Below is the most recent essay by my teacher, Sifu Klaus Brand, Grandmaster of the International Academy of WingChun (IAW).
In it, he reiterates the dynamism of IAW WingChun and narrates our way of training through the Student Levels (SL). You lay a robust foundation of primary techniques during the Basic Levels (1-4 SL), reinforce them in varied contexts during the Middle Levels (5-8 SL) and synergize their full application during the Upper levels (9-11 SL).
The path is thus paved for a WingChuner. One which is both challenging and clarified as you walk towards mastery with all your body, heart, mind and spirit. Each limb collision in class is an instant test of your cumulative knowledge, bravery and will. Over time — but only via sufficient frequency and intensity of practice — you earn the golden assurance of sovereign skill.
You are the keen sword forged in fire, sustaining repeated impact of hammer upon anvil, that emerges proven to others and trustworthy to yourself.
Sihing Paul Wang
The Way to Become Skilled
A functional Self-Defense art strengthens the ligaments, the bones and, of course, the musculature of the whole body. It is a fact that one has to toughen and harden specific parts of the body to resist the initial collision of a real attack. There is no doubt that if you do not fortify your arms adequately you will never be able to defend yourself. Because we use our arms for both attacking and defending, the forearm bones (ulna and radius) and surrounding musculature should be especially conditioned. A few bruises in the beginning are entirely normal. This is no different if you are a man or a woman. Everyone has to go through it. True ability is the reward.
For IAW non-members I should, at this point, explain that we do not teach “wing chun” but WingChun. Our WingChun is the opposite of wing chun. I myself learned the complete wing chun system as a second generation student of Yip Man from his Master student. Thereafter, it became clear that wing chun was an illogical, non-functional and un-structured method by which no-one can defend themselves with, so I could no longer teach it. I came to realize that it was all just a mixture of rubbish and fantasies. At that time there were no alternatives and only I had doubts about this style.
Now I am grateful that I began that way for only in doing so would I realize how senseless it was. The further I progressed, the more grotesque that wing chun became. With every new technique came ever more discord. As a traditionalist, the developments of that time became unbearable for me. There was no other option for me but to immediately begin creating a system which worked with the fundamental concepts of the combat arts. I searched for the original intentions in the development of this martial art. For more than 10 years, I worked tirelessly to complete my WingChun system. Today, I offer an alternative to those people who are looking for real Self-Defense with traditional values. Our style is called “WingChun”.
I have explained my standpoint regarding the degeneration of wing chun in previous articles. This atrophy has resulted in students becoming weak and compliant. For Self-Defense these are fatal conditions. Weakness and compliance are the precursors to failure and mark the end of any possible progress.
You can never fool your subconscious.
Back to WingChun. Most of our students need several months to strengthen themselves and acclimatise their forearm bones to collisions. Whoever perseveres with this and, perhaps after approximately one year, reaches the 4th Student Level (SL) is already successful. With the beginning of Chi Sao (Adhering Arms) training (in the 5 SL) that follows this core Self-Defense training, the next step of conditioning begins.
Sections contain a vast array of strong collisions. The First Section, besides teaching you superior technical functionality, is for integrating the entire body with the goal of using it as the basis of a coordinated unit. The forearm bones have to sustain many powerful impacts. Thus, they become extremely stable and desensitized. As a result, after a solid defense, you are capable of performing a decisive counterattack.
With the completion of the First Section, students reach the Upper Level (9-11 SL). Their awareness of a collision is now utterly distinct. Their body is more resilient, with forearm bones that can withstand forces which could never have been imagined at the outset. During this phase, the students repeat strikes hundreds of times and become steadily stronger, harder and, ultimately, faster. It is at this stage that they begin to miss such training if they do not attend classes regularly.
Fighting is a conflict or war (and not a sport)…
Strengthening and conditioning is enjoyable and changes the experience of your physical totality. Authentic Self-Defense competence is a very particular perception. Speed, power and advanced technical ability combine to give a sense of real freedom and confidence. The student begins to become one with every muscle in their body and feels capable and liberated. You can never fool your subconscious. A combat art has to be trained correctly. Only in that way can you develop the correct attitude and a natural conviction of security and confidence.
I and my Academy Leaders tire of hearing about sensitivity, yielding and softness in connection with Self-Defense training. This is simply absurd. If you do not want to train seriously, it would be better to look for a new hobby rather than ignore the logic and tradition of combat whilst pretending you are learning Self-Defense.
To my students, an important piece of advice: Don’t let anyone who plays martial art games in certain clubs tell you how Self-Defense works because you are too well trained. After a few months of the education described above, it should not be a problem to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Remember the bruises on your arms in the early stages and recall the effort it took to acquire every single technique. Not everyone can achieve that. You can be proud.
Fighting is a conflict or war (and not a sport) that has nothing to do with yielding and softness. Even the effort to master adversity in life can be called fighting. Therefore fighting is part of living, of being human.
Living means fighting. Those who live, fight — those who fight, live.
© Sifu Klaus Brand
Grandmaster of the International Academy of WingChun®
To know that I can withstand even the heaviest of attacks, to survive the initial onslaught from an attacker and to destroy him with powerful, accurate and correctly timed strikes gives me huge confidence. This confidence is borne of hours of diligent training. Of hours spent colliding, hours spent drilling technique, hours spent learning how, why and when to execute which technique. I have dedicated thousands of hours of training to other “Wing Chun” systems before and never felt this confidence. I have never “collided” before in other systems. I have never been punched hard in other systems. I have developed my confidence through my own hard work. This hard work has been in the right direction. The teaching and guidance of my Sifus’ has forged me into the competent fighter that I am now. The IAW prepares its students for reality by training reality. Something of a rarity in martial arts. In class I commit my mind and body to my teachers. My reward is my ability. My ability creates my confidence. My confidence improves every aspect of my life. This I owe to Grandmaster Klaus and the IAW, my instructors and my dedicated training partners who I share my bruises with!
Well said, Steve and I could not agree more. I am sure this article will be a timeless reminder of the system we train, it’s implementation and all round function. A must read for all IAW students!