before I talk about a particular topic. So, don’t take the “Prfft!” too serious.

As most instructors, I receive many e-mails asking me if I have watched already this or that videoclip, if I would have the time to explain this example of an exercise on video, or what my opinion is about practitioner so and so.

Video can indeed be a great research tool in addition to having experienced instructors and dedicated training partners. Video analysis is after all for many athletes an indispensable tool to assess performance, to evaluate crucial details of movement. Trainers use it to compare athletes, to correct techniques.

Now in a highly interpretive martial art like Wing Tsun, this can be a problem. Why? Let’s start with three reasons:
1. There is too much out there. Every novice and wannebe kung fu star uploads videos. It becomes very difficult to find the right videos to analyze.
2. The (anonymous) keyboard warriors on all sides trash any video, elevate their own sifu, super master, top instructor to the level of ‘kung fu god’, so that people who don’t know the scene or haven’t trained long enough to have a well-informed opinion, simply get lost. – There is more politics in martial arts than in politics!
3. When I started to collect videos*, it was very difficult to find the right sources. The few who own a video rarity, rarely ever share. They want another one in exchange.

* I am not talking about publicly available videos, that have been published by the EWTO or various WT organizations. Many of them have long been withdrawn from the market. … But yes, I’ve got them too.

I mean the either secretly filmed videos, or the ones only destined for the grandmasters or masters own home collection. The 80’s or 90’s videos when only one preferred master student was allowed to film a whole seminar, to keep it as reference, or because the master wanted a documentation of his teachings for his personal video library.

Over the years I collected quite a lot of what is out there. It’s now on some 14 or 15 DVD’s, adding up to about 30 hours of material, and I checked it recently: approximately 48 GB in size!

For a brief moment going back to point 1 above: “There is too much out there.” There is also another side to it. I have watched instructors who are very good in real life, but look quite horrible in demos on video. I have met people with mediocre and also non-existing skills, who can demo well and look (in the eyes of many) great on video. Unless you were exposed to many good instructors, trained hard and tested your skills and sharpened your analytical abilities, it can be quite difficult to figure out what to look for.

So, in order to conduct a video analysis you have to have videos of the ones who are considered experts in WT, preferably while they are teaching. Which brings me back to the 48 GB of WT video material. I will mention a few …

For Sigung Leung Ting’s 60th birthday celebrations many seminars were held in 2007 in Italy (EWTO) and Hungary (EEWTO). Leung Ting was accompanied by Grandmaster Cheng Chuen Fun, 9th Level WT, Sifu Leung Koon, 8th Level WT, Leung Kwok Wah, 4th Level WT, Robin Tsang, 3rd Level WT and Lau Ping Sheung, 3rd Level WT, who gave a detailed explanation of the teaching methods they use back home in Hong Kong. The privately filmed material from the seminars and demos was transferred onto a set of 5 DVD's at about 90 minutes each, almost 8 hours of top Wing Tsun instruction and demonstrations. Many, many EWTO, EEWTO and IWTA instructors and masters are on these videos.

Some of you know the official (approx. 1 hour) tape of the 25 year celebrations of the EWTO in 2001. It was a three day event. There is also an unofficial uncut five hour tape, showing many little highlights here and there. This five hour tape was a gift only to the grandmasters back then.

- Si-Fu Keith R. Kernspecht - old film strength training
- Si-Fu Keith R. Kernspecht Chi-Sau in Italy with a world champion
- parts of 1976 demo, first Sigung Leung Ting visit in Germany, about 10 minutes, applications, Chi-Sau, wooden dummy form parts, long pole, double knifes
- few moments of old by Si-Fu Kernspecht secretly taped video of GM Rene Latosa and GM Bill Newman
- Sifu Michael Fries, in the early 80's the first "junior" Sifu
- a very young Sifu Frank Ringeisen
- Sifu Michael Fries in Chi-Sau with Sifu Thomas Mannes, who was back then student grade 6 in 1978
- a clip you don't want to miss, Si-Fu Kernspecht against multiple opponents, end of the 70's
- old clips of 12th SG's test towards their 1st TG: Sifu Thomas Schroen, Sifu Giuseppe Schembri, Sifu Oliver Koening, Sifu Henning Daverne in a white student shirt
- Si-Fu Kernspecht as "referee" during full contact test at the castle
- Sifu Frank Ringeisen and Sifu Thomas Mannes, demo on the poles
- Sifu Heinrich Pfaff and Sigung Leung Ting, WT weapons demo during Budo Gala
- few seconds of long pole training at the castle
- Sifu Tassos in the phone cabin
- Sifu Andreas Gross in the castle, Sifu Klaus "the giant" Dingeldein
- short demo by Sifu Turan Ataseven
- very nice the enthusiastic demo by Christa Wagner, known through the Wing Tsun @ Nike commercial
- demo through the German special command (hostage rescue team) under Sifu Juergen Kaestner,
- demo by Sifu Henning Daverne from Copenhagen with his fight club team, some know him from photos in the first edition of "On single combat" and from a demo at the 1998 Wing Tsun event in London, England

Many clips on the DVD's were originally recorded by old video cameras, then transferred to regular videotape, then on DVD, then transferred from PAL to NTSC, and sometimes a step or two in between.

The approximately 2 hours of seminar time with Professor Zhu Dashi (Chu Hok Ting) - The Living Treasure Of China during a EWTO seminar near the Langenzell Castle on the Easter weekend in 1996.

- approx. 20 min Sifu Thomas Mannes seminar (black & white film), going through some of the original EWTO Lat-Sau programs

- approx. 40 min taped private lesson by Sifu Thomas Mannes, again "old" Lat-Sau details, applications, Escrima, ground work, Chi-Sau

- demo, Cham-Kiu, usual fight applications, Sifu Thomas Mannes with the complete WT wooden dummy form

- about 1 hour and 20 min then the 'famous' first seminar and demos in 1991 of Sifu Salih Avci with Sifu Dr. Osama Sabri in front of all the different special command teams, followed by Sifu Emin Boztepe with Sifu Uwe Giese, complete form demos, Siu-Nim-Tau, Sifu Klaus "the giant" Dingeldein doing the Cham-Kiu, Sifu Dr. Osama Sabri the complete Biu-Tze form, throughout Si-Fu Kernspecht narrating, Emin again with fight and control applications, then Salih and Osama, and so on ...
Si-Fu  Kernspecht is also personally demonstrating with Salih Avci, Thomas Mannes, Andreas Gross and others, the old Bruce Lee programs, that were partially the basis of the EWTO programs

- yet another Sifu Thomas Mannes seminar, probably mid 90's (many, many Siu-Nim-Tau, wooden dummy, Cham-Kiu applications, etc.)

Every instructor needs every now and then inspiration, if teaching or training, continuing to learn.

Several 1980’s demos, open house event and seminars with Sifu Emin Boztepe.

Also a private tape of the Wooden Dummy Chi-Sau sections.

Approx. 20 minutes, Sifu Norbert Maday seminar, plus his 1-hour  teaching film "Ten lessons of Wing Tsun", 'old school' Wing Tsun.

There are very active, critical, constantly improving WT practitioners out there. Some lead Wing Tsun into different directions.
It’s up to you what direction you choose. All those videos are milestones in the recent history of Wing Tsun. The material can give important clues as to this martial arts development. It’s an enormous collection of (video) snapshots of WT in the 80’s, 90’s and the 2000 decade.
It gives an inside view into different WT interpretations!

But don’t turn into a “YouTube master”. Where is your Wing Tsun training at?

Questions? What’s your take on video analysis? Email me!

Posted by ralph haenel at 11:46 PM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 7 September 2013 11:52 PM PDT
Sunday, 19 May 2013

WingTsun-CoreConcepts
Functional training doesn't have to look good, it has to produce great results!

WingTsun-CoreConcepts class at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, BC with Sifu Ralph Haenel
During the open-air class on May 18th 2013 we used the Wing Tsun version of the old Lat-Sau program 3. The third Lat-Sau sequence from the late 80's introduced typically the student to various backfist striking options, famously shown during the initial fight scene between Bruce Lee and Bob Wall in the 1973 movie classic "Enter the Dragon".
This particular Lat-Sau program helped to develop defensive actions and counters as Wing Tsun practitioner against backfist attacks and setups, which initiated in Jeet Kune Do and later naturally became part of the curriculum of Wing Chun styles and many other martial arts.

Even if entries are first generated in a similar manner, the idea behind it as well as the execution of Fak-Sau options are very different than backfist strikes.

We used a particular set-up of Fak-Sau responses to help developing a feel for positioning, shifting, leading towards whole-body movement. Once again upper-body mobility was paramount, while at the same time working on solutions for timing, distance, hand- and footwork coordination. ... Yes, and striking power!! Click here for more photos from the WingTsun-CoreConcepts class.
 
How does it start?
You attack the attacker into the onset of his first action against you.

What happens?
You partner gives you different "answers", blocking your action to the left, right, up and down.

What do you do?
Using the fighting and strength principles, you learn to employ elastic force from fingertips to toes, utilizing the whole body, to produce powerful Fak-Sau actions, 'folding' forward rather than collapsing backwards, fluid motion as opposed to stopping in preset positions.

What do you discover?
Any techniques turn eventually into horizontal, vertical, diagonal, spiral movements. 

The techniques were mere tools to integrate the ideas of elasticity and fluidity into our whole-body movements.

It is important to recognize how technical drills evolve into functional strength and mobility training. It leads from learning technical drills to understanding the concepts behind them, to applying the concepts.

Even shorter: "Doing" techniques turns into moving efficient!

Eventually everything will be a movement that happens in the moment!

The weekend prior to our Victoria Day weekend class was the date of our almost 7-hour WingTsun-CoreConcepts seminar.

Watch a few exerts from the seminar in this 2-minute trailer, filmed and produced by Anselm Meyer of Lonewolf Arts.

1. Move slow. 2. Move correct.  3. Move fast.  4. Move powerful.

 

 


Posted by ralph haenel at 5:03 PM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 19 May 2013 6:10 PM PDT
Tuesday, 30 April 2013

How can YOU learn from MY experiences with more than a dozen Wing Tsun masters?
Benefit from WingTsun-CoreConcepts, a blueprint for training, learning and even teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu!
Join the ‘One Day Only’ seminar in Vancouver BC on December 7th 2013!
 
Wing Tsun is devastating Kung Fu for the underdog. Are you the underdog? When outside a club or restaurant, when walking at night to the parking lot; the moment someone begins to threaten you, starts to become verbally abusive, they will see you as the victim. They think they can take you out. That they can crush you.
Even if we feel relatively skilled, fit, strong, fast - to the aggressor, it doesn’t seem to matter, we ARE the victim.
 
There is the surprise moment, nobody typically expects, when the victim literally explodes into the attackers position. From underdog to successfully fighting violence! This is where the organized learning and training process comes in. A dedicated program structure as well as the right tools to make it work for you.
 
The attacker doesn’t know Wing Tsun, nor does he care. Your skills must be able to adapt to an high-pressure scenario under elevated stress while being the underdog. Remember, that’s you!
 
Saturday, December 7th 2013 will be featuring by demand one more time all the ideas behind the WingTsun-CoreConcepts with 20+ short demos and explanations throughout that 6-hour seminar, an extremely condensed version of the experiences of my 29 years of Wing Tsun. The essence of what I learned from more than a dozen WingTsun masters. The seminar will deliver the how-to of using the WingTsun-CoreConcepts, the blueprint for training, learning and even teaching Wing Tsun.
 
What is this blueprint based on and what does it even mean?
 
1. During 1990 and 1994 I traveled all over Europe and joined hundreds of hours of seminars of the WT grandmasters Leung Ting and Si-Fu Kernspecht. I met several well-known students of the late GM Yip Man. During seminars, private lessons, regular group classes in their schools, I received instruction from just about all the first generation WT instructors. During those five years I also graduated from the self-financed WT job education at the trainer academy of Langenzell Castle.
 
2. The next 15+ years I worked with many instructors who visited me from the EWTO, AWTO, ITWA-NAS, NTWO-GB and the list goes on. Also with Wing Chun, Ving Tsun instructors, and masters in Karate and Taekwon-Do, just to name a few.
 
3. During this time I began in thousands of training hours to formulate the WingTsun-CoreConcepts, tested them, asked and received valuable feedback. I started to write a book about the Core-Concepts which got with every seminar better, more focused, more relevant and to the point ... but yes, also took much longer than anticipated.
 
In short: The blueprint of the WingTsun-CoreConcepts is a system of training, learning and teaching methods based on 29 years of my Wing Tsun experiences, teaching twenty-one years of it full-time.
The essence of what I have learned from two grandmasters and more than a dozen masters, a blueprint which I "test-drove" for over 15 years.
 
One Day Only! Six-hour Seminar!
1. Have you missed a seminar or two, or more during the past couple of years?
 
2. Did you ever want a blueprint of what Wing Tsun material is in which program? How to train it? How to check your progress?
 
3. Do you feel at times that you just can't remember certain crucial exercises? Trying to remember the important key points?
 
Now is your chance to get it all in one day! You will have a set of organized and systematic training tools for a long time! Making sense of your training - measuring your progress!

WHY should you join the seminar?
Only during this one seminar will I deliver the result of my work of the past 15 years in one complete presentation! The 20+ demos will be filmed.


Posted by ralph haenel at 10:23 PM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 November 2013 7:24 PM PST
Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The shocking truth Otto Ahrendt taught me a long time ago about Wing Tsun!

Otto Ahrendt and his wife, 1978, Rostock Borwinstr. 35
When I started attending elementary school, my family lived in a typical German pre WW2 apartment building. My parents had to leave early for work. So, as a 6 or 7 year old dude, I grabbed my breakfast and my backpack, walked up one floor and stayed at an elderly couple’s apartment until I had to leave for school. Otto and his wife had a early morning ritual. Still in their morning robes, Otto opened the fridge, poured for his wife and himself a double shot of vodka and they drank it on an empty stomach. Every day, for about 60 years already, one double shot, no more no less!
 
photo: Otto Ahrendt and his wife, 1978 in Rostock. 

Going back in time, maybe around 1910 or a bit earlier, when Otto was about 10 years old, he ran away from home, went on a four-mast sail ship, sailed around the world for a year and a half and returned almost a man. In 1970, I was only 6 years old, I listened to his stories from the olden days; and his wife told him to withhold certain pieces of information, as to what made him a man at his time in foreign exotic port cities. I thought it must have been the early portion of rum for the ship’s crew, before breakfast, every morning. I was sure of that. What else?

The master carpenter on the ship took him on as apprentice and taught Otto everything there is to know about wood working, carpentry, carving and more.

At some point in the late 1980’s Otto’s grown up children argued about who will inherit his enormous collection of old tools. I remember his little workshop in the basement of the apartment building in Rostock. One wall was packed full with dozens and dozens of wood working tools. Any size gouge, knife, chisel, coping saw, mallet, veiner, sharpening stones was hanging on that wall, reaching from the workbench until under the ceiling. I vaguely remember that he got this collection from the master carpenter on the ship, so it was a pre turn of the century tool set from the 1800’s.

Otto could make just about everything, a brand-new bannister, new steps for the stair case, a picture frame, a whole staircase, doors, ladders, boxes, candle holders, anything. If it could be made out of wood, he made it. I guess he was more than a crafts man; he was an artist, a master carpenter.

 Lesson One from Otto!
You can have all the ancient tools, the world best and sought after tool sets (in WT the forms, Chi-Sau, Gor-Sau, Lat-Sau, sections, sets, exercises, mottoes, concepts …). Still, you have to bring them to life, know how to use them, which tool fits which job, you have to have experience. You need to be able to interpret what you learned and help others to improve; teach successfully, master your craft. Be innovative. My main instructor at the Wing Tsun castle (Langenzell) in Germany, Sifu Heinrich “The Cat” Pfaff, he was (is) a WingTsun artist.
Can you transform your technical tools into adaptive, fluid motion?
Can you transform your current physical strength into functional strength = striking power?

Just to name one example: Can you show and demonstrate the evolution of Tan-Sau throughout the forms, starting with the Siu-Nim-Tau?
Can you give examples of how to progress from Wing Tsun form(al) techniques into reactions, into seemingly formless responses born in the moment?

Otto could do it as a carpenter; knowing his tools inside out; feeling a piece of wood in his hands, seeing already what shape it will take on.

  Lesson Two from Otto!
He told me a lot about the guys on board, who were responsible for the ropes, the wires, about the masters of masts, yards, sails, and cordage. Next to the captain and the cook, they were the most important on board.
If a sail couldn’t be set fast enough to take advantage of the winds, or if it couldn’t be pulled in fast enough and strong winds caused a sail to break or even a mast to splinter, there was hell to pay.

Now, how can this possibly relate to Wing Tsun? Feel how the training of our forms develops our muscles, ligaments, tendons, most important our fascia! How do our forms affect muscular balance throughout the body? How is your co-ordinated cascading function of muscle groups? Do you mainly use a few muscle groups or can you deliver whole-body movements, powerful elasticity from fingertips to toes?

Read the following excerpt about rigging:
Running rigging is the cordage used to control the shape and position of the sails. Running rigging must be flexible in order to allow smooth movement of the spars and sails, but strong enough for the role it plays. For instance, a halyard, used to hoist heavy yards up and down, must be very strong and durable. On the other hand, a sheet, used to control the orientation of a triangular sail, must be very flexible and smooth, and need only be strong enough to support the tension caused by the wind.

Besides posture and body alignment, think again about your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and your fascia tissue.

Only today I read a quote on the Facebook page of ‘Stop Chasing Pain’:
MyoFascial slings function like modified body rubber bands. Storing and releasing elastic energy, providing stability when they are under tension, and increasing movement efficiency when releasing. Probably a good idea to make sure the rubber band can expand to optimum so you don't have Fascial brakes on movement. Just an idea:)
Try throwing a ball without your oblique slings working well...I dare ya. Shoulder pain anyone?
And to the obsessive, detail oriented people...yes there are other slings involved with throwing not just the oblique ones.

In above quote substitute throwing a ball with throwing a punch.

Some may ask now: “Seriously, what does this Otto guy have to do with Wing Tsun? Nothing!” Well, you are wrong. He has something in common with my second WT instructor, Sifu Peter Vilimek. Both could tell fantastic stories. Stories which help you to learn better, retain knowledge. Even today I am still using some of Sifu Vilimek’s stories to explain ideas of the Wing Tsun system, stories I first heard from him on June 1st of 1986. Those stories create associations, help us understand, helped me personally to teach better, more colourful!
Besides, stories are fun!

As the last point: What did Otto really teach me?

He had all the tools, ancient tools if you want. Directly from his master, the master carpenter, he had the real deal, closed-door tools [inside joke]. Did this make him good?
No, he had learned to use those tools. Produce something valuable with them. He worked very, very hard!
With the same tools, he created every time something new, something unique, one piece of art at a time.

Do you still collect techniques or are you doing Wing Tsun?

Posted by ralph haenel at 8:40 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2012 8:42 PM PST
Monday, 12 November 2012

Action + Sci-Fi + Movie + Wing Tsun = Passion Project “Quantum Shock”

First, let’s back up a bit. In 1995, it was only my second year in Canada; I went to several auditions for TV commercials. I remember one of them for a ticket special for the Vancouver Canucks. None of the meetings with casting agents panned out. It wasn’t my time. I was also way too busy with my work at the first Canadian WingTsun branch, which I had founded only a year earlier in 1994. Press coverage of this work prompted a local video company to contact me, wanting to produce an instructional self-defense video. This didn’t work out. Read my Facebook note “The Self-Defense video story”. For many years any movie aspirations were on ice.

Several members of our trainer team have been filming my seminars and classes for years. But that’s another story for another day! Back to Quantum Shock.

Filming Act 6 of Quantum Shock: Anselm Meyer, Dave Campbell, Ralph HaenelQuantum Shock is the brainchild of Anselm Meyer (executive producer, writer, actor) and Dave Campbell (director, producer, camera man and grip), described by CHEK TV Vancouver Island as British Columbia's smallest film crew.

Anselm will tell us in his words about the origin: “Well, this is how Dave and I meet. Originally we just started talking about making a film that he has written called "Operation Risk." I found some actors for the roles, but at the end almost everyone canceled. So I came up with an alternative film project featuring a story that could be made with the minimum of characters and a flexible story concept that is unique yet entertaining. And so Quantum Shock was born. The early version was supposed to consist of only 2 actors. Dave would be Josh, while the rest is all me, Colt Stahl. Originally we planned on using Dave's 480i SD camera and maybe shoot only in Black and White to make the non-HD resolution not as obvious. So, already back then we were fairly pragmatic how to get the best quality using the smallest resources.
However then Ben and a few more actors showed interest, and of course you Sifu, and then we invested in a Blu-ray Camera and Act 1 of Quantum Shock was in the works.
We also have hours and hours of Green Screen Footage that will probably never see the light of day.”

Anselm has been for many years the trainer of my Wing Tsun Kung Fu branch in Victoria on Vancouver Island. Initially we talked about producing better, more realistic fight scenes, also introducing WingTsun to the movie world. I ended up playing the part of German general Conrad Matheus, a character with a questionable East German past.

Now, let Dave tell us a bit about the project: “Like Anselm said, we did meet because of a script that I had written titled “Operation: RISK” back in the spring of 2009. I always knew I wanted to film the story but never really knew of anybody wanting to commit to a 120 page story and little budget. I had the knowledge and 2 1/2 years of film school backing me up. Well, add my Love for the camera since I was a young child.
I have said since the beginning of this project my intent was to always capture the movie reminiscent to director Paul Greengrass of “The Bourne Trilogy” especially for all of my action sequences.
Once Anselm and I were all board we needed actors, that in itself did present many challenges. In fact, the first 6 months of production was very difficult with scheduling, camera & lighting issues, sound and Green Screen. As Anselm mentioned, there is well over 100 hours worth of greenscreen footage that is on the cutting room floor.
The level of commitment that Anselm has for this amazing project is staggering for me as a director/friend to witness, but also to see how recurring characters such as Ben (Josh) Tracey (Rebecca) and you Ralph is phenomenal and I am deeply grateful for everyone's efforts.”

The future movie Quantum Shock is currently being released one webisode at a time on YouTube. Four out of six episodes are online as of October 2012.

Act 4 "Bitter End" features a long scene with 15 members and friends of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver; scene starting at time mark 8:08. Watch it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLvjeHEaBK8

Watch the Quantum Shock 'Fight Scene Teaser' with Anselm Meyer & Ralph Haenel (preview act 6):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SC9gF2UzCc

Also, watch Quantum Shock, the Movie - 'Behind the Scenes' with Ralph Haenel & Anselm Meyer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0MoXvXwAAo

CHEK TV interview with Dave Campbell and Anselm Meyer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkidhpuydK0

- Quantum Shock - Act 1 "Hollow Hope"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWdXegzq77c

- Quantum Shock - Act 2 "Empty Justice"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4ybbA3mvfw

- Quantum Shock - Act 3 "Dark Origin"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCstu3Rn3Ec

- Quantum Shock - Act 4 "Bitter End"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLvjeHEaBK8

Credits for Quantum Shock Act 4 “Bitter End”:
Colt Stahl - Anselm Meyer
Josh Thompson - Ben Gerbrecht
Conrad Matheus - Ralph Haenel
Agent Darren - Rick Lee
Garret Tyram - David Mackenzie-Kong
Rebecca Conway - Tracey Roath
CIA Team Leader - Edward Fong,
imdb.com/name/nm2383997/
“Kato” The Driver - Brian Yam
Nosey Neighbour - Gary Kaiser

Featuring:
Safe house owner - Rafael B. Apodaca
CIA agent with gun - Chris Davy
Attacker with knife - Hanson Zhang
- Stick team backyard
CIA Attacker #1 - Robert Grylls
CIA Attacker #2 - Sebastian Molnar
- Back alley
CIA Attacker #1 - Philip Lee
CIA Attacker #2 - Paul Buckley
CIA Attacker #3 - Paul Williams
CIA Attacker #4 - Tristan Gillon
CIA Attacker #5 - Adrian Law
CIA Attacker #6 - Tony Leung

Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Team with Sifu Ralph Haenel, Quantum Shock Act 4

 


Posted by ralph haenel at 2:45 PM PST
Updated: Monday, 12 November 2012 3:59 PM PST

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