True Mastery

“I have never yet seen the student who improved by doing nothing.”

— Sifu Alexander Lemuth

I first met Sifu (Master) Alexander Lemuth over a decade ago when he came to visit California with our mutual Sifu. At the time, he was a Sihing (Teacher) and Second Technician Grade. Since then I have been impressed by his undeviating commitment to WingChun. In fact, I look to him as a consummate Artist, exceptional Teacher and adept Leader (of five Academies in and surrounding Stuttgart, Germany).

To date, Sifu Alexander is the only active student in the whole International Academy of WingChun (IAW) and the entire teaching career of Sifu Klaus Brand (IAW Grandmaster) to culminate this unparalleled system from its initial to final movement. Even, and admirably, so he has not diminished his own training. Among the first-generation students of Grandmaster, he is thus an exemplary standard bearer for all WingChun practitioners. In the following article, Sifu Alexander keenly articulates the incessant fortitude and ongoing action you need to succeed.

Since he specifically mentions the requisite IAW courses of training (such as is the case with every reputable academic institution), I will summarize their frequency and relevancy at the US Headquarters locations in Berkeley and San Francisco:

Course Frequency Relevancy
Regular Class 5 per week For all IAW-US students
Combat Class 1 per month For all IAW-US students
Escrima Class 1 per month For all IAW-US students
Special Class 1 per month For all IAW-US 6+ SL students
Technician Class 1 per month For all IAW-US PPL+ students
WingChun Seminar 1 per 6 weeks For all IAW-US students

I, and if you are so inspired may be advised to, heed the sincere words of Sifu Alexander. To my ambitious American students, please read and review them with attentive care because they will surely guide you along the years ahead. Let us follow his pioneering footsteps towards actualizing our living potential. Regrettably, in this peculiar age of ubiquitous attention deficit, long-term dedication to anything until authentic skill emerges is indeed rare.

Will you have the will?

Train Well,
Sihing Paul Wang
IAW-US Chief Instructor

Sifu Alexander Lemuth (on the right) as Fourth Technician Grade circa 2007.

True Mastery
What the IAW Stands For

When I started training with Grandmaster Sifu Klaus Brand 15 years ago, I did so primarily because of the excellent WingChun lessons. The structure and content of his system were unique and unlike anything I had seen or trained up to that point. Totally different, structured, functional, effective and thought-out! With an unassailable joy and enthusiasm I began to learn and teach his WingChun. I consider it a given, and always have, to continually train in WingChun by taking Private Lessons, attending Combat, Special and Technician Classes, and to utilize the countless options to improve my skills and abilities. When I achieved the 5th Master Degree in 2008, it was of course a tremendous moment. A moment, like I said, because I was awarded this graduation for my training, skill, performance and advancement up to that moment.

Why do I stress this point? Because after achieving the 5th Master Degree I was asked: Why do you keep training? Why do you travel all the way from Stuttgart to Bruchsal several times a week? Aren’t you “finished”? I’m not joking, they really meant it. I would never have dreamed of reducing my training for a second. I reached the 5th Master Degree because I love WingChun and want to train on a daily basis.

The popular opinion appears to be that it is possible to preserve conditions by doing nothing. Once attained, it stays forever. I’m sorry to say that simply is not possible. Anyone who does weight training and then stops notices how quickly the muscles degenerate, and how they become weaker again. The same is true for WingChun. Or playing the piano.

The only remedy is regular, well-planned, deliberate and demanding training. What has been learned must be deepened, and the student must be challenged. This increases quality. And this is the only way students become proficient. Making things easy for students is a curse. While making things easy may bring relief, in the long run the result is demotivation (because you find that things you were able to do, you can do no longer, and you end where you began — with nothing. Knowing a smattering equals not knowing). True mastery is not the result of “entertainment” training, which remains superficial and never acquires depth. I have never yet seen the student who improved by doing nothing. Grandmaster Sifu Klaus Brand discussed such absurd promises extensively in one of his articles.

Well, while it may be strenuous and demanding, hard work is nonetheless indispensable for maintaining and expanding a Level once achieved. If you want to improve, you need to train on a regular basis. There’s no way around this. If someone says otherwise, they are being unprofessional and dishonest. There are no shortcuts.

If a teacher wishes to instruct responsibly and in the interest of his students, he must take that to heart. Otherwise, he is just a poor student who pretends he is a teacher.

There are no unsubstantial Levels at IAW. The prerequisites for achieving the 9th Student Level (SL) or higher call for several factors which I would like to explain in detail:

1. Attend Regular Classes continuously for the past 2 years (to be confirmed in your Pre-Test).

True skills can only evolve if the WingChun student has trained on an ongoing basis. Memorizing a sequence is just the first step. The techniques must be deepened and given meaning. That doesn’t happen overnight, but takes time during which the WingChun student must concentrate on them  — time to ripen. Through years of training you can accomplish an extremely high quality and function of the techniques. A 9th SL does the 5th SL Program like a 9th SL, and not like a 5th SL anymore.

Sifu Alexander after a Testing Seminar at one of his Academies in Stuttgart.

2. Participate monthly in Special Classes.

Please refer to the official description on the IAW website.

The Special Class

The theme of the Special Class is repetition of the Basic Programs, such as the deepening of the 1st Section and its application in the Upper Levels. Since the Programs are discussed in great detail, dissected down to the smallest movement, and then trained, there is a minimum graduation prerequisite for the resulting experience.

The Special Class teaches the combination of understanding and applying the Basic Programs and stages up to the Pre-Primary Level (PPL). Through this very specialized instruction none of the Programs remain unclear. In theory and practice, all aspects of each Section are discussed and practiced.

Especially for Assistants and Instructors, this monthly class is an appropriate opportunity to focus on teaching the Student Level Programs. Additionally, the Special Class offers advanced (Upper Level and Technician Grade) students a refresher which reinforces and improves previously learned material via an intensive look at the finer points of its motor movement.

3. Acquire weapon combat abilities.

For an Upper Level (9th-PPL) test, you should first attend some Escrima Classes. Escrima serves to complete the abilities of WingChun students and is part of the WingChun curriculum.

Escrima is an essential part of the WingChun curriculum. The ability to defend yourself includes skills both for armed and unarmed combat. Just picture the following: A high Technician Grade who has never trained Escrima picks up a stick and is suddenly defenseless. Grotesque, isn’t it?

4. Learn and practice the Combat Programs.

Please see the IAW-HQ explanation.

The Combat Class

Combat training is the raw material of WingChun practice and develops the capacity for flexibility in applications of Lat Sao. It helps core assimilation and free implementation of the Lat Sao Programs. Furthermore, it promotes rapid perception and is therefore the best possible training for decision speed. This is a prerequisite for progress in WingChun and facilitates comprehension of the Programs of the Upper Student Levels and Technician Grades.

Combat Programs are part of the cumulative examination for the Upper Student Levels (starting from the 9th SL) and the Technician Grades. All exams are rendered by the respective Academy Leaders, during which an impeccable mastery of the Combat Programs is expected.

Combat Classes are held every second month in the IAW Headquarters in Bruchsal (Note: At the US Headquarters in Berkeley, Combat Classes are offered monthly).

For Combat Classes, and for that matter all the tests from 9th SL on, protective equipment is necessary. These include shin guards, knee and elbow pads, and groin protection for men. (Fist protectors are more obstructive and not generally required for WingChun instruction).

5. Pre-Test with your training instructor

There is a lot that a prospective 9th SL has to know and be able to do. In the IAW each Level is regarded highly and not awarded casually. A Pre-Test is done to fully check the skills and abilities of Upper Levels and Technician Grades. Throughout this assessment, a WingChun student demonstrates everything learned up to that point: Forms, Applications, Programs, Sections and so on. Each is evaluated, and only after the student has passed the Pre-Test will he be admitted to the WingChun Seminar for Testing.

Sifu Alexander Lemuth and Sihing Ralph Dahl with Grandmaster Klaus Brand.

One might say that this is all very strenuous, while another doesn’t like this or that aspect. I once had a student who said that Escrima wasn’t really his thing… Another said the Special Classes were too much for him.

With all due respect, I would like to say: Who cares? This isn’t about whether or not it’s “your thing” or if more training to realize a high Level is “too strenuous”. It’s about what benefits the WingChun student, what really makes him more capable and better. That is all that counts! Decades of experience have shown us how much training is sufficient to progress effectively.

An advanced student will be the one who really wants this for himself and is willing to fulfill the required training. People with that attitude are successful as it is.

Thus, each Level earned is genuine. And the Grandmaster remains consistent to the end: Students who graduate the 9th SL are listed among the “Highest Students” on the IAW website. Only the most diligent students appear on this list, not those who happened to receive the Level at some point. As a result, the list stays up-to-date and only displays those students who train regularly.

I have known my Sifu for a long time, and am happy and proud to walk this uncompromising and straight path with him.

Sifu Alexander Lemuth
5th Master Degree of WingChun
Private Student of Grandmaster Klaus Brand

One thought on “True Mastery

  1. I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to Sifu Alexander Lemuth for this highly detailed and enjoyable article, also to Sihing Paul for sharing it. At the beginning of the article it highlights the sheer variety of classes in IAW and so the different challenges that they bring. The will to acheive in these classes will surely deepen ones understanding and knowledge. One of the best articles to date!

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