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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
Tuesday, 16 November 2010

I have been bad, very bad ... the secret life of a martial arts instructor.

Most martial arts students think of their instructors as those 365/24/7 committed people, who get up at 4am in the morning, train for two hours, teach punches and kicks all day long, do their evening classes with yet another burst of super-power martial arts energy, all topped up with some relaxing form training, before going to bed and sleeping for four hours, during which they are naturally at any given moment ready to come within 0.6 seconds out of the deepest sleep phase and chain-punch bad guys to oblivion, delivering 120 punches in 16 seconds, also using their autopilot guided instinctive reflexes.

Well, I am so sorry that I have to disappoint you. Despite all proof to the contrary, martial arts instructors are also just humans. And as all other humans, they like to be lazy every now and then. They just don’t like to talk about it, since many want to be this untouchable example of dedication to their admiring students.

On the other hand who doesn’t like to talk about their heroic achievements every now and then. Remember those Grandpa stories? “When I was young, I had to go to school without shoes, in the snow, uphill, against the wind, twenty miles to the next village.” ... and so the story goes.

There is always a little bit of truth behind it. My Great Grandma started to work in 1894 at the age of 14, six and a half days a week, working an average of sixteen hours a day.

Tino and me, twenty years ago at the Italian Wing Tsun headquarters in Livorno, TuscanyBack to martial arts. In 1990, I was still working in a 3-shift job. Monday and Wednesday evenings, I taught classes in my own Wing Tsun School. Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I learned in the school of my WingTsun teacher. During rare days off, I either took private lessons from my instructor or gave private lessons to my students. Friday afternoons I often left with one of my students, Tino, driving more than 700 kilometres to the Wing Tsun castle for a weekend seminar held by my Sifu or Sigung.

During vacations we drove to Italy, no, not just for fun, to join the annual WingTsun summer seminar in Livorno. When I visited Copenhagen in Denmark, it was due to a seminar by my Sifu. Met great people there, Sifus Lars Lind, Allen Jensen, Henning Daverne and others, a very hospitable bunch of WT instructors.

But as I said initially, I was at times, or we were very, very bad. There was this one evening after a long day of working, early nightfall, snow in Berlin, which caused big chaos on the streets. So, we took the underground train (U-Bahn) and went to our instructor’s school. Many old apartment buildings have backyards which lead to the next apartment building, the next backyard, and so on. His WT School was located at the back of one of those old buildings. You could sneak up, look through a broken window and see who was teaching. That very evening we saw that our instructor wasn’t there, a assistant was leading the class. So, we left, went to a great restaurant and had a fabulous dinner.

Another time, we had driven for hours at 200+ km/h on the Autobahn, arrived in Heidelberg, checked into a hotel, were all ready to go to the evening Wing Tsun session at the Langenzell castle, but something went wrong ... No, not really. Our prebooked room at the hotel was taken, so we got an upgrade, access to the pool and a complementary dinner in the fancy hotel restaurant. As you might have guessed, the evening training went ahead without us.

So, two bad examples opposite of years of driving across Europe to seminars, spending just about every day off and every single vacation in Wing Tsun classes and seminars. Visiting the schools of Sifus Thomas Roggenkamp, Hans-Peter Edel, Frank Ringeisen, Thomas Mannes, Christoph Gefeke and others.  Okay, we weren’t really that bad but nonetheless there was a break in our commitment and that was only natural.

It is OK to be lazy every now and then, even to take a short time-out.

German and I posing after a intensive 6-hour seminar in Vancouver, www.wingtsunkungfu.comWhile working on motivating many at Wing Tsun Vancouver, Wing Tsun Victoria and even Wing Tsun Calgary regarding our upcoming year-end seminar in Vancouver I experienced one of the best examples of commitment.

I just received an e-mail from German Ferrer, the Sifu of the Calgary Wing Tsun school. Several days ago he e-mailed me, that he can't make it to our seminar, that he has a business trip planned to Edmonton, a business meeting in Calgary, and also the company’s Christmas party on Saturday. I had also just given a seminar in Calgary.  Understandable that he should be unable to attend, right?

Well, a few minutes ago he e-mailed me that he changed all plans, booked a flight and is coming early Saturday morning into Vancouver for the seminar.

Now that's commitment!

His only comment: “I want to keep my perfect record of attending the Vancouver seminars.”

Evan and I posing after the 2010 Winter seminar in Calgary, www.wingtsunkungfu.comUPDATE (Nov 18th): Yet another committed Wing Tsun practitioner in Calgary is coming to Vancouver. He called all the other residents at the hospital, at which he is working, arranged to have his shift covered, booked a flight and will be here for the year-end 'Knockout' Seminar.

And yes, Evan also took time off and attended the very recent seminar in Calgary. Did you read his seminar review? Click here

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Posted by ralph haenel at 12:56 PM PST
Updated: Thursday, 18 November 2010 2:06 PM PST

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