5-part Wing Chun documentation by channel TVB, Hong Kong Translation by Tony Leung* of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver
*The opinions and views expressed are those of the authors and participants of the TV show and do not necessarily state or reflect the views of the trainer team at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver.
Part 1 - Title: Foshan, Guangdong during early period of the Republic
Commentator 0:34 Wing Chun is popular throughout the world. The number of practitioners number in the millions. But Wing Chun was originally a closely guarded secret martial art. According to legend 200 years ago, the Manchu armies razed the Shaolin Monastery. One of the five elders of Shaolin, Abbotess Ng Mui encountered a strange sight during her escape (she watched a crane fight a cobra snake). Abbotess Ng Mui got an inspiration to develop a deadly new martial art. Later she taught this new fighting style to a young woman. This young woman was named Yim Wing Chun. This new fighting style had short bridges and a narrow horse stance, emphasizing speed (yee fai da man) and borrowing the attacker’s strength to turn it against him (cheh lick da lick)”. Using natural reactions against the attacker and emphasizing practicality. At the end of Wing Chun’s training, Ng Mui told the girl that this martial arts was developed for the Anti Manchu cause so do not pass it on so easily to others.
2:17 Decades later, this secret martial art was passed on to a group of opera actors in the city of Foshan in Guangdong province. The Red Junk Opera was a bastion of anti-Manchu activists. The opera troupe practiced their martial art as they travelled “on the road”. They converted the ship’s pillars into a wooden dummy and developed the steering poles into a fighting weapon. But the number of persons who knew the art of Wing Chun was still few in number.
2:40 Until one day, the opera actors passed their knowledge of the art to a young fellow. This young fellow eventually became a well know martial art master during the waning years of the Qing Dynasty. The people called him “Mr Jan, the Wing Chun boxing champion of Foshan”. – Leung Jan (Liang Zhan). Mr Jan was known as a righteous person who always helped others. He re-organized the art and taught it to people outside of the Red Junk Opera circle. The martial art of Wing Chun was slowly became more well known.
3:08 When the era of “Toe-Soon” (kungfu or martial grandson) Yip Man arrived, he was/ became a Grand Master. He had many students. He spread the art and made it flourish and enabled it to become well known throughout the world.
3:23 Screen Title – Literal translation “Wing Chun is not fancy”. Meaning =” Wing Chun is practical”.
3:33 Vinz: Martial art does not need to be good looking. “Does it work”? is what matters.
3:40 Screen title - Hong Kong Kyokushin karate dojo
3:42 Raised in France, See Joe Namn(Vinz) is an actor. He has a black belt in Taikwondo and is now learning Kyokushin Karate. Like many martial arts enthusiasts, he was inspired by Bruce Lee.
3:59 Vinz: When I was studying in France, I already knew of Bruce Lee. Wow. I saw a Chinese whose kungfu was amazing. He could be so fast.
4:07 Although Bruce Lee is Vinz’s idol, he has an ambivalent attitude toward the practicality / combat effectiveness of Chinese martial arts.
4:16 Vinz : Maybe because most of them (Chinese martial arts) are mainly about forms but very little sparing is involved. It is hard to prove or demonstrate that they are effective for fighting.
4:25 Vinz: Some people claim Chinese Martial Arts are only for show and have no practical value. Bruce Lee also studied Wing Chun so I want to experience Wing Chun’s devastating power.
4:35 screen title Macau
4:42 To learn Wing Chun’s true power, Vinz was referred by the Hong Kong Martial Arts Association to look up a low key expert living in Macau.
4:53 In the 1950s, many martial arts masters immigrated to Hong Kong and spread Chinese martial arts. This enabled a tiny city to preserve some of the best traditional Chinese martial arts knowledge.
5:07 Yip Man opened a school in Hong Kong and produced generations of students. One such student has opened a school in Macau.
5:18 Vinz: Such an old building must hide a very awesome sifu. Let’s hope I have found genuine Wing Chun.
5:39 After the greetings at the door Vinz: Wow. How many floors? Shek: There are six floors. This is the fifth floor. There is one more floor to go. Vinz: Ok. [ Tony’s comment – There are many of these old buildings still around in Hong Kong and Macau today. They were built in the 1950s and since they lacked elevators, they are all no more than six storeys tall]
6:02 [Tony’s comment: Photo of Ho Kam Ming. One of Yip Man’s early generation students who was from Macau. Ho Kam Ming now lives in Toronto. His son(s) teach privately at home with Ho Kam Ming supervising. According to some websites Ho Kam Ming trained many competition fighters and they all supposedly did very well.]
6:25 Lui Ming Fai is a “toe-soon” of Yip Man (martial arts grandson of yip man). Thirty years ago, he used Wing Chun in competitions. He has been undefeated both in and outside of the ring. After retiring from competition, he left Hong Kong and moved to Macau. Now he is a Buddhist and a vegetarian. The past “angry fighter” is now gone. He strongly believes now that he can remain even more calm composure during any fight.
6:58 Sifu: You know karate? Vinz: yes. Sifu: Let us see what you know. Depending on your performance, I will adjust my teaching to suit your abilities.
7:20 Vinz: Oh ! It did not break. Let’s try again. 7:33 Sifu : He has learned a martial arts that depends on and emphasizes strength. But Wing Chun emphasizes soft power to deal with a stronger opponent. As he is coming from one extreme to the other extreme, he will certainly face learning difficulties. He must start from the beginning and relax. Take things slowly.
7:56 Sifu Lui’s first lesson to Vinz is to allow him to experience the power of WC’s straightline punch. 8:08 Vinz – whoah.. awesome 8:23 Vinz – Without this pad, I would have been KO after the first strike. (after he takes a deep breath) I cannot take this. 8:28 Sifu: Relax. Generate the power from the elbow. Thrust fast. Thrust fast. 8:39 Commentator: The WC straight punch’s genius lies in its application along the centerline. Using the shortest and most direct path to reach the opponent’s body.
8;55 Sifu; Thrust as fast as possible and power from the elbow. Thrust out like a pole. (The sifu said to tighten up something but I don’t understand that part).
8:58 Sifu: let us see how you do. (Vinz throws a couple of punches) That is right. That is right. These couple punches are not too bad.
9:09 Sifu: because you did not relax it in time. Vinz: I did not relax it in time? Sifu: On contact you pressed hard into the bag…. Now pay attention. On contact, my hand/arm is relaxed.
9:23 Sifu: Why does the wall bag bounce? It is because the power is transferred into the bag by relaxing the arm/hand. By not pressing into the bag on contact, I have allowed it to bounce. With more practice, your arms will eventually relax / loosen up and allow the bag to bounce. …. Not bad.
9:50 Vinz: Wow! It is all cut up. I am missing a bit of skin. Centerline punch is difficult to do. I think to reach the level of Sifu where the wall bag bounces will need three or more years of hard work. I am still at the stage of trying to grasp this idea.
Part 2 - Title: The movie set of “The Legend is born: Yip Man”
Commentator: The release of a movie about Yip Man, lead to a revival in interest in Wing Chun. [ Tony’s comment: The female in the movie in the black garb is Bernice Liu, a former Miss Vancouver Chinatown who has made a successful TV and movie career in HK]
0:15 Actor Vinz came to the movie set today to look up his friend Sifu Sin Kwok Lam. Vinz was a fan of Hong Kong martial arts films since childhood. All the kungfu action stars are his idol.
0:28 Vinz talking to Corey Yuen.- You did this one spinning back kick (in a movie) that I have remembered since childhood. … blah…blah..blah
0:42 Sin Kwok Lam is a movie producer and also a Wing Chun sifu. His demand for authenticity in the movie required everyone in the film to learn Wing Chun.
0:52 Sin Kwok Lam: A lot of people are skeptical of Wing Chun’s effectiveness and maybe because it was invented by a woman? Apart from that they may question, how effective is it when it is employed by women? For example, I am only 5 foot 7, 140 Lb, how is it possible that I can defeat a 200 Lb person? It is because it uses the principle of using soft power to counteract brute strength and to deflect the brute strength of the attacker. We don’t try to meet it head on.
1:17 Vinz: Wow! Very fast. Very fast. Sin Kwok Lam (in the background) : Hit him a little harder Rose! He can take it. Vinz: Are you kidding?
1:35 Screen title - Macau
2:01 To learn why Wing Chun is so powerful, which his idol Bruce Lee had learned and since he believes/demands that a martial must be effective (to be worth learning), Vinz agreed to spend three weeks in Macau to learn Wing Chun. A few days have passed already.
2:32 Sifu : Because Vinz had learned another martial art previously, it is hard to gauge his abilities. He has improved. But it is impossible to master so much in a short span of time.
2:48 Vinz: It would be awesome if it is myself against 20 attackers and then I go like this….and like this … then they are all defeated.
Shek: That is only in the movies. It is not like that in reality. Sifu teaches if 20 guys come at you, then you had better run! Movies and actual fighting are two different realities.
3:04 While looking at Sifu Lui’s old competiton photos… Vinz: I want to be as awesome as you Sifu. Sifu: Easy. So long as you are willing to put time into training. Vinz: If Bruce Lee is not dead, would you be able to defeat him? Sifu: At that time, I had not even learned Wing Chun yet.
3:14 The Wing Chun principle of controlling the centerline. If you control the centerline then you can protect your vulnerable parts and attack at the same time.
3:24 Sifu: If your strike comes this way. I come like this to take the centerline and your strike is deflected. Maybe I am coming from the outside and I wedge into the center. 3:39 Sifu: I can come in from both sides/ways.
3:41 The single arm strike into the center directly breaks the opponents’ attack which is what is meant by the saying “The strike dissolves the attack”.
3:50 Sifu: When opening the stance, you have to bend the legs. Commentator: Many kungfu styles use the wide stance but Wing Chun uses the Yee Gee Kim Yeung Mah.
4:00 Sifu: See.. I can kick anytime. Straight Kick. Also kim yeung mah. 4:07 Commentator: Kim yeung mah’s triangle structure allows it to be both stable and be maneuverable at the same time. While facing an attack, the yee gee kim yeung mah allows the quickest reaction to dissolve the attack with the strike. 4:20 Sifu: If it is the wide stance (Say Ping Mah), then the body is off to the side and can only use one arm. The other arm in the back can only be used to block. Otherwise if I wanted to strike with the back arm, my torso would have pivot to the front and that requires time. In “our stance”, after the kick, I will usually continue with my advance and attack with my arms. Because both are arms are both equally facing forwards, I can use them both at the same time. If the opponent swings to the side to strike with one arm, we use both arms to deal with his one arm attack which will obviously give us a 2 to 1 advantage.
5:02 Wing Chun also calls on attacking and defending at the same time. This move is called Tan-Dah. Both hands move forward to offer both a defense and attack at the same time. 5:18 Vinz: Yikes! I tried to sneak a punch in. You held back! Thank you!
5:23 Sifu: I told you this is on feel. I did not catch your attempted sneak punch by chance. We like to get as close as possible (to the other guy). Vinz: Closer? Isn’t that dangerous? Sifu: No, it won’t. You watch again. See? Vinz: Wow! I lost my balance even more easily. Sifu: I told you so. It is even worst for you (by me closing the distance). There would be no way out of it (for you). Outsiders think you (the Wing Chun man) are going to get nailed (by getting closer). Actually, the closer we are, the more easily that (I can cause) you to lose your balance.
5:57 [Here is some attempt at humor, in a restaurant] Sifu. This place is good. Vinz: This is a piece of pork chop? Sifu: Does it look like it? Vinz: Lui Sifu, what does being vegetarian got to do with fighting? Sifu: Before I became a vegetarian, I was more aggressive (uncontrolled). Since I became a vegetarian, I am more composed and my skills have improved. Vinz: there is such an effect ? Sifu: Yes. We use our wits a lot in this style of fighting. Vinz: Then I will follow your suggestion and try a vegetarian diet. Ummm…you find that you still have strength from a vegetarian diet? Sifu: It doesn’t affect it. The energy actually comes from (a component of food….i don’t know how to translate it). Vinz; Which part of food? Sifu: It is found in the rice. Vinz: More rice please! …. (looking at the empty plates on the table) I think we are almost finished, sifu. Sifu: Yes. Vinz: How about i order a chicken drum stick? Sifu: They have vegetarian chicken drum sticks available here. Vinz: No. It is ok. There is some outside. Sifu: Then let’s go. Vinz: It’s ok. I am a grown up. I can take care of it.
7:37 Chi-Sau is a unique partner training component of Wing chun. It is also a fighting method and skill. Sifu: When we fight and make contact. From the moment of contact onwards, how you move from there, this is chi sau.
8:00 Wing Chun practitioners become so adept at Chi Sau that when combat occurs their reactions become instinctive.
8:08 Sifu: when you have contact then you already have awareness of what he intends to do and you can control his arm. Chi sau’s purpose is to get awareness. See….See…I got in.
8:35 Sifu: the more calm (or composed) you are when fighting, the more clearly that you “see” the situation. As they say, “In stillness you can see movement”.
8:55 Vinz. Wow. So fast. I could not stop the strikes. 9:00 screen title Foshan, Guangdong. Foshan is traditionally a center of Southern Chinese martial arts styles. As one of the southern kungfu styles, Wing Chun originated from Foshan. Young people from all over come to Foshan to learn martial arts. Yip Man Hall is to commemorate Yip Man. Most of the exhibits here were donated by Yip Man’s (2nd ) son, Yip Ching. Inside are photos of when Yip Man, his wooden dummy, including Dr Jan’s medical books as well as many written commentaries by some of Yip Man’s disciples
9:45 Vinz: Uncle Ching, were all the guys in the past tough fighters? Ip Ching: Not necessarily. Honestly, when you become old, you don’t want to fight. It is all talk. Vinz: that is a photo of Bruce Lee before he left for USA, right? Sifu: it should be when he came back to visit Vinz: he (Bruce Lee) is wearing sunglasses while taking a photo with Grandpa Man. Maybe since he felt he is pretty tough, he ought to put on shades (to look cool). Ip ching: when we teach wing chun in Europe and America to foreigners, they all clearly understand Tan Sau, Bong Sau, Jum Sau. This is all due to Bruce Lee. He did not bother to translate the terms. Sifu Lui: He (Bruce) did the right thing to promote the Chinese language. Ip Ching: No. He did not translate the terms. If you want to learn Chinese kungfu, then you must also learn some Chinese kungfu words.
Part 3 - The Wing Chun pole form is called the Six and half point pole and commonly said to be easy to teach/learn but hard to master. Most sifus don’t teach it until the students have mastered all the empty hand forms.
0:12 Yip Ching: Right. My pole is positioned above your pole. I tap down like this. After the tap, I cover , then thrust forward and press your pole down.
0:28 Yip Ching: Why is it called six and half point staff? Why is it just “half”? When we raise the pole and then drop it like this. The tip of the pole is not dropping straight down. The tip actually arcs down, like a coma symbol.
0:48 Wing Chun uses the Kim Yeung Mah, but the 6.5 pole uses the traditional wide horse stance so some people believe that the pole form was not originally designed into the Wing Chun system. According to legend, Shaolin Abbot Jee Shin sought refuge with the Red Junk Opera troupe. The abbot noticed the oars men of the junk were strong and would make naturally good fighters, so he taught them how to fight with the pole. Eventually, the pole form became a part of the Wing Chun system.
1:19 Ip Ching : cover!
1:23 Ip Ching: Your student is a quick learner. He puts in a lot of effort. Sifu Lui : A martial arts talent
1:36 The Foshan branch Jing Wu Athletic Association has 75 years of history. Its building is in the best condition and the largest within the Jing Wu family.
1:45 Sifu Heman Leung: This structure maintains its original form. Here is a bust of the founder of the Jing Wu Athletic Association. Huo Yuanjian. Sifu Leung is a Wing Chun sifu and is the current Chairman of the Foshan branch of the Jing Wu Athletic Association. 2:05 Vinz: Today we are visiting the Jing Wu Athletic Association. I had never thought that such an organization really existed. As a fan of Bruce Lee, I have heard of the names Jingwu and Huo Yuanjia. I had wondered before are they real? Amazingly they are!
[ Tony’s comment: Bruce Lee made a film called The Fists of Fury. In the movie, Bruce played the role of a fictitious student of Huo Yuanjia named Chen Jen. Jet Li remade the film years later called Fist of Legend and years after that, Jet Li played the role of Huo Yuanjia in the film titled “Fearless”]
2:29 Candice is Sifu Heman Leung’s student. Before she came to Foshan, she already learned Wing Chun in Canada. A year ago, she gave up her job and came to Foshan to learn kungfu.
3:14 Sifu Leung: I think foreign students who come all this way to Foshan to learn the art to begin with admire our traditional culture. They are very focused in learning, make good use of their time here, and willing to put up with some hardship.
3:29 Candice: “Juexin” = determination. “I am determined to become a Wing Chun sifu”.
4:06 screen title Macau
Vinz is already half way thru his Wing Chun training. At the end of his training program, Sifu Lui has arranged for a sparing match to test how much Wing Chun he has learned.
4:30 Sifu Lui: My own sifu practices Wing Chun for the whole day for about 7- 8 hours. In the morning he practices his hand forms and practices on the wooden dummy and in the afternoon he mainly did chi sau. At night he trained his stamina: squats, short distance sprints.
5:05 Sifu Lui: down a little. Bounce a bit. Vinz: Whoah! That is hard. The whole body has to bounce. Sifu Lui: that is right. Vinz: This is really hard. Sifu,You are amazing.
5:22 Sifu Lui: after stamina training, your body is completely tired. It is the perfect time for sparing.
5:37 Sifu Lui: keep it up. Keep it up. That is it. Vinz: this is training from Hell. But I can handle it. More over Sifu is really serious in his attitude towards teaching /training me. I have to show the same attitude toward learning so as not to let him down. I am serious. I believe I can do it.
6:08 Sifu Lui: Overall, he (Vinz) is learning very fast. Of course he is not the extremely hard working kind (of student), but still can be considered hard working. 6:28 Sifu Lui: Wing Chun requires you not to stand there and wait to meet the attack. You can advance towards the attack. 6:34 Sifu Lui: “Biu Mah” is about stepping into the attacker’s position. Vinz: I see your leg is thrusted between his legs. Sifu Lui: This is called “yup mah” – invade the stance. The threat is greater toward the attacker because you control his stance now. Biu Mah is directed towards your opponent’s centerline. It is to destroy is stance. Vinz: Sifu, I got it. You see? Sifu: yes. Not bad. Once you’ve invaded his stance, it is difficult for him to escape or maneuver. 7:08 Sifu Lui: he still has one tiny obstacle to overcome in learning. His pride.
7:13 Sifu Lui: This is the counter that I taught you. Right? Vinz: Yes Sifu you are incredible. I salute you.
7:19 Sifu Lui: for example when I am teaching how to fight and he loses very badly he still wants to sneak in a punch, which never works on me. But he feels this soothes his hurt pride. This is useless. Learning fighting or learning anything else, it is hard to improve if you cannot let go of your own ego. If you are not willing to let yourself lose, how can you hope to win?
8:00 Shek: Sifu has brought you (Vinz) here to eat congee (a soupy rice brew). Vinz: Sifu, can I not eat it? Sifu Lui: It is your choice. But after practice we often eat congee because we have all perspired a lot and we need to restore the fluids to our bodies and don’t want to eat anything else. It is best to eat something with high water content and most don’t have much of an appetite anyway (assuming that you are too tired to want to eat much). You still have such an appetite means that you did not train hard enough. Your Sihing will have to work you harder tomorrow. Vinz: I did not train hard enough? That is not necessarily correct. I actually don’t have much of an appetite. So after having late night congee will make you a better fighter? Shek: it depends on who is your opponent. But your power will have improved. Let us all improve our power (in other words, let’s eat!) while you sit there and wait for us. Come on! Have a bowl. Your Sifu will not trick you! Vinz: Hey sis! Bring me an order of plain congee please! Sifu Lui: Now that is being a good student (by listening to your sifu’s advice). They used to say “when you have night time congee”, it means you’ve practiced kungfu. People in the past like to be less direct in what they say. It doesn’t sound so nice if you say ”I’ve just practiced fighting”.
9:12 Vinz: Are there any secret techniques that you still have not yet taught me? Any secret sure kill method? Those that ensure victory?
Part 4 - Wing Chun is suited toward fighting in the narrow alleys of Guangdong.
Sifu Lui: Wing Chun is very naturally suited human structure / movement. Compared to other kungfu styles, the short bridge and narrow stance of Wing Chun is very suited to narrow confined spaces.
Sifu Lui: If it was designed for Anti-Manchu purpose then it obviously not for messing around so it has to be practical and can quickly dispatch the opponent.
0:38 Developed and improved over a period of 200 years thru actual combat, it has become a very practical martial art that is without any fancy movements. Christopher is one of the few foreign Wing Chun sifus in Hong Kong. He is a former US marine and had trained in wrestling and kick boxing. Fourteen years ago, he came to HK with only a few hundred US dollars in his pocket specifically to learn Wing Chun. A few years after, he became a sifu.
1:42 Christopher choose Wing Chun because of his interested in close combat fighting.
2:41 In a Philippine shooting range, Christopher has set up a training program that mixes Wing Chun with the use of fire arms. Unlike traditional sifus, Christopher teaches more than unarmed combat. He emphasizes the usefulness of WC in non-traditional situations.
4:51 Vinz’s training will be coming to the end very soon. Lui Sifu is finally going to teach him the advance set called Biu Tze.
5:00 Sifu Lui: There was a saying “BiuTze cannot leave the door”. It would never be shown to outsiders. Vinz: What about now? Sifu Lui: Now? We are not revealing it to others. We are teaching it now. The doors are closed and the doors are locked.
5:16 Sifu Lui: The Biu Tze set is not what most people misunderstand it to be – striking with the thrusting finger tips. It is meaning originated from that ancient proverb “The moon is the target” (Not sure if I translated this right). It means you should look further ahead, not the immediate (nearby) area. Do not look at the angle/space that I have lost but look to how I regain that. Turning defeat into victory.
5:36 Sifu Lui: Block. The elbow is being pushed to this side. Then this hand comes thru the side of the body. Turning defeat to victory in with one move. It is very important.
5:49 Sifu Lui: When we launch a straighline punch and we are unable to dispatch the opponent, he will often come in to tackle or grab you. The elbow comes in to save the day. If you cannot dispatch the opponent, then you get lifted up entirely.
6:00 Sifu Lui: Let’s try it. Vinz: Be gentle Sifu Vinz & Sifu : ok
6:11 Vinz: Lots of practice is necessary, especially since I am just starting to learn Wing Chun. I have to put a lot of time into this to get the right feel and how to apply power. It has to be correctly applied.
6:29 The final battle. A boxing studio in Macau. 6:40 The final test has arrived. Vinz is a bit nervous. Sifu Lui is already warmed up. Vinz will have his final Wing Chun lesson here. 6:54 Sifu Lui: Thru this test I hope to improve his fighting ability. There is no need to beat him up. I have not fought in a long time. At least 29 years. Not as fast as when I was young but still faster than most people. 7:24 Vinz: There is pressure. I would not have expected to fight against my sifu. I am resisting the urge to use what I know (karate & taekwondo) and try to use Wing Chun instead. It is very hard. I completely cannot fight to my usual level.
7:49 Sifu Lui: His straight punches are actually very fast. Can be considered to have picked things up quite quickly. Not bad. Sometimes I let off a succession of Wing Chun attacks which ultimately leaves him stunned. I also want him to feel and know that even though while wearing boxing gloves, you can apply chi sau. What it is like to feel that pressure. Hopefully it will increase his confidence in Chi Sau. Once our glove make contact and if I don’t break contact, that is chi sau. At the end of round two, I will get someone to teach him how to improve his attack with Wing Chun techniques.
8:42 Other student: Sifu wants you to try using the straight kick followed by the chain punch. 8:53 Sifu Lui: There are people who practice Wing chun for years, once they get into the boxing ring……how many boxers have you seen being able to apply Wing chun? A lot of people separate Chi Sau and Boxing. They don’t know how to use them together.
10:02 Sifu Lui: he fought well. Better than I imagined. 10:06 Vinz: I learned wing chun for almost 20 days. I really enjoyed this learning period with sifu. I never thought that you would be my examiner. Sifu: Otherwise, I would not have entered the ring. I have not entered the ring in almost 30 years. Vinz: Thank you sifu. Sifu Lui: He picked up a lot of things very fast. A few things I only taught him only a few day ago. It is kind of hard to expect him to remember and be able to put everything into use. Not bad. So he deserves to pass. 10:41 Vinz: Sifu, can I be considered to be one tough opponent? Sifu: do you really want me to answer that one? Vinz: forget that I every asked. Sifu: True combat give it all otherwise it is not true combat. Too many rules…
How to have a punch like a flimsy noodle! or ♫ Kung Fu in the morning ♫ Kung Fu all day ... ♫
If not training or teaching, or writing training notes, I do some (martial arts) social networking*. One site asks: “Who is your favourite martial artist?” Well, especially since my teen-days are long over, it’s easy to admit: “My favourite martial artists are my students!” Period.
*martial arts networking links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - social networking for martial artists
During weekly, daily work, the process of teaching is also for the instructor a process of learning. It’s a route taken, to constantly improve the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ one is teaching.
After the latest Wing Tsun Chi-Sau marathon I received a lot of positive and for others helpful feedback. I asked participants to simply write down what comes to mind at the very moment. Today I want to share some of the comments that reached me.
First off, find here the links to two articles listing some points about Chi-Sau, thoughts on the training method and ideas on how to train.
1. The Tan-Sau of death and other secret techniques of Wing Tsun Kung Fu - Click here for part 1 of 2 or The 10-hour Chi-Sau marathon, thoughts on a Wing Tsun training method
2. The Tan-Sau of death and other secret techniques of Wing Tsun Kung Fu - Click here for part 2 of 2 or The 14-hour Chi-Sau marathon, thoughts on a Wing Tsun training method
Some examples of what to do and not to do are extremely helpful when demonstrated, when seen and felt, but not so easy to put into words. I often remember a key experience during a private lesson given by my Sihing, WT master Peter Vilimek. I call it the “Just let me hit you!” event. I was trying to respond in time and with the “right technique.” Naturally, my responses were most of the time too early, too late, too little strength, too much, too fast, too slow; you get the picture. At one point he was constantly overpowering me. I was thinking in those moments, “Alright, I get it, you are faster and stronger. You know more. You know better. Yes, you easily trick me into responding while in the same fraction of a second redirecting the whole game. What the bleep do you want me to do?” Eventually he said during a moment of crushing my position: “Why don’t you just let me hit you?” I thought, “OK, you dominate me anyway. What the bloody hell do you want?” Therefore, I stopped trying to be fast, didn’t try to be strong anymore, attempted to not care about when getting hit. <sarcasm mode on>And oh gee, how great, it was so much easier for him to hit me.<sarcasm mode off> But something strange began to happen. Now that I didn’t try to be “right” anymore. I didn’t oppose his actions. Didn’t try to be strong and resistant. Didn’t try to outrun his punches. It seemed that suddenly some of my Tan-Sau, Bong-Sau actions began to work. For mere moments I was truly adapting to the chaos, went with the flow, 'stuck' to his actions. I got an idea of what this smooth flexible elasticity in Wing Tsun is supposed to be about. I seemed to grasp for moments what structure can mean. I got a glimpse of how to connect hand and footwork.
Yeah OK, it didn’t last long, since I tried to reproduce my short lived success by adding strength and speed and was once again hopelessly lost in the stormy seas of non-stop punches, elbows, Fak-Saus and palm strikes. Once you try to look at it, try to make sense and try to time it right, you are gone, you are toast. It takes a patient, skilful and resourceful (as in training-methods) instructor to guide you through the helpful training stages. It was an amazing lesson I never forgot.
Whatever martial art you train, make goals, have a vision of what you want to achieve and be passionate about your efforts. Even though a martial artist might not necessarily be an Oprah fan, but here is something from her that hits the nail on the head: "Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you."
Maybe you find yourself, your thoughts in the following uncommented feedback after the 14-hour Wing Tsun Chi-Sau marathon and article part 2. Sometimes it’s good to know that it is not just oneself who is having certain experiences, that there are many others. You are not alone with your challenges. And that can be the greatest outcome of one’s Wing Tsun training, finding people with the same mind-set, improving self-confidence, enjoying the challenges of hard but fun training.
Good article about Chi-Sau training. What came to mind as I read it? Some students may have seen only the graphic of the Core Concepts before. This time it is accompanied by a good explanation/example for each concept. Definitely helps to make more sense out of it all.
I like how one can visualize the WingTsun-CoreConcepts even within the action of a single WT punch! It unifies the whole thing mentally. Here’s a sequence which I will try:
1) Memorize the punch example you gave as it relates to each concept. 2) Practice very slowly executing a punch in front of the mirror while thinking about the application of each core concept as the punch unfolds. 3) Maintain the image of those short bungee cords attached to elbows & knees, both vertically and diagonally to unify the body movements. 4) Repeat many times. This way it is internalized. It can also be recalled during partner exercises.
The beauty of it is that the above steps can also be done without getting drained physically. I would suggest that students make a habit of doing all their forms, stepping, chain punches, etc in front of a mirror. Also, experiment once in a while; use your imagination. If you end up looking foolish sometimes, no one else will know. Trial & error. In Wing Tsun (Chinese boxing) as in Western boxing, the mirror is your friend!
It having been my first real attempt at Chi-Sau I didn't quite know what to expect. I found myself frustrated at times with the simple movements and losing focus for a brief moment. For very brief milliseconds I pondered quitting altogether, because I have so much to learn. I don't do well with giving up on things I really want, that are achievable. I then moved to a more motivated feeling to get more into my future training to achieve a mere snippet of your skills. I was also mesmerized by the simplicity and the effectiveness. In the end, I just wanted more and if I could have gone on, I would have. If money and time were no object I would spend time with my child, play in the outdoors and train Wing Tsun non-stop.
I think the first thing that came to mind after reading that blog post is that our skills change, our knowledge changes, our perspective changes, our interpretation changes, and our style/preferences changes. The one thing that remains constant is that training feels just as difficult and confusing (sometimes even more with new ideas) as when we just started. Perhaps that is the perpetual feeling of the student. The only time when it gets easy is if one stops being a student, and consequently stops improving. Now to endure another year of it, to see where we end up the same time again next year.
For me, the training of the mind was the most important thing. I knew before starting that I would be put through the wringer. I knew my hands would get tired. I knew you would make me do continuous chain punches. I knew my stance would not be good with you on the other side. My main thought was to try to remain calm throughout. To maintain my breathing. To stay relaxed, trying to keep my arms continuously "relaxed" (as much as possible anyways). And just focusing on listening to what you were saying and trying to do it. You were making me stretch out my arms longer than the "ideal range", you kept making me sink my elbows simultaneously, physics tells me that it’s not possible :)) ... but i try to do it anyways. I tried not to think about the time, or how much time is left ... or anything else ... I know from past experience that there is no such thing as training too much, or that you have learned everything. There is always something to improve on, something to learn how to do better, muscles that need to be relaxed more, etc. So for me, it was training the mind to ignore the imperfections of the body (responses) ...
Chi-Sau training: I think the difficulty for me is the mental aspect of the training rather than the pain itself. When I weight train, I know how much weight I lift, how many reps and sets etc I did. This gives me a history of my results. With Chi-Sau, the training is very difficult to judge, how far you have progressed, as you don't know your weight number or rep number. There is no number, no comparison to base yourself on. You train us to failure each and every time, even after years of training the 100th time is just as difficult as the 1st time.
Well, basically I have the same feeling after doing Chi-Sau, as I have running for a while. It's sometimes hard, even annoying while doing it but, at the end once it’s done, it feels good. Sometimes I think that's what brings me back to private lessons, and makes me want more, is reaching the climax, is getting through it.
My Kung Fu training, can be likened to a Chi-Sau training session with Sifu. First you don't know what you are doing. However, after a while, you think you kind of know what you are doing. But then everything falls apart, your body hurts, your punch is like a flimsy noodle, and if you thought you knew something, you now realize that it was an illusion. However, with some encouraging words, trust in Sifu's instruction, a lot of sweat and hard work, you realise that although you are not at the pinnacle of Kung Fu awesomeness, you are on the right path and may one day hope to be there ... or somewhere around that vicinity ... :)
Kung Fu = Hard Work!
For me it seems to work in several ways: - adding some more endurance to my shoulder, back and arm muscles - helping me to get a feel for the rooted stance, meaning that I can now feel sometimes that I can divert some of the incoming pressure into the ground (or it is only my fantasy?) - helping me build will power (resist the urge of quitting, persist in trying to perform a proper Tan-Sau/Bong-Sau, etc. ) - sometimes I can feel that, for example my Fok-Sau improved after one/several private lessons. This happens in group class. I realize that I am only in the "build some stamina" phase, so I will try to give no interpretation of my fighting skills :)
The Chi-Sau training ... It seems necessary to note that it is indeed the manner in which the Chi-Sau is trained, rather than the specific (WT) Chi-Sau sections. The way we train Chi-Sau at Wing Tsun Vancouver is quite different to the manner in which I trained in other WT schools. The sections are of course the same, but the increased attention to detail and focus on real results under pressure (mental or physical) is what's really different.
Chi-Sau training under this increased pressure has really improved my overall skill in dealing with other students. The varied "leaving no level of pressure untrained" approach at Wing Tsun Vancouver improves skill confidence in all teaching situations, from fun playing around to "being tested" : ) Training Chi-Sau this way can be a humbling pill to swallow, and was for me when I first moved here, but the results are worth it!
With every step forward in WT Kung Fu training, there is a different lens through which I look at this martial art and its training methods. I have realized that Chi-Sau is not only a type of biofeedback training method, needed to understand why and how movements are done. Now, my eyes have been opened to the myriad of possibilities with Chi-Sau training. The biggest challenges I have faced thus far are:
1) Strengthening a body structure and becoming more powerful
I’m no longer so naïve to think that “you don’t need strength in Wing Chun/Tsun”, because strength and power is clearly a necessity for effective combat skills in self-defense strategies.
2) Balancing on my own two left feet
Yes, I know it’s been years since I learned how to walk, but this is a bit different, really ... constantly re-adjusting equilibrium is challenging!
3) Releasing the proper force with the correct “timing, distance, coordination, etc.”
When the path is clear, yadda yadda yadda – easy for me to say, but can I do it in training, let alone in a real-life situation? Pretty tough so far!
These are but 3 of an ever-growing list of things for me to learn and improve upon with each Chi-Sau session.
A last word today. Next time you train, learn, teach ...
1. Analyze your training. Why do you do what? What’s its purpose? How does it fit into the big picture? 2. Even point out how your partner can “get” you. Where and when do you feel you need improvement? The term ‘training partners’ also means helping each other, supporting each other’s progress! 3. Bring your actions to 'life!' Don’t just repeat dead technique scenarios. Elevate the stress level. Mix it up (once you have properly learned the building blocks)!
To Kung Fu or not Kung Fu! - Should I train with injuries?
As a Wing Tsun instructor, I have often been asked about the ramifications of working out while being injured. Interestingly enough, the full 100% of injuries students have suffered, always originated from non-WingTsun activities. Most of them happened while playing (dangerous sports like) tennis, soccer, volleyball, snowboarding, hockey, jogging and yes, injuries caused for example by office and garden work related accidents. Knock on wood; in my 25 years of learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu, all I have seen in my classes are bruises here and there, sore muscles, and the rare bloody lip or nose. Never anything serious.
Here we are talking about questions I have received from members after having suffered a dislocated shoulder, pulled muscles, or while experiencing problems arising from “tennis-” or “golf-elbow”, or carpel-tunnel syndrome. Before any physical activity, always ask a doctor first (disclaimer). I do not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment or prognosis.
My personal experiences are based on what I have done in the past and how martial arts colleagues, fellow Wing Tsun trainers worked around injuries in order to resume their training.
What I am talking about is what I have done, would do so again, not what I expect what someone else should do! I tell my students that it is important for them to know that I am OK with whatever they decide to do. What counts for me personally? Getting slightly older, past the age of 40, I just too often see people wasting their valuable lifetime with excuses in many areas of their lives: if it is business, personal, hobby ... or (martial arts, fitness, etc.) training.
So, you talked to a doctor, you are motivated, you have goals, you don’t want to waste time and you absolutely don’t want to face the dangers of slowly morphing into a lame couch potato. What are your options? Here a few ideas, pointers that may help you.
1. Enjoy a short limited break from weekly activities. Read a good book, or two, or more. A couple of weeks, a month or so of a break is OK, and often even needed. It gives a fresh new perspective, instils new motivation. Reload your batteries! In the past, after a couple of weeks off, I absolutely had to resume my training. I simply couldn't stay away any longer.
2. In “our case”, our Wing Tsun form training offers many opportunities, better than ever. An injury might just be the right means, to train more careful, to listen more closely to the body. Hey, it’s yours, study the manual! After all, in Wing Tsun as true as in any physical activity: "Use it, or lose it!" I often say that Kung Fu should not just destroy but also heal. To stop training does in most cases do more harm. Train with care and support the healing process.
Kung Fu is not just a form of martial arts, it's not just about the exercise, it's a lifestyle! If you cut out part of your lifestyle, how would that help your injury recovery?
Everyone I have seen so far, who stopped and didn't train at all for a long time, just masked the symptoms, resumed training eventually and suffered the same injury again. Use your body, learn to work around the problem. Create awareness and improve where muscles, ligaments, tendons didn't do their job. Figure out the reason, why the injury happened in the first place and how to train, so that it doesn't happen again.
3. In case of shoulder, elbow, wrist problems, there is a multitude of exercises that can be done with only one arm, which offers a focus that many miss out on, as long as they can use both arms equally. Being healthy, they rarely restrict themselves. Having an injury can actually be a blessing in disguise as even my Sifu often said. You do things, you train in ways you ordinarily wouldn't.
Yes, it is easy to get swept away in the moment while being in class, wanting to train harder and then in the end possibly realizing that it was too much. So, discipline is needed, to keep the group class workouts light and to maintain control.
4. It is OK to train light, as to not doing any more harm to the injured area. Training light does NOT in the slightest have anything to do with not training seriously. Most guys think that light training is not manly enough, an attitude for which I have quite a few words ... :-) Working out lightly, with little strength and also moving slowly, does not mean practicing a ineffective workout routine equal to wasted time and money. It is in effect one of the best workouts that many just do not do as long as they can work with strength. Following a light workout routine, one can continue classes without losing months of valuable training time and at the same time give the injury time and opportunity to heal. Even or especially when certain injuries take more time to heal.
You have to be in control of what happens and how it happens.
You have to give your training partner exact details of how you want to train.
Even if not injured, make yourself aware of which muscles move when and how.
Do not hesitate to ask your training partner to:
repeat a movement,
to slow down even more,
when to stop or to resume,
which direction and how to apply force.
5. It is OK and extremely helpful to stand or even sit down at the sidelines. Watch your usual training partners work with each other. Finally realize the instructions you have heard so often, but never really "got it" until viewing the class mates working out. Get literally a different viewpoint. It is a fabulous opportunity to sit down, watch, listen, and take notes. However, I have to admit; almost no one ever does it. Well, only the very few who get really good, become successful because of using times of injury for sessions to analyze their own and the training of others. Enjoy being one of the few who will be successful. Or admit to yourself that you are lazy. If you have a long drive to your school, counting in the cost for gas, it might not be economical, to come to classes just to take notes and watch training scenarios. This is one and only one of the many ways to work through a time period of injury recovery, instead of not training for many months.
Same procedure as last year ... 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 2009 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!"
The Tan-Sau of death and other secret techniques of Wing Tsun Kung Fu - part 2 of 2 or The 14-hour Chi-Sau marathon, thoughts on a Wing Tsun training method
In various martial arts, you can find sayings to the effect: “If you want to master martial art ABC, you have to train basics, basics and the basics!” Why is it then so hard for many to do just that?
Wing Tsun works under the idea that the attacker is looking for a victim, ergo usually for at least an apparently weaker person. Furthermore, we learn to use this temporary victim status and turn it all around by exploding unexpectedly into the face of the attacker. This sounds all very nice, but doesn’t work without ‘firepower’ and also the experience of what adrenalin does to you. Having more punching power, even or especially if the attacker is physically stronger, is one of the (strong) points in our Wing Tsun training. Some days I train up to 6, 8 hours or more. Wing Tsun Chi-Sau is an excellent, yet at times somewhat overlooked training method for building a flexible structure, good footwork in coordination with your arm-techniques, and an extreme focus on various striking methods in a very close range.
Update: In the previous paragraph, I wrote: “and also the experience of what adrenalin does to you.” It couldn’t be more timely; Please read the following in Sifu Brian Yam’s blog. Click here.
Earlier I asked: “Why is it then so hard for many to do just that (train the basics)?” I talk often in my classes about one particular experience. The setting is in the early 90’s, the beginning of a big seminar at the Langenzell castle in Germany, the Wing Tsun castle. Many of us were warming up for parts of our Technician Grade testing. More and more began to watch two guys who were just flying through their Chi-Sau routines. Everything looked amazing, appeared well-timed. The right responses popped up like gunshots. Everything looked super precise. Power and speed and techniques melted into a Wing Tsun wonderland. Many started to let their heads hang, sure about not being able to match this kind of supermen performance. Sifu Kernspecht arrived and opened “the games.” You know, his personal mix of Chi-Sau and Lat-Sau, <cartoon mode on>you still slowly nodding and answering that you do know what a Wu-Sau is, while simultaneously looking at the wall you are flying towards to<cartoon mode off>. He soon started to work with the WT super dudes. Easily destroying rhythm, responding unexpectedly, moving seemingly out of sync, suddenly nothing seemed to work for either one of the two guys. They were easily hit, their attempted strikes merged into nothingness, just like shooting blanks. Moral of the story: It doesn’t matter how well you perform WITH your training partner, especially with someone you are very comfortable with; it all has to translate into striking power, structure and the ability to handle stress, and also not to fold when getting hit. No student, instructor, trainer, sifu, master or grandmaster is unbeatable.
Moving now from a valuable lesson of the past, back into this year; earlier in 2009, just for fun, I did a 10-hour Chi-Sau marathon. Recently on Saturday, December 19th, everything came together, and I turned my private lesson schedule into a 14-hour Chi-Sau marathon. Friday was a “warm-up”, six hours with six participants. The line-up for Saturday showed a name list of 12 participants for 14 hours altogether. Two had decided to go for a double session.
Before I get to the Chi-Sau Saturday; Related to the topic “Back to Basics?” I posted a brief note on Facebook. Funny enough someone, who I don’t know, sent me an e-mail: “Fitness doesn't play an important role in the process of learning wing chun.” Hmmh ... Yes, fitness can also be a relative factor. I have seen very fit people collapse within moments under the pressure of a stressful fight exercise. My point has always been to do your strength and fitness training alongside your martial arts training, not one after the other. Why? Life is too short. It’s that simple. However, purposely staying weak or neglecting fitness? Well, the next violent drunk who isn’t afraid of getting hurt will punch you right out of your martial arts dreams into reality. Or as Evan just wrote in a related blog entry: “What if you're too tired to even run away!” Click here to read Evan's blog entry.
Now back to the 14-hour Wing Tsun Chi-Sau marathon, back to Saturday, December 19th. Typically, I start at 10am, but for some reason I had scheduled the first session for 8am. It was 7am, time to get up, OK ... one hit on the snooze button, shower and I was ready for the day. At 7:30am I was out on The Drive, Commercial Drive that is, which has at that time a very different feel than at midnight or 1am on Friday, Saturday nights when there is live music at so many different places. I got a macchiato at Continental Coffee, my favourite coffee shop out of some 30+ coffee shops on The Drive. A macchiato is a double espresso with milk foam, nothing else. Dangerously convenient, we have a 24-hour grocery store around the corner, where I got some juice. I had to run after an old man who forgot his umbrella. A day earlier, he forgot his cane. Right before a 14-hour workout, I really didn’t want to think about what might be in store for us when one gets old.
Friday had already been a great day. I worked with Mike, Chung, Sifu Steve RKC, Wayne, Bojan and Doug. Now Sebastian, Wing Tsun trainer and Salsa instructor started the Saturday marathon on the spot at 8am, followed by Dave, Edmond, Sia, Philip, Anselm for a double session (Wing Tsun Victoria), Vasile, Sifu Chris, Tanya, Jennifer, Marcel and as the last one, Sifu Gary K. for another double session.
Certain basic ideas popped up repeatedly throughout this long day. Here in no particular order some of the points.
There are many different ways to practice Chi-Sau to extract different benefits. Some have been mentioned in Part 1 of “The Tan-Sau of death.”
Speed of striking techniques and responses in general, is in the end for many a factor. Well, if you want to get really fast, train really, really slow to make yourself aware of all the components that make you eventually fast. There are different stages to slow detailed Chi-Sau training:
1. arms or shoulder or neck or biceps start to hurt, 2. many experience the wonderful feeling of arms or the whole body shaking, 3. you move slow, your Chi-Sau appears to the onlooker boring. 4. arms, shoulder and various other parts of you are now severely burning, 5. you just heard a noise and wonder if was the impact of your arms falling off, 6. you experience cramps, sudden feeling of weakness, instinct to run away ... and then we start the real training!
Important while going through above scenarios:
1. Do NOT break contact! 2. Do NOT stop for a moment and shake your arms out. 3. Do NOT follow the instinct of answering your phone, even though you know you switched it off. 4. Do NOT pretend you suddenly have to go to the bathroom. 5. Do NOT attempt to bribe your Sifu by saying that you paid already for the session and that there is really no need to finish it.
I am really not a tool man, I can get a nail into the wall; most likely at least. Therefore, if someone would surprise me with a brand-new 299-piece toolbox from the latest Sears catalogue, I wouldn’t really know what to do with it. Many ‘know’ a lot of "tools", meaning techniques and attack/defense/counter scenarios, which under pressure become worthless and cannot be used. Work on structure, coordination of hand and footwork and knock-out power, rather than on a trazillion of secret techniques.
If working with a fifth student grade or an advanced technician grade, the core concepts of how to train, how to learn and how to teach remain the same. Let’s look at only one example, one single punch, and one possible problem you may face ... among many.
Distance – Punch in or out of the wrong distance and one action is wasted. Timing – If your timing is off, you might get hit at the same time you punch. Coordination – One of the few “real secrets” of Wing Tsun is the coordination, the connection of hand and foot work. Involve as many musclegroups; put your weight behind your punch. Remember the ‘falling step’ idea by Jack Dempsey and Bruce Lee? Balance – Punch too tensely and your own punch on impact may throw you off balance. Power – Physical strength is not necessarily the same as punching power. Release Power (ability to deliver power) – Having punching power and being able to deliver it in the right place at the right time is a tricky business. Mobility – Remember Muhammad Ali’s footwork, which puzzled many boxers? Review you Wing Tsun Kung Fu footwork. How mobile are you? Positioning – Deliver your punch, have your Wu-Sau too low and get hit. Centerline – Have your punch also protect you, for example your ribs, while punching. Fluidity – Can you deliver a whiplash like punch that employs the whole body while moving in on the opponent?
Click on above graphic to view the large file version of the WingTsun-CoreConcepts.
By now, it was 9.20am. I was working with Dave, a hardcore hiker and camper who doesn’t believe in tents. Yeah, a little bit of sunshine was peaking through the window. Each lesson I was repeating above mentioned points, explained the WingTsun-CoreConcepts, corrected mistakes.
What else came up throughout the day? Think of the following thoughts, visualisations as ideas of how to check your training process differently. Perhaps it might support the notion of how exciting it can be to discover the ART behind the martial ART.
- John Wayne and Wing Tsun Don’t “reach” with your punch across the distance. Remember the WingTsun-CoreConcepts? Do it like John Wayne and shoot from the hip. In addition, try to look cool and merciless! Kidding aside, use your punch like a shield and move your arms following the cone-idea. See the graphic by Gary Hughes.
- Can you find the white spots on your map of muscles? Explore the four hinges! When you train, feel which muscles are involved. Which muscles feel relaxed? Where can you produce power? Where do you feel too much tension? Which muscles feel like white spots on the map, meaning they don’t respond. Explore your toolbox, your Wing Tsun forms. Which part of the Siu-Nim-Tau or Cham-Kiu can “wake up” the muscles you need to improve? I often talk about the ‘four hinges.’ This refers to the usage of your chest, lats, shoulder and upper back while punching. How long is your whip? No laughing here. We are talking about the connection of muscles from your toes to fingertips. How many muscles in your body can produce a fluid and whiplash-like punch?
- Impact and reflection Can your arms deflect an incoming punch and lead the force through a connection via upper body into the stance? Can you use your footwork, even the lifting of your heel, bending of your knee, to generate a more powerful punch?
- Power of the seven joints Yes, we know that the joints are powered by muscles, ligaments and tendons. The late Sifu Yip Man supposedly said: “The more joints are involved in a technique, the more powerful it will be.” If we look in a simplified way at the first three Wing Tsun forms, we find out that 1. the Siu-Nim-Tau develops the power of shoulders, elbows and wrists, 2. the Cham-Kiu develops the power of hips, knees and ankles, and 3. the Biu-Tze connects through the usage of the spine the “lower” and the “upper” three joints. Hence the talk about the power of the seven joints, looking at the spine as “one joint.” (wrist, elbow, shoulder, spine, hip, knee, ankle = seven joints)
Can you independent position and move your shoulder, elbow and wrist, ... and do that on both sides? In a fight, your muscles have to constantly reposition six joints, both shoulders, elbows and wrists. Does this now translate for you into more powered punches, fluid movement, flexible actions?
For some it is helpful if we look at some aspects of our Chi-Sau training as partner supported isometric exercise. Why not?!
Some fire a single arm technique, then a step, then a turning stance or yielding, followed by another technique. In order to make the connection between punches and steps, defenses and attacks, I use yet another visualisation. Imagine you have short bungee jump cables connect your knees, elbows, from your left elbow to your left knee, diagonal, and so on. Now see those imaginary connections as flexible powerlines that support your structure and prevent it from being ripped apart. Latest during the training, it begins to make sense.
- Don’t run out of bullets too early Stamina, power management and power generation under pressure, under stress show what’s real and what’s beautiful but useless theory. There is so much more that can be said.
What matters! – The Real Secret of Kung Fu – Wing Tsun that is ...
It doesn’t matter how traditional or classical your punch is, of if it’s a “bad, bad modified” punch.
It doesn’t matter how killer-like the Fak-Sau of your instructor is.
It doesn’t matter how your lineage performs the Tan-Sau.
All that matters is angles, positions, movement; all that matters is physics!
Enjoy your version of Wing Chun, Ving Tsun or Wing Tsun. Train hard. Have fun with your class mates. Check your progress. And don’t let plateaus and setbacks discourage you. Have a vision of what you want to achieve, define your goals, dream a little bit and your martial art will be an exciting martial art!
SifuMania – or who or what is a Kung Fu Sifu anyway?
When I started my Wing Tsun training in 1984, in Rostock Germany, I really didn’t have a clue as to how direct and also how serious Kung Fu will over the decades influence my life. Would I do it again? With all the good and the not so good choices? Knowing, how it will steer the course of my life? You bet I would! There is nothing more exhilarating than following a seemingly impossible to reach goal. It feels so good to work on achieving something, everyone else tells you to be impossible. It is satisfying and motivating, to follow a vision and work on being patient, learning to show persistence, trying to reap top notes in perseverance.
photo (from left to right): Wing Tsun Team Vancouver & Calgary - Sifu Brian Yam, Sifu German Ferrer, Si-Fu Ralph Haenel, Sifu Gary Kaiser, Sifu Ciprian Constantinescu
How many people tell you every week about how much they hate their job? Caught yourself doing it? Well, do something about it! Is it easy? Absolutely not. Will you regret it at times? Yes! No motivational coach can cover it up with positive thinking and yeah-yippy-attitude. There will be tough moments. But there is something really, really, did I say really(?) important in there. You can take action, you can change things. Bla bla, what a rare statement, right? It just takes many people their whole lives, to realize that this simple declaration is ... true. It is as they often say in martial arts: “It’s the path to get there, not the destination.” Aren’t those martial artists smart? Well, don’t worry, every Master or Sifu is also just a human being and makes mistakes.
Back to Kung Fu. During the first WingTsun seminar in 1985 in Rostock (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), my Sihing Leo Czech was discussing for a moment, if he should sit or stand for the group photo. Back then, typically only Sifu’s were allowed to sit in a traditional Kung Fu class photo. Protocol was serious stuff. Well, the photo shows the outcome. Back then, Wing Tsun Sifu’s were rare, there were only two in Germany in the EWTO.
The first WT Sifu in Germany was Keith Kernspecht, followed in August of 1983 by (Junior-) Sifu Michael Fries. On a side note, also mentioned in the Wing Tsun World magazine Number 4 is a 12th student grade, which should later outperform many of his instructors, Emin Boztepe. My first WT instructor eventually followed his Sihing, Sifu Fries, to Italy and was by the end of 1989 known in Livorno as Sifu Leonardo Czech.
My second WingTsun teacher, Peter Vilimek, was in 1987 announced as Sifu of Wing Tsun alongside with Christoph Gefeke, Peter Maull, Thomas Mannes and Thomas Roggenkamp †, soon followed by Emin Boztepe, Frank Ringeisen and others. I had the pleasure to learn on different occasions from all of them.
Traditionally, anyone who opens a Chinese Kung Fu school and teaches is a Sifu. I have met people who as teenagers learned some Kung Fu style for a few years in China or Hong Kong, then they came for example to Canada or the US, opened during the Bruce Lee wave a Kung Fu school and called themselves anything from Sifu to Grandmaster. So, there are not really any guidelines, let alone any quality control.
The organization in which I learned for about 16 years had at some point approximate guidelines that stated that the Wing Tsun teacher has to have the second instructor level and guided at least one of his students to the first instructor level. Approximate? Yes, because the guidelines where used at the convenience of the head person. It’s tough, a large organization needs procedures to lead hundreds or even thousands of instructors. The problem lies in the fact if the major part of the control is in the hands of one person.
Over the years, I’ve experienced in various Wing Tsun organizations, that the Sifu title was given or withheld depending on favours rendered. Some chief-instructors charged as much as US$1000 for the Sifu certificate. It turned into a mere business.
I have met Sifus who were amazing instructors. Others were just beating up their students and elevating themselves, using the title as if it were a doctor title added to the personal information in their passport.
Think back to high school, even elementary school, college or university. How many teachers do you remember? How many have made a difference in your life, helped you significantly, or gave you this one push that helped you to improve, this experience you still remember even after decades? Most of us remember one or two names out of an army of teachers we have seen in our lives.
photo (from left to right): Wing Tsun Trainer Team Vancouver, Calgary, Victoria - Edmond Chow, Tony Leung, Sifu Brian Yam, Sifu German Ferrer, Sifu Gary Kaiser, Si-Fu Ralph Haenel, Sifu Ciprian Constantinescu, Sebastian Molnar, Philip Lee, Anselm Meyer, Siavash Panahandeh
If a martial arts instructor is now a Sensei or a Sifu, it doesn’t mean that the person suddenly inherits superb teaching abilities. Some are just good martial artists. No more, no less. You may have heard the martial arts saying: “The best teacher is not the best fighter, and the best fighter is not the best teacher.” Since most of us don’t face every single week fights, it is really important that the Sifu helps us grow, develop a better posture, that he helps us to improve our confidence to a healthy level, creates awareness for our surroundings, sharpens our senses through the self-defense training.
I know of many martial arts schools who use media coverage to show, how dangerous life is and that you can get attacked any day. Even if it would bring in more business, I personally don’t like this panic mode.
The term ‘Sifu’ is often interpreted or translated as ‘teacher’, ‘master’ or ‘tutor’, or as ‘father – teacher’ of a new generation of Kung Fu students. Being a Sifu means for me: - taking responsibility to spread the martial art, - working on improving the system by either advancement of exercises, forms, etc. - or the development of better learning and teaching methods.
It should require the commitment to be passionate and teach even that one evening that you absolutely want to stay home, yet ending up making a positive difference in somebody’s life.
Some Sifus disappear over the years, never to be heard of again. Others become known through teaching a few or a lot of people, helping even other teachers by making helpful contributions through various publications.
What now changes if one of your class mates becomes a Sifu? For example Brian is your Sihing, your older Kung Fu brother. Now he became a Sifu (Kung Fu father teacher), but is still your Sihing (older Kung Fu brother). The moment he accepts a new student, this student calls him Sifu. For this new student I will be the Sigung, the Kung Fu Grandfather. Oh brother, eh? In other family terms, if he is your older brother and he has, usually with someone else, a baby and becomes a father, he will still be your older brother. OK? And Brian, ... one father title might be enough for the time being. No rush!
In short, being a Sifu is not a title to rest upon, but rather a new, a bigger responsibility. Now it’s up to each person to live up to it, to fill the title with life.
It doesn’t matter if you teach 3 people in your lifetime or 30,000.
Be a teacher, who will be one day positively remembered!
Freedom, commitment, bruises and anniversary cake Ramblings about Freedom, Commitment, Bruises and Anniversary Cake
Personally, there are several important dates for me to remember this year, anniversaries to celebrate. Just last weekend, many were reminded of the end of the cold war, the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago on November 9th of 1989. Two German newspapers approached me and published the interviews in their special editions, commemorating the peaceful revolution back then in East Germany, which lead to the demise of the Iron Curtain. Interviews at Kieler Nachrichten and Holsteinischer Courier. My personal anniversary relating to this event is almost a week later on November 15th. On this very day in 1989 at 4am the creaking gates of the Cottbus prison opened for me, known as the “forgotten prison.” Cottbus was one of the secret service controlled prisons in East Germany, in which political prisoners were mixed in with murderers and other criminals. That morning I saw last the faces of prison guards with descriptive nicknames like Arafat and RT = Red Terror. I saw last RT’s “socialist measuring stick”, his baton, which he used besides his keys to imprint communist ideals on many. In the reunited Germany, I was cleared of all charges and rehabilitated. However, what does this mean after those experiences? The detention center of the secret service is today a museum for human rights. School classes visit, to learn about history, they look into the cell where I once was, then training my Siu-Nim-Tau form, to stay sane. Somewhat ironic, how things can change ...
Just lately, I went through newspaper and magazine interviews with me, published from 1990 on. I remembered many people who shared a part along the way in my Wing Tsun career. Last night I wrote to our members in Vancouver about recent Wing Tsun Kung Fu seminars. Each seminar I learn as well, often also about commitment and loyalty. Here four examples from the last seminar in Calgary:
1. One student, a tough puncher, yet friendly, quiet and helpful training partner, injured himself during soccer practice and Thai box training. The result: a torn shoulder, broken sternum and several cracked ribs. What do you think did he do? For him absolutely normal, ... he came and attended the whole Calgary Wing Tsun anniversary seminar!
3. Sifu German Ferrer, the local instructor in Calgary, told his very first martial arts training partner from some 30+ years ago about the anniversary seminar. The guy got in the car, drove for over seven hours to Calgary and attended the whole seminar!
4. German's very first Wing Tsun student from five years ago showed up for the dinner. He could have said: “Hey, I moved away” or “I wasn't there for a couple of years.” But no, he came and had a great time! Click here for more photos from the recent Calgary seminar.
This is what I like about many people, who I have met over the past 25 years in Wing Tsun. Commitment, passion, reliability, ... no excuses! Team spirit and respect for their class mates and their Wing Tsun school!
Initially I talked about going through old newspaper interviews. I read again about my first student from Ulan Bator. Moenchtor Luwzanseren later became the first WT instructor in Mongolia! See top photo, taken during a WingTsun seminar I gave in 1993 in Denmark.
But, back to Berlin. When Moenchtor was sick, he came to group class anyway, sat down, watched me explaining, analyzed how training partners worked together, and made notes, lots of notes. You cannot stress the importance of getting a different view point on physical excises and observing training methods.
When he, for example, hurt his hand in another sport; yes, he came to class and concentrated on working with his other arm.
Besides undeniable commitment, I also call this having a vision of future success. Making sure that time, money and effort spent on training in previous years, does not fade into nothingness ...
I met many people over the past years who realized, that a few bruises during training is better than a smashed scull on the street. Some play soccer and break a toe, of well it’s soccer. Some play tennis and suffer for decades from tennis elbow. Play hockey, lose some teeth, of well it’s just a game. Yet in martial arts, there are at times different views. Many years ago, I was asked in a martial arts school to demonstrate the famous inch-punch. Well, I asked the big muscular volunteer to relax and not to tense his huge chest muscles. Yes, you guessed right, he did it anyway. Next day, the instructor called me and said something about having to be more careful. Ehm, hello!! It seems, that some believe you can fight off a violent attacker, defend your life under enormous stress, beat up drug fuelled thugs, train all that without ever suffering a bruise. Mixed martial arts have brought some reality to the table, compared to some (not all) traditional martial arts.
Myself, having learned from many expert WingTsun masters, whose previous careers spanned from professional boxing to full contact champions to military combat instructors, I can talk about a bruise or two ... or more. My best memory is the second seminar with my first Wing Tsun teacher, Sifu Leo Czech, a former boxer. It was the Spring of 1985. I had a infected tooth, could barely talk, had tears in my eyes when my upper and lower teeth just lightly touched. There was no time to go to a dentist. Hey, the seminar was on. There was no way to show up late. Of course not. What was the first thing that happened? A WT punching demo, yeah, a powerful lifting punch to the jawbone. I saw stars, I really did. There were many colours. The whole day resumed with friendly contact. In the evening I had problems breathing, my upper body displayed a beautiful colour palette. But, I could click my teeth together, I didn’t feel anything anymore. I was in happy land. Besides, I had just passed my exams for the first and second student grade of Wing Tsun Kung Fu.
So, besides bruises and memories, looking back at 25 years of learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu, having met great students, training partners and instructors along the way, working with a fabulous team of enthusiastic and committed people in Vancouver, Calgary and Victoria, I am looking forward to our 15th anniversary seminar at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver. Yes, it is 15 years ago that I founded in Vancouver (BC) the very first Canadian Wing Tsun branch. Let’s have a good time on Saturday, November 21st 2009, starting at 10am! And ... let’s have some anniversary cake!
Questions about the Vancouver seminar? Contact me!
BTW - Our Vancouver Year-End & 15th Anniversary Dinner for ALL members and instructors (former and current) and your families is scheduled for Friday, December 4th 2009!
Ramblings about martial ART, seminar feedback, exercise variety, Wing Tsun Chi-Sau, teaching skills and learning methods.
This year I had once again the pleasure to work with many of our instructors and students during very intensive and exciting seminars and special topic classes. The questions and the feedback though, reminded me at times of my years of training in Europe. During any given seminar it happened, that my Sifu gave an explanation, showed a drill, demonstrated a exercise followed by one typical result. Afterwards four Wing Tsun practitioners seemed to have six opinions about what they should do! :-) Apparently following the clear guidelines: "I know you believe what you think I said, but I'm not sure that what you heard is what I really meant, compared to what I showed you and you think you saw!"
Exercise #1 - repeat the previous sentence 10 times ... really fast!
OK, seriously. This year now, some of the feedback that came months later, showed me how paramount it is to ask questions immediately. If you worry that a instructor might be offended by your question, then you are in the wrong place. Yes, a martial arts school cannot be a democratic discussion circle. Nevertheless, any good instructor invites his students to ask questions. What follows, what I am writing about here, derives from personal conversations and students who then expressively allowed me to use the material in an open forum.
My answers in the following dialogue may seem to be a bit harsh. However, those who have worked with me, know how often during otherwise serious training we end up laughing with each other. After all, a hobby or profession like Wing Tsun should be fun and yes, at times even entertaining.
1. After a seminar headlining the importance of knockout punches, the need for striking power I was told: "You appeared to demonstrate much more power today than usual. It was quite rough for me." Anybody who knows me is aware of the fact, that our training goes both ways. I always invite people to hit me as hard as they can to the upper body, stomach, even side of the neck. Then I show them what I mean by talking about a deeply rooted yet upright and flexible stance, the difference of a stiff punch that makes you bounce off your training partner and the relaxed (whiplash-like) punching power, which causes you (almost!) to drop on the spot. Nobody has ever been injured in my classes, or takes away lasting pain. You can show the desired effect and everybody is still having fun. But yes, every now and then it has to be a bit rough. Why you ask? HOW could you otherwise ever expect to learn to defend yourself against a violent attack, more so from a person who may not fear getting hurt? I prefer to be the person who gives you a hard time, show you that you still have to train hard as compared to an attacker laughing into your face and then striking you down.
2. After another seminar: "We spent a lot of time on beginners’ exercises. Emmh, maybe too long?" OK, this is human, happened to me too when joining seminars. Although there is a difference between a truly boring seminar and the one where you need to realize, you have to train bloody hard, you have to find out that your skills are not good enough yet. While on the other side, if I would show you all kinds of fancy exercises, it might give you the impression of having advanced extraordinarily. The topic of misjudging the difference between “beginners exercise” and just not having enough basic skills, is relevant in many areas, I often talk to some of my colleagues, to Steve about fitness or to Sebastian about Salsa. In fitness, some clients want to do advanced exercises, yet can't perform the very basics clean and safe. In Salsa some dancers want to show-off, yet can't do basic spins or steps, and end up being out of sync and stepping their dance partner on the toes. Hey, way to go! ... NOT!
3. Insert your favourite here: "We didn't do any Lat-Sau!" "There was no Chi-Sau!" "We didn't do any kicks today!" "We didn't do any punches!" "There was no form training!" Every one of my seminars features a special topic, usually presented in a different way than in our regular group classes. After all, a seminar should be a special event. So, some seminars feature a specific Chi-Sau topic but no Lat-Sau, another seminar is about kicks and counter kicks but no Chi-Sau. As you can imagine, the list could go on. Very clear advice here: Join more seminars and you will eventually get everything. I absolutely dislike seminars that are being directed at pleasing everyone, in a manner of doing a bit of everything, but nothing intense enough, ergo no lasting skill is being created.
4."I am training Wing Tsun for many years! Why did I have to do so many chain punches tonight? My arms fell off!" Well, there you have your answer already. Experience and years of training do not necessarily translate into punching power. My standard response here: "When did you train the last time and ended being on the floor on your knees and arms, sweat dripping on the floor, your wet shirt stuck to your body, sweat running down your legs inside your pants, almost unable to get up????" Sorry, one question mark doesn't do it here. Don’t tell me; Answer yourself and we'll talk again about too many punches (or kicks, or Chi-Sau, or Lat-Sau).
Wise quote: It’s not about when you started your training, it isn't the number of years you have practiced, not even the number of hours you have put into those years; it is solely the intensity and passion you have put into those hours!
4."We did this Blitz-Defense "stuff" today. Wasn't this more for beginners and kind of against many concepts I know in Wing Tsun?" Counter question: Are you a advanced instructor who has been training Wing Tsun an average of 20 to 40 hours a week(!) for the past years? If not, you may not know everything yet about Wing Tsun. I don't want to get into details of, or the history behind Sifu Kernspecht's Blitz-Defense. But it contains very advanced techniques and concepts, for example from the (WingTsun) Biu-Tze form, the wooden dummy form. Unless you have received a lot of lessons in those topics, listen observe and train!
Especially in those programs other questions come up: 5."Why should I withdraw my fist to have more power?" You just punched me and nothing happened. Until the punches can be executed "technically right", you need every help to get at least something out of your punching. Picture reality; Nothing is worse than defending yourself, punching the attacker, but nothing happens; he only gets angry and rips your head off! Sorry, sometimes I have to paint a bloody picture, to get my message across.
5.a"I would rather do a finger strike or a palm strike, why are we supposed to do a hammer fist?" What do you want to do? Tickle the opponent to death with weak finger pokes, or for now withdraw your arm a little bit and achieve at least some impact with a hammer fist?!
Where do those questions come from? Well, first of all, I welcome all questions. Those kind of questions are extremely helpful to clarify misunderstandings. But, YOU have to ask them!!
Let's look at only one exercise in the Wing Tsun system of self-defense: Chi-Sau (or Chi-Sao), often considered the "soul of Wing Tsun" (Wing Chun, Ving Tsun), translated as "sticky hands", or better "sticky arms" or what I prefer "clinging arms". Is it just me? The term "sticky hands" always sounds as if day's training doesn't include the occasional shower.
Most interpretations for Chi-Sau go towards sensitivity drill or tactile sensory exercise. In simpler terms: Our arms learn while establishing contact with (the arms) of the opponent, to feel the direction, speed and even strength of an attack. Well, this should of course not mean, that we go arm hunting, chasing after the other guys arms.
But right now I don't want to go further into what Chi-Sau is or isn't.
How do we train Chi-Sau? Let’s not look at specific techniques, or the various Chi-Sau sections in Wing Tsun. Let's look at very "simple" Poon-Sau. For the brief description of the following exercises I assume that the insider, our students, know what I am writing about.
Chi-Sau exercise block 1: dealing with variations of Distance - training partners train as far apart as possible - Chi-Sau positions in 'regular' distance - as close as possible, while punching out of 2 or 3 inch distance, for example almost collapsed Tan-Sau still protects, etc.
Chi-Sau exercise block 2: dealing with variations of Speed - train as slow as possible, feeling all the muscle connections, improve your posture, work on your core, become aware of joint positions and movements (from toes to fingertips!) - 'regular' speed as practiced most of the time in training - fast, until neither partner has the time to consciously chose their next action
Chi-Sau exercise block 3: dealing with variations of Strength - use barely any strength, employ the lightest touch possible - train with ‘regular’ strength - give each other every ounce of power you can deliver (Bruce Lee’s “bull Chi-sau”)
Why only three examples in each exercises block? Well, they stand for minimum, optimum and maximum setting for the sake of explaining the particular exercise. You can of course vary your speed, the strength and distance in many different ways, also according to size, weight, strength, skill of your training partner. Want to improve? Help and support each other. Talk to each other. Point out problems.
Is all that, the previous exercise recommendations, now traditional or modern, original or ultimate Wing Tsun (Wing Chun, Ving Tsun)? Is it following the right lineage? Is it European or Eastern? Authentic? Dynamic? Advanced?
Not your Tan-Sau of death, nor your Bong-Sau of disaster will help you. Unless your timing is good and you can maintain your balance. Unless your hand and footwork coordination goes along with a good sense for distance. Unless you can combine mobility and fluidity of your actions and you are capable of delivering striking power. Unless you can also take some action! Every martial artist is human. Martial arts are human-made and so open to interpretation, the good and the bad, the excellent and unique and the horrible. It's a martial ART!
Warning! Long sentence! The average talented, medium training time investing, can't go to the office with a black eye, also having other hobbies, Wing Tsun student faces the following situation: He or she would like to be able to shock the opponent out of an element of surprise, having just prior been perceived as a victim, and now strike the attacker into momentary defensive action, only to get as the end-result a chance to run away. How to achieve that? Train under increasing stress. Improve towards a healthy level of confidence. Become aware of your surroundings ... And you will be less likely chosen as a victim. That is a big thing. Now we are getting somewhere.
Wing Tsun Kung Fu is Eastern boxing at its finest and features a variety of training methods, to greatly improve the development of punching technique and striking power.
I have always liked Jack Dempsey's quote from 1950: "To protect yourself with your fists you MUST become a knockout puncher.”
In the end, what is the solution? Dare I say it's simple?! Go to as many classes, seminars, lessons as possible and you will eventually get all facets of this beautiful art, pardon me, Martial Art. Otherwise, you may always get stuck with only parts of a whole.
Epilogue During a large seminar in the early 90's I saw two Wing Tsun practitioners preparing, warming up for their test by going through several Wing Tsun Chi-Sau sections. Arms were flying, punches found their way into every hole in the defenses of the other side, a firework of Fak-Sau's, palm strikes, turning stances, smooth footwork. It looked great, fast and powerful. Many were watching and whispering, nodding their heads in admiration of the skills demonstrated. Soon the grandmaster started to work with the first of those guys. Now it didn't look so good anymore, balance was lost, feet were dragging, stiff arms were trying to hold on to him. What the heck happened? Yes, a skilful instructor who stays on top of his own training can make even a skilled student look bad. However, this wasn't the case. Those two guys had choreographed their actions so wonderfully, that while with each other everything worked. As soon as outside stimulation was not cooperative, their “skills” fell apart; sudden pulling and pushing action broke their balance. There was no real life in their actions, no passion, there was no ART in their martial art.
My short definition for Wing Tsun? - Adaptation to Chaos!
How much fitness and prior martial arts skills are needed to learn Wing Tsun Kung Fu?
"I need to get fit first." or "I need to build up my endurance." This is the first of two very common misconceptions. The second one I have also experienced many times over the years: "I first want to get my black belt in ******** and then I want to learn Wing Tsun for self-defense, or because of the trapping techniques, etc."
What's wrong with the first point (fitness, endurance)?
I do encourage everyone to get or stay fit. I am all for strength training, for doing weights, training with kettlebells especially. Shadowboxing? Working the wall bag? Great! Want to improve your cardio? Want to go jogging? Wonderful!
Yet, Wing Tsun requires a different usage of our muscles. Wing Tsun Chi-Sau for example, as practiced in my schools, creates a workout you absolutely can't get in any gym. Many guys (much stronger than me) have broken down in mere minutes, while we were training interestingly enough very slow and relaxed.
I often talk about having students who are physically much stronger, yet when they punch me, nothing happens. When I, in this case the physically weaker person, punch them only lightly, they fly against the wall or across the room. That's when the head scratching starts. How can there be such a difference between physical strength and what I call Wing Tsun power?! Where does it come from? And yes, I am also aware of the point that I am teaching and training Wing Tsun professionally 5, 6 days a week, which is besides the point, since it doesn't change the stronger-weaker situation.
The difference between being physically strong or having striking power, which can only be achieved through specific Wing Tsun training, makes it senseless to wait with the start of one's Wing Tsun training. It would only be a waste of our time, to wait longer. Our life time is valuable, is something I often hear from people past the age of 40 or even 50, who start training with me. As long as one is around 20'ish, it doesn't seem so bad. Just wait ... :-)
At times people have come back after a period of heavy weight training. Yes, they were stronger, but usually also much stiffer, more tense than ever before. Now they simply had to struggle with a different set of problems. The ones of this group, who actually started their Wing Tsun training sooner or later admitted, that they had missed crucial time and should have started Wing Tsun alongside their fitness training.
Regardless at which fitness or strength level, I use as explanation a particular example. Imagine, visualize a scale. At one end of the scale we work on being strong, yet often end up being stiff and tense. At the other end of this scale we try to relax, yet mostly end up being (relatively) weak or brittle. Now, we want to take the strength, leaving "stiff" and "tense" behind. From the other end we take relaxation, leaving "weak" and "brittle" behind. The right Wing Tsun training will enable us at our individual center of the scale, to meld strength and relaxation and learn to form Wing Tsun power! Wing Tsun power is the result of using all muscle groups from fingers to toes in a fluid and elastic application, sometimes also described as whiplash-like power.
Does this example make sense to you?
Now, what about the second point: "I first want to get my black belt in ******** and then I want to learn Wing Tsun for self-defense, or because of the trapping techniques, etc."
The ideas behind Wing Tsun, the goals of a usable self-defense system are so different, yet often get mixed up through false perception due to movies, false marketing of martial arts schools etc., so that I wrote a whole book on that topic: "The Reality of Self-Defense! What martial arts schools won't tell you." Click here for reviews!
Many people have come back after having learned another martial art, only to realize that it was now even more difficult to learn Wing Tsun. Their responses had been pre-set, their thinking had changed. It would have been easier to start as beginner, as opposed to now first having to "empty the cup" and starting over.
If somebody has enough time and resources to train more than one martial art, OK, why not. But to learn Wing Tsun it is absolutely counter productive, to learn another martial art first. Wing Tsun is not a add-on.
The Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver 2009 Summer Seminar!
"To protect yourself with your fists you MUST become a knockout puncher.”
Our 2009 Summer Seminar is ahead of us. A full day (6-hour) special topic seminar hosted at the Golden Monkey Martial Arts Club in Burnaby, BC.
He was called the "Manassa Mauler". On Wikipedia you can read: "Dempsey's aggressive style and punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history." Here is a quote from Jack Dempsey's 1950 book "Championship FIGHTING - Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense":
"It's strange but true that certain FUNDAMENTAL MOVEMENTS SEEM UNNATURAL to the beginner in nearly every activity requiring close coordination between body and mind. Fist-fighting is no exception. Some of the fundamentals moves seem awkwardly unnatural when first tried. That's particularly true of the movements in explosive long range straight punching, the basic weapon in fist-fighting or boxing.
"In fighting, as many other activities, it is "natural" for beginners to do the wrong thing. It's natural for him to swing rather than punch straight. It is natural for him to hit with the wrong knuckles of his fist. It's natural for him to use leg-tangling footwork, etc. Let's examine again that you will feel very awkward when you first try the moves in long-ranging punching. I stress that awkwardness for two reasons: 1) so that you don’t figure you're a hopeless palooka. and 2) so that you won't pay attention to wisecracks of friends or sideline experts who watch your early flounderings. Remember: He who laughs last hits hardest.”
Sounds all too familiar? Let's have a great seminar and improve our Eastern boxing, Wing Tsun Kung Fu.
Persist in your training and the rewards will come!