Your Kung Fu Coach Ralph Haenel, learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu since 1984
Changing lives, one punch at a time.
Book "The Reality of Self-Defense!" by Ralph Haenel
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Book #1 - coming 2013
The practical strength training guide for Wing Tsun Kung Fu (Wing Chun, Ving Tsun) practitioners and fitness enthusiasts.
Now with bonus chapter: Kettlebell training! INFO
Book #2 - coming 2013
Kung Fu - The Workout; an easy to follow result driven guide for beginners and fitness enthusiasts. INFO
Book #3 - coming 2013
WingTsun-CoreConcepts, Beyond tradition and technique - training concepts for Wing Tsun Kung Fu students and instructors! INFO
Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
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:
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?
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.
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!
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Discussions about differences and development of physical strength and Wing Tsun punching power
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.
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.
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!
Sunday, 19 May 2013
Functional training doesn't have to look good, it has to produce great results!
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.
You attack the attacker into the onset of his first action against you.
You partner gives you different "answers", blocking your action to the left, right, up and down.
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.
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.
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.
Sign-up has started: Save $10.00 via http://realisticselfdefense.net/2013_knockout_seminar.html
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
The shocking truth Otto Ahrendt taught me a long time ago about Wing Tsun!
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?
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.
Quantum 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.
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.
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):
Also, watch Quantum Shock, the Movie - 'Behind the Scenes' with Ralph Haenel & Anselm Meyer:
CHEK TV interview with Dave Campbell and Anselm Meyer:
- Quantum Shock - Act 1 "Hollow Hope"
- Quantum Shock - Act 2 "Empty Justice"
- Quantum Shock - Act 3 "Dark Origin"
- Quantum Shock - Act 4 "Bitter End"
Credits for Quantum Shock Act 4 “Bitter End”:
Monday, 16 April 2012
Train detailed, fight simple!
The workout is secondary to building the skill!* The Wing Tsun “secrets” are hidden in the bandwidth of one’s performance!
The latest Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver event was hosted by Sihing Philip Lee of the Golden Monkey Martial Arts Studio in Burnaby, BC. Saturday, April 7th 2012 was the date for the very exciting first 2012 Wing Tsun Program review seminar in a series of three for the members of the trainer team. Five of our Sifus showed up, altogether advanced members and trainers of the Wing Tsun teams from Victoria, Sidney, Burnaby, Calgary and Vancouver. It's always again very motivational for me as well, to see how for six hours like-minded practitioners work very concentrated with each other.
The workout is secondary to building the skill!*
* Sometimes you see a quote, read a sentence which perfectly fits what you are working on. So did the first part of my sub headline. On different social media platforms I am connected to inspirational people in WingTsun, martial arts in general, fitness, kettlebells and other areas of expertise. One of those experts is Dr. Mark Cheng. He again was responding to a post by yet another expert, Franz Snideman. You truly never know how far your actions and words reach!
Above quote is what our Saturday review seminar was about. Because working out hard, punching to the limit, getting strong and quick is all great! But first we must build the skill, take time for all the fine details which will lead to those qualities. Once stress, panic, aggression hits in a self-defense scenario, then it’s too late for any details. Also, I encourage going to the tiniest level of detail in one’s training, so that under pressure, when the adrenalin rush explodes, at least a somewhat high percentage of your fine-tuning literally survives. I have shared stories about experiences with many colleagues and it was often mentioned that of 100% of skills maybe 30 to 40% is left under extreme conditions.
Last point in this paragraph; Talking about far reaching actions and words. The day I started writing this blog post I received on Facebook unsolicited and unexpected feedback from a former student. Commenting on a 2006 seminar photo he wrote: “Thanks to my Sifu Ralph Haenel I actually made many realizations about music instrument techniques through studying Kung Fu!” I responded: “Sensory awareness, fluid whole body motion, co-ordination between hand- and foot movements, judgment of distance, feeling for timing, positioning of techniques and more is a big part of the Wing Tsun training and has often influenced the performance of our members in sports and arts. Even the martial art'istic side of Wing Tsun has often lead to a better 'Kung Fu' in many areas of life! :-)”
The (Wing Tsun) Click!
What’s that? A new training program? No! One participant of Saturday’s seminar wrote to his training partner, thanking him for the shared workout, having reached an important conclusion. That's also something I always want to encourage, advanced members working with each other. I have seen it so often, that one explains something 20 times, shows it in x different ways, encourages questions about it, yet one particular training scenario seemingly all of a sudden makes it click! You never know when and how this "click" of understanding happens. Share your experience! Lean from one another!
The Program Review Seminar!
As so often, I broke down the contents of the day into several segments with each one focusing on a particular problem zone. The beginning of this year’s review seminar series put a spotlight on certain setbacks we suffer regardless of how advanced the programs are that we train or how advanced we consider ourselves. Here I simply must repeat the highest praise I got at rare occasions from my second Wing Tsun teacher, Sifu Peter Vilimek, accompanied by a smirk: “Well, it wasn’t quite as horrible today!”
Never ever consider yourself “done”, finished, advanced enough. That’s what I am trying to express with my personal tagline: “learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu since 1984”. This would be truly horrible for me, to assume or think of having finished learning!
I will now begin to list only the “skeleton” structure of the first 2012 Wing Tsun trainer seminar.
1. Balance of stance / Structure of body
We started off with bringing our training partner out of balance through pushing and pulling. Three problems popped up: One is either to resistant (stiff), too weak (trying to be relaxed), or shows a lack of sensory response (attacks just ‘slipped’ through).
We continued working on three solutions:
1. Stance - Recognizing the importance of absorbing pushing and pulling by way of using our upright, yet deeply rooted flexible stance.
2. Arms - Pointing out the importance of our shoulder as powerful and mobile connection between sending and receiving impact (shock absorber!) from our arms into stance and vice versa. Distinguishing the exercises, for example in our Siu-Nim-Tau form, which are responsible for powering the ‘four hinges’, very simplified the chest muscles, shoulder, upper back and lats. Realizing the value of being able to use the three powerful ‘engines’ or power-sources in our arm in sequence as well as also independent (shoulder, elbow, wrist).
The ‘four hinges’ is only one of the many visualizations, visual examples I use when teaching and describing technical scenarios. The terms ‘Funneling’ and the ‘wet blanket’ is coming up.
3. ‘Freeing’ ourselves from the contact and going forward. - …
Stay tuned and join us for part 2 of the seminar review. Thanks!
Monday, 23 January 2012
The Kungfukologist speaks out about Wing Tsun Kung Fu
Well, it doesn’t happen just every day that a widely known expert scientist talks about you on his show. Prof. Hans Von Puppet, who is indeed a web'lebrity, mentions me in his 116th show with the title “You and your punch!” The studio was nice enough to forward the recording to me. Enjoy!
P.S.: If you seem to discover that I think that some martial artists take themselves a bit too serious, you might be on the right path.
- About numbers in the script of the video:
The numbers 116 and 6.5 are familiar to the Wing Tsun practitioner. Possibly also the importance of the number 8 in Chinese numerology.
- Quote mentioned in the script:
The (slightly changed) quote: "You can get a lot farther with a kind word and a tough punch than a kind word alone!" is attributed to whom?
Other than that, I can only Thank Prof. Hans Von Puppet for his gracious endorsement!
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School video: http://video.wingtsunkungfu.com
Monday, 9 January 2012
Piotr and the dangers of a confrontation. Plus the dark side of a fight won.
Who is Piotr? He was a security guard in the North of Germany. He was a father. He did his job protecting people.
Two of the favourite quotations on his Facebook site read:
“Trust is good, control is better.” Lenin
“Trust is the feeling to believe another person, even if you know you would lie in his place.” Henry Louis Mencken
While reading about him, just before the holidays, I had to think about the advertising of so many martial arts schools. The reoccurring implication of how dangerous the streets are. That it is so important, to learn how to defend yourself. While this seems right, in my personal opinion it often leads to the wrong conclusions. What’s wrong with defending yourself if you have the skills?
You really want to know? It can go horribly wrong. Period.
I teach Wing Tsun Kung Fu, self-defense for the underdog. I also teach what you could call a mantra in just about every class, whichever exercise I demonstrate, regardless of the drill I explain, the scenario I describe.
1. Learn to be confident, so that you don’t get picked on as a victim in the first place.
Only if it’s impossible:
Many martial arts teachers, masters, grandmasters want to make their students believe that they are (almost) untouchable. To make a long story short, you can have a bad day, plain bad luck, a moment of surprise after all, there isn’t a person who cannot be brought down.
I had very good, very tough WingTsun instructors. Some of them have been in many fights. They have been challenged and they won. But in quiet moments they also talked about having been very lucky. Lucky not having been killed or having ended up in jail. Besides the possibility of losing, there is also ...
The dark side of Self-Defense!
Uuuhhh, the dark side it is, eh? So, what does that mean? Some people could have walked away from an unpleasant situation. Some could have talked and withdrawn. They didn’t. Imagine how your life would change if you successfully defend yourself, yet it goes too far, the attacker falls, hits his head and succumbs to his injuries. You are being sued by the family, end up in a lengthy court battle, have to pay restitution, end up in jail.
Piotr on the other hand didn’t have a choice. He was doing his job, helping and protecting others. He was young, well trained, very aware, yet it went wrong. He was stabbed and even a emergency operation couldn’t save his life.
It was the 20th of December. A few days later, his daughter Michelle spent Christmas without her dad, “Pitt” Piotr T.
Feeling fit, strong, ready to strike? Think you should take someone on? Someone needs to be taught a lesson?
Never ever easily engage in a fight.
Think of Piotr. He was one of the good guys.
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