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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
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Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
Thursday, 28 April 2011

Seven overlooked points to improve your Wing Tsun (martial arts) training

How is your Impact Capability? Three scenarios will show!

Once again, it was time to pack up and visit Vancouver Island at the invitation of Sihing Anselm Meyer, the local instructor at Wing Tsun Victoria. This time I was accompanied by Sihing Philip Lee of the Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver trainer team. Helpful as always, Sifu Gary Kaiser picked us up on the other side. The seminar host, Ray Van Raamsdonk greeted us at the new location of his Wing Chun Victoria school. A very friendly man with decades of experience, always curious about different interpretations of the art of Wing Tsun / Wing Chun / Ving Tsun. Sifu German Ferrer of Wing Tsun Calgary maintains his unbroken record of flying out to attend each seminar here in BC. The Wing Tsun Victoria seminar also received guests of other Kung Fu and Eskrima schools.

Seminar at Ray Van Raamsdonk's Wing Chun Victoria school on Vancouver Island, BC


I enjoy focusing every seminar under the umbrella of a specific topic. What I care about is generating ideas to positively change one’s training, regardless of the style. Instilling ideas of how to review and improve your performance.

A fight can be visualized like a car crash. Now, who will survive the head-on collision? The driver of a car is typically protected by many safety features like bumper, crumble zone, collapsible steering wheel, an army of airbags, seat belt, the car body itself, OnStar system and possibly more.

So, how are we now protected through our martial arts training? How many safety features do have in place? What is out Impact Capability? How do we prevent or ‘soften’ the impact of a vicious attack? How do deal with the variables?

Questions over questions (Questions often bring more questions). The following is just a quick recap of the seminar, the theoretical backbone. I will try to keep it brief. The points mentioned, do not form an exhaustive list. The topic itself could be extended into many directions. We had, after all, only four hours time.
Many examples, which I demonstrated, can’t be fully explained in this limited medium. I try to keep my blog posts under three (Word file) pages. ;-)
Some points may only become truly understood if you attended the seminar.

To start it off, via several exercises we began to explore how difficult it is, to make mistakes. Yes, you read it right! We are often too busy doing things right, as opposed to exploring the wrongs. We oppose even the training partner, we try get it right, to copy the perfect execution of a technique, a drill. We want to rush to the "end product." I always reenforce the point that the attacker is the only one, who knows what’s going on. So, let us be a part of it, work “with him”. Encountering the true meaning of yin and yang. Blocking, stopping, opposing, saying NO is easy. It’s quite difficult having to learn to say YES! To let the attacker seemingly succeed, only to turn it around by using his force, technique, the direction and speed of his attack.

Point 1 – Trademark
What separates a talented martial artist from a good technician, his trademark so to say, is the instant and continuous coordination of hand and footwork. Including, the ideas behind the falling and rising step.
We also touched upon the difference between arm movement in front of the body, and body movement behind the arm.

Point 2 - Rhythm
Have your own rhythm, destroy the other person’s rhythm. Ensure that they can’t enforce their rhythm on you. You must determine the rhythm (like a good drummer carries the foundation of a band’s performance) .

Point 3 - Structure
Anything we do must affect the structure of the other person! If he is temporarily busy maintaining balance, attempting to fend you off, trying not to get hit, then there is your chance.

During any Open House event, I typically describe the ideal scenario. We want to take away from the opponent:
- time during which the attacker can act, and the
- space in which he can operate, and the
- opportunity to do anything.

Which means:
1. We need to launch aggressively into the onset of the first attack,
2. disable time, space, opportunity for a successful second attack
3. drive the opponent into temporary defensive actions.

Point 4 – Power / Power Scale
Naturally, none of it really matters unless we have striking power. If we can’t deliver knockout power, it should at least be enough to shock the attacker for the moment.
Remember; attackers choose victims, not opponents.

I introduced the idea of the Power Scale, which in itself will be part of an upcoming blog post. Our aggressive attacks should perform according to the following guidelines:
- don’t just strike against the arms (and get stuck, start ‘wrestling’),
- don’t just try to push past the arms (forgetting to punch),
- no lifting above or under the arms (no exchange of punches),
- our intend is to go with our actions towards and past the axis, while possibly making contact with the arms.
Reading this particular point again, I can see, how easily the written word can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Practical demonstration and hands-on training is paramount.

Point 5 - Angles
The attacks towards the assailant have to cover the angles of the majority of possible incoming attacks.
Over time, we learn to employ the ideas of the horizontal and vertical wedge, deriving from the concepts of the second and third Wing Tsun form.

As example, I was using the Bong-Sau and Tan-Sau techniques and their progression throughout Siu-Nim-Tau, Cham-Kiu to Biu-Tze. This can be shown in Chi-Sau and (Wing Tsun) Lat-Sau.

The Dan-Chi-Sau and Chi-Sau exercises are featuring ideal contact constellations for developing positions, angles and eventually movement pattern.

Point 6 – Fluidity & Flexibility
We worked on ideas like ‘Folding’, for example the movement of the elbow past the wrist position, inside and outside. Something my Sifu, Keith Kernspecht, is doing for a long time.
Imagine your arm joints as three weights or cannonballs (wrist, elbow, shoulder). If any part is stopped or blocked, the rest is still moving and even accelerating.

Every Wing Tsun movement has to be continuous and multi-directional, for which Bong-Sau, Tan-Sau, Jum-Sau, Jut-Sau and so on are only (important) fragments of your movements. Just like the single frames of a high speed car chase in a movie. The frames are important, but in the end, the single frames make up the movie. Pay attention to your technique, but don’t get stuck in “single frames.”

As examples I typically use free applications out of the forms, also to showcase the wonderful blueprint the Wing Tsun forms present.
1, response with elements of Siu-Nim-Tau
2. response with elements of Cham-Kiu
3. response with elements of Biu-Tze

Point 7 - Footwork
Coming from point 1 once more back to the extreme importance of our Footwork. Our steps should move us
- not just closer to the attacker,
- not just establish contact (leg against leg, shin to shin), but
- attack the opponents stance, attack his balance, shift his attention from upper to lower body, while you coordinate your attacks on both levels.

In the end, there are only three scenarios that make your successful defense in a real-life scenario count:

1. Can you with your counter shock the attacker, thus temporarily stop his attacks, and now have the chance to run away?
2. Can you attack the attacker so drastically, that he is losing his balance, stopped his attack and is forced into defensive actions? Now get away before it escalates again!
3. Can you knock him out?

Anything else, … forget about it. The mugger is not afraid of seriously injuring you, he is not afraid of getting hurt. He may not care about his defense. He is violent. He is enjoying the fight. There is no fairness. Nobody cares if what you did is authentic, original, traditional, modified, from the right lineage, … you get idea.

So, how is your Impact Capability? Make sure that your defensive “shields” hold! Learn to fire while defending? Don’t get shot down while firing!

Have fun and train hard!

Posted by ralph haenel at 1:20 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 29 April 2011 11:55 PM PDT

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