Student Spotlight on Antal Berenyi

WingChun teaches a synergic awareness of the body and mind.
— Antal Berenyi

It is always with interest and pleasure that I read and share these Student Spotlights. Although we are on the same path, we each experience it uniquely, based on our backgrounds and personalities. Thus, I hope you find it enlightening to hear a fellow WingChun practitioner express his personal ideas about our common art.

A Middle Level student, Antal has already demonstrated the dedicated consistency and patient effort needed to advance into a maturing embodiment of real Self-Defense skill. I look forward to continuing to guide the development of his individual practice, and its specific contribution, within our broader community.

A happy WingChun warrior.

Name: Antal Berenyi
Graduation: 4th Student Level
Academy: HQ Berkeley
Instructor: Sihing Paul Wang
Started: October 2008
Occupation: Engineer
Hometown: Budapest, Hungary

How did you find WingChun?
I was messing around with a co-worker of mine during a lunch break. We talked about our martial arts experiences – I learned Jujitsu as a child and he was taking Taekwondo classes as an adult. We compared notes and naturally Bruce Lee’s name came up along with Wing Chun [Note: Wing Chun spelled as two words is a general term for the style, whereas WingChun spelled as one word specifically designates the IAW system.] during our discussion. Bruce Lee was my hero as a boy but I didn’t have the opportunity to learn Kung Fu then. Turned out that my friend knew some Wing Chun moves, namely from Chi Sao, which he demonstrated to me. This had re-kindled my martial arts interest to seek out a Wing Chun class around where I lived.

What got you to a trial class?
I went online and found that the nearest WingChun school was a five minute drive from where I lived! Since the introductory class was free too, I had nothing to lose and I just showed up for it.

What made you decide to join?
After the introductory class it was obvious to me that it was not just an introductory class but more like a re-introduction to something long lost but still familiar. The class had tapped into something in me that was buried for a long time – since my childhood. Not just one thing but rather a combination of elements that I don’t get to experience in my “civilized” daily life as an engineer. The intense awareness of my body – bone, muscle, skin, posture – the exciting but still safe simulation of an attack scenario with a training partner was what drew me. The casual camaraderie and mutual respect between teacher and student and between students was immediately apparent as soon as I walked in. I felt a welcoming invitation to a “tribe” of warriors bound by a common interest in bettering themselves.

Why is training important to you?
During my one year plus of practice it was reinforced during each class that WingChun teaches a synergic awareness of the body and mind. One hour and a half of training revitalizes me from the leaden tiredness after a daylong work. I improve myself and help others in the class do the same.

What are the benefits of WingChun?
Training twice weekly may not be much but it has improved my balance, strength and psychological ability to better deal with stress. It also helped in regaining strength in my knee after my knee surgery. WingChun is not too strenuous on the body so it allowed me to get stronger without hurting myself. You could perhaps get stronger in a gym but you’d be bored to tears.

What makes WingChun unique?
Its emphasis on applicability by people of all ages and genders. The repetitiveness of the exercises are not unlike meditation but each repetition is done with the awareness of a new situation which keeps it exciting.

Sum up WingChun in one word.

Describe your favorite WingChun idea.
I like the idea that unifies defense and offense. Attack the attacker. Don’t shrink back and think of yourself as one being attacked, rather take the initiative to win the fight, to defend yourself.

Explain your favorite WingChun movement.
In WingChun, a “Slapping Hand” (Pak Sao) can be both a block and an offensive move at the same time. In a single movement, aimed to deal with an incoming punch at, say your nose, you block and counterpunch to let the attacker know that he is not going to have it easy.

What skill do you need to most improve?
I need to work more on letting my whole body move as one coordinated unit. Feet grounded firmly and the body lined up to distribute the force of action in each bone and muscle evenly to maximize delivery of force and minimize impact on my own body.

Define an ideal WingChun practitioner.
Ideally she will practice every day, go over the forms, go over applications of what she had learned up to that point. Then practice what she is the least certain about, take it apart and master each atomic element of it until perfect. She will put no limit on how much or how little to practice but aim towards perfection. She will also be willing to share her knowledge with other practitioners and mentor less experienced ones.

What does it mean to be good in WingChun?
Not to have to think about what to do when presented with a sticky situation. To have seen many situations, trained with partners of all genders, sizes and ages. To defuse a threat without a melee. If that fails and a fist flies out of thin air, your body will move to block it, follow it up with a punch and only realize that you dealt with a situation once you’ve successfully routed your foes.

In what ways do you apply WingChun?
Fortunately there are few if any occasions in my life that would require the direct application of combat skills. But WingChun has made me carry that same confidence, not aggression, to everyday situations. For example I apply it on the road when I drive. I used to get frustrated by slow moving traffic and mindless or reckless drivers weaving in and out of lanes. Now I look at traffic as an extension of practice consisting of training partners driving cars. Instead of feeling frustration I now think that I will get home eventually. It is a routine, not something to win.

What are your long-term WingChun goals?
I’d like to make WingChun part of my daily routine. After waking up in the morning and brushing my teeth, it is what I will do.

On what topic would you write a WingChun article?
I would write on WingChun and world peace. WingChun practice teaches respect towards your training partners, and if everyone would train then all humans would respect each other. People would learn their own power and would learn how to avoid hurting others.

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