Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wing Tsun Philosophy: A FIST IS A FIST!


What kind of philosophy is that? Where is the esoteric wisdom? Where are the flowery words? What's the meaning of this?

Wing Tsun philosophy is a fighting philosophy. As such, it had better deal with reality - and a fist in your face (or very quickly coming at it) is the ultimate reality you'd better learn to contend with in Wing Tsun, or else all of your training is a waste of time.

In light of that, this simple statement - a fist is a fist - takes on new meaning. Forget about all of the flowery BS. Focus on reality, not ephemeral concepts.

SO, what'is the first reality you encounter in WT?

It's you.

You, your arms, your legs, the rest of your body, your mind, your breathing, your physical and mental strengths and limitations, and how it all relates to every other part - and, finally, how it all works together.

Learning to deal with all of that is the first stage of your development in WT - and that is what the first form of Wing Tsun, Siu Nim Tau, is there for.

At the Siu Nim Tau stage of your training, you become acquainted with and then learn to face - yourself.


It's you, my friend, with all of your inner tensions, imbalances, your breathing and thinking habits, and the limitations of your perception of yourself.

Your instructor is telling you to do something you are unfamiliar with, you feel goofy as hell doing it, and then, on top of all that, he keps telling you that you're doing it wrong and "corrects" you in ways that you can't even figure out the difference between "wrong" and "correct" at first.

Welcome to the whacky world of Wing Tsun. At this stage, it's all about you, these weird new movements, arm, and leg positions you are learning, and how to let them slowly, through endless repetitions it seems, become a part of you. Rule No. 1: you must become what you do.

But there is more.

Unless you are Jim Carey in the movie "Liar Liar" as he is "kicking his own ass" as he puts it during the famous bathroom scene, you must learn to deal with an opponent, as well. So, while you are learning to battle yourself, you are introduced to all of the things an attacker can do to you as you try to assimilate these new movements you have just learned.

After you learn to execute the defensive arm movements solo, you find out that they are not really movements you do. They are movements your attacker is making you do by virtue of the power, position, and angle of his attacks. You learn that (almost) all of the defensive movements in WT are really nothing than frustrated attacks. That's why the Wing Tsun motto goes,

"When the way is free, punch (or kick, knee, elbow, or whatever). If something (an arm of leg of your attacker) interferes with your attack - stick to it with your own arm or leg. If he forces your arm or leg to retreat or bend - yield. If he suddenly retracts his attacking limb to launch a second attack - follow him while continuing to stick to him. Finally, as the way is free again - attack!"

Attack, stick, yield, follow - and attack again.

Of course, "attack" isn't first among these for no reason. It is always the first thing you do when you are threatened. If it isn't, you will always draw the shorter straw in the game. Your opponent wil always get the jump on you and he will have eall the leisure in the world to regoup and attack again and again, unless you give him something to worry about - and that is your attack. The squence above can be cut short at any stage. If at any moment the way is freed again, attack! It makes no difference whether that hapens while you "stick", "yield", or "follow". Whenever the way is free, attack!

In a fight, all of this happens in split seconds, without time to think. That's why you need to repeat, repeat, repeat, until not only the movement but the response to an attacking stimulus becomes automatic. There are endless variations of this scenario, and each variation has its own natural response. In fact, each variation has several possible responses, and by repetition you train your body, your nervous system, and your mind how to deal with them instantly, without hesitation, and without second-guessing. That phase and process of your training is called "Chi Sau", or "Clinging Arms".

In time (not too much time, but it does take some), you will find out that it becomes harder and harder to fake you out. You no longer care if an attack is real or fake. You respond to it the same way - by attacking yourself, and in such a way that your attack intercepts and neutralizes your opponent's attack.

At this stage, you become what your opponent does. Your opponent's attacks and your defenses and counters become one. Without his attack, there would be no response, and the way in which he attacks determines your response. There is no time for mistakes. There is no time for thinking. There is no time for deceiving yourself about how much you know or how dangerous you are - or even about how much your attacker knows and how dangerous he is. You learn to see things how they really are, not how you would like them to be or how you fear they might be. In other words:


A fist is a fist!

This is the ultimate reality in any fighting art - and Wing Tsun teaches you how to confront and become one with this reality like no other art does.

That is the philosophy of Wing Tsun.

Alex Wallenwein

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another Example of "One Step No Kicks"

What happens when you are trying to impress your opponent with your kung fu "skills":

The moral of the story? Just keep it real.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How Long A Fight Should Take:

No comment required.

Something to Keep in Mind When it Comes to ActualFighting:

This is more relevant once you get to the chi sau stage in your training - but it doesn't hurt to be familiar with the general ideas, now, trust me. (Unfortunately, the poster has requested to disable embedding, so you have to follow the links:

The point is that there is something you can learn from every one of these videos. You just have to see if anything you see in them "talks to you", i.e., if it strikes a chord with you according to where you are in your training and what you know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Little 'Weak' Old Guy Against Big Strong Young Guy ...

Take a good look a the size difference between these two (first pair-up in the video). Watch how the little guy simply stops the big guy cold - and it's not for a lack of trying from the big guy. You can tell as much. That's what Wing Tsun can do for you - but you have to practice.

Alex Wallenwein

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sifu Gary Lam: The "Good Wind" Technique

Gary Lam is a student of the late Grandmaster Wong Shun Leung. I my eyes, he has far exceeded his teacher. That's how it's supposed to be. It means (a) Gary Lam was a good student, and (b) Wong Shun Leung was a great teacher to produce a student such as Sifu Lam.

Anyway, in this video, you will hear Sifu Lam talk about the "Fung Hao". I don't have this on good authority from an actual Wing Tsun source, but my wife, who knows a few words in Chinese, tells me fung hao means "good wind". I suppose the idea is that you can't stop the wind. Whatever you do, it still blows in your face. Maybe you can hide from it, but you can't stop it.


One of the most intriguing things about Sifu Lam is how far he can push people with no apparent effort or any discernible body action. Also, look at his center. It is rock-solid. While his hands flow, his body is always erect, his head up, his gaze relaxed and straight ahead, and his entire body moves as "one piece." I consider him one of the very best Wing Tsun/Wing Chun masters out there.

When you train, even when learning new and unfamiliar techniques, always keep in mind the mottoes: "Push the head to the sky, feet firmly on the ground", and "head up, with horizontal vision."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Learning to Be A Good Teacher

In my eyes, I am not a good teacher yet - but I am learning to be one. You can, too.

I want my students to "get the full load" of Wing Tsun. It's been my experience that I learn most when I teach. Whenever I teach others, I teach myself. This is not just a saying. It is a fact.

In order to help you become a good teacher, I am going to start charging you with the responsibility of teaching every new student you bring into the school. That won't be your primary responsibility, of course. Your primary one is to learn WT yourself, but if you know that you must accept at least some responsibility for your friend's progress when you bring him to class, that accomplishes a few things:

1. You become more careful about whom you bring in. Bring in people you trust, people you "get good vibes" from - not just anyone.

2. You learn how to feed your own Wing Tsun habit. Wing Tsun is like an addiction. Once you "catch the bug", it will never let you go again, trust me. The good part is that WT is the healthiest addiciton I know of.

3. As assistant instructor (which this helps you become), you get extra private lessons at reduced rates compared to regular students.

4. Since you get a discount for each student you bring in, it's only fair that you should take care of them, stay in touch with them, help them if they have questions or problems, etc. Remember: you are their Sihing/SiJe, i.e., older brother or sister. They are family now!

Other than that, what does it take to be a good teacher? Sure, you have to be good yourself, but it's even more important that you care about how much (and how well) your student learns - and whether he has fun while learning it.

Alex Wallenwein

Bruce Lee: Legend - and Reality

This will make a lot of Bruce Lee fans hate me, but reality is what it is. Compare how he looks here, during actual practice (with an opponent who doesn't even attack him) with his movies. Yes, he was fast. Yes, he was superbly trained and fit, etc. with great coordination skills - but this video really doesn't exactly instill awe in a careful observer:

Now, compare that to the video just below. You be the judge.

Alex Wallenwein

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wing Tsun Grandmaster Leung Ting - When He Was Cool

This footage is from 1975 when Leung Ting first came to Germany at the request of Sifu Keith Kernspecht. Too bad for him he doesn't feel he needs to show off anymore. He would have many more students in the US if he did:

Toward the middle of this video you can see a perfectly executed "Siu Nim Tau form" (Wing Tsun's first of only three empty-hand forms). The freeze-frame here shows the 'wu sao' movement of the third ("saam pai fut") set of the form. Watch and learn.

Alex Wallenwein
(832) 452-9966

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wing Tsun Footwork: "One Step - NO KICKS"!

The Chinese have a name for the "single advancing" or "arrow" step in Wing Tsun. I don't have the Chinese transliteration handy right now, but they call it the "One Step No Kicks" step. It's a very apt description.

Kicks need distance to work. Kickers need distance to kick. If you as a WT fighter take that distance away from them, they can't kick you, period. It's really that simple. This also relates to the concept of "sticking". Once you have quickly covered the distance between you and your opponent, you "stick" by using your advancing steps to keep following him wherever he goes while constantly invading his stance with your front leg.

The first part of this idea is perfectly demonstrated by this video clip from a WT guy in Argentina, I think. Watch his opponent jump and spin around like a mighty whirlwind - but when it's time to engage, you suddenly see a very different picture. (What happens after that on the ground isn't that relevant here, but it is also a form of "sticking") Watch this:

How many kicks did you see the kicker throw after the fight started? Zero. He never had a chance. No room. Hence, the Chinese name for the step.

Also consider the size difference between the two fighters here. The kick boxer in the red jacket probably outweighs the Wing Tsun guy by fifteen to twenty pounds. Another piece of evidence that Wing Tsun is indeed a great "equalizer" in self defense.

When you practice your footwork from now on, especially when practicing your arrow step, remember this video!

Sihing Alex
(832) 452-9966

Thursday, July 23, 2009

News from the Backyard

A lot of changes are in the works and happening already.

  1. We will resume Student Grade (SG) testings every two months, or at least once a student has attended twelve lessons since his or her last testing. The Lesson Plans on the Meetup website (for the first five lessons) cover the entire material needed to pass SG2. That means that the rest of the twelve lesson will be for practicing what you have learned. Should be plenty.
  2. The Teaching Outline (also on the Meetup) currently goes to SG-4. At SG-3, you are already beginning to learn the first section of two-armed Chi Sao. That's downright heretical by current European (and even Chinese and American) standards. Back when, Chi Sao started at SG-6, about a year and a half into your training!
  3. Salomon is a trained carpenter. Yeah!! That means, time permitting, he will help us put up a fighting platform very soon.
  4. He can probably also build us a wooden dummy. I have the specs and plans, and he has the skills. That will really lower the price we have to pay for the darn thing considerably.
  5. I am starting free Saturday self defense classes at Discover Green in downtown Houston (1500 McKinney). Current students are free to participate, of course. That will be great advertising for us.
  6. I have just ordered the first of a series of WT DVDs from Germany that teach the entire system - and it's not garbage like all the other ones are that claim to do the same thing but never deliver. The only problem is - they're in German only, so far ...
As you can see, there's a lot going on. I will also start making contacts with other Wing Chun schools around town so that when you guys are more advanced (very soon), you have other people to practice your Chi Sao with. It keeps us from committing martial arts "incest" by only practicing with people from our own school all the time. I hope they're not too skittish. I really don't want this to turn into a "who's school is better?" kind of thing. I have no interest in that. I just want you to learn and practice.

More news to follow soon, I am sure.

Until then,
Sihing Alex

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wing Tsun is 'Defenseless' Against This ...

Seriously. Do you think Wing Tsun is unbeatable? Then try this on for size:

Who could compete with that, hmm? :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Much Wing Tsun CAN Be Learned in 3 Years:

There probably is no better example for how much Wing Tsun can be learned in 3 years than these kids from Armenia. Just take a look at this 15 year-old girl's chi sau skills:

Or this 17 year-old who knows bart cham dao - the highest skill level of Wing Tsun:

Okay, so maybe he isn't Leung Ting yet, but pretty damn good for three years of WT, wouldn't you think?

Guess who his father's (who taught him) teacher is? Go figure it out yourself. It's all right there if you look for it - and then consider how your own Wing Tsun career could have gone if he had taught you the way he taught this boy's father.

So, all of Wing Tsun in 3 years? Why not?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

All of Wing Tsun - in Only 3 to 5 Years??

Everybody who learns WT knows that Wing Tsun was designed to be taught much faster than the so-called 'traditional' styles like Shaolin-based Kung Fu - so how come it takes most people more than ten years to learn the whole system?

One of the great things about being free of any organization is that you can do what you want. I can do what I want. In my eyes, Wing Tsun is nothing more than an ongoing experiment. It's supposed to be a scientific system based on scientific principles, right? And science is based on experimentation. From a thesis, you form a hypothesis, and then you experiment until you can find out whether or not you can produce the desired result. If you can, then great, if you can't, you keep on experimenting until you either know that it's probably impossible to produce that result or until you find a way to produce it. And then you test the result. Isn't that how it's supposed to go?

So, I am going to try and see if I can teach my students (at least those who come regularly and who practice at home) everything I know in 3-5 years.

It's very liberating to teach this way. I am no longer constrained to drag things on and on - and my students can progress much faster. What's the result? I get more and better training partners faster than ever before - and that, to me, is the point of it all, really. I teach Wing Tsun because I am an 'addict' and i need to feed my own habit. I haven't figured out how to "kick my own ass" yet, like Jim Cary did in the bathroom scene in the movie "Liar Liar" (If you haven't seen that movie,please do. It's hilarious - and shows you perfectly why, in WT, you absolutely need a partner.) It's like wrestling. Maybe you can practice kata by yourself all day long - but can you wrestle with yourself?

So, I have this private student who is really just learning daan chi (single arm chi sau or "clinging arms" exercise). I already started teaching him lap sau and how to apply the concept of both in the European Lat Sau program (at least a "privatized" version of it), so why not start him on Chum Kiu and poon sau?

So I did. Let's see how well he absorbs it. I expect he will start learning wooden dummy no later than a year from now.

I am also starting him on the long pole exercises. Not the form and application, yet, but the basic exercises, i.e., techniques. My new teacher (who has practiced since the mid-70's from one of the very early students of Sifu Leung Ting and many others) says that long pole is supposed to be taught early on in WT, while you form your Wing Tsun - not after you have already formed it! That means I am way too late already, supposedly (but then again - so what? I have really never stopped forming' my Wing Tsun. Let's see if I can learn it well enough, even though I'm turning fifty this year). Makes a lot of sense to me. Long pole has a different way of using 'power' (i.e., transferring energy). If you can build that into your WT as it grows inside of you, you can excel much faster, and you get stronger than you would otherwise.

Too bad I 'grew up' in an organization and an environment where everything is being taught so piece meal. But, then again, so what? I can only practice and teach what I know and I can only learn what someone is willing to teach me. Better now (although late) than never. Why wait until even later?

Bottom line is, I will no longer treat my own students that way. I will pass on what I know and I will experiment to see how early I can teach it to them without messing up their progress and technique. That's my new ambition. Let's see where it takes us.


Monday, June 29, 2009

No B.S. - just Wing Tsun!

This blog is not about whose wing tsun (wing chun, ving tsun, wing tzun, wing tjun, etc., etc., blah, blah) is "better." Maybe your teacher's is better than my teachers'. Who knows.

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

I only care about what I can learn, who I can learn it from, who I can practice it with, how much I can practice, and who might want to learn it from me. That's all that matters. If you have an axe to grind that doesn't fit into these parameters, please go grind it somewhere else and spare us the noise and the shavings.

If you feel the same way, this might be the place for you, on the other hand.

As for me, I started learning and practicing WT (yes, the Leung Ting system) in Germany in 1981, emigrated to the US (Florida) a few months later, then continued learned from my first Sihing, Curtis Dittrich when he came to Florida in 1982. I was on my own ever since he returned to Germany, less than a year later. Learning from him was like pulling teeth. His ideal was to sit on a couch, have his disciples bring him cups of tea, and dole out pearls of second-hand wisdom. Not my style - but I hung in there.

In 1984 I lucked into a chance to put on a 5-day Seminar with GGM Leung Ting, and then a 10-day Seminar with him the following year. After that, I moved to Houston and learned only through seminars in places like San Antonio, Houston, L.A., Chicago, Heppenheim (Germany), etc. GM Kernspecht, the EWTO founder, was my sifu because my first teacher was not a sifu yet so he was my Sihing and Kernspecht became my sifu by default. I only saw him twice in my life.

Another Sihing of mine from Germany, Sifu Thomas Dolnitzki, came by occasionally. He actually taught me a lot during those times. Sifu Emin Boztepe was the US chief instructor of the American Leung Ting organization for a while. Then he was kicked out, Sigung Leung Ting took over in the US, and things went downhill from there. Why? In one word:


I have no use for it. After tolerating it for two decades, I quit the organization. I have never felt better. Now, I am learning whatever used to potentially cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars extra per form (or set of movements) for free, paying nothing more than the private lesson fee. On top of that, I learned that the whole system of Wing Tsun (sp.), including wooden dummy, long pole and bart cham dao, should be taught (and digested) in three to five years - not ten to twenty year, as is (and has been) the case in the Leung Ting (and many other) organizations.

What a liberating idea!

But this blog isn't about me. It is about you and what you can learn, when, and where, why, and how well.

I'll tell you right now that despite my twenty-plus years in WT, I only know the Biu Tze form, but not the Chi Sao that goes along with it. I am only now learning the wooden dummy and the long pole forms, and I haven't started the bart cham dao, yet. Totally my fault. I didn't want to spend all those extra dollars for it - but I am learning all of those now, or at least very soon, in the case of bart cham dao. I also have good people to practice the movements and principles with. What more could a man ask for?

Do you wan to know what "level" I am? If you care, this is the wrong place for you. There are many other places you will like better.

Do you want to earn student grade certificates in return for your training fee? I might hand those out after testings, but then again, I might not. They do you no good unless you are a traveling wing tsun salesman. In that case they might tell your next instructor where you are in the system - but then again, he will find out very soon anyway if he pays attention to you like, say in the first hour of your training or so.

It really doesn't matter.

I will use this blog to share some information, videos, and insights I find valuable. If you want to "prove" something to anyone by arguing that this or that is "better" or "worse" than something or someone else - again, please go somewhere else. I' m so tired of it.

Other than that, my blog and front porch (where I teach) are open to anyone who doesn't want to waste my time.

Welcome to 'Wally's Whacky World of Wing Tsun.'

Alex Wallenwein
Houston, TX