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ralph haenel, hänelwingtsun, wing tsun kung fu instructor, author, publisher, self-defense expert Sifu Ralph Haenel, learning and teaching Wing Tsun Kung Fu since 1984
Changing lives, one punch at a time.
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Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver Blog
Thursday, 28 April 2011

Seven overlooked points to improve your Wing Tsun (martial arts) training

How is your Impact Capability? Three scenarios will show!

Once again, it was time to pack up and visit Vancouver Island at the invitation of Sihing Anselm Meyer, the local instructor at Wing Tsun Victoria. This time I was accompanied by Sihing Philip Lee of the Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver trainer team. Helpful as always, Sifu Gary Kaiser picked us up on the other side. The seminar host, Ray Van Raamsdonk greeted us at the new location of his Wing Chun Victoria school. A very friendly man with decades of experience, always curious about different interpretations of the art of Wing Tsun / Wing Chun / Ving Tsun. Sifu German Ferrer of Wing Tsun Calgary maintains his unbroken record of flying out to attend each seminar here in BC. The Wing Tsun Victoria seminar also received guests of other Kung Fu and Eskrima schools.

Seminar at Ray Van Raamsdonk's Wing Chun Victoria school on Vancouver Island, BC


I enjoy focusing every seminar under the umbrella of a specific topic. What I care about is generating ideas to positively change one’s training, regardless of the style. Instilling ideas of how to review and improve your performance.

A fight can be visualized like a car crash. Now, who will survive the head-on collision? The driver of a car is typically protected by many safety features like bumper, crumble zone, collapsible steering wheel, an army of airbags, seat belt, the car body itself, OnStar system and possibly more.

So, how are we now protected through our martial arts training? How many safety features do have in place? What is out Impact Capability? How do we prevent or ‘soften’ the impact of a vicious attack? How do deal with the variables?

Questions over questions (Questions often bring more questions). The following is just a quick recap of the seminar, the theoretical backbone. I will try to keep it brief. The points mentioned, do not form an exhaustive list. The topic itself could be extended into many directions. We had, after all, only four hours time.
Many examples, which I demonstrated, can’t be fully explained in this limited medium. I try to keep my blog posts under three (Word file) pages. ;-)
Some points may only become truly understood if you attended the seminar.

To start it off, via several exercises we began to explore how difficult it is, to make mistakes. Yes, you read it right! We are often too busy doing things right, as opposed to exploring the wrongs. We oppose even the training partner, we try get it right, to copy the perfect execution of a technique, a drill. We want to rush to the "end product." I always reenforce the point that the attacker is the only one, who knows what’s going on. So, let us be a part of it, work “with him”. Encountering the true meaning of yin and yang. Blocking, stopping, opposing, saying NO is easy. It’s quite difficult having to learn to say YES! To let the attacker seemingly succeed, only to turn it around by using his force, technique, the direction and speed of his attack.

Point 1 – Trademark
What separates a talented martial artist from a good technician, his trademark so to say, is the instant and continuous coordination of hand and footwork. Including, the ideas behind the falling and rising step.
We also touched upon the difference between arm movement in front of the body, and body movement behind the arm.

Point 2 - Rhythm
Have your own rhythm, destroy the other person’s rhythm. Ensure that they can’t enforce their rhythm on you. You must determine the rhythm (like a good drummer carries the foundation of a band’s performance) .

Point 3 - Structure
Anything we do must affect the structure of the other person! If he is temporarily busy maintaining balance, attempting to fend you off, trying not to get hit, then there is your chance.

During any Open House event, I typically describe the ideal scenario. We want to take away from the opponent:
- time during which the attacker can act, and the
- space in which he can operate, and the
- opportunity to do anything.

Which means:
1. We need to launch aggressively into the onset of the first attack,
2. disable time, space, opportunity for a successful second attack
3. drive the opponent into temporary defensive actions.

Point 4 – Power / Power Scale
Naturally, none of it really matters unless we have striking power. If we can’t deliver knockout power, it should at least be enough to shock the attacker for the moment.
Remember; attackers choose victims, not opponents.

I introduced the idea of the Power Scale, which in itself will be part of an upcoming blog post. Our aggressive attacks should perform according to the following guidelines:
- don’t just strike against the arms (and get stuck, start ‘wrestling’),
- don’t just try to push past the arms (forgetting to punch),
- no lifting above or under the arms (no exchange of punches),
- our intend is to go with our actions towards and past the axis, while possibly making contact with the arms.
Reading this particular point again, I can see, how easily the written word can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Practical demonstration and hands-on training is paramount.

Point 5 - Angles
The attacks towards the assailant have to cover the angles of the majority of possible incoming attacks.
Over time, we learn to employ the ideas of the horizontal and vertical wedge, deriving from the concepts of the second and third Wing Tsun form.

As example, I was using the Bong-Sau and Tan-Sau techniques and their progression throughout Siu-Nim-Tau, Cham-Kiu to Biu-Tze. This can be shown in Chi-Sau and (Wing Tsun) Lat-Sau.

The Dan-Chi-Sau and Chi-Sau exercises are featuring ideal contact constellations for developing positions, angles and eventually movement pattern.

Point 6 – Fluidity & Flexibility
We worked on ideas like ‘Folding’, for example the movement of the elbow past the wrist position, inside and outside. Something my Sifu, Keith Kernspecht, is doing for a long time.
Imagine your arm joints as three weights or cannonballs (wrist, elbow, shoulder). If any part is stopped or blocked, the rest is still moving and even accelerating.

Every Wing Tsun movement has to be continuous and multi-directional, for which Bong-Sau, Tan-Sau, Jum-Sau, Jut-Sau and so on are only (important) fragments of your movements. Just like the single frames of a high speed car chase in a movie. The frames are important, but in the end, the single frames make up the movie. Pay attention to your technique, but don’t get stuck in “single frames.”

As examples I typically use free applications out of the forms, also to showcase the wonderful blueprint the Wing Tsun forms present.
1, response with elements of Siu-Nim-Tau
2. response with elements of Cham-Kiu
3. response with elements of Biu-Tze

Point 7 - Footwork
Coming from point 1 once more back to the extreme importance of our Footwork. Our steps should move us
- not just closer to the attacker,
- not just establish contact (leg against leg, shin to shin), but
- attack the opponents stance, attack his balance, shift his attention from upper to lower body, while you coordinate your attacks on both levels.

In the end, there are only three scenarios that make your successful defense in a real-life scenario count:

1. Can you with your counter shock the attacker, thus temporarily stop his attacks, and now have the chance to run away?
2. Can you attack the attacker so drastically, that he is losing his balance, stopped his attack and is forced into defensive actions? Now get away before it escalates again!
3. Can you knock him out?

Anything else, … forget about it. The mugger is not afraid of seriously injuring you, he is not afraid of getting hurt. He may not care about his defense. He is violent. He is enjoying the fight. There is no fairness. Nobody cares if what you did is authentic, original, traditional, modified, from the right lineage, … you get idea.

So, how is your Impact Capability? Make sure that your defensive “shields” hold! Learn to fire while defending? Don’t get shot down while firing!

Have fun and train hard!

Posted by ralph haenel at 1:20 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 29 April 2011 11:55 PM PDT
Monday, 11 April 2011

The Yip Man effect: Wing Tsun / Wing Chun flying around the world!

We have watched Nicolas Cage ‘teaching’ Wing Chun in the movie “Bangkok Dangerous.” The “Iron Man” Robert Downey Jr. got to sit on the couch and talked to Oprah about Wing Chun. He also told David Letterman on the Late Show about how deeply he is committed to his Wing Chun training. Eventually Robert Downey Jr. incorporated his Wing Chun lessons in the 2009 remake of "Sherlock Holmes."

The highpoint of cinematic exposure was reached by several movies about the life of Bruce Lee’s teacher, Ip (Yip) Man.



Now Rose Chan is the face of the Hongkong Airlines commercial. She also played the part of Lee Mei-Wai in the movie "The Legend Is Born - Ip Man."
Since I first posted the clip on March 17th 2001 on our Facebook site, questions came in as to who she is. Rose is the student of Wing Chun Sifu Sin Kwok Lam (also the producer of the Yip Man - Legend is Born). Sin Kwok Lam is a student of Yip Chun (Yip Man's eldest son).
According to a recent article in the Sing Tao Daily News, Rose Chan indeed trained 10 cabin crew members of Hongkong Airlines.
(Thanks to Tony Leung for the info.) 

Tired of your instructor’s old mug? Click here to watch Rose Chan teaching a bit of the first form of Wing Chun Kung Fu, the Siu-Nim-Tau form*.

* Not an actual recommendation. Consult your local qualified Wing Tsun / Wing Chun / Ving Tsun instructor!

Posted by ralph haenel at 12:06 PM PDT
Updated: Monday, 11 April 2011 6:00 PM PDT
Saturday, 9 April 2011

"Craft, Cooking, and Kung Fu" by Adrian Law

Adrian in action at a Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, BC seminar - www.wingtsunkungfu.com
There is nothing mystical about the art of Wing Tsun Kung Fu. There is no hidden, secret knowledge or special, unseen, mysterious powers. It simply is what it is: Kung Fu – a craft or skill where anyone can learn the basic, improve slowly over time, and with enough effort, practice, and a little personality, learn to master it one day.

I personally compare it to cooking but I’m sure everyone has their own comparison. I heard someone once describe the four phases of learning a craft; one goes through:

1.  Unconscious incompetence – one starts out not knowing that they don’t know
2.  Conscious incompetence – slowly they learn the basics but make
valuable mistakes—mistakes that you want to make so that you know not to make them
3.  Conscious competence – one has to work hard and focus to avoid mistakes and start getting good
4.  Unconscious competence – mastery, one can perform their craft effortlessly

I guess most people drop out at the first phase when they learn that whatever “it” is, is going to take a long time to learn. In the cooking world, this is where newcomers would say: “Arrgh, cooking is too hard. Time to get some take out…” Phase 2 and 3 are probably the most frustrating, probably because it takes the most time, effort, and real dedication to understand the basics, practice them again and again, and then work on the details to get good. Once again, in the cooking world, an apprentice learns to cut an onion and starts slowly with the basic knife cuts. Then as he or she gets used to the motions, they learn more details: why it’s important to make uniform and even cuts, the names of the different cuts, the importance of trimming the root, peeling, ways to cut faster, cleaner, more efficiently, etc.

The cooking world (and the Wing Tsun world I’m learning) is all about repetition. Hours upon hours are spent doing the same menial tasks again and again and again. Hours spent peeling potatoes, making sauces, or breaking down a whole duck. I’ve learnt from cooking, that the key is actually doing the task physically. Sounds obvious but knowing how to do something intellectually is not enough, one has to actually do it! This is easier said then done because most people think: “I already know how to make a soup, let’s move on.” I’ve seen lots of chefs who claim that they know to fillet a whole salmon, but when you give them the nicest looking fish and watch them do it, they fail immediately or have the most horrible technique. I’ve learnt it’s better to say: “I don’t know, please show me” than have an epic fail.

Even extremely talented master chefs will shut up and watch someone else show them how to fillet a fish, because they know there’s always a better way to do something. I’ve always thought that humility and craftsmanship going hand in hand; that good craftsmanship fosters humility and humility fosters good craftsmanship. Phase 4 is obviously the most satisfying, one I’d like to experience one day. I envision this is where one can incorporate their own personal touch in addition to the fundamentals of their craft to take it to a new level, improve it, and be part of the living art. I’ve seen some chefs juggle multiple tasks while making multiple dishes: cooking vegetables, making a stew, braising veal, simmering a stock, stirring a sauce, with the phone on one ear, and talking to the Maitre’d at the same time, all without breaking a sweat and everything tastes amazing!

That’s mastery—when their body has change, when their fingers can feel the difference in quality; when the details of their craft are fused directly into all their senses, they’ve gotten used to the repetitions of the fundamentals so well that they can execute without even thinking and without effort. This is where I want to be—to have good kung fu.

Posted by ralph haenel at 8:57 AM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 9 April 2011 3:44 PM PDT
Monday, 21 March 2011

Setting foot for the first time into a martial arts school?
Tough time, trying to make it back to classes after a break? 

Tips and lessons learned from Grumpy George and others!

Time and again trainers eventually hear the following from interested people who are thinking of coming to an open house: 

- I was intimidated coming into the school.
- I had this picture of a bunch of sweaty tough guys looking down on me.
- I came, had a quick look from the outside and kept walking.
- I didn't know what to expect. 

Also from former members, who had to pause their training and after a break were trying to restart their training: 

- The break I took was too long. I thought it's too late to start training again.
- I thought everybody will look at me and ask where I have been.
- I thought people will talk about why I have been absent.
- I thought it's too late to catch up with my class mates. 

All those thoughts are more than common. It is normal! You are not alone. Just read what a few of our members went through.

from left to right Todd, Sifu Ralph, Adrian at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, the first Canadian Wing Tsun branch, www.wingtsunkungfu.com


Motivating oneself to coming to the open house.
I too came to the open house in 2003 and walked past, almost turning around to go home! I hadn't taken any martial arts before and was intimidated. But without knowing it at the time, I had followed the first WT principle: go forward! I didn't like the idea of shying away from something unknown because I was always a timid youth growing up and had resolved to turn my behaviour around. 

The lesson I learnt and would advise others: it’s almost always better to do something you're thinking about than not doing it, even if its the wrong decision. At the very worst outcome, you will have wasted some time and effort but at least found out that WT (or what ever the thing is) is not for you.
But the very best outcome is that you will gained something valuable for the rest of your life and can be proud that you've overcome an uncertain obstacle (meeting new people/strange environment).

As for restarting one's training, motivation is crucial again because its so easy to think: "I've been out of it so long, what's the point" or "I can train at home" or "I will go next week". I think what motivated me is just making the effort to show up for just one class.
The energy from class is intoxicating (thanks to you Sifu) and you know you cannot recreate it at home. Furthermore, seeing you--Sifu and others like Tony, Edmund, Sebastian, Philip, Sia, Rob and the rest of the trainer team move with such fluid power really makes me want to be part of it. Essentially, the environment of my WT "family" motivated me to come back, because everyone is working towards being really good. And knowing that you have the "seed" of skill planted, however small and long ago, that can be developed into something great is better that knowing that it will die and goes to waste. So, that's my motivation for coming back--seeing a potential come to fruition. That and the jealousy that Tony is so good now :) Hope my ideas are helpful, Adrian

First I did not know what to expect. I knew only a little about Wing Tsun. The experience of 15 years in Olympic wrestling in Europe, some years in boxing, plus Aikido in North America shaped my approach to martial arts. When I started Wing Tsun Kung Fu classes under Sifu Ralph, that changed everything. So, here I am, changing for the better, enjoying myself, working hard, having a good time with a group of nice guys. That is all folks.
Grumpy George

In my opinion - if somebody wants to come, he doesn't look for reasons as to why not, but for reasons as to why yes. Of course, everybody needs sometimes somebody who pushes him to make the right decision. I say it this way - WT is a very intelligent and effective martial art for every man or woman. I advise it for everyone.

from left to right: Jan, Sifu Ralph, Grumpy George at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, the first Canadian Wing Tsun branch, www.wingtsunkungfu.com


Having experienced walking into Wing Tsun for the first time with no previous formal martial arts training I can tell you it is a bit of an uneasy feeling.....

One of the things that really made the difference for me very quickly in deciding if Wing Tsun, or this particular class was the one for me was being engaged by some of Sifu Ralph's students right away. 

I think If I would have walked into a class where people were beating each other into a pulp and had a bunch of tough guy jerks I would have turned around and left right away.... 

It was the other students that had come before me that took the time and energy to make me feel at home ... like I could be a part of this and all I had to do was show up...... 

Having experienced walking away from my training for a little while I have also experienced the regret of missing out.
I personally had other commitments that I needed to attend to for a period of time but when I returned....

There was Sifu Ralph with a big hand shake and then slapping a hug on me as if to say welcome home brother....

I can live in regret for stopping, I can live in regret for not starting this wonderful art years earlier but I choose to bring humility and an open mind to learn From EVERYONE in our classes because the energy we co-create is the heart of Martial Arts for me..... 

For anyone looking to try it out or anyone feeling poorly because they stopped practicing.... 
The door is always open to all comers and there is a place for you because there was a place for me and those who came before me....

After being away from Wing Tsun class for two years, I wasn't sure how much my skills would have deteriorated. I remembered sometimes missing classes for just a few weeks and finding that I definitely felt 'rusty' when I finally got back -- what would it be like to start again after two years? I knew my those who were at my level when I left had been training hard every week for that whole time. It even crossed my mind to ask my Si-Fu if I should start from the beginning again (level zero) and earn my way anew through all the student levels. I didn't ask, though; I figured I would see how it went against my old training partners first.

When I did, there were definitely layers of rust to clear away. My reactions were slow, stiff and lacked all power. But the miracle was, beneath the rust there was still a fully functioning 'machine' (set of reactions); what's more, the rust was gone within just a few weeks. It seems the muscle memory was there all along. It was a great endorsement of Wing Tsun training's focus on details and body mechanics -- in short, real motor skill development as opposed to 'techniques.' While my brain had forgotten volumes of detail, my body remembered.
Did you read the first part of this series of two posts? Please go to Are you a “dream ranger”? Or do you at times submit to the dark side? Watch the video and also read tips from Helen about starting your martial arts training and from Mike about returning to classes.

Posted by ralph haenel at 4:02 PM PDT
Updated: Monday, 21 March 2011 4:36 PM PDT
Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Lightning fast, the secrets of Kung Fu! What did Carl Douglas and George Harrison have in common?

Carl Douglas, Kung Fu Fighting, in German Bravo magazine, cover
As you can possibly imagine; today’s post is a bit on the lighter side of martial arts life. The eBay explanation to the cover of an old German music magazine told me: “Carl Douglas – Everything about Kung Fu!” Naturally, I had to have it.
By the way - At the end of the post, I will describe a totally deadly Kung Fu technique!

So, Carl was quite the one-hit wonder in 1974 with “Kung Fu fighting.” In the German charts #1, ahead of Sweet (#3 and #17), David Cassidy, Suzi Quatro, George McCrae, Slade and others. John Lennon made it in December of 1974 from #19 only to spot #7, Neil Diamond #20. The British charts featured David Essex on top. Number one in America was Billy Swan.
Sorry I can’t help it, it’s so cheesy; for the Germans here the #2 after Carl Douglas, Michael Holm.

So much for a tidbit of music history. Back to Kung Fu fighting.

There it is, finally on page 44 of the magazine: “Everything about Kung Fu” I knew it, finally I will know it all. But first a lot of “Kung Fu”, hard work, training my iron grip by having to go through the previous 43 pages in search for the ultimate Kung Fu secrets. Carl makes it difficult. Many probably gave up somewhere between the pages 20 to 30. Not me!

Now, the all-revealing text begins! Carl Douglas in 1974:
“My song ‘Kung Fu fighting’ is on millions of turntables. Since then do I, the founder of ‘Karate-Rock,’ live a life of danger. I didn’t know, but in the eyes of many traditional Chinese have I committed a dangerous sin: I have made the secret art of Kung Fu public and by doing so became a traitor on Chinese tradition. Until recently Kung Fu, the weaponless art of self-defense, was completely unknown, compared to Japanese Karate and Korean Taekwondo. No wonder that a martial art like Kung Fu, which is the perfect blend of mind and body and on top also develops character, was only shown to family clan members. ... Kung Fu consists of six different styles, based on the movements of animals. That’s the reason for the names of the techniques: Tiger, Praying Mantis, Snake, Horse, Monkey and Crane style. Each style features 4000 to 5000 stances, out of which you defend yourself against attacks. All movements are designed to work very quickly with the least amount of strength, targeting nerves and other sensitive areas of the human body. Many parts of the body can turn into absolutely deadly weapons, but of course only in an emergency. Your Kung Fu should follow ancient guidelines like:
1. Avoid an attack instead of hurting the opponent.
2. Hurt the opponent instead of injuring him.
3. Injure the attacker instead of killing him.
4. Kill only if you otherwise would get killed.“

And it continues. Carl Douglas: “Now you want to know if since the record has been released, I live in fear of revenge from Kung Fu fanatics? No, I don’t! Years ago, George Harrison disgraced East Indian heritage by using the holy sitar in his and the music of The Beatles. The prophecies predicted dark setbacks, but George is still alive (1974).”

So, Carl was the original traitor. Now we finally know. Wasn’t there somebody else? Bruce ... something? Oh well, can’t remember. Whoever this Bruce guy was, he might have had nothing to do with real Kung Fu, unlike Carl.

Tonight we will train in class the secret Kung Fu, as shown on page 45 of the magazine. The attacker kicks, you quickly duck to the ground, completely naturally jump up under the kick in progress, and simply throw the attacker to the ground. Then you are absolutely safe while standing between the legs of the former kicker, now able to hit him where the sun doesn’t shine.

Any last words?

Everybody was kung-fu fighting
Those cats were fast as lightning
In fact it was a little bit frightening
But they fought with expert timing 


Carl Douglas, Kung Fu Fighting, in German Bravo magazine, page 44Carl Douglas, Kung Fu Fighting, in German Bravo magazine, page 45


Posted by ralph haenel at 5:36 PM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 17 March 2011 8:34 AM PDT
Monday, 28 February 2011

Are you a “dream ranger”? Or do you at times submit to the dark side?

My thoughts for this post came from very different experiences in the virtual and the real world.  Within a short period of time, I came across completely different ends of the spectrum, the positive and negative, the yin and yang of human expression.

Recently I ended up giving way to some gossip, meaning I read comments on YouTube. In my personal opinion, YouTube clips have portrayed great people looking not so good, and seriously flawed performances looking pretty good due, for example, to the video frame rate. However, the comments typically steal the show. I have always said that there is unfortunately more politics in martial arts than in politics. But, there is also increasingly more blind fanaticism in all martial arts, just as in other areas of life. With the anonymity of the Internet, it has become so easy for “keyboard warriors” to express their often strange opinions. One gets the distinct impression that professional jealousy, pure hatred and complete inability to respect other people’s work would be an endless source of income for psychiatrists. Real or assumed martial arts skills and boundless ego is not a lethal but rather dumb combination, a fountain of personality disorders.

It all leads me to another observation. Many people don’t seem to get, that the studying of martial arts is the careful building of skills and knowledge, not the collection of data, techniques, or number of more or less instructional videos watched. Many seem to mix up quality and quantity of information. There is more knowledge than ever accessible, yet it doesn’t necessarily lead to more creativity, dynamic learning and innovation. Information is more ‘scanned’ than acquired. Clicking replaces thinking.

So, when now does this post lead into a positive direction? Let’s go from the virtual world into the real world. Any instructor and student is capable of forming and influencing their environment, making encouraging contributions that motivate everyone.

Recently I noticed how many students have returned to classes, after having been away for only several weeks or even after a break of a number of years due to work and family commitments.

That’s what it is all about. Studying and training in a supportive class setting. Not giving up on your dreams. Showing persistence and patience. It doesn’t matter if you start something new, or if you get back to follow your Kung Fu journey. Dream and do something about it!

Before I conclude today’s post with the link to a videoclip that in part motivated these thoughts, I want you to read a few lines from our students. More is coming up during the next days ...

Helen, Natalia, Sifu Ralph Haenel, Melissa at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, the first Canadian Wing Tsun branch, www.wingtsunkungfu.com

Starting something new is always hard, especially when there are people in the class at different experience levels. I felt at my first class that no one would want to partner the "new person". After my first few training partners however and my first few lessons, everyone was so friendly and patient I no longer had this feeling. One of my training partners said "we work together as a class here, we help each other get better" and a few others said that helping teach a newer person actually helped them fine tune their own skills. All the students and Sifu Ralph Haenel have created a very supportive and fun learning environment for me.

Rob G., Sia, Sifu Ralph Haenel, Nilo, Gary H., Mike at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, the first Canadian Wing Tsun branch, www.wingtsunkungfu.com

Sometimes even dedicated students must (reluctantly) take a break from Wing Tsun group classes.  Life throws ‘curve balls’ at us when we least expect it.  A new addition to the family, the loss of a loved one or close friend, or maybe a serious illness in the family.  I have experienced my share.  How about demanding new job, or a job layoff?  That’s often the predicament, isn’t it?  We either have time but no money, or we have money but no time.

With all of life’s challenges, how can we continue with a hobby that brings us fullfillment?  The answer is that these interruptions do not matter over a long period of time.  The key is to resume class attendance as soon as it becomes possible.  "But it's been many months or even years", you say.  "I won't know the students in class, it just won't be the same anymore".  Take a look at this photo.  Recognize anyone?  Every student you see in the photo has returned to class after being away for extended periods, sometimes years.  The old-timers are making a comeback and having fun together again.  Come and join us!

Reading the first two postings also reveals how a instructor is being motivated!

Now, the video. First, I saw the following videoclip posted by Alex Richter, a talented Wing Tsun instructor from New York. I showed it to a few people and all of them said: “Gosh damn it, this makes you (almost) cry!” And yes, it is a bank commercial.

So, how about that video, are you a “dream ranger”?

Click here to read the second part of this series of two posts. Read what Todd and Adrian, Jan, George and Rob have to say about starting your martial arts training and about returning to classes after a break.

The title of part 2 of 2 is:
Setting foot for the first time into a martial arts school?
Tough time, trying to make it back to classes after a break?
Tips and lessons learned from Grumpy George and others!

Posted by ralph haenel at 11:02 AM PST
Updated: Monday, 21 March 2011 4:59 PM PDT
Tuesday, 16 November 2010

I have been bad, very bad ... the secret life of a martial arts instructor.

Most martial arts students think of their instructors as those 365/24/7 committed people, who get up at 4am in the morning, train for two hours, teach punches and kicks all day long, do their evening classes with yet another burst of super-power martial arts energy, all topped up with some relaxing form training, before going to bed and sleeping for four hours, during which they are naturally at any given moment ready to come within 0.6 seconds out of the deepest sleep phase and chain-punch bad guys to oblivion, delivering 120 punches in 16 seconds, also using their autopilot guided instinctive reflexes.

Well, I am so sorry that I have to disappoint you. Despite all proof to the contrary, martial arts instructors are also just humans. And as all other humans, they like to be lazy every now and then. They just don’t like to talk about it, since many want to be this untouchable example of dedication to their admiring students.

On the other hand who doesn’t like to talk about their heroic achievements every now and then. Remember those Grandpa stories? “When I was young, I had to go to school without shoes, in the snow, uphill, against the wind, twenty miles to the next village.” ... and so the story goes.

There is always a little bit of truth behind it. My Great Grandma started to work in 1894 at the age of 14, six and a half days a week, working an average of sixteen hours a day.

Tino and me, twenty years ago at the Italian Wing Tsun headquarters in Livorno, TuscanyBack to martial arts. In 1990, I was still working in a 3-shift job. Monday and Wednesday evenings, I taught classes in my own Wing Tsun School. Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I learned in the school of my WingTsun teacher. During rare days off, I either took private lessons from my instructor or gave private lessons to my students. Friday afternoons I often left with one of my students, Tino, driving more than 700 kilometres to the Wing Tsun castle for a weekend seminar held by my Sifu or Sigung.

During vacations we drove to Italy, no, not just for fun, to join the annual WingTsun summer seminar in Livorno. When I visited Copenhagen in Denmark, it was due to a seminar by my Sifu. Met great people there, Sifus Lars Lind, Allen Jensen, Henning Daverne and others, a very hospitable bunch of WT instructors.

But as I said initially, I was at times, or we were very, very bad. There was this one evening after a long day of working, early nightfall, snow in Berlin, which caused big chaos on the streets. So, we took the underground train (U-Bahn) and went to our instructor’s school. Many old apartment buildings have backyards which lead to the next apartment building, the next backyard, and so on. His WT School was located at the back of one of those old buildings. You could sneak up, look through a broken window and see who was teaching. That very evening we saw that our instructor wasn’t there, a assistant was leading the class. So, we left, went to a great restaurant and had a fabulous dinner.

Another time, we had driven for hours at 200+ km/h on the Autobahn, arrived in Heidelberg, checked into a hotel, were all ready to go to the evening Wing Tsun session at the Langenzell castle, but something went wrong ... No, not really. Our prebooked room at the hotel was taken, so we got an upgrade, access to the pool and a complementary dinner in the fancy hotel restaurant. As you might have guessed, the evening training went ahead without us.

So, two bad examples opposite of years of driving across Europe to seminars, spending just about every day off and every single vacation in Wing Tsun classes and seminars. Visiting the schools of Sifus Thomas Roggenkamp, Hans-Peter Edel, Frank Ringeisen, Thomas Mannes, Christoph Gefeke and others.  Okay, we weren’t really that bad but nonetheless there was a break in our commitment and that was only natural.

It is OK to be lazy every now and then, even to take a short time-out.

German and I posing after a intensive 6-hour seminar in Vancouver, www.wingtsunkungfu.comWhile working on motivating many at Wing Tsun Vancouver, Wing Tsun Victoria and even Wing Tsun Calgary regarding our upcoming year-end seminar in Vancouver I experienced one of the best examples of commitment.

I just received an e-mail from German Ferrer, the Sifu of the Calgary Wing Tsun school. Several days ago he e-mailed me, that he can't make it to our seminar, that he has a business trip planned to Edmonton, a business meeting in Calgary, and also the company’s Christmas party on Saturday. I had also just given a seminar in Calgary.  Understandable that he should be unable to attend, right?

Well, a few minutes ago he e-mailed me that he changed all plans, booked a flight and is coming early Saturday morning into Vancouver for the seminar.

Now that's commitment!

His only comment: “I want to keep my perfect record of attending the Vancouver seminars.”

Evan and I posing after the 2010 Winter seminar in Calgary, www.wingtsunkungfu.comUPDATE (Nov 18th): Yet another committed Wing Tsun practitioner in Calgary is coming to Vancouver. He called all the other residents at the hospital, at which he is working, arranged to have his shift covered, booked a flight and will be here for the year-end 'Knockout' Seminar.

And yes, Evan also took time off and attended the very recent seminar in Calgary. Did you read his seminar review? Click here

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Posted by ralph haenel at 12:56 PM PST
Updated: Thursday, 18 November 2010 2:06 PM PST
Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Punchers Are Made; Not Born - instruction must be systematic and scientific in order to develop an effective fighter.

Sifu Ralph Haenel of Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver, BC and Mike G. who just received his 12th SG Wing TsunIt is always a highlight for me as well, if one of the members of our Wing Tsun Kung Fu schools celebrates a personal achievement. Mike started his Wing Tsun training in 1999. Family and job commitments required him every now and then to pause his training for several months at a time. Did he give up? No, absolutely not. He always came back and restarted his training. His commitment, his very analytical and practical approach has its roots in his early boxing days in the 1970's.
To quote Mike after a recent intensive seminar: "Always rewarding when a newcomer “lights up” when they learn how to hit harder and commit to their punches.  This is not the first time I find that students with little experience CAN tremendously improve their structure, upper & lower body movement integration, and power delivery – all in one session!  Especially if they are encouraged to turn it loose.  Great to see."
Instead of working just on his own progress, Mike has always been committed to support others in their training. Some might underestimate him, he is also used to take strikes and even if he rarely shows it, he can deliver very hard punches. After all, as we always say, there are certain similarities between Eastern and Western boxing.
Going towards the last student grade in Wing Tsun Kung Fu, I have been observing Mike for the past 3 months. I teamed him up with certain training partners, watched his performance during particular exercises. As for the theoretical part: He e-mailed me over the years numerous times his feedback, his annotations and has often talked about the parallels between Chinese Wing Tsun and Western boxing.
He worked his way through Jack Dempsey's 1950 book "Championship Fighting - Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense" and added notes throughout the book to similarities as well as particulars to Wing Tsun and Western boxing. His paper examined Jack Dempsey's fighting principles as they relate to Wing Tsun Kung Fu.
Very interesting!
During a recent intensive Wing Tsun seminar in October of 2010 on Vancouver Island, Mike successfully passed the 12th Student Grade of Wing Tsun Kung Fu.
Congratulations to Mike on his amazing accomplishment!
A little bit, it reminds me of a moment about 18 years ago. I had just received my first Technician Grade (instructor) certificate from my Sifu, Keith Kernspecht. All the students and assistant trainers were standing and applauding, and my Sifu whispered in my ear" "Now you are ready to learn Wing Tsun!"
To new beginnings! To turning into a knockout-puncher and discovering the martial ART of Wing Tsun!

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Posted by ralph haenel at 1:43 PM PDT
Updated: Wednesday, 3 November 2010 1:50 PM PDT
Tuesday, 12 October 2010

More than 28 tips on how to be a better (Wing Tsun Kung Fu) trainer!

Is there anything a trainer can’t do?

Helen Stortini, I know Kung Fu - Roadshow stop: Kung Fu Instructor at http://unemploymentroadshow.com/2010/01/15/i-know-kung-fu/Over the years, I have talked to many instructors of different martial arts, also to fitness trainers and dance teachers. Whenever it comes to a general description of the job, many smile and explain it half joking and half serious as kind of a mix of being a teacher, good technician, psychologist, marketing expert, educator, even comedian, store manager, fighter, motivator, entertainer, showman, collection agent, and then some. All that mentioned in no particular order, I might add. Let’s not forget, in today’s world the instructor also needs to be a social media wizard. Do you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn?

photo: Helen Stortini from UnemploymentRoadShow.com at Wing Tsun Kung Fu Vancouver. Click here to read her story: "I know Kung Fu!"

While working in Wing Tsun classes on becoming a better instructor, the following pointers might help you to take a step back and review your own performance. After all, you teach the student to get better, which should also mean that you personally improve with each teaching experience!

Let’s assume, for our example here, the instructor gets in front of the class and starts to teach the form training. He is teaching the Siu-Nim-Tau, the first form of the Wing Tsun Kung Fu system.

Which pointers could improve, how we help the student to make progress, to understand the exercise, to get ideas for their home training?

- As instructor, one should look around and find out who is new in class.
- If you don’t know their names, ask and address the student by name.
- Ensure that everyone is facing the mirror, even senior members.
- Don’t just stand in front of the class, explain what they are working on right now, get out of your stance and walk around to help.
- Check where you need to correct a movement.

- Observe who may still be stuck in a previous part of the exercise or didn’t quite grasp the next step.
- Make eye contact.
- Does your explanation need clarity? Can you find better or more relevant examples to explain a movement, a technique?
- Further a better understanding of the purpose of the form, while opening eyes to finer details.
- Create points of reference, “bookmarks” if you will, to ease navigation through the form, which to the beginner may seem like a jungle of a thousand techniques.

- Don’t forget, you are able to start the form from beginning to end, show it backwards, or jump at the snap of the finger into each part of the form, you know all the benefits, you are well versed in the applications, know how to breath, which muscles to feel. But, a beginner or at times even a intermediate learner will get lost.
- In which direction are you speaking? Maybe the people in front of you can hear you, but what about the person to the very left or right?
- How is your pronunciation? Does everyone know what you are talking about or do you yourself get lost in insider lingo? Never assume you are being heard or understood. Ask, explain again, show, demonstrate, share stories which will be remembered.
- Regularly encourage questions; a student might have a great question you never asked yourself, but answering it helps others.
- Help everyone to focus on the detail in the moment, find out when eyes start to wander, checking out the ceiling, or the floor, or the clock.

- Induce a sense of teamwork while mentioning good performance, don’t forget or single anyone out, people do notice, - it doesn’t matter how old we are or where we stand in life, everyone can use a pat on the back for effort or accomplishment.
- Make sure beginners stand next to advanced members. This way they can watch you, and themselves in the mirror, yet also the person to their left and right, to copy movements until they are part of their routine.
- Build a easy to understand road map of the form. For example: “We are right now training this detail of the left hand segment of part four of the first form, it being part four out of eight.”
- Do you speak too fast? Too monotone? Do your explanations spark the trainees’ enthusiasm over the achievement of what they are doing right now? You wouldn’t want to create the boredom of a half-dead necessary routine. Even form training can lead to new heights of performance.
- Have people smile while the sweat is running down their face, while the arms or shoulders are shaking. Nobody feels as good as in the moment when you realize you performed beyond of what you think you can do!

- Mention again the benefits of the form. One should know why we go through particular sets of exercises.
- Explain the name of, and idea behind techniques.
- Explain the place of the form or single technique, their importance within the system of Wing Tsun. You want to create ‘aha-moments,’ during which the student recognizes how seemingly dead parts of the form come later on to life during partner exercises.
- At any given time pay attention to who follows your teachings, who is ahead and has to be led back to the detail training at hand, who is stuck and can’t find their way back into following you. Maybe give a quick review of what has been done so far.
- Check your examples. Do they make sense to everyone. Review your comparisons. Will they be understood without inside knowledge?

- At the end; encourage questions, lead somebody’s arm, correct their shoulder position. Some need to feel the movement, others need to hear the explanations, some need to look at example scenarios from different directions. Show muscle groups involved. Move! Make a clear distinction between right and wrong movement.
- Finally; take into consideration the ability to perform, the recognition of details and the understanding of its value at different points in time during one’s training.
I received feedback from people, who said: “I always heard you explaining the exercise, but never really got it. Today I felt something in my shoulder, now I understand it for the first time, what you have been telling me for so long.”
Another example? “I thought I knew what you meant with your teachings, yet only now I really get it!” Don’t forget! Even this understanding might change yet again over the months and years.
- Never assume anything!

Now. Are you ready to be a teacher, entertainer, technical specialist, historian, motivator, showman ... and more?

Are you a speaker? Are you a storyteller?

There is nothing a good trainer can’t do, or isn’t willing to add to teach better!

Or, if you are the student; help your trainer to evolve, ask questions, ask again, ask differently, ask for direction. Without going into even more detail, instructor and student can always benefit from each other.

Want to read stories of persistence, perseverance and patience? Go to http://trainerteam.wingtsunkungfu.com.

Rarely is anyone born a great teacher! Work on it! Train, teach, help!

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Posted by ralph haenel at 5:53 PM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 18 December 2014 5:05 PM PST
Monday, 27 September 2010

Breaks, motivation and different goals. Martial arts are no different than life.

1990 in Berlin, I am about to be taken down by my instructor, WingTsun Sifu Peter VilimekRecently we had several of our members return to classes after years of absence due to family commitments, night school, working out of town and other reasons. It’s always great, to see familiar faces back in training. It gives every instructor who is proud of teaching a wonderful motivation.

Others just started their training with us a year or two after having been to one of our open house events. Having followed our activities by reading the occasional news e-mail, following us on Facebook, even YouTube or Twitter, kept them up-to-date.
But so far, nobody came even close to breaking the record. At one point, one person came to class and said: “I am ready now. I have been to your open house and want to sign up for your Wing Tsun classes!” Eventually we figured out, that about six years were in between the trial classes and the start of his Wing Tsun Kung Fu training.

Last week I met someone, who has been to our open house, but decided to join another school. That’s great! Why? Because in his case, it showed the commitment of the person and that he was seriously looking for the martial arts school that was right for his needs.
It reminded me of several occasions over the years, when I recommended different martial arts or even specific other schools to interested visitors. Some look for “only” a tough workout with lots of sweating, others strive for competing in tournaments, some are fascinated with high kicks in Taekwon-Do, just to name a few examples. Your martial art should never be like a corner store, which is trying to be everything to everyone.
I am always happy to hear when someone has found his place, his school. Or, as I tell everyone; whatever you do in your spare time, after work, you have to enjoy it, like the atmosphere and get along with the instructor/s and class mates. Just imagine everybody would like the same ... the competition would be unbearable and it would also be boring.

Over the past weeks, I was talking to a few of our (Wing Tsun) seniors. Everyone gets caught in a motivational low, needs a break from even the most exciting hobby. That’s normal, that’s human. Of great importance is to repeatedly redefine your own motivation. One asked me how I can possibly show, explain and demonstrate the Siu-Nim-Tau form again and again, this now for over 26 years. Well, I enjoy it, I work on finding new ways of breaking down exercises into details. I find better or different ways of explaining them. I continue to improve my own performance; ... and take pride in it. For every explanation, I use analogies: The difference between a martial ARTIST and a martial artist is the same as between a one-hit wonder and a band that produces solid hit records even after decades of making music.

So, find your niche, define your motivation, do something that’s fun and enjoy it!

For me, since 1977 is has been martial arts and for 26 years of it: Wing Tsun Kung Fu! Off to class ...

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Posted by ralph haenel at 4:43 PM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 12 October 2010 8:45 PM PDT

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