This blog is here to signpost people to the Instructors page of our website which has been enlarged to include details of four of our senior students, Jon, Craig, Ziggi and Gavin. I want to recognise not only their abilty as wing chun practitioners but also the excellent work they have done in helping teach in class. You can click the link below to see a short bio of their training history in their own words, but I thought that I would add a bit here about how I see them.
In over 6 years of running the class, we must have seen over 200 new students come and go. Even if they make it to the second lesson, not many make it past a few months. What sets out our four from the rest is good old kung fu, which transales to 'hard work over time'. There are loads of reasons why you can miss a class, a busy day at work, weathers too hot, too cold, sport on the telly - the list goes on. Talent is important, but there is something else which sets them apart.
Jon is our oldest student, he came to our second class and was hooked from the start. Over 6 years he has pretty much been at class every week, probably managing 50 weeks each year. He is a busy school teacher, but unless is is forced to work late he will be in class on time with his notebook, readly to record what he has learned. I've never heard Jon complain, moan or have anything but a positive approach to training.
Craig stated in 2015,or the first 5 years he would travel to class twice a week from his home Ripon, which is on average one hour and a half drive each way. Although he had studied wing chun before he was happy to start again with us. Just before lockdown he moved to Sheffield so he could commit more time to wing chun.
I usually say to Ziggi that he does not need wing chun. He is naturally powerful and fast so why learn a martial art devoted to relaxed power? But Ziggi loves overcoming a challange. Shortly after taking up running he was covering marathon distances and recently he ran over 100km. When Ziggi puts his mind and determination into something it happens; he is a force of nature.
Gavin is at a time in life when he could give up work and learn to play golf. He had planned to retire a while back and move to Bulgaria, but... Instead he comes to class twice a week as well as having 3 or 4 private lessons. He is not a big guy but I've seen experienced teachers turn white once he has clamped his hands on them.
What these four have in common is the grit and determination to keep going. To train even when there are other demands, twinges and pains, when thing don't seem to be working. This is the true talent needed to succeed in any complex skill. For me that is what sets them apart and makes them true Sung Men. This is not to say that they are the best, or that they have nothing left to learn, far from it as all of us are miles from perfect. But, they have that key ingredient which can only blossom over the next few years.
So from me, a simple thanks for being part of the team.
My last blog was concerned with a methodology of teaching a student, but I deliberately left out a crucial point in the relationship which I call the ‘critical moment’. This is the point where it goes beyond the teacher imparting knowledge and experience and more about how the student can learn to take control of their own development. We can all reach such a point in our own training, but for a considerable period it does require a teacher to help you understand both how to get there and also what it feels like. Even when you find it unfortunately it can be fleeting and difficult to get back.
For me the critical moment is when my body and mind are in a good state of release (detached from trying) and when I go to move I can sense whether it will involve a stiffening and shortening of my muscles, or a more general release and expansion of myself. Movements look more obvious. Movement is pleasurable. At this point we not only learn that there is always a better way to move, there are a myriad of options to move, to move and think. It’s another one of those Matrix experiences where Neo not only realises that he can dodge bullets, but that he does not even have to. I’m not saying that we can do that, but what this way of thinking can do is help us experience reality for what it and how our perceptions of reality might warp the ways in which we think that we can move.
This is not always possible in a busy class but my approach to teaching a private lesson is based around getting a student to this point. It might take a few minutes; might take an hour, but we both know when they are there. It can be tiring because actual thinking, thinking outside of our habitual box requires a focus that most people do not use in their day to days lives. True thinking is not mulling over the past or planning the future, its being in the moment. It does not involve feeling, because feeling is not thinking. This is where the term mindfulness in movement comes from. If you can sustain such thinking then improvement can be multiplied many time over in a single lesson.
The benefit of reaching such a place in your thinking is that it changes your perceptions of movement and of yourself. That starts as physical but as there is no real separation between physical and mental then it is bound to change the way you see wing chun and the world.
It’s clear to me that CST taught with similar principles even if he did not express it as such. With inexperienced students he would ‘set them up’, but they would have no conscious knowledge of how it worked because it was not based on impulses from their consciously controlled muscles. With experienced students he taught them how to achieve this themselves. When they lost it, it just took a look from him to remind them, like a spark to light the flame. The aim of all us students of wing chun has to be to understand this way of thinking and ultimately reach it on our own without the crutch of a teacher to help us.
Keeping you up to date with what is happening in class