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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
Monday, 21 March 2011

Setting foot for the first time into a martial arts school?
Tough time, trying to make it back to classes after a break? 

Tips and lessons learned from Grumpy George and others!

Time and again trainers eventually hear the following from interested people who are thinking of coming to an open house: 

- I was intimidated coming into the school.
- I had this picture of a bunch of sweaty tough guys looking down on me.
- I came, had a quick look from the outside and kept walking.
- I didn't know what to expect. 

Also from former members, who had to pause their training and after a break were trying to restart their training: 

- The break I took was too long. I thought it's too late to start training again.
- I thought everybody will look at me and ask where I have been.
- I thought people will talk about why I have been absent.
- I thought it's too late to catch up with my class mates. 

All those thoughts are more than common. It is normal! You are not alone. Just read what a few of our members went through.

from left to right Todd, Sifu Ralph, Adrian at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, the first Canadian Wing Tsun branch, www.wingtsunkungfu.com


Motivating oneself to coming to the open house.
I too came to the open house in 2003 and walked past, almost turning around to go home! I hadn't taken any martial arts before and was intimidated. But without knowing it at the time, I had followed the first WT principle: go forward! I didn't like the idea of shying away from something unknown because I was always a timid youth growing up and had resolved to turn my behaviour around. 

The lesson I learnt and would advise others: it’s almost always better to do something you're thinking about than not doing it, even if its the wrong decision. At the very worst outcome, you will have wasted some time and effort but at least found out that WT (or what ever the thing is) is not for you.
But the very best outcome is that you will gained something valuable for the rest of your life and can be proud that you've overcome an uncertain obstacle (meeting new people/strange environment).

As for restarting one's training, motivation is crucial again because its so easy to think: "I've been out of it so long, what's the point" or "I can train at home" or "I will go next week". I think what motivated me is just making the effort to show up for just one class.
The energy from class is intoxicating (thanks to you Sifu) and you know you cannot recreate it at home. Furthermore, seeing you--Sifu and others like Tony, Edmund, Sebastian, Philip, Sia, Rob and the rest of the trainer team move with such fluid power really makes me want to be part of it. Essentially, the environment of my WT "family" motivated me to come back, because everyone is working towards being really good. And knowing that you have the "seed" of skill planted, however small and long ago, that can be developed into something great is better that knowing that it will die and goes to waste. So, that's my motivation for coming back--seeing a potential come to fruition. That and the jealousy that Tony is so good now :) Hope my ideas are helpful, Adrian

First I did not know what to expect. I knew only a little about Wing Tsun. The experience of 15 years in Olympic wrestling in Europe, some years in boxing, plus Aikido in North America shaped my approach to martial arts. When I started Wing Tsun Kung Fu classes under Sifu Ralph, that changed everything. So, here I am, changing for the better, enjoying myself, working hard, having a good time with a group of nice guys. That is all folks.
Grumpy George

In my opinion - if somebody wants to come, he doesn't look for reasons as to why not, but for reasons as to why yes. Of course, everybody needs sometimes somebody who pushes him to make the right decision. I say it this way - WT is a very intelligent and effective martial art for every man or woman. I advise it for everyone.

from left to right: Jan, Sifu Ralph, Grumpy George at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, the first Canadian Wing Tsun branch, www.wingtsunkungfu.com


Having experienced walking into Wing Tsun for the first time with no previous formal martial arts training I can tell you it is a bit of an uneasy feeling.....

One of the things that really made the difference for me very quickly in deciding if Wing Tsun, or this particular class was the one for me was being engaged by some of Sifu Ralph's students right away. 

I think If I would have walked into a class where people were beating each other into a pulp and had a bunch of tough guy jerks I would have turned around and left right away.... 

It was the other students that had come before me that took the time and energy to make me feel at home ... like I could be a part of this and all I had to do was show up...... 

Having experienced walking away from my training for a little while I have also experienced the regret of missing out.
I personally had other commitments that I needed to attend to for a period of time but when I returned....

There was Sifu Ralph with a big hand shake and then slapping a hug on me as if to say welcome home brother....

I can live in regret for stopping, I can live in regret for not starting this wonderful art years earlier but I choose to bring humility and an open mind to learn From EVERYONE in our classes because the energy we co-create is the heart of Martial Arts for me..... 

For anyone looking to try it out or anyone feeling poorly because they stopped practicing.... 
The door is always open to all comers and there is a place for you because there was a place for me and those who came before me....

After being away from Wing Tsun class for two years, I wasn't sure how much my skills would have deteriorated. I remembered sometimes missing classes for just a few weeks and finding that I definitely felt 'rusty' when I finally got back -- what would it be like to start again after two years? I knew my those who were at my level when I left had been training hard every week for that whole time. It even crossed my mind to ask my Si-Fu if I should start from the beginning again (level zero) and earn my way anew through all the student levels. I didn't ask, though; I figured I would see how it went against my old training partners first.

When I did, there were definitely layers of rust to clear away. My reactions were slow, stiff and lacked all power. But the miracle was, beneath the rust there was still a fully functioning 'machine' (set of reactions); what's more, the rust was gone within just a few weeks. It seems the muscle memory was there all along. It was a great endorsement of Wing Tsun training's focus on details and body mechanics -- in short, real motor skill development as opposed to 'techniques.' While my brain had forgotten volumes of detail, my body remembered.
Did you read the first part of this series of two posts? Please go to Are you a “dream ranger”? Or do you at times submit to the dark side? Watch the video and also read tips from Helen about starting your martial arts training and from Mike about returning to classes.

Posted by ralph haenel at 4:02 PM PDT
Updated: Monday, 21 March 2011 4:36 PM PDT

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