The Tan-Sau of death and other secret techniques of Wing Tsun Kung Fu - part 1 of 2 or The 10-hour Chi-Sau marathon, thoughts on a Wing Tsun training method
The main headline is obviously an exaggeration, but its purpose will become apparent in this text. Sorry, no secret death blows here. The following thoughts are primarily for my students, yet I have added a few necessary explanations for other readers, who are not familiar with the topic.
Just last week, I had the pleasure to train on a Saturday with ten members of our Wing Tsun school for ten hours straight. Ten hours back to back with almost each practitioner experiencing sweat dripping into their eyes, shaking arms, burning shoulders, failing muscles, more or less moaning and groaning, regardless of the skill level. Summarizing it all, a very gratifying workout for every student, as they felt afterwards that they truly gave everything. A 10-hour Chi-Sau marathon!
The term Chi-Sau is often translated as “sticky hands” or “sticky arms”. I prefer the expression ‘clinging arms’. To onlookers, the arms of two Wing Tsun trainees appear to be glued together throughout a series of attacks and defenses, counter attacks and counter defenses. Chi-Sau is a special training method unique to Wing Tsun Kung Fu. Although there are a few similarities, it should not be mistaken with push-hands (or pushing-hands) exercises in Tai Chi or seemingly similar methods such as flow drills in other martial arts as Jiu-Jitsu or several Filipino weapons styles.
I have to briefly mention, that some mixed martial arts have developed the partial use of Wing Tsun methods. One example is a German karate master, a friend of my Sifu, who has implemented Wing Tsun ideas, including elements of Chi-Sau into his Karate repertoire.
Furthermore I want to say that I am well aware of the fact, that the training method of Chi-Sau (Chi-Sao) has diverse meanings as to its value and purpose in different Wing Chun, Ving Tsun and even in the various Wing Tsun (WT) styles. I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. Come on, if there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of WT practitioners out there, there’s bound to be a multitude of interpretations. As I often say, it’s a martial ART! So, allow each other different opinions!
For readers not familiar with the scene, there is more politics in martial arts than in politics. One example only: Two small Wing Chun organizations, both originating from the same student of the late Grandmaster Yip Man.
The first Wing Chun organization claims that only their Chi-Sau is the right one, because it looks now the same as it was practised 10, 15 years ago. Whatever that means! Two years ago, I met a well-known leading representative of the second Wing Chun organization, originating from the same Yip Man student, who doesn’t think much of the first mentioned organization of the same style. Much to my surprise, especially since both claim: “No politics, just plain good old Wing Chun.” Latest here we should remember that different opinions & views are OK!
Over the years, one learns that the “wise und understanding master” image as portrayed in many movies is just a utopian idea. Even martial arts masters are just people!
The question for us is now. Why does ‘our’ Wing Tsun Chi-Sau look, feel, train different ... 1. than most other ‘wing chun’ Chi-Sau methods and 2. and differs even from different Wing Tsun variations.
Chi-Sau is often explained as an exercise to develop reflex-like responses. It is said that one learns to feel on contact the direction, speed and power of an attack. Where your eyes could be tricked, invoking wrong responses, your arms cannot be. Without chasing the arms of the other person, our arms thrust forward, shield us and attack the attacker at the same time.
Here right away is an important point! The attacker most likely doesn’t know Chi-Sau, doesn’t know what you are doing next, doesn’t care. This means that your responses, arising as a result of your Chi-Sau training, must work against a fast and strong (stiff, tense) opponent. Stiff and tense compared to your cooperative training partner.
In Wing Tsun we have a way of training Chi-Sau in sections. Similar to basic techniques of the Wing Tsun system being catalogued in forms, so does each Chi-Sau section ‘catalogue’ a specific set of attacks and defenses, followed by counter attacks and counter defenses. You could also explain a Chi-Sau section as a two-man form, which increasingly leads to spontaneous responses. Specific Chi-Sau sections cover the usage of specific techniques from the Wing Tsun forms. Every section also stands for one particular scenario that happens more frequently when two human beings fight.
Why are there Chi-Sau sections in Wing Tsun and not in most Wing Chun, Ving Tsun styles? Wing Tsun (WT) became very popular in the early 90’s in Europe, especially in Germany. It’s hard to get exact numbers, but at one point there were some one hundred to two hundred thousand practitioners. Teaching much larger schools requires new thinking, new training methods. That’s the reason. As forms allow “portioned” teaching, so do Chi-Sau sections. There are not that many, but some top WT schools boasted between 2,000 to 5,000 students. The feedback of hundreds, if not thousands of instructors supports the ability of teaching programs to stay connected to the reality of self-defense.
Seven Chi-Sau sections cover in Wing Tsun the majority of applications of the first and second form (Siu-Nim-Tau and Cham-Kiu). Due to size, experience, talent and many other factors, not everyone may need in the end all components that have been trained. The instructor’s job is to give you ALL building blocks (sections). Once you are experienced enough, you can choose, mould Wing Tsun to fit your personality.
Even though many favour the idea of sensitivity training, and focus solely on the development of reflexes, I sometimes tell my students to forget about that.
Yes, you heard right. What is the reason behind that? OK, imagine the following scenario. You are being attacked, respond swiftly, control the attacker, punch him, he even bleeds, you give him a couple of Fak-Saus to the necks, he appears to almost fall over. ... Slowly is he standing up, wiping the blood off his face, and this evil grin begins to form. All you will remember is him screaming and starting to rip off your head. Scenario too gruelling? Just think about. What if you hit repeatedly and nothing happens? Yes, this is a horror scenario. Punching is one thing, punching with knockout power is something entirely different.
Now you may understand the first headline of this article: “The Tan-Sau of death and other secret techniques.” Nobody will at your first technique start screeching: “Oh my gosh, he knows the Tan-Sau of death!” You can’t Bong-Sau somebody to the ground. Wing Tsun is after all Kung Fu. Chinese Kung Fu = Chinese Boxing. Strategies and tactics are different. The technical execution is different. But a Western and a Eastern boxer alike must possess knock-out power.
This is one of the reasons why we train any element of Chi-Sau in four scenarios: 1. speed – slow motion, regular, fast, 2. distance – far apart, regular, close , 3. power – barely any strength, regular, full power ("Bull" Chi-Sau), 4. training variations – supportive, 50/50, going through
That all four scenarios come in three variations is simply for explanatory reasons. You could of course train five variables of the component distance. Three variations can stand for minimum, optimum and maximum of the chosen scenario. I understand that the description of the four scenarios might sound confusing. Hence, the article is primarily for my students, who go through these training scenarios almost every week.
My own Chi-Sau experience has changed over the years and has been heavily influenced by many different WingTsun (WT) instructors. In order to teach systematically and enable a continuous learning process I developed the ten core concepts as a blueprint for all training methods. Please see the graphic in part 2 of this article.
Alfred's story or the 3 P.'s - Martial arts training, a way of life.
Just a few days ago I heard from an old student. We first got together in 1986, some 23 years ago. At the time in East Germany, martial arts schools didn't officially exist. Only state sanctioned and government organized wrestling, judo and boxing clubs, all geared towards a Olympic future.
Internet? YouTube? DVD's? Videos? Literature? Nothing! Starting at some point in the early 80's, I had the idea to publish little wanted ads in newspapers, initially searching for books about Judo and Jiu-Jitsu. Mostly older people wrote me about books and booklets they had found in the attic, which had survived world war 2. Over time the ads also worked as a means to find students. And Alfred from Neustadt-Glewe was one of the early Wing Tsun students.
Above you can see two of the newspaper ads out of East-German newspapers (Wochenpost) from 1986.
What did one do back then, almost no one having a phone at home. Little story on the side: In 1980 I applied for a phone installation and still remember how in 1988 I got a postcard that currently my order cannot yet be fulfilled. So, no home phone, of course no cell phone, no e-mail or even fax. Now what? Alfred got in his old car, or did he even come by train? I have to ask. He drove from his town at least 1 to 2 hours to my place. Sometimes I had to work longer and wasn't home yet. Unsuccessful, he drove home again, another two hours ... and came back the next week. This was persistence. To do this for a couple of years, this is perseverance. To drive for hours, train for a couple of hours, and drive back home for hours, all that working full time, this was patience. The three P's! And today I hear at times from prospective students that it is too far to drive from North Vancouver across the bridge into Vancouver.
How did we train? Again, books and videos or posters didn't exist. Whatever I had learned during the annual one or two meetings with instructors from the West, I started teaching the very next day. If you don't know, if and when you will see your instructor again due to political circumstances, if you have no way of receiving information or correction, other than training yourself, you develop a very different attitude. You learn to analyze your own training deep into the tiniest details.
We trained footwork for hours until the soles of our shoes had holes. We did chain punches on the heavy bag until the skin opened up, you heard the blood squishing between your fingers. Made for great conversation while meeting people in the city. They took one look at your face, clean and OK and then at your knuckles, and took at least one step back while talking to you.
I remember training sessions with Alfred. One day he "didn't want to leave". He sat outside the apartment on the stairs, but only because his legs were shaking that much, that he couldn't even take seven, eight stairs down to the house door. Another time he was so brave to order soup in a restaurant, after a tough training. After many unsuccessful tries he put the spoon down. The waitress came and asked if he doesn't like the soup. Oh, he was hungry alright. I never forget the look of the waitress after he told her that he temporarily could not master the spoon. I don't want to know what she thought of us.
Alfred probably still remembers my wardrobe?! In Germany you don't have wall closets for your clothes. I had one of those big old wooden wardrobes with big doors. It was hidden behind a curtain which hung all the way from the ceiling to the floor. Almost like an initiation, every new student got the inch-punch, flew back into the wardrobe, with a giant loud crash pushing the doors inside and often the curtain being ripped off the ceiling and burying the happy new Wing Tsun member on the floor in the wardrobe. Just picture that for a moment. Ah, good old times!
After changes in my life, living in Switzerland, West Germany and West Berlin, I again connected with Alfred. We trained for a couple of years, I did seminars in his school until I moved to Canada.
Alfred never gave up, although it took him ten solid years to advance from 12th student grade to his first instructor level.
Persistence. Perseverance. Patience.
This is how martial arts can shape your life, become a way of living.
P.S.: The two photos are exactly eight years apart. The black & white photo taken in the spring of 1986, still behind the "Iron Curtain". The second one in the spring of 1994 after a WingTsun seminar. from left to right: Werner Acker, Ralph Haenel, Alfred Ueck
At the end of March after a bonus class for the trainer team of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver I transferred all photos taken during the class from the memory stick of my wife’s camera (which I had used instead of mine) to the computer and uploaded the better shots to FaceBook. I deleted most of the photos, but for some reason left six photos from our Chi-Sau bonus class on the memory stick.
Well, we kept taking family pictures. Easter Monday came. The family went out for a trip to Iona beach near the Vancouver airport, took the camera and took many good shots.
I planned an extra evening class for all members of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver. The evening came, we searched all backpacks, the car, the kids’ stuff, the entire house. The camera was gone. Days went by. We checked craigslist. Nothing! It looked like we were going to have to come to terms with the fact that the camera was gone, more importantly hundreds of family photos and also personal videoclips the kids had recorded for Grandma’s birthday. This was the most upsetting part.
About two weeks had gone by since Easter Monday. A Facebook message is waiting for me. Hmm, I don’t know the person. So, he writes: “A camera came flying out of a car that was in front of me as I was driving home during Easter Monday. ... there were also some Wing Tsun photos on there and they are the exact same pictures as the last 6 photos that are in your "2009 Chi-Sau bonus classes" photo album on your Facebook. ... I am wondering if you can assist me in identifying the driver so that I may return the camera.”
Yes, we have to admit, we have no idea how the camera could be flying out of the car window. This might forever remain a mystery. But, what are the odds, someone in traffic at a busy intersection notices a camera flying out of a car? What are the odds that the person actually stops and picks up that camera? What are the odds, that that person is interested in Kung Fu and has seen my photo albums on Facebook? Why did I leave the six photos of the last Bonus Chi-Sau class on the memory stick and not delete them as I did with all the other pictures? Few only would make an effort now to track down the person, whom the camera might belong to. Furthermore, I saw that the finder is on Facebook connected with one of my wife’s co-workers, another lifeguard. What are the odds?
Everybody, who I have told the story, commented more less, that if they would read this kind of story in a book, they would respond” Yeah right, this doesn’t happen in real life!”
Not being “into it” as I am, my wife always said: “Facebook sucks.” It doesn’t anymore. (she never understood how people could spend so much time telling other people every little thing during their day, she really doesn’t want to know when anyone else needs to go to the bathroom or if they have decided to brush their teeth for the 10th time).
A big Thanks to the honest and helpful finder of our camera. Maybe this will be an inspiration to others.
Is experience overrated? What does a Wing Tsun trainer do?
I must admit, that I borrowed the headline "Is Experience Overrated?" from Mike Mahler's latest online magazine issue of "Aggressive Strength". One of the many interesting resources you can find via Twitter! At one point he writes: "You might think it impossible to not get better at something after accumulating years of experience, yet proof of the opposite is abundant."
Let's look at the trainer team at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver. Everyone is living busy lives, often struggling to make the right choices of dividing time between family, the job or business, other hobbies and activities, and going to group classes as well as taking private lessons. Now between classes, lessons and attending seminars, you could think enough is enough, right?!
But many find it excitingly challenging, even or especially after many years of training, to explore the art within the martial ART of Wing Tsun Kung Fu. A great chemistry within a group, having lots of fun sweating and training hard, can produce its own driving force. Some members of our trainer team are still very young while others see already the silver lining of the big 60 on the horizon. It's never too late or too early to find passion in your hobby.
It can be a great motivator for your life in general, to experience the exhilarating success of mastering new levels of skill. For some it's very rewarding, to discover and preserve a century old Kung Fu system, once made famous by the late Bruce Lee, and just recently "re-discovered" by many through the Yip Man movie.
So, over the past months we scheduled three bonus classes for all trainers, reviewing some of the instructor level programs. We first got together on Saturday, February 28th, followed by March 14th and March 28th.
Each instructor level (Technician Grade or TG) can be seen as the "black belts" of Wing Tsun Kung Fu. Chi-Sau sections are in the beginning kind of "two-men forms" of the tactile response exercises in Wing Tsun. These sections are designed to help cultivate reflex-like reactions. Each Chi-Sau section combines several scenarios of attacks, defenses, counter-attacks and counter-defenses. Among many other benefits the (in our opinion right) Chi-Sau training creates a sound structure, feel for the right timing, maintenance of balance while being pushed, pulled, attacked; a good coordination of food and hand work, punching power at the right opportunity and more.
Yet another effect is often overlooked. While you teach, you are not just helping others. When you have to answer questions, you may have never asked yourself, you improve your ability to explain, to generate visual examples. Each time you improve your own performance. You find better ways to articulate your teachings, thus improving your confidence. Facing a multitude of attacks you also sharpen your technical skills. How could there ever be a final experience?
Over the years you slowly become an expert, you begin to master your martial art.
"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field" - Niels Bohr
Kung Fu Power: Kettlebell Workshop with discount for Wing Tsun Vancouver members
WT instructor and personal trainer Steve McMinn is having an Intro to Kettlebells Workshop on Saturday, March the 14th at 1.30pm @ Fitness World Kitsilano (Vancouver), 2150 W Broadway at Arbutus - 2nd Floor.
Steve would like to extend an invitation to all members of Wing Tsun Vancouver and offer a 1.5hr workshop.
This would be a good way for those interested in Steve's recent seminar demo, to get some hands-on experience. Missed the two seminar demos? Go to our two media channels at YouTube (10 min) and Veoh (45 min).
Time for a New Year's Tradition - Have some fun!
I know, some would expect me, to now talk about how to start the new year with some serious training, or to finish on this last day of 2008 with 5.000 non-stop chain punches, so that even the last one is as strong as the first. Sure, you can do that. Knock yourself out!
But sometimes it's good, just to have some fun, to be silly. Many people in Germany, whole families, circles of friends have a new year's tradition. It's all about a old TV Show recorded in July of 1963. It's best known, also in many other European countries as Dinner for One. People have Dinner for One parties, either just watching this funny almost 18 minute long show, or even to reenact it, have a whole theme party around it. Some have been watching this show for decades, every single New Year's Eve.
You should try it out. But don't you dare, to pause it, to answer the phone. Sit back, have a good drink and simply have a good time. Feel for the butler! :-)
Dinner for One, starring British comedian Freddie Frinton is a cult classic in Germany and across various European countries, shown every New Year's Eve. Yet still remains almost completely unknown to North American audiences. A lonely upper-class Englishwoman, Miss Sophie (May Warden), hosts a dinner every New Year's Eve for her long-dead admirers: Mr Pommeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby and Admiral von Schneider. Her butler, James (Freddie Frinton), makes his way around the table playing each of the guests in turn. As he does so, he drinks each guest's share of the wine, becoming more inebriated and familiar and repeatedly trips over a tiger skin on the floor.
The vital exchange is: "The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?" "The same procedure as every year, James!"
Simple & Effective Kettlebell Training for Wing Tsun Kung Fu - 45 minute video presentation
During this year's Fall Seminar at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver in British Columbia, Steve McMinn gave two presentations under the exciting topic "Simple & Effective Kettlebell Training for Wing Tsun Kung Fu." The first one was held on October 8th 2008. A 45 minute long video has been posted on VeohTV. Feel free to download the videoclip even as iPod quality video. During the evening of October 20th 2008, Steve presented a condensed version. Please find the 10 minute long videoclip on YouTube. Learn about the benefits of kettlebell training for self-defense and martial arts. Listen to the explanations and watch exercises like the kettlebell swing, floor press, Turkish getup, the snatch and the kettlebell pistols, that let you work leg-strength, one leg at a time.
Kung Fu for Manager - Lunch & Learn Seminar at TELUS Vancouver
The motivation, the goal for many when signing up for self-defense courses, is in the beginning about the ability to stand up for themselves, to take care of dodgy situations, to defend themselves. Over time it evolves into developing a healthy level of self-confidence. Eventually it becomes a way of living, part of striking that balance we all yearn for. To recognize, that defending yourself is not necessarily limited to an actual physical situation, can sharpen your senses for your surroundings. Problems can start with insecurity while dealing with other team mates in the office, all the way to the horrible experience of becoming the victim of office mugging.
Who are you? How are you perceived by your co-workers? What approach do you take when delivering your part of a team project? How do you communicate with others?
It can be an incredible eye opener, to solve problems in simple physical self defence exercises. Learn through the application of Wing Tsun fighting principles, to realize roadblocks in interacting with others. Hey, even a fight is in the end a form of interaction.
A fight is about dealing with stress. Ever encountered stress at work? The Wing Tsun strength principles teach you how to better organize your resources. The same principles which can make or break your success in a brawl can help you stay clear of obstacles in private as well as business life. Learn how to stay sharp under stress. Identify solutions of how to respond instantly and on various levels, while being exposed to changing circumstances.
An ingenious self-defense system like Wing Tsun Kung Fu delivers helpful guidelines for: - increased stress resistance - awareness and interpretation of body language - reliable fear management - successful dealing with high-pressure physical and psychological situations.
On Wednesday, November 12th 2008, Ralph followed the invitation by Bill Reny, National Director - Marketing, Partners and Sourcing at TELUS Business Solutions. Bill is a experienced fellow martial artist and highly skilled Wing Chun instructor.
Thank you for your talk and demonstration to my team meeting on Wednesday. I was particularly impressed by how you explained the core principles of Wing Tsun and illustrated how the concepts could be used to improve interpersonal relationships at work or at home. As I looked around the room, I noticed my team members were very engaged with lots of nods and smiles. I was moved when you talked about how we go through life projecting an aura or presence that can either project confidence and security or unfortunately, attract exploitation - I see this in a business setting all the time and it really struck home. The hands on drill was a nice touch and a great change of pace for an all day business meeting. After you and Steve left, the team was energized and could not stop talking about how impressive you were and what a good sport Steve was. I think any business would be lucky to have you conduct a seminar as a team building event. It was truly unique, inspiring and a lot of fun. I hope you will be able to make the time for us again then next time we have a team meeting in Vancouver.
Bill Reny National Director - Marketing, Partners and Sourcing TELUS Business Solutions
A big Thanks to Bill Reny for his invitation, to all members of the TELUS management team for their enthusiastic participation and to Vancouver based personal trainer and Wing Tsun instructor Steve McMinn for once again being part of a lunch & learn seminar, making it an event which equally motivates us as well. Thanks Gina for taking photos and videoclips!
Contact me at SifuRalphHaenel at aol.com to arrange a lunch & learn seminar for your company. Discover the extended application of ancient Kung Fu techniques in a corporate environment. Enjoy an exciting and fun workout resulting in a positive motivation for your team.
Benefit your employees! Lunch break self-defense seminars, a great motivational tool. Past clients include Futureshop, Envision Financial and many others.
Simple & Effective Kettlebell Training for Wing Tsun Kung Fu
Posted at www.KungFutheWorkout.com, watch above the 10 minute long condensed fitness presentation by Steve McMinn under the topic "Simple And Effective Kettlebell Training for Wing Tsun Kung Fu!"
Steve McMinn www.fit4real.ca is a personal trainer located in Vancouver, beautiful British Columbia. He held the kettlebell presentation at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, the first Canadian Wing Tsun branch, est. in 1994. There are many benefits when combining kettlebells and martial arts training.
Fitness trainer, kettlebell expert and now Wing Tsun Kung Fu Instructor
Steve McMinn is a personal trainer in Vancouver, beautiful British Columbia. In his capacity as fitness instructor and kettlebell expert you can reach him via fit4real.ca
Congratulations from all of us at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver to your successful exam and the well-deserved promotion to first Technician Grade, the "black belt" of Wing Tsun. Watch above video in high quality at YouTube! Click here.
As one of the senior members of the trainer team, Steve has set a great example for all the others, who will follow within the next year.