Training is essential. Without it there is no Self-Defense and there is no WingChun.
— Brandon Solano
Occasionally, we choose to highlight the experiences of a particular IAW member. This time I’m proud to put the worthy focus on Sihing Brandon Solano, our IAW-US Headquarters Instructor who specializes in teaching the WingChun Tigers (Children Group). Besides being one of a few Instructors worldwide who have earned the title of Sihing (Teacher), he is also a welcoming pillar within our local WingChun family. Please read below as he recounts his path to and perspectives on training. If you find it relevant and interesting, please feel free to comment and share your feedback.
Name: Brandon Solano
Graduation: Pre-Primary Level
Academy: HQ Berkeley
Instructor: Sihing Paul Wang
Started: June 2004
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
How did you hear about WingChun?
It was my first year of junior high and, like most young martial art enthusiasts, I was guilty of being a Bruce Lee fanatic. I did not know much about martial arts from personal experience; but I read lots of articles and books about it and of course watched movies. I researched some martial arts “styles” that Bruce Lee had learned and one of them was “wing chun”. The description of this martial art was very intriguing; online, people would talk about how a small person can defeat a larger adversary using economical movements (though I really did not understand what that meant at the time). That year I met my sister’s boyfriend, Bubba, who I was not really sure about at the time. Later, I would find out that he knew some “wing chun” and he taught me some really cool ideas. It wasn’t until almost three years later that I would find a WingChun (Note: This specific capitalization and one-word spelling connotes the IAW system) school online.
What got you to come to class?
There were a lot of fights at my junior high and I wanted to learn how to defend myself.
What hooked you to WingChun?
The calm and warm learning environment and the patience of well-informed instructors who seemed to have a clear answer for just about every question. Also, the deep emphasis on Self-Defense with strong, clear, direct movements left me in awe.
Why is training important to you?
Training is essential. Without it there is no Self-Defense and there is no WingChun. To train leads to embodiment of the system, which is necessary in order for it to be effective and above all real! Consistency in training produces the manifestation of concepts that are taught in WingChun. Training also creates true confidence in the system rather than merely saying that the techniques do or do not work. Hence, the benefits of training are crucial to develop the necessary skill in WingChun to defend oneself.
What are the benefits of WingChun?
There are innumerable benefits to this art, where do I start? Definitely coordination of both body and mind are one of the many skills that I have developed by practicing WingChun. For example, having a level of awareness where I can make quick decisions to deal with a hasty attacker or a tight jam. Another invaluable attribute I have gained is peace of mind — to own the benefit of the doubt, and walk the streets with confidence. WingChun has also introduced me to the most amazing group of people I have ever met; all different but who share a love for the same art. What could be better than learning some really important skills with a great group of friends.
What makes WingChun unique?
WingChun’s uniqueness stems from combat functionality with no nonsense Self-Defense. Nowhere have I seen such an holistic art, attacking and defending at the same time while maintaining a strong stance. WingChun sure holds its own. It is simple, though not necessarily easy. The curriculum is clear and direct. Never do we make a movement which I do not know what it is for. In our classes you’ll see a diversity of people, skinny, not skinny, male, female. It does not matter who you are as long as you can walk into our class and have a positive attitude to try.
Sum up WingChun in one word.
What is your favorite WingChun motto?
Well, I have only heard only one motto and it is “Move your butt and train“!
What is your favorite section of the first form?
Section 10 has to be one of the most interesting set of movements in the first form. Of course every section is vital to our WingChun system and one is no better or more important than the other. But I appreciate how this section connects into the second form. This is a prime example of how there are many interconnections across all levels in WingChun and how flowing and mixing makes us better practitioners.
Define an ideal WingChun practitioner.
It would have to be some one who is patient, articulate, persistent, and open. This person would also embody the style. Someone who can go with the flow — and at the same time be particular — by flexibly switching between strategies and movements. They would also have humility and be unvexed by errors that occur while training, immediately understanding how they can improve their technique. Above all else, an ideal WingChun practitioner is training constantly and diligently at all times with intention, making every class and event they possibly can.
What does it mean to be good in WingChun?
To be good in WingChun is to be decisive and direct. To have the ability to handle many intense situations. It is having a clear idea of what to do and how to deal with unknown obstructions while remaining calm but ready. Also, knowing the curriculum forward and backward, with the ability to teach these things to another person. Being good in WingChun also means knowing how to apply these ideas beyond physically dangerous situations, remembering that WingChun is Self-Defense, but the question is defending against what?
In what ways do you apply WingChun?
Just as it is true in a combat situation, we are faced with many difficult decisions in our life. If we do not act fast enough we miss the window of opportunity to come out of the situation on top. Thus, I use WingChun everyday. Whether it is going to the grocery store, having a conversation, participating in a meeting or dealing with an actual combat situation, I have to recognize what is happening and at the same time act accordingly. WingChun has definitely crossed into all aspects of my life by teaching me how and when to let go, how to take and give pressure.
What are your long-term WingChun goals?
To develop myself as much as I possibly can and to teach what I know. I am very tempted to say I am a lifer when it comes to WingChun! Who knows what’s going to happen next for me but as far as I know I am not planning to stop training.
On what topic would you write a WingChun article?
I would write further in-depth on how I apply WingChun beyond physical Self-Defense. Recognizing feeds that our daily lives give would be one of the subjects and how this connects to the fullest context of the word Self-Defense.
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