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
Sunday, 23 September 2007
WingTsunKungFuWear.com - our shop is back online!
Saturday, 22 September 2007
How much training is too much? - example of home training schedule
Here is a recent e-mail:
Regarding training, I do have a question which came to mind today. You have constantly encouraged us to train harder and harder. It is understandable, since you are trying to push us to achievement as our Sifu. However, is there also a limit when the amount of training becomes counterproductive (for example, overtraining)?
For the last 2 weeks, I added more to my daily training. My current schedule looks like this (not including class time and training with others):
Total hours per week = 14.5 hours per week
Form training = Siu Nim Tau (20-30 min) and Chum Kiu (15-20 min), with focus on muscle and joint motion
Chain punching = 300 chain punches as fast as possible. 100 with stepping to the left, 100 stepping to the right, and 100 in place but on different heights (10-15 min)
Running = 3.5 km run as fast as possible (13-15 min)
Heavy Bag training = 30 min punching on the bag with focus on power and natural movement. Also, using body to absorb impact from swinging bag to train stance and balance.
Strength training = max 10 palm push-ups, max 10 fist push-ups, max 10 back of palm push-ups, max 10 fingertip push-ups, max 10 front crunches, max 10 left-side crunches, max 10 right-side crunches. about 30-40 min, but still working towards max on push-ups.
Stretching = 30 min stretching arms and legs to maintain flexibility from strength training.
At first, the schedule seems fine and I noticed gains in fitness. However, now I am feeling more physically drained and tired throughout the day. This was noticeable after adding the strength training into the training schedule.
I see how Wing Tsun relies on natural attributes, skill, and intent (survival instinct, determination, etc.) to work. In training, we try to boost all of these to the best level as possible. However, with a full-time job and other commitments, it is hard to fit in a serious training schedule. The current training schedule I follow don't leave much time to rest, and I'm kind of suspecting this is an issue. Time is limited for anyone, and that means we have to train smarter and not just harder.
Thanks for your e-mail. Of course there can be such a thing like too much training, overtraining. It also very much depends on the person. Some people work enormous amounts of hours and don't get anywhere.
As we need to analyze our training, also do check your motivation and goals.
At times we need to change the routine, switch to different or different types of exercises.
If you feel tired and drained, note that there might also be a period of adjustment when we change our workout routine. Think about nutrition, a diet you may need, to go along with an increasing load of workouts, more sleep, or little power naps, vitamins, drinking enough water, etc. There are many factors that can lead to you being physically drained.
If it remains the same, shake up your routine, change for a week to something completely different, go swimming, bicycling, etc. Just read for a couple of evenings, go out with friends who have nothing to do with Kung Fu. :-)
Go out for a walk, have a nice dinner with someone. Don't neglect other parts of your life. Have a social life. Don't just think about training. Wing Tsun is an amazing art of self-defense, can lead to life-long commitment and improvement, but there is also more to life than just Kung Fu!
That's why it's good at times to slim the Kung Fu schedule, or the workout schedule at home and concentrate for a while on other hobbies and activities. After a couple of weeks, get refreshed back into a workout routine that challenges you once again.
Train smarter, not always harder. Time is an extremely valuable commodity!
Friday, 21 September 2007
New class format at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver - Fit for Self-Defense
Sihing Brian Yam, second instructor level and one of the senior trainers at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, will soon be introducing a new class format. Brian is also featured in the upcoming book "The practical strength training guide for self-defense and martial arts."
The first class "Fit for Self-Defense" is scheduled for Monday, October 15th, 7-10pm.
Step by step, considering the different fitness levels, will Brian guide you through a variety of exercises to increase your stamina, punching power and mobility.
This class is designed for all members of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver. There will be no extra charge.
Click here to view a videoclip of a Wing Tsun Kung Fu demonstration Brian gave during one of this year's Open House events.
Thursday, 20 September 2007
Let there be pain! Well, how much? How real?
photo Wing Tsun trainer team, from left to right: Edmond, Rob G., Tony, Philip, Sia, Ciprian, Steve, Gary, Rob S., Nilo, BrianMembers at our school know the drill. Often, when I work with newcomers, I engage them in a controlled self-defense scenario, asking them to punch me. I explain that any kind of strike to the upper body, stomach too, even to the side of the neck is OK.
Usually I am encountering disbelief. When asking the prospect again, to hit me while I am acting as the attacker, the conversation goes most of the times through the same stages:
- I can't hit the instructor.
- What do you mean, hit harder?
- What do you mean with "really hit me"?
- I don't want to hurt you.
- Why is nothing happening when I punch you?
Am I now one of the toughest guys there are? Well, far from that. We teach Wing Tsun Kung Fu, a realistic self-defense system that teaches us how to aggressively attack the attacker in order to combat violence. Even if it sounds controversial, we do so in a friendly supportive environment.
I am the instructor who wants to prepare you. I want and need to teach you the reality of what it could truly mean, to have to defend yourself. For that it is also my job to give you feedback on your punching power. In my opinion, if there is a problem hitting somebody in a friendly controlled scenario, what makes us think we would be able to do so in reality, in a adrenalin heavy, sudden and surprising scenario? You fight how you train. We teach increasingly stressful scenarios, to prepare you for the worst.
Do you now have to suffer in your Wing Tsun training? Of course not. Will you be surprised, at times possibly shocked about the reality needed to learn to defend yourself? Most certainly.
As students you don't have to punch each other. Don't worry. Only instructors I expect to work with each other with the right amount of contact. Because the instructor (in our opinion) has to be experienced enough to introduce you, the student, over time to all kinds of real life scenarios. The instructor will "act" like different types of attackers would, to share his experience with you, to teach you what you might be up against.
If I wouldn't let you hit me, I would not provide you with the best feedback for your improvement of striking power, balance, timing, coordination, distance and more. If you are not allowed to touch your Sifu, because his techniques are so "dangerous", or out of misunderstood tradition and misuse of the term 'respect', quickly look for a different school. But that's only my personal view.
Due to constant personal supervision we ensure that you improve and are not exposed to senseless hard contact. You can work with any amount of contact you feel comfortable with. After all, the learning of self-defense includes the growth of a healthy dose of reliable self-confidence. It's OK to take your time! IMPORTANT - We want to learn how to avoid any fight before it even happens!!
Coming in October. Join us for a multiple-part series under the title: "When does Self-Defense start? or The very first line of Defense!"
Train with us during the next Open House event!
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Welcome at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver
photo, from left to right: Ada, Mona, Sarah, Sifu Ralph, Francine, Jennifer and her lovely daughter, Natalia and Rosemin
Welcome back Ada and Natalia. It's great to have you back in class. Also a warm welcome to our new members Mona, Rosemin, Francine, Jennifer and Sarah. Sarah has already been working hard for a while in group and also private classes!
Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, a independent school established in 1994, is the first Canadian branch of the Wing Tsun system. All of our current members are looking forward to this year's third and last special topic seminar on September 24th and 26th, featuring a set of unique exercises to encourage allover fluid movements, continuous re-positioning, and the constant coordination between hand and foot movements for improved striking power and defensive capabilities.
Plan on checking out Wing Tsun for the first time? Come to our next Open House event for a free trial training period at our School. The Fall Special in October 2007 features the participation in two consecutive classes, commitment-free. Click here to go to our special Open House web site.
Coming up soon. Join us for a multiple-part series under the title: "When does Self-Defense start? or The very first line of Defense!"
Monday, 17 September 2007
What is your goal today?
photo left: Bruce Lee wax figure in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum on "The Peak" in Hong Kong
Today one of the advanced members of our school e-mailed me:
"Last night I pulled out an old 8mm video taken about 3 years ago. The one hour of footage contained scenes of me and some training partners practising.
What's so great about that? Well, even the first form of the Wing Tsun Kung Fu system, the Siu-Nim-Tau form teaches us already to work on one issue, one idea at a time. The form teaches us to analyze our movements, positions, angles, power development and more.
Sometimes it's just great to look back at something that we have accomplished. One part of the hard work done. Many more to go.
Keep training hard and enjoy discovering what the term 'martial ART' truly means.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
Free download, courtesy of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver
The photograph on the left was taken by our Tony Leung, member of Wing Tsun Vancouver's trainer team, during his April vacation in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, China - just by the entrance way of a subway station. Tony wrote: "The Chinese fast food chain is called "Real Kungfu" and they have obviously borrowed Bruce Lee's likeness from the "Game of Death" movie. I wonder if the food chain pays any royalties to Bruce Lee's family?"
Visit to Yip Man Tong
On a vacation trip to his home city of Guangzhou, China which is very close to Foshan, the late grandmaster Yip Man’s home city, he decided to take this opportunity to fulfill a Wing Tsun pilgrimage.
Find on 22 pages many photos and brief descriptions of this memorable trip.
Saturday, 15 September 2007
Canadian Law and Self-defence, by Gary Hughes (part 3 of 3)
Wing Tsun Kung Fu and the legalities of self-defence
In an unprovoked assault, Wing Tsun Kung Fu provides the practitioner with a realistic approach to self-defence. Before we can examine the Wing Tsun method and it’s legal ramifications we need to define a typical self-defence scenario. First, lets start with some typical suppositions.
• The aggressor of a conflict is typically larger or believes he is more powerful than his chosen target.
During the initial phase of a conflict, an aggressor will often attempt to talk his way into a closer more threatening distance. This allows the aggressor to gauge the willingness of his chosen target to play the role of victim and to gain the advantage of position.
When a conflict begins the Wing Tsun practitioner retreats both visibly and audibly. The stance appears to be both natural and non-aggressive. This retreat allows Wing Tsun practitioner to gain the advantage of position without appearing to do so. The hands are held up in front of the body in a non-threatening manner yet the posture in neither meek nor timid. The hands are, in fact, in a ready position to be used in what Wing Tsun practitioners call an aggressive defence. The term means simply that the hands and feet can be used simultaneously for attack and defence. The use of one’s voice is the second component of this “retreat” and is in many ways the most important one. A Wing Tsun practitioner learns to yell in a commanding tone at his aggressor. He may say that he doesn’t want to fight or perhaps simply “Stay away!” The shout acts as a verbal first strike and immediately puts the aggressor on the defensive. The intention here is to surprise or embarrass the attacker and should rob him of his opportunity for the first physical strike. This buys the Wing Tsun practitioner time and possibly space and puts him in the “ready” position.
From this ready position the Wing Tsun practitioner gains the first strike opportunity. Typical Wing Tsun training methods subject the students to high stress levels and a visual overload of attacks. This mentally conditions them to react quickly and cope with highly stressful self-defence situations. This conditioning aids the student to deal with the physical threat before being overloaded with his own adrenalin. In addition, Wing Tsun arms its students with 4 fighting principles, 4 strength principles, and reflex training. With this training even the novice Wing Tsun practitioner can advance like a magnet attracted to his opponent rather than retreating. Because of Wing Tsun’s economy of motion, the altercation will be over too quickly for most onlookers to say with any certainty what actually happened. Therefore, in a successful Wing Tsun self-defence encounter, as the aggressor begins his assault his attack will be stopped while at the same time counter-attacked. If the aggressor attempts to block, the Wing Tsun user will turn each blocked strike into another continuously flowing counterattack. He continues to overwhelm his attacker until the aggressor is either unwilling or unable to continue to attack.
A more advanced Wing Tsun person might be afforded the choice to use soft controls. These are, however, decisions that must be made in a split second based on both training and any other factors that exist at the time of the assault. Therefore, it is important to note that the WT practitioner must be careful to use enough force but not excessive force.
The Wing Tsun person gains several legal advantages. First, he appears unwilling to fight. Although the Wing Tsun practitioner may actually be willing, it is the appearance that is important. This attempts to establish the lack of guilty intent. Secondly, by shouting he also attracts the attention eyewitnesses. Although considered to be the weakest form of evidence, most self-defence cases lack any other corroborating evidence to the initial stages of the fight. Lastly, by retreating the aggressor is also allowed the option of retreat.
A final note, which does not apply specifically to Wing Tsun, is that any assault or attack that the victim can walk away from uninjured is the only way to describe truly successful and effective self-defence regardless of how the legal system works. It is arguably better to be alive in prison than dead.
Friday, 14 September 2007
Canadian Law and Self-defence, by Gary Hughes (part 2 of 3)
The criminal code of Canada states:
26. Every one who is authorized by law to use force is criminally responsible for any excess thereof according to the nature and quality of the act that constitutes the excess.
In a self-defence situation, the attacks may escalate to the point of homicide, which is the killing of a human being by another. If, as we covered earlier, one is justified in the use of force, it is not culpable homicide. In other words, there is no blame. However, if it is determined that excessive force was used then no longer can justified force be claimed as a defence. This now becomes either murder or manslaughter (i.e. culpable homicide). The difference between murder and manslaughter boils down simply to intent. Keeping this in a self-defence context, it has two ramifications. A jury will decide first whether your fear of death was reasonable and secondly whether or not there was “intent” or “mens rea”. Unfortunately, some courts have fallen prey to movie mentality of martial arts and believe that martial artists should be able to disarm or handily defeat multiple opponents without truly harming them. This is problematic because television and film do not necessarily reflect reality. One may be criminally responsible for any excessive force used, and what is an ordinary blow from an ordinary person may be construed as excessive from a trained individual.
These sections of the Canadian criminal code cover four important points regarding self-defence. First, what constitutes self-defence in an unprovoked assault? Second, what constitutes self-defence in a provoked assault (i.e. you started it)? Third, what constitutes provocation? Last, what constitutes prevention of assault?
Generally, when people talk about self-defence they are referring to self-defence in an unprovoked assault. In other words, you’re minding your own business and someone attacks you. To summarize some of the rulings of the appeals court,
• Frenzied mental state is not necessary before defending oneself (i.e. You don’t have to be in a state of fear or panic )
The last three points when applied to trained individuals can best be summarized by Stan Lee who in his Spiderman comics said “With great power comes great responsibility”. In other words, the right to use force is balanced by the responsibility to act reasonably.
Interestingly, section 35 also covers self-defence in the case of a provoked assault. To paraphrase, if you start a fight and your victim escalated the use of force with deadly intent then you may be justified in using deadly force in self-defence, if you were not trying to kill or “harm” him in the provocation and if you tried to retreat from the fight when the escalation of force occurred. The reverse may also be true; if someone starts a fight with you and you respond either verbally or with an action that puts him in fear of his life, he maybe justified in the use of deadly force as long as he tried to retreat and could not. Section 36, which states provocation can be blows, words, or even gestures, clarifies this further.
Come back tomorrow, to read the third and last part.
Thursday, 13 September 2007
Canadian Law and Self-defence, by Gary Hughes (part 1 of 3)
The following is designed to be a simplified overview based on judgements passed by the appeals court of Canada. Focus is given to five main topics: justified use of force, excessive force, self-defence against an unprovoked assault, self-defence in a provoked attack, and finally how the Wing Tsun Kung Fu system can be used to defend oneself without breaking the law.
Canadian law allows individuals the right to defend themselves from assault by use of reasonable or proportional force including the use of a weapon. An attempt or threat to apply force also constitutes an assault. To prevent this right from being abused, there are several restrictions on the use and possession of excessively dangerous weapons and the use of excessive force. These rights and restrictions are laid out in the Criminal Code of Canada. A judge and/or jury then interpret these laws by using previous judgements as guidelines.
In Canada, as in the United States, a person charged with a crime is considered to be innocent until proven guilty. The defendant or the defence counsel must try to convince the court that some acts normally considered to be illegal are authorized in certain situations. One of the interesting things in Canadian law is the concept of “mens rea” or guilty intent. “Mens rea” is defined as “a guilty mind; a guilty purpose; a criminal intent. Guilty knowledge and willingness.” Essentially, to be guilty of a crime you must have intended to commit a crime.
If we agree that some acts of force normally considered to be illegal are authorized in certain situations, we need to define when one is justified in using them.
Justified Use of Force
This section of the criminal code covers three important points regarding justified use of force. First, one must act on reasonable grounds. Second, only use as much force as necessary. Finally, cause death or grievous bodily harm only if on reasonable grounds such force is necessary to protect oneself or someone else from death or grievous bodily harm. These three points are always discussed in cases concerning justified force.
Every situation will be judged individually. Juries are directed to keep in mind two main points. First, the defendant’s perception of danger as it existed at the time. This means if a person perceives his situation to be dire, he is justified in using force. Secondly, the force used cannot be measured with exactitude. In other words, there is no need to stop mid-combat and measure how much force is necessary to use. It does, however, mean that ones actions will be judged based on what an “ordinary and reasonable” person with similar skills would do in a similar situation. This is commonly referred to as “the reasonable man test”. The court seeks to answer two questions; were the actions warranted and were they reasonable?
The courts determine what is “warranted” and “reasonable” by considering four main points. Primarily, was force a necessary response? For example, if someone bumps into you, either accidentally or on purpose, you don’t immediately strike him with everything you’ve got. Reasonable responses in this case could include but are not limited to an apology by either party or attempting to leave the situation. Secondly, was the force reasonable to stop the assault? In essence, force can be met with the same force or a small escalation of force. Here lies one of the most important points. What is a small escalation of force? Exact definitions are difficult to make. In a fight, one of the participants might pull a knife intending to scare the opponent away. This escalation of force may allow the opponent to legally escalate the fight into a life or death situation as the opponent could reasonably interpret this action as an attempt to cause grievous bodily harm or death. Thirdly, was the injury inflicted proportionate to the threat? If someone bumps you, you are not justified in backing over him with your car. However, if you are a small person faced with many larger armed opponents perhaps driving through them is appropriate. Finally, did the “defence” become “revenge”? The last point deals with the continuation of attacks to punish or take revenge after the conflict is over. Obviously the criteria of “reasonable” are grey areas subject to interpretation.
Keep reading the next days, come back for part 2 and 3.
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