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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
Thursday, 18 October 2007
When does Self-Defense start? or The very first line of Defense! (part 3 of 3)
Mini excerpt of a Wing Tsun demo in early 2002 at the Simon Fraser University (SFU), located in Burnaby, British Columbia. On a side note, some viewers have already discovered that the SFU buildings in the background can be seen in many shows of the X-Files or Stargate SG 1.

Back now to the third part of our mini series, talking about the first line of defense.

What are the main complaints about training partners I have received over the years or heard about in different schools, even different countries and cultures?

My training partner …
1. never, or rarely ever follows the routine, the exercise we are supposed to be developing.
2. is trying to solve everything with strength.
3. is too aggressive right from the start, instead of training with each other.
4. is combating any effort to begin training the exercise correctly.
5. doesn’t want to train with partners who are too short, too weak, too new, too young, etc.
6. is calling the training partner names because they don’t want to “train hard”.

To top it off, my favourite quote of one training partner to another (favourite = being as sarcastic as possible): “Let us train, you are a woman, I need a break.” This statement illustrates that the student is not only very self-absorbed but also likely to progress very slowly due to an unwillingness to overcome some very dated perceptions.

So, what can you do? Do you “let it happen”? Do you go home? Do you avoid this training partner the next time? Do you talk to the training partner? Do you talk to the instructor (of course!) on a confidential basis?

Here we finally find our answer. This is the first line of defense. This is where Self-Defense should and must start! Of course it is quite the opposite from being pleasant and enjoyable. But this is exactly the point. Here you begin to learn to defend yourself, to draw a border, to make a clear statement “Not with me”, “I will not allow you to treat me that way”.

Is that difficult to say? Yes, of course, at least for many people. Some say “I just want to learn to defend myself, I don’t want to have to deal with unwilling or obnoxious training partners as well”. (Remember in other martial arts? … no contact, no talking, no problem)

Here we would be missing the point, this is your best training, the best chance to really learn how to defend yourself. Your training partner is only intolerable towards you, but not actually knocking you out. You have other training partners around you, who are willing to help you, instructors you can approach. Here is where it starts, the first line of defense.

If you don’t train it here as uncomfortable it may be, yet in the safety of your school, with your training partners, how do you want to solve the problem on the street, somebody furiously yelling at you, invading your space, pushing you, when you quite possibly notice for a brief moment how bystanders turn away, when you feel you are alone, when physical injury, pain is imminent? It could be too late. In your school, this is the place where Self-Defense starts!

The class room is the place to safely gain knowledge of the specific strategies and tactics that make Wing Tsun Kung Fu so unique. It’s the place to heighten the perception of beginning violence; and often where you become aware of the signs in the first place, where you find out in what ways we could possibly be attacked. While increasingly learning to deal with this extreme form of stress (vicious attacks) we practice stress relief.

This of course does not exclude tough training in which the student will be guided (!) through high-pressure scenarios, which have to be explored according to the skill level a student is at.

Many Wing Tsun students know these training units, where nothing seems to work. It is not about right or wrong, it is not about mistakes you think you make, it is about the difficult adaptation process of being exposed to continuous attacks.
You don’t ever have to like them, but in a strange way, you do get used to them. Sport is rules, self-defense is chaos. So, we have to learn to adapt to chaos. But the learning process must be controlled to be efficient and to yield positive results.

A good well-educated Wing Tsun Kung Fu instructor will have the ability and skill to slip into the roles of different attackers, tackle, box, wrestle, kick, etc. and more importantly put you under increasing pressure so in a real situation, the stress and pressure will be secondary and your trained reflexes will take over and keep you safe.

In order to draw the very first line of defense your training goals should be:

1. Learn how to draw your borders while you safely (not stress-free) train in a protected environment with a skilled instructor, for example in private lessons.
2. Train with partners who are willing to cooperate, to discover and respect these borders.
3. Workout with training partners who are willing to help each other, improving to protect these borders.

SPEAK OUT! This is where Self-Defense starts!

In conclusion: Wing Tsun Kung Fu stands for fierce self-defense, fear management and a healthy confidence, but the necessary skills can only bloom when the training process is geared towards working with each other and not in an atmosphere of working against each other.

Note #1! Whenever we do comparisons between the realistic self-defense system Wing Tsun Kung Fu and sport-oriented martial arts, we do not claim that others cannot defend themselves. The point we are making is that Wing Tsun Kung Fu is DIFFERENT; Wing Tsun is a highly specialized and sole self-defense system, while others promote fairness and sportive attitude which is only partially connected to self-defense.

Note #2! When learning how to defend oneself, this is often set equal to learning how to fight, which is not the same. Another article will at one point explain the actual differences between a typical self-defense situation and different types of ‘fights’, i.e. ritual fights, honour fights, competition fights.

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Posted by ralph haenel at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007 5:36 PM PDT

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