IAW Headquarters Trip – Day Four

The day began early with a sequence of five Private Lessons planned with Sihing Ralph, Sihing Tobias, Sihing Chris and Sihing Martin. Because of the mental and physical intensity of these sessions, it was nice of Sifu to schedule a break so we could refuel. I filled up with a big salad and small coffee.

We are all working on the Fourth Technician Grade. Of course, it is essential to note that this not only includes Section 13-17 based on the Mok Yan Jang form, but equal treatment of all Programs to date.

I really like this characteristic equanimity throughout the entire IAW system, where no one and no thing is more important than another. There is no best concept or movement, perhaps save for that which you actually train to do, let alone magical secrets and shortcuts. Continue reading

Student Spotlight on Brandon Solano

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.

Sihing Brandon Solano at his Pre-Primary Level graduation.

Name: Brandon Solano
Graduation: Pre-Primary Level
Academy: HQ Berkeley
Instructor: Sihing Paul Wang
Started: June 2004
Occupation: Student
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. Continue reading

WingChun® – Self-Defense has a Name.

The development of WingChun® marked the creation of a unique Self-Defense art. Since 2003 we have offered this highly-developed system through the International Academy of WingChun®. Self-Defense is our primary concern. The origin of the WingChun® was the result of extensive and complex research and began with my experience of one of the more inventive styles of Wing-Chun. Incidentally, when I write Wing-Chun, I mean those styles which have developed away from the original 17th century combat art. To this day there are indeed several styles which have developed and have affiliated themselves to the same root-words (Wing-Chun), with various spellings, but the similar-sounding name is actually the only connection between these martial arts. Choosing a different name actually denotes an autonomous and distinctive style. The grandmaster of each style is responsible for its character and development. In a book I will deal with the historical developments in much detail. Here I would like to offer an edited version, in order to bring a little clarity into the world of Wing-Chun.

After the fall of the Ming dynasty (1644) resistance fighters developed a new style with the ultimate purpose of winning back the beloved cultural and economic glory days of China. The time of the Ming is considered the Renaissance of China. The existing kung fu styles could not meet the demanding requirements of the resistance movement because they contained only partially combative aspects. Something new and functional had to develop. Therefore I regard the style, WingChun®, not as a style of kung fu, because the primary idea is applicability which is not the main concern with kung fu. The name Wing-Chun meant at the time “eternal springtime” and referred to the period of cultural flourishing in China, which they tried to conquer back in vain.

At the beginning of the 80’s a widespread interest in Wing-Chun developed in Germany. Suitably for that decade came an abstruse development of this style. Many of us were pulled for various reasons to this “new” martial art. You must know that in the 80’s many Asian martial arts films conquered the world of the cinema, which contributed to an extremely naive view of the Chinese combat arts. Film and reality merged into a fanciful perception. Many of us dreamed about the ultimate style with which one learns to fight without effort, just like the actors in the films, with yielding and soft movements.

And this cliché was pursued until the bitter end. An incompletely taught and, in my judgment, degenerate Wing-Chun was subjected to a destructive renovation. After they had changed the name (to just two consonants), a rather vague history of a combat nun (in China?) was invented. They called her simply Ng Mui, which translated means “five roots” and actually refers to the development of the style, i.e. the five masters who created it. For the purposes of advertising, even more interesting histories continued to develop around the whole subject. One absurd fairytale was that the style was developed by a woman. They gave her, quite simply, the name of the style, with the addition of the Chinese character “ Yim ” (for “word”) which served as a reference to the verbal way in which Wing-Chun was taught, person to person, with nothing written down. At the time nobody knew any better and therefore they could completely and freely create things. From this starting point they began to refer to it as a soft style. So the basis for a quite inventive concept was created. Now it rapidly progressed. As crazy as it sounds, they taught passivity in movement. Drawing back to prepare a strike and long, dynamic movements as well as the use of muscular force were smirked at and scorned. They invented a wedge principle contrary to any physical logic and thought that with this principle they could use their arms to displace attacks from the outside. The only straight line that they thought existed was in front of one’s own body and only on this line were they allowed to move. Anything else simply could not be. They even believed that the force of the opponent could be used. A kind of martial arts version of the geocentric model (of the Middle Ages) of the world was created. In the end they produced a martial art with childish principles. The idea of waiting until physical contact before reacting with a tactile response was the crowning nonsense. The king of senses, vision, to a large extent they did without. This led to fundamentally late reactions, but nobody cared about all this at the time. Then even books with pseudoscientific explanations came on the market, in which they almost turned the art of self-defense on its head.

Yes, you read correctly. Exactly the opposite of that which functions in defense was taught and in addition a suitable history was invented. Naturally we suspected we could not defend ourselves with these principles but the dream was too beautiful. By the time we admitted this to ourselves years had passed. This dream version of a martial art continued up to the mid-90’s. Then a few of us gradually returned to reason. The way back was certainly not easy. After some years of the experiments and dreams, we needed even more years to finally give them up. Astonishingly, this self-governing style still exists to this very day. Meanwhile there are numerous derivatives, with their only act of creativity being a new name. In the end they offered the same fantasy with the same fairy tale of the woman and the nun. To this very day many thousands still try to defend themselves with softness, passivity, and relaxation. The statement, “you have become softer”, which would lead a genuine fighter into depression, in these circles is regarded as praise.

Today I can look back with a smile because I witnessed it myself, and therefore I know what I am talking about. Many times I have asked myself how I put up with it at that time, but on the other hand it’s probable that today’s WingChun® could only have resulted from this journey. I have re-discovered the reality through the absurd; this reality which had to play the leading role with the emergence of the art, because there was only one goal at that time – effectiveness. So, I set myself this task and through painstaking and considerable work created a completely new system, making use of my detailed research and a 40-year experience in martial arts. I took WingChun® on a journey through time to arrive once again in the 21st century and above all in reality.

Thus WingChun® developed. The training of technical coordination is an important component of my system. Strengthening the musculature, the ligaments and even the bones are an indispensable result of the training concept. Powerful and strong defense and attack movements distinguish WingChun®. To be successful in a Self-Defense situation one needs first and foremost a sophisticated technical ability put into action by functional force. In self-defense it is the same whether you are a woman or a man, large or small, heavy or light. There are neither differences nor pros and cons. Everyone learns and trains the same educational programs and achieves the same goal in the end.

I hope with my remarks I can bring some light into the world of the Self-Defense arts. As the leader of the International Academy of WingChun®, this clearing-up is my obligation, particularly regarding Wing-Chun. Again and again I receive e-mails with many questions concerning the styles of Wing-Chun. Unfortunately, marketing ploys are very often accepted as fact. Therefore my personal hint: Go and look at as much as you can, take time before you decide and above all – ask questions. Only you can decide which martial art and which teacher you place your confidence in.

If you are interested in the Self-Defense system WingChun®, you can directly contact the Group and Academy Leaders (found in the Listings – Academies and Groups) in your area. Our WingChun® instructor looks forward to meeting you and will take time to plan your goals with you. Whether you would like to learn or teach Self-Defense and regardless of whether or not you possess previous knowledge from other styles, you are welcome at any time.

WingChun®Learn to Defend Yourself.

Sifu Klaus Brand
August 2009