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.
Now with bonus chapter: Kettlebell training! INFO
On Sale Now!
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, 1 September 2007
Welcome back, nutrition videos, and the columns of Wing Tsun training
I started this blog initially on March 20th of this year and followed through until the end of April. Technical issues on the server side stopped everything for a while. Other projects became paramount and demanded time. But now we are finally back online with the blog of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver.
Four videos with interesting information on
1. Time-saving meal solutions
2. Coffee and caffeine facts
3. Coffee shop smarts
4. Healthy snacking tips
Today we want to resume with a look at the possibilities of making your exercises more productive, to go beyond techniques. Over the next weeks we will also answer questions as to what the WingTsun-CoreConcepts mean, where the term comes from, what it stands for.
For years now I have seen that many traditional Kung Fu instructions are allover the place in terms of explanations. While many wing chun maxims and proverbs may be genuine, artistic commentaries on the wing chun style of Chinese boxing and have been handed down through the generations, still the need for a organized, didactic teaching system is obvious.
Retain what comes in, send off what retreats.
Rush in on loss of hand contact.
Do not be lax when your opponent is not advancing.
Once your opponent moves, his center of gravity changes.
Make the first move to have control. Attack according to timing.
Timing is achieved through practice.
The list could be continued for pages to come. Does this now appear to show an efficient way of teaching? Not in the opinion of many. Again, a systematical approach to learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu is a absolute necessity considering the many walks of life students typically come from.
Where does the famous Chi-Sau fit in? It is a very sophisticated training method, unique to the Wing Tsun system. Although some martial arts use today fragments of Wing Tsun Chi-Sau in their training, why not learning it complete?
First off - Three teaching and learning programs are in place, the three columns of Wing Tsun Kung Fu, making it a interconnected learning experience. At first the student learns the basic techniques, a 'blueprint' of points of reference, through the training of the Wing Tsun forms.
The second program, Chi-Sau the 'clinging arms' exercise, teaches us to transform these techniques into reflex-like responses, using the direct input of the actions of our training partner. We learn to feel the direction, speed and power of an attack.
The third column is Lat-Sau, the fighting programs, which put the student increasingly under stress, to prepare for a variety of outcomes in chaotic, yet instructor controlled scenarios.
The idea of 'WingTsun-CoreConcepts' has evolved over the course of the years as my personal method of teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu. Beyond the techniques it considers ten crucial points of reference while teaching and learning a specific scenario. More about that in upcoming blog entries.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 11:50 PM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 1 September 2007 11:53 PM PDT
Thursday, 26 April 2007
Dates & Events, more Photos, Interview at MTV Canada
The online 'members only' area for Vancouver students has been updated. You should have received a news e-mail on Tuesday, April 24th containing the new password. Click here to go to the log-in page.
The next Open House has been scheduled for May 7th and 9th 2007 (7-10pm)! Did you know? If you sign up a new member to our school, and he or she has signed the agreement and paid the fees, you will receive one private lesson (one-on-one, valued at $50.00) absolutely FREE! It’s just our way of saying “Thanks!”
This year's Summer Seminar for ALL is coming up soon. Mark your calendar today! The first part is on Monday, June 4th, 7-10pm. Part 2, the main event is on Wednesday, June 6th, 7-10pm. I will start sending out e-mails in regard to your eligibility to sign up for testing during the seminar. As always, this seminar too features a special topic you don't want to miss.
There will be NO group class on Monday, May 21st due to the long Victoria Day weekend. Enjoy time with family and friends!
The next WingTsun-ChiKung classes have been scheduled. Join us on Monday, May 28th (7-10pm) for the first class of two, featuring the Siu-Nim-Tau form. The second evening on Monday, June 11th (7-10pm) lays out the details of the second form of the Wing Tsun Kung Fu system, the Cham-Kiu form. For more information click here. Face a challenging workout. We don't call it CorePower in Motion™ for nothing!
Don't forget to pick up your copy of the print newsletter for May. It will be handed out in group class on Monday, May 14th.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 11:00 AM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 13 May 2007 11:29 AM PDT
Wednesday, 25 April 2007
A few words about our ChiKung classes
April 16th was the date of yet another one of our WingTsun-ChiKung classes. This evening featured the Cham-Kiu form, often neglected but once discovered or better re-discovered a form invaluable to the progress of one's Wing Tsun skills.
You will, even in the Wing Tsun system by different representatives, often notice personal interpretations, as for example the repetition of the last kick on the right side.
Many have asked the question over the years addressing several of Yip Man's senior students, as to why the kick is typically performed only once to the left, without a truly satisfying answer.
If you check youtube or google video for other (Wing Tsun, WT!) Cham-Kiu forms, you will always notice a few interpretations here and there. Video clips are merely intended to show you the general order of movements. Everything else has to be trained in class, live! ;-)
Once again note, Wing Chun or Ving Tsun forms are often trained with a very different focus.
I mentioned in class a few general training methods. For the idea or meaning of "fast", "regular" or "slow" please refer to our classes, it is very difficult to describe with words.
- regular speed with focus on technical aspects, complete form under 2 minutes
- fast and powerful, accelerated punches, palm strikes, kicks, etc., 1 minute+
- very slow, focus on breathing and body posture, less attention to angles and positions
- very slow, focus on stretching between opposing joints, working all points of attention, often 10 to 15 points, at the same time
- very slow, focus on "working the Chi", I have mentioned several ideas or better visualizations as being used in traditional ChiKung styles
Very slow can mean anything from 20 minutes to three hours or longer to finish the form once!
We have also talked about the fact, that the effects you might feel can differ very much from week to week. Many who train consistently and progress oriented, experience step by step changes as to what muscles will be involved, how ligaments and tendons are being accessed.
You have to watch your form (in a mirror), FEEL your progress and try to push yourself every time a little bit further, move a little bit slower, pay a bit more attention to details, hold positions while stretching a bit longer.
Videotape yourself and then really try to watch it. :-)
Remember, we want to progress from short-term stretching towards long-term lengthening of muscles.
View the kicks of the Cham-Kiu form as slow and detailed exercises for stretching, posture, positioning, and foremost as balance exercise.
Experiment during the stance turning exercises with the involvement of your ankles, knees, hips and the positioning of your spine/neck vs. shoulders and "open" chest.
We have talked about the idea of the "power of the seven joints" as being an abstract picture/visualization to involve increasingly the continuous and progressive stretching between ALL opposing joints.
We eventually want to be able to generate power via connected muscle groups throughout the body, perform truly whiplash like motion that can be viewed as fluid and elegant, kind of like a ripple effect after throwing a rock into a lake. Or in one word: Elasticity. Once again it becomes apparent why we call our ChiKung/form classes 'CorePower in Motion!'
Recently a Tai Chi expert watched our Chi-Sau training and asked me about how long (as in decades) I am practicing a particular Tai Chi style. I have never done Tai-Chi. The not so secret revelation is that styles considered to be 'inner styles' or 'internal styles' must move, must be performed in a somewhat similar way. That is why you will discover certain (limited) similarities in Wing Tsun, Tai Chi*, Hsing-I* (or Hsing-Yi), Pakua Chang*, or even Aikido and Judo.
* or T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Xíngyìquán and Baguazhang, the neijia arts.
Everything has its limitations, never get taken by circus tricks, the no-touch knockouts, etc. supposedly demonstrating internal power, Chi-Power. As much as those video clips can be found at youtube, stay real.
The dates of our upcoming ChiKung classes will be listed at the following link:
Posted by ralph haenel
at 12:27 PM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007 12:38 PM PDT
Friday, 20 April 2007
Ease and simplicity of Wing Tsun Kung Fu
The ease and simplicity of Wing Tsun Kung Fu! Now I can see already some of our members smile, to say the least. Wing Tsun employs pure physics, is being taught using easy to understand core concepts you can 'lay over' any partner exercise or form like a guiding blueprint.
Wing Tsun training does not require extreme stretching nor complicated acrobatics. Wing Tsun is not very exciting to watch, but works as a highly specialized self-defense system to combat violence in a physical confrontation you were unable to avoid.
You do not need to be strong to the max or lightening fast, which does not mean you should be weak and slow either. Wing Tsun training will wake up your hidden potential. The self-defense system of Wing Tsun tailors itself to you personal abilities, transforming you from a perspective victim status to a healthy level of confidence, and awareness of your surroundings, let's you deal with problems before they even arise.
Like anything in life, what looks in the end easy and simple requires a dedicated and intense training. What if you never get into a self-defense scenario? For one, then your training has paid off, you have learned to avoid becoming a victim, and look at the "side effects" like improved posture, body awareness, reliable self-confidence, ability to communicate more clearly by recognizing signs of possibly dangerous situations before they entangle you.
Many martial arts offer many things, and then some self-defense. Wing Tsun Kung Fu is self-defense, period.
Find out more about the difference between a highly specialized self-defense system and sport-oriented martial arts. Read more about my book "The Reality of Self-Defense! What martial arts schools won't tell you." at www.selfdefensebookreviews.com
Posted by ralph haenel
at 11:36 AM PDT
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Ease and simplicity of access to information
Thanks for the e-mails asking about the next blog entry. I appreciate you coming back time and again to the blog of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver. How reliant have we become on using the various tools of the Internet for sending and receiving information. Everything is at our fingertips, and we realize the ease and simplicity of access only once it is cut off, even if only temporarily.
For about ten days I was back in the dark ages with agonizing dial-up, the computer constantly signing off, losing the Internet connection while attempting to send e-mails or upload files. Now my broadband connection has been reestablished and I am glad to share a few minutes with you.
I will respond to your questions and further elaborate on past mini articles in this blog. Send me a e-mail at SifuRalphHaenel at aol.com. Looking for past entries of interest? Find you links here!
Posted by ralph haenel
at 11:22 AM PDT
Wednesday, 11 April 2007
Vancouver video, Seminar feedback, How to bring Chi-Sau to life!
On March 23rd I added for the first time a few links to video material about Vancouver. Many, who are reading this blog, have been to Vancouver before or plan on visiting soon. So, here is another batch of links from Tourism Vancouver, Vancouver 2010 and other sources (links 1, 2, 3, 4).
Steve McMinn, personal trainer and the author of the seminar feedback article, is featured in the upcoming book "The practical strength training guide for self-defense and martial arts" as listed for release by mid May 2007 at www.kungfutheworkout.com.
Wing Tsun Vancouver goes to the Island. Download the seminar feedback here:
http://realisticselfdefense.tripod.com/pdf/wingtsun_in_victoria.pdf (333 kb, 4 pages)
How to bring Chi-Sau to life!
As always, the mini articles in our blog are intended to encourage a analytical training, to promote the ability to look at your exercises and the understanding thereof from different viewpoints. The articles are by no means supposed to be complete. Anybody who has experienced training with practitioners of different wing chun styles found out soon enough that Chi-Sau (clinging arms) as training method may not be compatible. You train Chi-Sau with your training partner, you learn Chi-Sau from your instructor, you teach Chi-Sau to your student, with anybody else you employ the end result of intense Chi-Sau training, you demonstrate or fight.
I wrote already earlier in the blog about the different wing chun styles. Let's just say that the training goals and effects are viewed differently, which is more than understandable in a highly interpretive art like wing chun. wing chun stands as a synonym for a variety of different Wing Tsun, Wing Chun or Ving Tsun styles.
When talking about Wing Tsun Chi-Sau let's look at possible variations of your daily or weekly training routine. First of all, training partners or even other instructors who differ in height, reach, weight, strength, let alone skill and ability require for your progress a very patient and dedicated instructor who can adjust the exercises to your very specific needs.
1. Now, let's start with distance. Train with your arms as far extended as possible without loosing the ability to maintain contact, balance or proper responses. Train in the ideal distance with movements as trained in your forms (Siu-Nim-Tau, Cham-Kiu, etc.). Now work as if your positions are almost completely collapsed, in the closest range possible.
2. Another variation is speed. Begin with correct but extreme slow-motion movements, switch to 'regular' training speed, then try to work with extreme speed. Here, during the last application, you may encounter a drastic drop in accuracy and ability to maintain contact.
3. Let's continue with pressure, starting out with a touch, which can barely be felt, resume with 'regular' pressure, and finish with very heavy pressure, under which you begin to understand how different muscle groups indeed have to be connected from toes to fingertips to maintain a stable yet highly movable structure.Some of you might now ask what 'regular' means. This is of course almost impossible to describe with words. Feel free to join us for our next Open House event.
Why have we chosen only three variances in these three groups of exercises? You can of course choose as many as you would like; three stands more or less for minimum, optimum and maximum of a particular exercise.
The preceding ideas are only a first few to bring some dynamic into your Wing Tsun Chi-Sau training.
Go here to find an overview of past blog entries of interest!
Posted by ralph haenel
at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 13 May 2007 11:31 AM PDT
Tuesday, 10 April 2007
Reviews and upcoming events
I hope you enjoyed a relaxing long weekend. Mark your calendar today for the next events at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver. We have scheduled the next WingTsun-ChiKung class for Monday, April 16th, 7-10pm. This evening will feature the Cham-Kiu form, the second form of the Wing Tsun system. Click here for more information.
The next Open House is ahead of us, on Monday, April 23rd and Wednesday, April 25th. Click here for more information.
We have also started preparing for this year's second special topic and grading seminar. The date has been set for Monday, May 14th and Wednesday, May 16th.
Have you had a chance to download the newsletter for April? Sign-in now at the online ' members only ' area.
Direct links to individual past blog entries. Read it now!
Visit us tomorrow for a brief review on how to bring Wing Tsun Kung Fu Chi-Sau to life!
Posted by ralph haenel
at 11:58 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 10 April 2007 12:43 PM PDT
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.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 3:15 PM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 7 April 2007 3:18 PM PDT
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:
"His technical control and sense of rhythm were astonishing."
"Astaire's execution of a dance routine was prized for its elegance, grace, originality and precision."
Translation? Possible martial ARTS translation.
"During fight scenarios, his technical control and sense of rhythm were astonishing."
"The martial artists execution of a fight routine was prized for its elegance, grace, originality and precision."
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.
He was already a established professional dancer, singer and actor, yet for his 1936 movie Swing Time with Ginger Rogers, dance scenes were recorded as if gravity doesn't exist; after 350 hours of rehearsing!
Threehundredandfifty hours for a few timeless dance scenes? Watch the movie and ask me again "How do I get better?"
"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."
Fred Astaire, RIP - COPYRIGHT 1987 National Review, Inc.
Join me on Saturday, April 7th for a few words on when correction by your training partner is a hindering factor.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 1:57 PM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 26 November 2009 5:52 PM PST
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.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 2:30 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2007 3:23 PM PDT
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