Sunday, June 17, 2018

Wing Chun Do - Martial Art for the Common Man

Champions - every one!

Wing Chun Do – Martial Art for the Common Man

“You have to get yourself a champion.” This is what a friend told me during a discussion about the secret of success as owner of a martial art school. “That’s how I did it.” His contention was that creating a successful tournament competitor, visible to all, is the key to popularizing a martial art school. This is expressly true if your particular martial art is most clearly expressed through tournament, a venue governed by rules and safeguards, where failure is a survivable option. However, in terms of self-defense on the street, where no rules are observed, the proof is found only in survival of those who have been victimized. In this context, failure is tragic and not an option. This interaction caused me to reflect on the meaning of success, winning and champions.

So,  from a martial art standpoint, what is a champion? ...a winner, of course! More accurately, it is an individual who puts him/herself in simulated “harm’s way” in order to test and confirm his athleticism, skill and courage. This is a goal; a choice; a chosen commitment of time and lifestyle. This is the purview of an elite few – those who possess all the attributes necessary to make this very conscious decision. They choose when and where they will test their metal and how he will prepare for the contest.

But, how does this relate to the average person, suddenly and violently forced to defend his/her life and more importantly, that of her/his family? On the street, the opponent is not a competitor but a predator – a determined attacker with no conscience, mercy or remorse – bent on the destruction of its victim. In this situation, there is no choice, no warning and no time to prepare. For the object of such an attack, failure is not an option. In this context, championship means survival.

In point of fact, by this criterion, Wing Chun Do can boast many “champions”. But their victories are not high profile. There is no glory. They receive no trophy or championship belt. They are merely ordinary people, quietly going about their lives in the confidence that they are “champions,” “winners” or more accurately, survivors. Wing Chun Do is specifically suited to the task of creating survivors. As Wing Chun Do Instructors, we offer people the tools necessary for survival. In the final analysis, we help every individual who comes through our doors become a champion. How good does that feel?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

If It Looks Like A Martial Art…

Reviewing Instructor Training materials recently caused me to reflect on the nature of Wing Chun Do, so excuse me for mixing metaphors but, ‘If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, be it Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Ju Jitsu, Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do, etc., it must be a Martial Art.’ But the term martial art cannot adequately describe Wing Chun Do. Wing Chun Do is not martial art. It is martial science – a purely scientific study of self-defense. What’s the difference? Art is the personal expression of the creator’s perception of reality. It can be  analogy, allegory, embellishment, entertainment, interpretation, symbolism, etc. Science, on the other hand, is the quest to correctly identify the facts of reality – period! And, the method must be provable and repeatable. This requires ongoing, unbiased research and development. This is the method applied by Wing Chun Do.

Upon careful study of natural human body-mechanics, one can discern, define and master a set of bio-mechanical principles which allows anyone (regardless of age, size or physical condition) to express their total, natural strength potential. This is accomplished by engaging one’s core to generate and express energy. (A skill commonly attributed to chi). No matter what task is at hand – whether lifting a box, pushing a car, splitting fire-wood or defending oneself – any two people searching for the most efficient way to perform the task must arrive at the same conclusion. Logically, there can be only one most efficient way to do anything. Then, there is second most efficient. In matters of self-defense, it doesn’t pay to be second most efficient.

Wing Chun Do is not secretive, mysterious, enigmatic, or ethereal. It is not complicated or difficult, and does not require great athleticism. On the contrary, Wing Chun Do is the simple, efficient and practical expression of the average human body for the purpose of self-protection. Taking a clear, scientific approach to self-defense, WCD is based on a set of conceptual and physical principles which can be demonstrated, clearly and indisputably, via a set of non-martial, physical strength demos. Anyone willing to take an unbiased look (be it the seasoned martial artist or the layman) will immediately recognize its validity.

Whether, to you, this declaration seems curious, puzzling, intriguing, dubious, or unintelligible, please visit a Wing Chun Do training center and we’ll be happy to clear things up. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Teaching and Learning - A Wing Chun Do Teacher's Experience

Teaching and Learning - Wing Chun Do Teacher's Experience

Sijo DeMile, Sigung Rocco Ambrose, and Curt George

I've said it before. "A good teacher learns from his/her students." Recently, I was teaching a Monday night Wing Chun Do Basics class and it happened again. I received a gift of insight from one of my students. There were, this evening, a larger than usual number of advanced students attending. Upperclassmen often attend basic classes to mentor, as well as to reinforce and refresh their understanding of the basic levels.

I asked each of the upper ranks to take a new student and refine their Closed Bi Jong. I walked around the classroom and observed the progress. When I came around to one of the green sashes mentoring a third-night novice, in short order I realized that the senior was giving advance which was a bit too advanced for the new student. When I pointed this out, he acknowledged the point. He then said, "What do you think? I told him to put his elbows on his hips and make a triangle by touching his fingers together on the centerline." He then demonstrated that even the slightest misalignment of the centerline becomes immediately apparent. He asked, "Is that  alright?"

Is that alright? It's brilliant! It is an immediate graphic illustration of the correct mechanic. Thanks Jay for giving me a new tool for teaching stance work. I have integrated this demonstration to my presentation of the Closed Bi Jong with great success.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Good Teachers Learns from their Students - A Fresh Perspective

A good teacher learns from his/her students.

When I received my teaching certificate in 1988, I was a font of knowledge but, I was undeveloped as a disseminator of knowledge. Over time and several generations of students, I have evolved into a pretty good teacher. I’ve developed the ability to teach not just martial arts, but more importantly, people. The martial art is just the vehicle, but an instructor’s first goal must be to help people learn how to learn – not just the gifted athlete but the average person – in other words, everyone.

Every student provides the teacher with the opportunity to reinforce his/her mastery of the curriculum. Even more valuable, each individual provides a unique opportunity for the teacher to hone his true art – the art of teaching people – the art of reaching the individual. For the teacher, the goal is making his curriculum not just accessible, but personally important to each individual student. In return, each student provides a valuable opportunity to discover a new and unique approach to teaching.

Recently, this truth was renewed for me, refreshingly, by an insightful thirteen year old. I was working with a few young students to improve their stance. We talked about the length and width of each of their stances. We adjusted foot angles, weight distribution and body angle. When we got around to squaring the Centerline, one young lady said, “When I do that, it feels like my knees want to collapse into the center.”  I said “That’s it, exactly! That’s what sinks your center of gravity and it closes down the lower perimeter!” (!Light bulb moment!) I had never approached teaching this aspect of the stance from that standpoint. She (and I) now understood centerline and lowered center of gravity on a more personal level.

Adult class followed directly and I immediately began to integrate this additional approach into my presentation. As I presented it several times in the next few days, I came to additional realizations guaranteed to produce more effective students. What a gift!

Thank you. (You know who you are.) 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Next Generation

The Next Generation

Once in a while you’re in the right place at the right time – the stars align and you get to witness the birth of a martial artist. I have a young student (Joe – 12 years old) who has been training for 2 years. He is an exemplary student; quiet, focused and disciplined – the kind who doesn’t require your constant attention. That can be a disadvantage because there are many others that require concerted attention. This post comes by way of letting him know that he is acknowledged and appreciated. Recently he came to me and, spurred by an illustration in a book about martial arts, asked a question about the technique presented. Uncertain of the exact intent of the picture he presented, and based on my experience, I gave him my best guess. It seems that my answer was sufficient and satisfying. The next time I saw the young man, he had a few questions. Together we considered the subjects and came to an understanding. Soon, the questions were more closely related to Wing Chun Do. Suddenly, I was teaching WCD to a kid. Now, it seems that every time I meet with Joe, he’s eager to learn and I’m all too happy to help. It’s good to be a teacher!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ah, life.

Once in a while you experience a moment that resets the clock. That is to say, I think we all have a life clock, made up of those stark, clear memories which truly define our character; our identity and our very being. There's no telling when these moments are going to happen. They just do. We are the sum of those memories. Last night I experienced one of those moments…

In an attempt to burn all of the wood harvested from the dead branches of our oak tree, I’ve been enjoying a series of relaxing evening fires in the backyard. At last night’s fire, joined by my lovely wife, and conversing about the day and the future, I experienced that now familiar, very intimate feeling that, this moment will supplant its predecessor as one of the top ten moments of my life. Life just keeps getting sweeter!

Wish you all the same.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Teacher's Unique Insight - It's Gold

"When did Sijo DeMile say that? "When did Sijo show you that?" "I've never seen that!
These expressions of incredulity were understandable and easily answered.

Creative people never stop creating. They are always thinking - whether in research groups, one on one with a mentor or student, while shopping during dinner at a restaurant or at a friend's apartment, waiting for phone call from Hong Kong.

Sijo tells many stories about conversing with Bruce, late at night, about the concepts, philosophy and application of martial technique. Such conversations - experienced one on one generated insights unique to those special moments. Here is one such incident that gave me a unique insight.

During my 1997 visit to the Shoreline school in Seattle, there happened a truly priceless occurrence. It was day four of the week long camp. The evening's training session had ended and along with my friend Mark, I was reviewing the day's lesson on a closing the gap technique called gai bo. Sijo was sitting in a chair near the wall and our practice caught his attention. At that moment, he had what I now believe to be a spontaneous realization concerning a subtle modification of the technique. He rose from the chair and came over to where we were working. He said, "Try not stepping so far out." He then demonstrated a narrow angular step and shot a bui jee straight at my head, totally disrupting my base. I tried it a few times and suspected that it would become my personal expression of gai bo. When I returned home, I performed it while training with my fellow Instructors-in-Training, they were confused and a little incredulous, saying that they had never seen Sijo teach the technique in that way.

The point is, triggered by my difficulty performing a technique, Sijo was spontaneously inspired to create a modification tailored personally for me. How lucky to be in that place, at that time, to receive a nugget of true gold. Even better, many of my students have also benefited by my experience. Thank you Sijo!


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