VALENTINES HIGH SCHOOL, CRANBROOK ROAD, ILFORD, ESSEX, IG2 6HX
REPORT BACK BY GEORGE NAHLIS
We just had our much-anticipated seminar delivered by Chief Instructor, Sifu Garry Mckenzie. The seminar was a full on physical seminar in which Sifu Garry took us through some bread and butter skills that all students should have whether beginner or advanced. The seminar helped all students crank up the combat attitude.
With well over 100 students and instructors participating we were reminded that we are but one large family of students. All working together and supporting one another to learn wing chun.
Personally I always look forward to these seminars, because we get a detailed seminar along a theme, and always get plenty of practice and hands on experience. Getting hands from all the students, of all sizes and strengths and qualities is so very valuable to develop our experience and skill.
The seminar was structured in such a way that it benefitted beginner advanced and intermediate. The techniques utilised were the basic or fundamentals and accessible to students of differing ability and skill. There were some key learning points to take away and implement, and over this last week I have heard students and instructors alike saying that they had been “training” or doing “lin gung”, as is explained below. So what did the seminar tell us about our combat strategy and philosophy?
1. We were asked to think about what the most important thing is that we have to defend ourselves in a real situation. Students answered eagerly and well. The answer coming back from Sifu Garry (Si Fu) was that “You are the weapon – do not neglect the body conditioning”. To achieve this, a wing chun martial artist must maintain good stamina. Sifu stressed the importance of punching and training every day, saying “you must punch every day to be serious about your wing chun and be a martial artist. In this way you are preparing and in readiness for combat. In days of old, if a martial arts Sifu ordered students to do 1000 or 2000 punches a day it was done without question. But things have rather changed nowadays.
2. Lin jap and Lin gung. SIfu explained to students that we must understand the difference between practice, as in class practice to develop the techniques, this being “Lin Jap” in Cantonese, and training to condition oneself and push oneself to become better and combat ready, this being known as “Lin Gung”.
3. Sifu relayed the advice that one should not fear the man (or woman) who knows one thousand techniques but has only practised them a few times, rather s/he should fear the man who knows only a few techniques, such as a punch or a kick and has practiced it thousands of times. (An often quoted saying made famous by Bruce Lee). Combine this practice with the resultant development in stamina, and it is possible to appear that you have released a poltergeist during a combat altercation. It will not come out if you have not practised diligently. Once the introduction was done the seminar got into the practical activities, and it was all systems go!
4. The first half of the seminar looked at developing that endurance through practice in a non-pressured situation. Students were able to test their own stamina and mental endurance under no-pressure or threat by doing some basic exercises. Simply chain punching focus pads for 3 minutes continuously. Suffice to say, no one really lasted the 3 minutes without slowing, faltering and some struggling to continue! A real eye opener. This was followed up with similar timed drills using turning punch, arrow walk up and down. Sifu then concluded by explaining the purpose of the drill. Ideally we would like the fight to be over in 3 seconds, but it could go on for much longer, therefore we should train and expect a fight to last up to three minutes. Therefore we must train at full force for three minutes on all the basics. This is so because we may not just be faced with one attacker with one heart and one pair of lungs. Rather we may be faced with two or more attackers, in the former case, two hearts and two pairs of lungs fighting one person. This demands a high level of stamina and also other elements to be brought into “Lin Gung” or training.
There are four important elements to work into our training. As well as stamina or physical endurance, we have to work on speed, power and accuracy. Some of these can be built into the simple 3 minute drills as above. There are numerous other ways to develop these which this review won’t be addressing and which every instructor of The Wing Chun School will help students to develop and integrate in their training.
The first half of the seminar Sifu Garry commented on the modern phenomena of what I might term as arm-chair or spectator martial artists. In a voice expressing astonishment and surprise he explained that today’s martial artists like to be impressed by others, for example on YouTube etc and to also praise others’ work. But these same martial artists neglect to develop themselves. Sifu Garry said he was not impressed by anyone, but is certainly impressed by someone who trains and follows their system, in whatever martial art they are involved in. They are better to look at their own training. We follow a system, and that is why we can see that system expressed in all the students.
The second half focussed the students on being able to utilise their skills, their body and techniques in combat scenarios. That is, when we are attacked, when under pressure, what have we got in response? Do we have a punch, the footwork, that works under pressure?
Again Sifu kept things very simple and basic. Attacks consisted of a basic attack from a front approach, and either using a straight jab or kick or a hook punch coming from the front or rear hand. Students were asked to utilise either a side step (pong ma) or an angle step (gok ma) or in later drills a darting step (biu ma). The drills were designed to enable us to practice taking the angle on a forward approach using gok ma, and countering with a one two combination. Or else biu ma and use of biu sau (or a simple palm to the face) then a kick to the groin area followed by a one two combo.
In this section SIfu explained the importance of pad work and how to operate the pads for the partner/act as coach. Pad work was done precisely to develop accuracy and position, and later to develop some speed and reaction. The scalene triangle or rather turning the upper body via the waist to evade oncoming rear or lead hook using a tan or biu sau and simultaneously delivering a straight punch, then a chain punch pursuit. These were later developed using pak sau chi sau and also bong lap sau chi sau. Students had an opportunity to practice being elusive in their striking and not telegraphing their attack during bong lap sau chi sau with fast palm (jing jeun) and chain punch. We were then shown and practised bong lao sao chi sau with jing jeun, where our palm strike is stopped and push back at us forward and we let hand go past and punch in a one two or more combo, once again turning and using hips to evade and counter and chain pursue. It showed how the scalene triangle was formed with the use of hips turning and maintaining the wu sau position in a combative mode. Palm relaxed, forearm up and ready to punch.
As I said above students were certainly enthused by the seminar, and it was an eye opener and a challenge for many. One student commented that “I loved the seminar and that it used the basic techniques within self defence to devastating effect.”. Another commented as follows “top draw seminar and an eye opener and thank you”, and a Sifu said “My student went as it was his first seminar, he loved it and can’t wait for the next one.” Another student commented, “The seminar was well paced and well balanced. It was engaging as well as informative with a high quality content all put together in a simple language. 10/10. So far attended 3 seminars in the last 2 years and even though they were all great, this one still managed to stick out. I always make sure I’m free for any of those as not attending would be a considerable loss.”
What I really enjoyed was going round assisting with the coaching I could see how the students from every branch really tried to implement the elements, they were putting 100% into their efforts and bringing the drills to life. There was no ego in there at all to get in the way, just wanting to learn and improve.
There are some great photos of the seminar and also a video to follow. Sifu thanked us all for coming, and all who helped before and on the day. We also gave our thanks to Si Fu Garry for the seminar and how he had made it so interesting, relevant and practical, as always. As is customary we took group photos at the end and then headed on for a celebratory meal, where being amongst The Wing Chun School Sifus and students, is always fun and good to catch up and was enjoyed by those who attended.
I’m looking forward to the next seminar. In the meantime Sifu reminded us to keep training so that the next seminar can build on what we have covered.