WingChun Principles and Mottoes

Most styles of martial art have their own theory of practice. The WingChun system founded by Sifu Klaus Brand and transmitted by the International Academy of WingChun contains certain concepts based on our own research into functional Self-Defense.

These principles coordinate the performance and optimize the effectiveness of our technical movements. Many of them are in stark contrast to, and even conflict with, the ideas of more traditional lineages. We are not seeming iconoclasts for mere difference’s sake. The evolution, or perhaps revolution, of IAW WingChun is towards a theory and practice of Self-Defense unlimited by past doctrine and delineated by present applicability alone.

To paraphrase an old adage:

Theory without practice is fake art,
Practice without theory is dumb art,
Theory with practice is true art.

理論結合實踐是真功夫。 Continue reading

Five Elements of One Way

The Thanksgiving mood is a reflective one, and usually regarding the fundamentals. Recently, I’ve thought about the basics of WingChun. Not technically, but essentially. How am I doing? What are we seeking? Who are you becoming?

It is only a beginning, an ongoing experience, but after twelve years of continuous teaching and continual training, I’m struck by, and grateful for, the vast variety of people I’ve met through WingChun. Each one of these thousands, even those I’ve long forgotten or spent short moments with, has challenged me and extended my range of expression, as an instructor, a practitioner, a person. We are all so different. This plain fact is reinforced by my WingChun trips to other cities like Bruchsal in Germany, Tunbridge Wells in the United Kingdom, and Atlanta in the United States. In my home base at the US Headquarters in Berkeley, every new week there are unique individuals who I’m privileged to work with.

These things mean little to me:

Age, size, race, shape, class, gender, fashion, politics, religion, ethnicity, language, nationality, education, sexuality don’t matter. Who’s behind them does. That is not to say these human identifiers are dismissable, insignificant, or uninteresting. However, rather than divisive labels, they are interacting layers of an individual personality. So whoever comes, it is as is, in whatever dynamic combination of the above categories that happen to fit. As a diverse community of everyday warriors, as I like to say, we welcome all types. There is but a single requirement, one that unites us, which is a true willingness to learn Self-Defense.

These things mean lots to me:

Purpose, practice, passion, patience, and people. Consider these organizational values or personal vows, call them my own bias or our group culture. In any case, they are ideals. Thus, by definition, when questing to fulfill them, we will fall short sometimes and somehow, perhaps monthly, weekly, daily. No one can envision or embody them perfectly or perpetually. The only thing we can attempt is just that, doing our best. It is not my intention to impose these as set principles upon others whose backgrounds, again, are so broad. Rather, as general suggestions, they are seedlings that can blossom into the fruition of our future. One that I see as both clear and open.

As an exercise of expansion from word to action, some may deem these silly statements or esoteric affirmations. But, to me, they make the concepts more practical. Here is how I currently elaborate upon them with direct application in mind. Feel free to come up with different descriptions.

Five Elements of One Way

Purpose: I find genuine inner motivation to define and attain my goals.
Practice: I want to get good and continually dedicate effort to do so.
Passion: I feel inspired by the art and enjoy sharing it with others.
Patience: I know that success takes time to achieve and accept this.
People: I love helping others because it improves my progress as well.

Obviously, there are much more factors and many other attributes. These five are the core that have been useful to me. They are what I perceive displayed in WingChun specialists and great exemplars of their chosen field, be it within the martial, medical, musical, mystical, or movement arts. These are also observable in entrepreneurs, academics, scientists, volunteers, and parents. Thus, if this particular framework seems useful to you, please borrow it as a simple reminder or cue to pursue your path.

Fall Event Series 2009


Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.
We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Aristotle [384 BC – 322 BC]

2009 promises to be our biggest and best Fall Event Series yet with Sifu Klaus Brand, WingChun Grandmaster and IAW Founder.

We need each and every one of you to realize the personal value of this opportunity. Repeated instruction by and direct interaction with the highest embodiment of an art is the goal of all artists. And it’s something easily taken for granted, even though the opposite case is true. No one knows if the next chance is the last chance. So when you’re able to access an irreplaceable moment, willingness is the sole remaining step. In actuality, all instants are uniquely once in a lifetime because none ever repeats itself exactly again.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. We can go further with modern media and claim a video is worth a thousand pictures. Finally, an experience is worth a thousand videos or, doing the math, a billion words. The most articulate collected volumes of scholarly text or deluxe high-definition DVD box sets of every known lecture on, for instance, Nature is still inescapably vicarious to one authentic contact with natural reality. The double filter – the output of an author’s mind as attempted communication and the input into the observer’s mind as alledged comprehension – of second-hand knowledge is never quite enough, always falling short.

So it is so with Self-Defense education. Through each of your senses you learn an aspect of the whole. But through all of them in simultaneous synergy, via the perceptive powers your entire human organism, you gain more than partial understanding. You can read explanations of Pak Sao (Slapping Arm). You can see photos of it. You can watch clips of it. These are decent but insufficient approximations that still leave you with persistent questions and permanent doubts. Then there is actually performing, really engaging, simply savoring a Pak Sao in motion. Until you thus subjectively do, act, and feel for yourself in the first person, objectivity is unconvincing.

Yet you can’t start merely with the decision to act, but a decisive action, which creates a defined behavior, which solidifies a determined habit. It only matters that – not how or why or when – you begin. Reach your next goal, become your better self. Your greatest chance to do so begins on October 16.

Progress in Practice

Progress in practice requires people, plus patience and passion:

People: To make interactive improvement
Patience: To endure inevitable challenges
Passion: To inspire enjoyable consistency

Of course, people naturally come and go, and come back, for all manner of reasons. Patience and passion also cycle. In any case, we are always glad – actually, only able – to support those who cooperate, commit, and continue on the WingChun journey. Moreover, systematic training is the only specific way to direct development. Thus, choosing a life of training means always intending to do better. As a Self-Defender, that means you are gaining:

Speed: Move faster, no matter your current capability
Strength: Get stronger, no matter your current condition
Security: Feel safer, no matter your current confidence

It’s valuable to spend several weekdays together mutually attaining those goals. Not to mention our weekend Special Events. Everyday, Americans watch an average of 5 hours of traditional TV – not including video via the internet, mobile devices, or DVR – according to Nielsen research from the fourth quarter of last year. WingChun is just as interesting and entertaining as popular shows, but you don’t have to wait a whole week for gratification. What we do is an engaged series of unfolding insights with holistic benefits that last a lifetime. Rather than a short season or two.

Sitting on the couch with offerings of chips and beer to the Tube is fine sometimes. But as a persistent lifestyle, this is the polar opposite of WingChun, which is enjoying the upgrade, rather than decline, of your physical, emotional, and mental states. We seek movement, not stalemate. We create power, not lethargy. We love doing, not dazing. Imagine spending hours a day living what you love.

Fortunately, for me this imagination is unnecessary, since it is my daily reality. Yet it is less luck than the natural outcome of a dedicated desire to do. Conceptual conditions are prerequisite but insufficient. So hopes, dreams, and wishes are fine for firsts but quite far from final. Because the way is for really walking upon rather than just talking about. 80% acting and applying, 20% thinking and speaking seems a decent proportion for progress in practice.

A million perfect ideals are nothing compared to one mediocre action.

Training Gains

To say the least, these are interesting times. Many are inflamed with a nagging insecurity that lacks a clear diagnosis, let alone a definite cure. And it’s contagious! Without a strong defense, we are also soon infected. There are no easy fixes when fundamental change (in action, behavior, and habit) is necessary. Just like borrowing our way to wealth or dieting ourselves to health are temporary at best but ultimately fail. Poor basics always catch up to us. Hint, remember to review.

In Self-Defense, we have mere fractions of a second to perceive, decide, and react. So ignoring reality, perhaps in the form of a fast fist, quite hurts. Even, or especially, when we don’t want to directly deal with it. We learn that we can’t wait to do something. But rather than fight, instead we activate insight. How about shifting aside to attack the root of the problem? However you move, it must be swift and sure.

In the daily routine of the good old days, we forget that nothing is set. When in fact all is unpredictable flow. Yet no matter how difficult the situation, everything always began and ends with individual choices. That includes whether to sit and sigh or to stand and smile; whether to blame someone or to improve something; whether to be overwhelmed by or to overcome fear; whether to back down or step up; whether to avoid or confront the hard truth. Decisions, decisions.

If you suffer from chronic hesitation, indecision and procrastination then you need a consistent, effective and transformative remedy. Thus, we train to ingrain better tendencies. Obviously that refers to our Regular Classes, Special Events and Private Lessons where we use physical interaction to tease out and take out our common weaknesses. Be they manifest in body, heart or mind. But what is training actually? Simply:

Training = Repeating actions to create behaviors

Over time, these solidify into habits. Defined as such, you are always training! Consciously or unconsciously, for better or worse, like it or not. In WingChun, we choose the former course. That is, consciously developing better habits we like. By default, the latter occurs when we aren’t aware that we’re going in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, this zoned-out zombie state is all too common.

Again, repeated action becomes automatic. Thus, we undergo an ongoing process of conditioning. So the condition of your processing is imperative. Using WingChun, we integrate high quality programs and super practical methods that improve our responses to stressful stimuli. New pathways are laid down that reduce anxiety and reveal assurance. However, the first thing we typically give up when we conversely need it most is such personal practice, whatever this may be. For some, it’s volunteering, hiking, climbing, knitting, cooking, singing, meditating, painting, dancing, or journaling. For us, it happens to be WingChunning.

In short, because it evolves your perspective and elevates your skillfulness, WingChun can help you define a life worth defending. What that exactly is and how it’s done is up to you. But you’d be smart to apply the focus you get from Siu Nim Tau to run your errands, the power you get from Lat Sao to recharge your motivation, the speed you get from Puen Sao to reach your goals. Not to mention reinvesting the confidence, courage, and care we get from each other into your other duties and obligations. Use it or lose it! You won’t believe until your achieve, nor achieve until you believe. You can’t know how until you try now.

The relevance of WingChun is not just attacking each other’s arms. No doubt we excel at these technical displays of powerful movement. However, if you pay attention and think carefully, you’ll figure out how the Pak Sao (Slapping Hand), for instance, concept is useful for clearing all sorts of obstacles. But only if you train!