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ralph haenel, hänelwingtsun, wing tsun kung fu instructor, author, publisher, self-defense expert Sifu 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
Friday, 12 October 2007
Is Wing Tsun really that frustrating? Why does any progress appear to be so slow? (part 3 of 3)
self defense seminars in vancouver british columbia, wing tsun kung fu, wing chun, ving tsunConcluding this 3-part series is another set of comments, which I received after publishing the article (read part 1) for the first time. It is important to communicate with training partners, not just about the current exercises, but also about perceived success or failure, about conception or misconception of how a exercise “feels”.
Finding out that even the strongest, tallest, most experienced member in class is being ‘challenged’ in each and every private lesson to give everything he/she can give, often to the point of exhaustion, gives you the idea, that you are not alone.
We want to achieve the ability to withstand attacks, deal with physical confrontation, even if the shoulders are burning, the arms are shaking, and the legs almost give. Many of you have quickly realized that what you thought is your boundary, until here and no further, is actually just a line you learn to cross and achieve better results you ever imagined you could. There is no “quick fix”, there is no instant gratification. You learn real skills that last. The journey itself teaches you your true potential. It feels wonderful to get past your estimate of your potential.
We want to achieve the ability to function under an enormous amount of stress, cascading attacks that appear to leave you vulnerable, incapable of coping with a wild out of control attacker. Interesting enough, when you feel the most frustrated, as if “it” will never happen, you begin to function; you do not try to oppose the stress anymore. Remember the strength principles? Get rid of your own tensions; learn to use the strength of the attacker, just to name two out of four.

Well, here now more comments:

I agree with the points made in your article. I do feel a bit better, confident about myself ever since I have started taken the Wing Tsun classes. I think that one of the major reasons for my "feeling better" attitude is that I think my own personal fitness has improved because of the training. The main motivation for me to sign up for the Wing Tsun Kung Fu class in the first place, is to improve my personal fitness. I did not exercise regularly before I joined your class. Months before I joined your class, I thought long and hard about what sort of sports activity that I wanted to do.

My choices quickly narrowed down to martial arts because I always had an interest. Since I had learned Judo before at a community center I knew, I did not want to have instructors who were "part timers" and/or emphasized competitions. I feel too old to be trying to win trophies and medals and learning to do high spinning kicks.
Of all Chinese fighting arts, I heard of Wing Tsun and Tai Chi the most. Actually, I had a few lessons in Tai Chi before when I was a student in China. I easily chose Wing Tsun because it would be useful to know how to defend oneself and it was supposedly the simplest of all Chinese fighting styles (and most nasty Kung Fu according to some people). I was very happy to find your school on the web because I have a dislike for traditional Chinese schools. So, far I have not regretted my choice!

At this point in time, I certainly do not yet feel "confident" enough about my skills. I do not mean to suggest that your instruction has been poor; rather, I feel it is foolish for anyone to assume that skills could be mastered so soon. I've only been with the school for 8 months.
However, I do feel somewhat frustrated sometimes when practicing/learning new techniques because the movements are easy, yet seem so "complex". But I remind myself that nothing comes easy. If it does, then it is "too good to be true" (like a lot of things /situations in life). So this frustration does not deter me from continuing with my study of Wing Tsun. One of my workout partners and me had a discussion not long ago, and we both agreed we intend to keep learning Wing Tsun as far as we can go.

In retrospect, I certainly feel that you have progressively challenged all of us. During the last testing seminar, it dawned on me that you had already "tested" us during a rigorous workout about two weeks before that day.

Honestly, after my first three months of class, I did not yet see how everything taught to us and the order in which it was taught built up into the "big picture". It was only around the sixth month that had passed did I begin to see how the pieces fall into place. I see now why Wing Tsun does not teach the wooden dummy form and the Biu-Tze form until later, unlike the other Wing Chun styles.
I find it has also been quite helpful to talk to other students, who have been most helpful in pointing out/ explaining details to me, that I did not understand /misunderstood weeks and months ago. I actually feel/notice improvements when we revisit subjects that we had covered weeks/months before. I feel I can execute the moves a little better every time, as compared to my first lessons on the subject.

Above comment was written more than three years ago. Now he is one of the most advanced members of our school. Persistence, Perseverance and Patience become the most important virtues. More important than speed, strength, size, weight, even more important than talent.

I enjoyed the article and want to read more from you on the subject. I can relate to the line 'if it feels good, it ain't Wing Tsun'. Often in classes when doing an exercise, it may feel good initially, but after you point out my mistakes or point out specifically what I should be emphasizing (whether it be sinking deeper into my stance, or turning a little bit more) that is when it starts to feel not so good and awkward. That is usually when I realize that I should be paying more attention to minor details every time I do something, even if it appears to be simple.

I remember what you were saying to me during our last private lesson about constantly being tested and I agree it is a good thing to do. However it is one of those things that sometimes requires outside motivation, sometimes from a teacher or a fellow classmate.

I can somewhat relate this example to sports. In basketball or any team sport for that matter, you can run drills where there are no defenders and everything works out fine. Your team does what they are supposed to do; everything is functioning on all cylinders. But after you add the defense into the picture, even in a controlled ‘practice’ environment things start to mess up. Even if you get used to your teammates defense, you usually cannot replicate how your future opponents are going to react to your team. Just like in most martial arts schools, it works in practice but you usually cannot guarantee the same results in a competition fight, let along a real life scenario on the street.

I guess an analogy I might use is if you were on a constantly losing team. You lose the ‘real life fight’, but in practice everything works out just fine. I guess the only thing to do would be to continue to get better as individuals and as a team.

I usually get frustrated when I can’t do a certain type of movement in the required way, so I get hit. Its frustrating not being able to do something about it when you mentally know what to do, it’s just that your body cannot do it yet. I am still frustrated at times with Chi-Sau, not being able to hit, being hit, but sometimes it helps to just work by myself. Similar to the sports analogy, if constantly losing frustrates me, I can workout on my skills on my own without the team and competition atmosphere. So working on Wing Tsun skills at home usually makes me feel better if I get frustrated in class.
Eric K.

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Posted by ralph haenel at 11:09 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 October 2007 1:27 PM PDT

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