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
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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, 8 September 2007
My Martial Arts Experience by Clarke Wood (part 2 of 2)
The presentation part was actually fairly good, with a lot of emphasis on how WT was designed as a functional self defense system and it seemed to hang together pretty sensibly. Most of us attending had some experience of some sort (some had a lot of martial arts training as it turned out), so Ralph just did a few simple attacks on each of us to see how we fared. It was a good thing it was just a show, because no one could stop even simple strikes or grappling moves. Then, Ralph had everyone attack him. No one could lay a hand on him, no matter what we did. When he did let us get a hold of him, all the locks, arm bars and take downs we tried had no effect. He was surprisingly agile and strangely relaxed.
Finally, towards the end, I made the mistake of asking how much power his punches really had. This is not as crazy as it sounds. Many martial arts have very fast attacks that really do not do much other than sting when most people deliver them, and at the time I weighed in at 190 pounds with a lot of muscle, so I thought this was a good test. Ralph then did a quick demo of the “one inch punch” Bruce Lee was famous for. My feet left the ground and I flew about ten feet back into a wall. I have taken a lot of hits in my time, and this was by far the hardest one ever, and I did not breathe normally for a week afterwards. Needless to say, I signed up as a student shortly thereafter.
* * *
For the average student, after six months of training one can expect to develop some solid base of fighting instincts. To master the system is, like any martial art, a long term endeavour.
The problem with any student writing about his or her martial art is that they have an inherent bias towards the art they are in, and the majority of their audience will have their own bias towards their respective arts. Therefore, a commentary on why I think WT is great can be easily dismissed. Personally, I have a lot of confidence in the system, and have seen it tested regularly. It is vastly more functional than everything else I have experienced or seen in the martial arts world. To be blunt, a lot of what I have seen out there in terms of martial arts is not designed for real world self defense, and is very unlikely to work for most people in a real life confrontation. Anyone trying to use these methods will be lucky to avoid serious injury.
To be fair, marketing aside, most martial arts are geared more towards fitness, sports competition, or cultural learning, so it is a bit unfair to measure them by the criteria of functional self defense. A lot of arts produce people in good shape, with good agility, who can act aggressively. Unfortunately, in a real life situation one is likely to be confronted with a bigger, stronger opponent who is highly motivated to do physical damage to you. This opponent may not use any recognizable technique, and is very unlikely to adhere to any sort of rules of fighting. The sad fact is most martial arts spend little or no time trying to give people the tools to handle this situation, yet this is precisely the sort of thing you should be trained for from a self defense standpoint.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 10:23 AM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007 1:01 PM PDT
Friday, 7 September 2007
My Martial Arts Experience by Clarke Wood (part 1 of 2)
My Sifu asked me to give a brief recount of my experiences and opinions subsequent to joining his school two years ago. Probably the biggest impact on me has been in my views towards the fighting arts, and the state of martial arts today. I have no particular insight into the theories of the arts and am a far cry from being a hand to hand combat expert, but I have witnessed a fair bit and my insights, while autobiographical and anecdotal, might prove informational to the layperson.
From a young age I have had considerable interest in the martial arts. As a youngster I took Tae Kwon Do for a year. In University, I took Aikido, and also was fortunate to spend a considerable amount of time studying Shotokan Karate. I have also attended classes in Tai Chi, Kempo Karate, and Boxing. Strangely enough, during the period in which I studied Karate in Saskatchewan, a plethora of martial arts schools were open in Saskatoon. Besides Karate Schools, there were clubs or schools for Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Kendo, Kung Fu, and even Ninjitsu! This was all quite interesting, and I had some exposure to all the styles, but I really preferred my Karate instruction as nothing else seemed quite as practical.
I dropped out of Karate, some years passed, and I went through a sedentary couch potato phase, and then after some years passed, I went into a fitness kick, where I ran and lifted weights. After two years of this, I was bored out of my mind and contemplated plunging back into the martial arts. Owing to the popularity of Kung Fu thanks to a lot of films, plus the huge Chinese influence in Vancouver, I thought I would give Wing Tsun a try. I went to the one of Sifu Ralph’s demo nights which was advertised on the web. I thought the website was sufficiently “pumped up” that it might be interesting.
My wife and I arrived a bit early at the school’s location and I was a little surprised to meet the instructor who turned out to be a rather large, somewhat heavy German fellow. I have been to a lot of martial arts demonstrations from frauds and/or crazy people and pretty much figured this would be another one of those experiences. I mean, a heavy-set German guy, teaching Kung Fu –please!
Come back tomorrow and read part 2.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 9:16 AM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007 1:02 PM PDT
Thursday, 6 September 2007
How to train with each other
Yesterday I wrote that we will look today at a few methods to greatly improve your partner training, if within your class or naturally also, when you get together to train outside of regular classes.
- work slow and WITH your partner until you experience every millimeter of your movement
- find out when and how which joint** moves, how do muscle groups throughout the body create a non-stop wave (flow) of movement that lets you seemingly effortless produce an enormous amount of power and control at any given time
** example punch: while you punch feel which part of the job is done by your shoulder, elbow, wrist; check your body movement: ankles, knees, hips, spine, become aware of the linkage between movements, the development of power, the fluidity of motion, the maintenance of balance, the timing of your actions, the distance to your partner, etc. Get the idea? Yes, once again it's about the CoreConcepts, using them like a check-list to improve.
- COMMUNICATE with each other to help each other to achieve the goal of the exercise
- define for yourself the goal, the intention of the exercise, ask your partner for feedback, ask your trainer/instructor/sifu
- create reliable skills, that work under pressure, within a stressful scenario, as opposed to 'just' repeating techniques, help each other by increasing intensity, speed, power involved, talk and plan and train
- enable yourself to deal eventually even with the strongest and fastest attacks with a MINIMUM of effort, "test-drive" your skills
- example, show your partner no pressure and he/she naturally gets through, now use YOUR pressure and control any attack, the result? The ideal result should be, that your partner doesn't feel any difference between 'no pressure' and just 'enough pressure', which requires a lot of training.
- also, let your partner attack you without any warning, control, and in the end even more important, attack instantly and/or continue to control this and any follow-up attacks. How (relatively) long can you go without 'losing' it?
- one figures out over time that there are truly no secrets in Wing Tsun, sometimes it's almost disappointing, ... yes, you have to know the forms, Chi-Sau, Lat-Sau, the details that make or brake the performance, but only following the previous points, and showing an understanding can turn you over time into what would be considered a master
Once again, this is where the CoreConcepts come in (as mentioned on Sept 5th), that let you perform regardless of technique. Similar concepts could of course also be found in western boxing. It is in the end a great explanatory tool, a learning and teaching tool, to eventually simplify the training and help you to see a systematical approach throughout the Wing Tsun system, a connection from form to form, from form to exercises to application.
The CoreConcepts build a interconnected framework that puts the right focus into your training, many drills "just" being practical applications of these CoreConcepts, so to say practical 'explanations' of this theoretical frame.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007 1:03 PM PDT
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
The CoreConcepts of Wing Tsun Kung Fu
Earlier this week I wrote a brief paragraph about the CoreConcepts of Wing Tsun Kung Fu, interconnected teaching and learning tools, my personal method of teaching Wing Tsun.
We have concluded in classes that the kung fu techniques itself are not the most important part of one's skills, but their very performance, which eventually leads us to the CoreConcepts. Let's use a single punch as example as to what could go wrong:
- what good is a punch if the wrong distance prevents a full impact,
- if muscle tension throws you off balance while hitting,
- if the timing is off, meaning you get hit while striking,
- if you can not activate the right muscles and your punch is too weak
- if your footwork is not coordinated with your hand techniques
... and the list could go on.
The Wing Tsun forms build a framework which allows us to develop the usage, the realization of these concepts.
It's in the long run the intensity of our training, the ability to analyze our training, the how-to of our training which yields eventually results everyone would like to acquire, the ability of dealing with a scenario in a way that looks seemingly so easy.
You can compare success or failure of your progress with a well-rounded fitness training. The comparison is simply designed for explanatory reasons.
If you really want to improve your allover fitness you have to consider several issues (in no particular order):
- strength training (machines, free weights, etc.)
- endurance training (stamina, handling of stress, etc.)
- flexibility training (stretching, mobility, gymnastics, etc.)
- nutritional training (learning about your body type, sleep pattern, meal plans, etc.)
If one factor is missing, it will not be a well-rounded fitness training, the results will not be truly satisfactory.
This is how you could also view any Wing Tsun forms or exercises in connection to the 10 CoreConcepts, here listed in no particular order:
- release power
Come back tomorrow for tips on how to improve your partner training.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 7:51 AM PDT
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
Starting out with an open mind
It's not always that easy. Even some of today's trainers at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver had their doubts.
From "The open house didn't blow me away." to "this time my mind was far more open. ... I found myself nodding in agreement with everything being said. It was all so logical, practical and realistic." can be a long but exciting way of discoveries.
Realize your true potential. Wing Tsun Kung Fu can in a very unique way boost your perception, raise awareness of your surroundings, enable you to confidently judge a possibly dangerous situation.
One of our trainers wrote: “Finally a realistic, devastatingly effective self-defence system that strives to teach us not to fight!” Only if you have no choice of talking your way out of a particular scenario and the physical attack is imminent, only then a Wing Tsun Kung Fu practitioner will defend him/herself, aggressively attacking the opponent leaving him no space, time or opportunity to hurt you.
Read about many different experiences. Go to our special Open House web site at www.FreeSelfDefenseClasses.com and click the 'Trainer Team' tab for a variety of remarkable stories.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 1:04 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007 9:44 AM PDT
Monday, 3 September 2007
Trainer Team at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver
Read ten personal stories of Persistence, Perseverance and Patience.
Old and new members of the trainer team at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver share their martial arts biographies with you. Enthusiastic stories, describing at times long journeys. Inspiring and motivational moments, as well as many quiet thoughts as to focus and values in life.
- Wing Tsun changes the way you view life
- A long way from Karate in the Philippines to Wing Tsun in Canada
- A martial arts biography, which started in 1967
- Kung Fu is Life
- Finally a realistic, devastatingly effective self-defence system that strives to teach us not to fight!
- One can study casually or fanatically, yet there is always something to improve.
- I have made many good friends in Wing Tsun class.
- I personally enjoy the quickness, smoothness, flexibility of this self-defense system.
- The trial lesson turned out to be one of the most eye-opening experiences that I had ever experienced in my martial arts journey.
- The fact that Wing Tsun is such a deep yet simple martial art, has helped to keep my interest through the years.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 3:13 AM PDT
Updated: Monday, 3 September 2007 3:17 AM PDT
Sunday, 2 September 2007
Newsletters, and a quick look back
For our members - Have you had a chance to download the newsletter for August and September? Sign-in now at the online 'members only' area. - Seminar feedback, How to bring Chi-Sau to life! - Healthy critique?
Tomorrow meet some of the members of the Trainer Team and read their interesting bios.
Posted by ralph haenel
at 1:48 PM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 2 September 2007 2:04 PM PDT
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
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