My very first teacher was a tough one. As a former boxer, from the camp of Gustav "Bubi" Scholz, Leo Czech visited the Wing Tsun castle and basically challenged Sifu Keith R. Kernspecht. It all came down to one point, if Kernspecht can take him, than Leo will sign up for the WingTsun job education. Well, at the time being 40 years old, ten years older than Kernspecht, and about two knockouts later, he wrote Sifu Kernspecht a cheque over DM10.000 and became a WT teacher.
My second teacher, Sifu Peter Vilimek, was/is a exceptional teacher. His patience and dedication, but even more so his ability to teach has formed me partially into who I am today. He always had a knack for creating examples, which I still remember today. Nobody is helped by "This is how some superhuman great super duper grandmaster has designed the technique" or "Think about the crane descending from the sky". No, Sifu Vilimek could relate to everybody and depending on their background, job, education, he came up with relevant examples which the person could understand. After all, the most important factor of a teacher is, can he make you good? Not, who he can beat up, or how many fights he had.
photo: 1986 in East-Berlin, Ralph Haenel with his second WT instructor, WingTsun Master Peter Vilimek
The third notable instructor was Heinrich "The Cat" Pfaff at the Langencell Castle. I still remember my very first class. He didn't care much about protocol. It started for me right away with a bloody nose, then one lip started to bleed. I had to excuse myself, to go to the washroom, to "fix things". Only minutes later, when I came back with tissue up my nose, he asked if there is any problem with his teaching, I replied "No, I am here to learn!" and from this moment on he started non-stop explaining and showing Wing Tsun, right from the beginning in comparison to others never shy to use examples from more advanced forms or exercises. He showed almost too much, yet could bring across (t)his unique idea how Wing Tsun should adapt itself to you over the years. He could show you what fluidity and mobility truly means, hence his nickname "The Cat".
Although I learned from him only during seminars, I consider him my fourth teacher. Sifu Salih Avci, a rough but enormously friendly Turkish born fighter, taught me that a instructor can, well should get really involved with his students. You should never step back from pushing yourself as an instructor further and further. Only if you allow your students to (at one point) "throw" everything they have learned against you, if you allow them to attack you with full force, only then you can give them the confidence, that they learn to survive reality. The better you got, the more he turned up the heat on you. This means, it always felt as if it's your very first WingTsun training.
Come back next week for part two, the conclusion.
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