Student Spotlight on Deidre Zafar

WingChun provides direct access to “Wow!”
— Deidre Zafar

I’m pleased to present a Student Spotlight on Deidre Zafar from our Santa Cruz, California location. I have observed her growth over the years and am glad to see her continued dedication to progress under the skillful tutelage of her direct teachers, as well as regular guidance by Sifu Klaus Brand and myself.

Her particular insights as a female practitioner of WingChun who is entering the Upper Levels of the system are especially unique contributions. I enjoyed reading about her personal experience and hope you will too. Feel free to leave a comment and discuss her perspectives below:

Name: Deidre Zafar
Graduation: 7th Student Level
Academy: Santa Cruz
Instructor: Sihing Carl Hettiger
Hometown: Boulder Creek, CA

How did you find WingChun?
I had been interested in learning a style of kung fu for some time and a close friend suggested WingChun based on his experiences attending classes with Sihing Jericho Broek. I was correctly lead to believe that WingChun uses the body’s anatomy to effect quick dynamic movements and is accessible to everyone regardless of physique. I am not very strong or graceful, and I view Self-Defense as a practical necessity and not a hobby — although it is fun. So it was important to me to find a martial art that allowed me to protect myself as I am.

What made you decide to join?
The feeling of connecting a punch or a Tan Sao (Spreading Arm), and intuiting in my body that it was right, was intoxicating. I’ve always struggled with body-mind connection, so having a very visceral sense of power in my body was a revelation. I had the sense that WingChun actually worked. And, as a woman in a society in which gender inequity is enforced with violence, I have to defend myself. I also truly enjoy everyone I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and train with. I have been so fortunate to have Sihings Carl Hettiger and Mike Treanor as teachers at WingChun Santa Cruz, as they have distinctive and important insights and teaching styles. The accessible and enjoyable atmosphere of classes is truly a pleasure.

Why is training important to you?
Training is important to me because it is training; it teaches my body how to react. What I bring into a confrontation is ultimately what I know in my body, not what anybody else knows, so I have to teach myself to respond appropriately by training. Training is also a great way to relieve stress. I am a very anxious person, so sometimes I have difficulty with mind emptying forms of meditation. Going through the Siu Nim Tau (Small Intention) or Tsum Kiu (Seeking Bridge) forms repetitively is a kind of relaxing moving meditation which requires consuming focus and intent.

What are the benefits of WingChun?
Confidence, body connection, self-awareness, joy, fun, and awe. It is inspirational to witness advanced practitioners because WingChun is so elegant, powerful, and functional. WingChun provides direct access to “Wow!”

What makes WingChun unique?
There are several really wonderful things about WingChun I’d like to discuss. WingChun is effective in the beginning. I’m very impatient and I love the way the first two levels of WingChun are immediately applicable to most Self-Defense situations. It is also critical that even if you mess up and your technique is not perfect, WingChun allows you to defend yourself from bigger and stronger attackers. When the adrenaline is flowing in a real fight situation it is important for small mistakes not to be devastating. I appreciate that WingChun is a constantly changing and adapting system. Sifu Klaus Brand is regularly fine-tuning the movements we use and making corrections or repurposing them. It makes WingChun a living style which becomes more effective as opposed to a stagnant ceremony. Lastly, the warm, supportive environment of classes creates an ideal environment to grow with your body and skills and learn in a manner adaptive to your learning style.

Describe your favorite Wing Chun idea.
I like the idea of attacking the attack/er. The blocks we use are painful to receive, and we focus on quickly ending any violent confrontation. I like the concept of defense being something very active. A WingChun block gives an attacker the information to stop in the form of pain or incapacitation. This is clearly effective once a situation has become violent. I believe it is important for somebody who is attacking me to realize that I am capable of really hurting him/her. It destabilizes the dominant narrative of men being capapable of legitimately producing violence and women as passive recipients of violation.

Explain your favorite Wing Chun movement.
Currently I find myself drawn to Zam Sao (Sinking Arm). It is a very dynamic action and I am using it frequently as I work on the Eighth Program.

What skill do you need to most improve?
Footwork and stance are the skills and areas I’m working on the most. A solid foundation and connected body are very important in WingChun, and I’m struggling with maintaining proper alignment and balance with my stances. There are certainly infinite areas to improve upon, but I feel footwork and stance are my dominant weaknesses.

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