Sifu Ralph Haenel, learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu since 1984
Changing lives, one punch at a time.
Book "The Reality of Self-Defense!" by Ralph Haenel
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The practical strength training guide for Wing Tsun Kung Fu (Wing Chun, Ving Tsun) practitioners and fitness enthusiasts.
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Siu-Nim-Tau, a Wing Tsun Kung Fu form for WingTsun (Wing Chun, Ving Tsun) practitioners and fitness enthusiasts.
Training notes on the journey between Kung Fu Beginner and Master INFO
Kung Fu - The Workout; an easy to follow result driven guide for beginners and fitness enthusiasts. INFO
WingTsun-CoreConcepts, Beyond tradition and technique - training concepts for Wing Tsun Kung Fu students and instructors! INFO
Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
Saturday, 7 April 2007
Healthy critique or interrupted learning process?
Your instructor has just demonstrated a new exercise. He explained in detail what the purpose of the exercise is, how you should train it, he even showed it in slow motion for the finer points. Maybe on top you were told what not to do, in order to ensure your progress.
I for example often encourage to train it a few times purposely wrong. Only if we know common mistakes we can go into the right direction. I ask not to hinder each other, rather to help each other, even though that would seem to be the most normal thing in the world. I urge not to fight each other, since each training partner first has to get a feel for the exercise.
When I show an exercise in different angles, with different outcomes, I point out that this is a "finished product", a ability to move, strike, counter, etc. that has to be achieved first.
Furthermore differences in height, reach, experience, weight, strength, speed, even personality can heavily influence the outcome of a exercise. Training partners have to work WITH each other, to eventually after long training reach a level of intensity at which they can test "the finished" exercise against each other.
But even after ideal explanations and demonstrations what happens at times? You just get started with your training partner, and ... ??? he starts to point out that your Wu-Sau was too low, that you should have turned earlier, that your punch didn't perform according to the distance, and the list goes on.
You start thinking, hey just wait a minute, you are doing the very same things, besides we have just started to explore the exercise, and if I remember right haven't you missed quite a few classes recently, and all you do is trying to correct me?
Does this scenario seem familiar? Maybe if you have never encountered it, you should nicely ask your training partner? Maybe he will start talking ... :-)
Having experienced this behaviour everywhere, I know it is human nature, the I-know-it-better effect.
Just a short while ago I read a very interesting article on the web site of the EWTO. "When correction is a disturbing factor" Why it is not good to constantly correct your training partner, and why it is also bad to give a running commentary during a lesson. Grandmaster Kernspecht and guest author Sifu Lars Böckers on “bad habits“ during WT training.
Find it here: http://www.wingtsunwelt.com/news.php?id=1315
Thursday, 5 April 2007
What's the connection between Fred Astaire and Wing Tsun Kung Fu?
I have often been asked as to who is a role model for me, or how I motivate myself, even after decades of training. For me it's one and the same. We all need at one point or another a outside influence to boost our motivation, to re-evaluate our goals, and to make necessary corrections.
Another question I receive fits in here as well: "How do I get better?" After all, finding out what or who influences us and our decisions, how we maintain a well motivated and positive attitude and how we reach our goals, doesn't this in part make us who we are, how we are being perceived by others around us?
So, what now about role models? In my personal opinion this is an issue, which has to be carefully approached. Marcus Tullius Cicero said already "The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn."
Fred Astaire was one of the greatest dancers of all time. He spent seven decades with dozens of different dance partners on the stage, screen, and television. He has been characterized as music in motion. Long before I read this quote by Rudolf Nureyev, I had started to describe Wing Tsun Kung Fu as CorePower in Motion™.
Which other quotes characterize his work? Here only two:
Translation? Possible martial ARTS translation.
As I sometimes tell my students, bring some life into your performance. Show enthusiasm and dedication!
Many people, among them Michael Jackson, have admired Fred Astaire's total discipline, his absolute dedication to every aspect of his art. He rehearsed, rehearsed, and rehearsed until he got it right.
"It is not a secret, but then neither is it widely known, that Astaire's dancing was anything but an act of improvisation. Every step was carefully, fastidiously, mercilessly rehearsed. All that joy represented crushing hours of work, self-discipline, the artist's insistence on perfection."
Join me on Saturday, April 7th for a few words on when correction by your training partner is a hindering factor.
Wednesday, 4 April 2007
Our new Wing Tsun blog, the Seminar Weekend on Vancouver Island
After I have been thinking for quite some time about starting my own blog, I finally uploaded the first entry on Tuesday, March 20th 2007. The blog has been since a mix of micro articles. school announcements, another source of information for our students on top of the monthly print-newsletter, news e-mails, the online 'members only' area, the different web sites and more.
Thanks for the feedback from our international visitors, who come back to read more little articles around and about Wing Tsun, like Traditional, Original, Modern, Modified? Which one is the right Wing Chun?, a mini three part series, or the recent entry ChiKung, CorePower in Motion, the never-ending challenge.
I will continue the mix of school information and small articles as food for thought. I'll just hope to always find the time and opportunity to write. Thanks for keeping me on my toes and allowing me to share my thoughts.
The Seminar Weekend
In the 90's I was used to following my Sifu and my Sigung to their seminars all over Europe, all the way from Italy up to Denmark. I visited my own schools in Germany on a regular basis, being every month in different cities.
Thanks to the effort of John Kaiser of the Wing Chun Club in Langford and Ray Van Raamsdonk (www.springtimesong.com/), a Wing Chun teacher in Victoria with a long history in martial arts, a seminar weekend was organized.
It reminded me of why I like to travel to seminars, why I enjoy teaching, why even after 23 years I still get passionate about explaining the very basic details of Wing Tsun Kung Fu, as if it is my very first day. It is about meeting very dedicated, friendly people, who are open-minded, willing to accept new ideas and eager to train hard. It is about the exchange of opinions, sharing experiences, further encouraging the growth of students and instructors alike who share common goals.
Thanks to Ray and John for hosting the seminar, to your students for the very friendly welcome. It was a pleasure to spend quality time with you.
Thanks to our students from Vancouver, who came over for the seminar; ... Gary K., Ciprian, Rob G., Trevor, Edmond, Philip and Neal. Thanks to Steve McMinn (www.stevemcminn.com), who quickly switched from powerful Lat-Sau drills to the camera, to take many photos and is currently writing a report about the seminar weekend experience.
Many experienced Wing Chun practitioners participated in this Wing Tsun Core Concepts weekend, like Jason Siu from Victoria and Bill Reny of Surrey, head of the Pacific Coast Wing Chun Institute, just to name a few.
Thanks for an inspiring weekend, sharing common ground and new ideas for practitioners of various Wing Chun styles.
Many photos have been added to our Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver online photo album.
Tuesday, 3 April 2007
ChiKung, CorePower in Motion, the never-ending challenge
As requested by some of our members who enjoy a very challenging workout, this last Monday April 2nd 2007, we finally held another WingTsun-ChiKung class. The three hour evening featured different elements of the first form of this Kung Fu system, the Siu-Nim-Tau form. We view it as a beginners form, yet coming around full circle also as the form of the master.
The evening contained the training of elements that greatly support the progress from a very slow short term stretching towards a long term lengthening of the muscular structure of the upper body, promoting a better usage of ligaments and tendons, a strong development of the fascia.
I often use the analogy of a scale. On one side we try to become more flexible, gain mobility through relaxation, yet end up being somewhat weak and brittle under a strong attack. On the other hand we try to incorporate our strength, to build a upright yet deeply rooted positioning, ending up being too stiff and tense at times.
Our goal is to leave a weak and brittle structure behind, and to get rid of tensions and stiffness.
Imagine the scale now. Eventually we want to lead the idea and realization of relaxation and strength together with the tips of the scale evenly balanced. We want to form 'Wing Tsun Power' out of the right mix of a well-balanced relaxation of the right muscles and the strength of a well-connected muscular structure.
Don't believe it until you feel it, until you feel the next morning muscles you didn't even think you have. Check for dates of upcoming ChiKung classes at our web site at: http://realisticselfdefense.tripod.com/wingtsun_chikung_2.html. I am looking forward to see you for a exciting workout, true CorePower in Motion™.
Monday, 2 April 2007
Wing Tsun punching methods
The upcoming May issue of the 'The Journal of Asian Martial Arts' (www.goviamedia.com) is going to publish a 20-page article on Wing Tsun punching methods. It's one of the very few in depth martial arts magazines on the market.
Their web site states:
"Via Media Publishing Company was founded with a specific quest in which research on Asian martial traditions could be published that reflected the highest academic and aesthetic standards possible.
The first goal stemmed from a desire to establish a periodical in which authors, artists, and photographers could present high quality work concerning Asian martial arts. Thus, the quarterly Journal of Asian Martial Arts was founded in 1991. The Journal covers a wide variety of fighting traditions, from the well-known such as karate, taekwondo, judo, aikido, taiji, and Shaolin, to lesser known forms of self-defense. All forms of combat (striking, grappling, locking, kicking), traditional and modern, barehanded and with weapons."
You will find two ads in the journal, one for my self-defense book and one for the upcoming strength training book. Find "The practical strength training guide for self-defense and martial arts" at www.kungfutheworkout.com. The release date is the end of April 2007.
Friday, 30 March 2007
Traditional, Original, Modern, Modified? Which one is the right Wing Chun?
In Kung Fu styles especially, you will often find the reference to the position of the instructor within the family tree as a sign of quality or authenticity. Although acknowledging traditions can be an important part of our learning process, as well as giving respect towards our elders, the family structure of Chinese Kung Fu on the other hand should not be used like an indication of superiority.
The issues, as quickly touched upon in the first two parts earlier in the blog, particularly the clash of “traditional” versus “modern” have been argued to death in many Internet forums. Many discussions are worse than extremist religious disagreements.
Not just in Wing Chun, in martial arts in general, it appears that there are more politics than in politics. The questioning of authenticity, the probing in traditions is frowned upon. It is difficult for many to accept that different opinions can coexist, even more so due to the involvement of large egos plus a supersized portion of testosterone.
The (martial) art in itself requests interpretation. Why? To begin with, the students, the future instructors, differ in size, height, strength, speed, weight, even life experience, just to mention a few factors. Think about the diversities regarding the educational background, even ethnicity, the personality, one’s creativity and even ability to express creativity.
A true master should leave his personal imprint in his martial art, as it is his obligation to hand down the basic framework of a martial art, to allow the next generation to similarly express themselves, to bring a martial art to life. Look in your prospective instructor for an honest willingness to teach openly, instead of old often misunderstand secretive teaching structures.
In the end martial artists, sifu’s are people like anybody else, even though some enjoy a glorification of their positions, even mystification. Quick example … Sifu: “I cannot spar with you my son, my techniques are too deadly.” And don’t think this is Hollywood fiction.
Think about it for a moment how scenarios, situations in which fights are born have changed. Not always for the better, now always for the worse, but morality, laws, society have changed. You cannot seamless transport the culture in which a particular martial art was born to a different time, a different place.
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), a famous composer and conductor once said: “Tradition is the keeper of the fire, not the admiration of the ashes.” Keep it in mind and you have found the right Wing Tsun, Wing Chun or Ving Tsun.
We have added 16 more photos to our online photo album. Now 52 photos on 4 pages.
Thursday, 29 March 2007
Seminar update, ChiKung class, long weekend, Bootcamp video
Seminar update for members of Vancouver school:
- Some will be staying at the Holiday Inn at 3020 Blandshard St. in Victoria, on the web at www.hivictoria.com/.
- We will take on Saturday the ferry leaving Tsawwassen at 11am. Fares (according to www.bcferries.com/):
adult weekend $10.55, fuel surcharge $0.80
car weekend $35.00, fuel surcharge $2.85
- We plan on getting togther for dinner after the first seminar (2-6pm) on Saturday. Everybody is more than welcome to join us.
- Last minute plans to come to the seminar? No problem! Find all the information on our special web site at http://realisticselfdefense.tripod.com/wingtsunkungfu_weekend.html
First WingTsun-ChiKung class out of two:
Long Weekend (Easter):
Part 3 of our mini-article "Traditional, Original, Modern, Modified? Which one is the the right Wing Chun?" comes tomorrow on Friday, March 30th.
Looking for the date of the next Wing Tsun Open House?
Wednesday, 28 March 2007
Traditional, Original, Modern, Modified? Which one is the right Wing Chun?
I often hear remarks or read introductions on the Internet to the extend: "We teach traditional Wing Chun, not a modified version." or "Our school features original Ving Tsun, not a modern abridged copy." Besides the pure buzz words 'traditional' and 'original', their placement is usually intended to exclaim some form of animosity against certain competitors on the market.
On one side wing chun is always portrayed as extremely adaptive Kung Fu system, yet nothing should be changed? Look at how boxing, wrestling, judo, karate and many other martial arts have changed over the decades. You could turn it around now and say only ‘modified’ wing chun has gone with the times. Meaning a school, which is still ‘traditional’ or ‘original’ uses outdated tools. Too rebellious?
The truth is as always somewhere in between. What most people forget, martial arts are man-made. Nothing is cast in stone. ARTS have to, must change, adapt, and evolve. Otherwise a martial ART would be a dead re-production, a mere copy.
Wing Tsun is function par excellence. And yes, the basic principles, the concepts must be maintained. Well, some issues can only be barely touched in this brief form of a blog.
I had the luck to learn from several teachers, some are better fighters; some are better teachers, who also taught me how to teach. Shouldn’t this be one of the most important characteristics? What good is a great fighter, a traditional Sifu, a original student of Yip Man, what good would they be, if they cannot TEACH you, if they cannot bring out the best in YOU.
With all due respect, just because somebody learned from a martial arts legend, in whatever line of the family tree, it doesn’t mean a single thing, because it doesn’t make them a qualified teacher, who is educated in different learning and teaching methods.
Tuesday, 27 March 2007
Traditional, Original, Modern, Modified? Which one is the right Wing Chun?
Beginners are often bewildered about the choices on the market when looking for a Wing Chun school. It begins with the romanization of the Chinese system of Wing Tsun Kung Fu. What's the difference between Wing Chun, Ving Tsun and Wing Tsun? Wait a minute, want it even more confusing? In Europe, particularly in Germany you find even more variations starting with Ving Chun, Wing Tschung, Ving Tchun and many more exotic versions.
Let’s simplify it. Bruce Lee needed as the first an English version and chose Wing Chun. Other students of the late Grandmaster Yip Man immigrated to England and picked Ving Tsun. Grandmaster Leung Ting, who formed his own organization, secured WingTsun or WT as a trademark, today often listed as LeungTing-WingTsun™.
In Germany under the leadership of Keith R. Kernspecht Wing Tsun schools grew more and more in numbers and size throughout the end of the 70’s and 80’s. At the beginning of the 90’s the European Wing Tsun Organization EWTO began to explode, reaching numbers of over 2000 schools with an estimated several hundreds of thousands of students.
In my schools I teach Wing Tsun Kung Fu, relating to the fact that I have studied WingTsun (WT), beginning in 1984, for over 16 years in various branches of the WT system. Today Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, the first Canadian branch, operates successfully as independent school.
Monday, 26 March 2007
Missed Classes? Don't know how to restart? Problem getting going? Listen To Rocky Balboa.
We are all aware that many factors like a huge workload, a new job, moving, family situations, stress, even the flu, other spare time activities and even a temporary lack of motivation sometimes prevent us from participating in classes. And I am not even talking about your Wing Tsun Kung Fu training. This holds true for any hobby or activity.
Important is that one never feels that a comeback is impossible. Over the years I sometimes unexpectedly ran into students, asked them why I haven't seen them in a long time and in their reply it became apparent that they thought that they can't return or catch up. It's too late. How should I catch up? I lost the connection.
I have once jokingly expressed my sorrow for the unexpected and imminent departure from life. It resulted in a very puzzled response. My point is, how can it ever be too late to rekindle passion towards a hobby, how can it be too late to do what you love. Motivation we may all lack every now and then, but giving up? NO!
Find out what gets you going, what motivates you, what keeps your engine running. For me it is teaching, being for over 30 years involved in martial arts and after 23 years of Wing Tsun still enjoying to meet new people and passionately beginning to teach them the realistic self-defense system of Wing Tsun Kung Fu, as if it is my very first day.
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