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The difference between knowing and understanding

Last Monday we had both Darren and Robin teaching class (during Sifu’s recovery) we went through quite a lot a chi sau and forms, it struck me that one of the differences between how Sifu teaches and my experiences from my previous academy isn’t necessarily the breadth of learning but the depth.

Allow me to try and explain, at my previous Wing Chun academy, for the ‘red 1’ grade syllabus, the requirements filled at least half an A4 page, with my current Sifu ‘Red1 ‘ is just 5 lines of text.

Also at my previous academy the grades were held much more frequently, between 4 to 6 months for lower level grades, whereas currently I’ve been training with my current Sifu since September 2016 and we’ve only had one grade opportunity.

I realised on Mondays class that, it is the depth of learning is far greater with Sifu than I previously thought, we spent some time looking at the first form – extending tan sau forward, realising that the energy come from the elbow and feeling this with the help of a partner, rather than just copying the movements with no real understanding.

A previous student of Sifu, who left to train elsewhere (before my time) accused Sifu of purposely holding back students, maybe he does, maybe he allows them to fully saturate themselves with the understanding of the syllabus, rather than a quick splash of knowledge before moving onto the next level or grade.

In the new Year I set myself the goal of learning Chum Kiu (2nd Form) this year, but after watching the senior grades discus this form on Monday, I realised I was just ‘surface learning’ I was going through the movements, without the deeper understanding of why.


Year ago, during my time in Aikido, our the head of our association Sensei Riley (7th Dan Shihan) used to use the analogy of driving a car, when he spoke to us about learning.

On your first lesson, there are all these controls which are confusing, and you have to coordinate your hands and use the foot pedals, and change gears, and watch for traffic, etc etc…however as you make progress you begin to slowly get the hang of everything…until eventually it becomes natural and your able to drive for miles without about consciously thinking about what your doing.




Temporarily Sifu-less

Monday night was our second week, without our Sifu.

We received a group face book message and email, early in the new year informing us of his serious illness (blood clot on the lung) and that his recovery time could be up to six months.

So our newly graded black sashes Darren and Robin will be taking classes until Sifu is ready to come back and teach lessons again.

There was almost a weeks delay before receiving news of Sifu’s illness and receiving news that classes would continue, so for a while I was unsure of my future in Wing Chun, as I didn’t know if Sfu would be reopening his classes, or if the club would be closed indefinitely, I’m glad to say that a solution was found.

The situation has taught me the importance of taking more responsibility in my own development and learning, to this end I’ve begun to learn the 2nd section of Chum Kui, and make some improvement learning the terminology of techniques in Cantonese.

I’m again a little disappointed that after our ‘late November grades’ never materialised, and then we were promised early New Year grades, with Sifu being out of action anywhere from 2 – 6 months we will once again have to wait, but obviously this wasn’t a situation that Sifu wanted, so it’s just a case of going with the flow of life I suppose.

In fact I starting to wonder if grades and having a grading structure in Wing Chun is a good thing or not and if a non-grade structure would work better, traditionally there were no grades, they were introduced for the ‘modern western’ students, and our consumerist mentality. On the other hand without MacDonald’s who would crave a ‘Big Mac’ I wouldn’t be concerned about taking my next grade if there were none to take.


Whilst I’m enjoying Darren and Robins classes, It goes without saying that we all wish Sifu a full and speedy recovery.

Unexpected motivation

Motivation comes in various forms, in all different shapes and sizes.

Let me share with you an experience that happened over the holidays that gave me a huge boost of motivation and will hopefully carry through well into the New Year.

On Saturday the 30th December I was walking to the gym (about a 15- 20 min walk) the weather was mild and dry, and I was in a good mood, just walking and minding my own business, during the journey, the way I go, leaves a residential street, goes down past an underpass and then rejoins another residential area.

So there I am walking down the street, which is wide and along side a cycle path, when I notice a man walking in the opposite direction, I notice that there is a young girl walking a few yards behind him, so a Dad taking his daughter to the shops or just out for a walk, so my brain is in condition yellow* I move to the side of the path, as I’ve noticed the man is taking a wider diagonal route (towards me) as we pass he lunges towards me (hands still in his pockets), without breaking pace I stepped of the pavement onto the cycle lane, as he lunges towards me he shouts “move out of the f$cking way, you bald c$nt”

I continued walking, and just shook my head, what had caused this out burst, this unprovoked aggression?

I’ve played the incident over many, many times in my head since it happened, did I ‘respond’ correctly by in fact not responding?

Would I have responded differently if his hands were out of his pockets, if his hands had come towards me?

I would like to have thought so.

Needless to say when I got to the gym, I used the adrenalin to have a great work out, the best in months, after my workout I went to the upstairs area of the gym, where they have small booths, and I practiced my Wing Chun forms, so all in all a fantastic gym session….

So who ever you are you foul mouthed aggressive person – thank you for that unexpected motivation.


* Based on Col. Jeff Coopers ‘Cooper color code’

White – unaware / unprepared

Yellow – relaxed alert – no specific threat

Orange – specific threat, something not quite right on your radar

Red – Immanent danger, condition is fight

Last Wing Chun class of 2017

Monday night (18th) was our last lesson at Wing Chun for 2017, Sifu has been in a relaxed mood these last couple of weeks, so we’ve not really done a lot in class, a bit of pad-work last week and this week we focussed on Chi sau.

We now have two weeks off and start back on the 8th of January.

I’m pleased with the fact that in the entire 14 months since I started I’ve only missed 1 lesson.

On Saturday the 9th of December was the end of year presentation evening for ‘Direct Martial Arts’, held at the Bentley pavilion in Doncaster.

Our Wing Chun group did a demonstration of the first form, and some weapons defence – against short stick and knife.

I was asked to demonstrate the knife defence – using my previous years of Aikido.

So the techniques on display apart from the forms in no real way reflected our regular Wing Chun training.

Darren and Robin passed their 1st Degree Black Sash grade on December 10th

I’m Glad we’re coming towards an end of 2017, I’m rather disappointed at the lack of progress I seemed to have made this year, especially as the ‘end of November’ grades never materialised – it would have been nice to finish the year with red 3.

Had I’d been younger and with my own transport, I may have been tempted to look around and maybe train with a different club / Sifu.

I spent a lot of my years in Aikido doing that, and although it was well intentioned, broadened my knowledge, and got to train with some great people, looking back it probably hindered my overall progress. As the saying goes the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The new shortened class time, means we don’t get to cover techniques or principles in detail, like we did before, when we trained at the gym. So I really hope we can increase class training time or get a second night somewhere in 2018.

So I’ll stay where I am and stick with what I’m doing, and continue with my progress all be it rather slow progress.

It took Robin about seven years to pass his black sash, so I guess I’ll just have trust the process, don’t attempt and rush, and strive to enjoy the journey.


I wish you the very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2018.

Wing Chun mixed feelings at the moment

Our new Wing Chun venue has many advantages over our previous ‘studio’ at the multiplex gym we used to use – it’s more private, it’s larger, It’s set in green park lands, we don’t have to get through the gym reception (which was often very busy), it’s quieter (no thumping gym music) and we have the use of mats.

This is offset by the fact that we only have an hour for our class, and we seem to have lost a few members since the transition.


Due to being mats at the new venue, Sifu has begun to teach more take downs and sweeps etc, it was during this kind of class last week, when I mentioned to the person I was training with about break falls (as Sifu hadn’t mentioned them) Sifu came over and I was talking about my previous Aikido background – so at the end of class as we bowed out Sifu announced that I may be showing the class some Aikido in the future.

I left the class with some very mixed feelings, I think some part of me would probably enjoy ‘teaching’ Aikido again, even if just a couple of techniques, on the other hand all of us there, are there to learn Wing Chun – not Aikido.

Also with the lessons shorter now – I don’t want to be in the situation where I’m asked to show something with only a five minute window.

I’ll just see how this goes.


I’ve not been as enthusiastic or energetic these last couple of weeks, I seem to have missed my mid week gym session for example and my daily Wing Chun form / punching practice, I’ve put this down to the time of the Year, my energy levels generally start to flat-line during these dark, cold and damp winter months.


With only four weeks left until we break up for Christmas our promised “late November grades” haven’t materialised and I now suspect that our “late November grades” will now be held next February or March.

I was really looking forward to have the opportunity to take ‘red 3’ before the end of the Year.


So all things considered I’m having some mixed feelings about my Wing Chun at the moment….oh well not to worry just keep on enjoying the training I suppose.

Kamiza – large small or not at all?

In the Aikido dojo we often (almost always) have a picture of O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba the founder of Aikido.

The term Kamiza is often used to denote this space, in fact kamiza simply means the front of the dojo, this traditionally speaking should be opposite the side of the building which has the main doors.

So the four sides of the dojo are made up of the main or front wall, also known as the high seat (kamiza) the rear wall, also known as the low seat (shimoza) the high side (joseki) and the lower side (shimozeki).

Spiritually speaking the high seat (kamiza) should be a place of purity and reserved for something or someone of certain status, upon this wall traditionally would / may have been a kamidana a small alcove where the family shrine would have been placed.

Traditionally as the shimoza or low seat was (is) seen as been less pure in a spiritual sense, this is where the door would have been from a small foyer type area where a persons outdoor clothes and shoes were placed before stepping out into the main dojo area, in today’s situation, this is often the door into the sports hall or gym, where we can put our bags and shoes etc.

These days the term ‘kamiza’ as become synonymous with the somewhat revered space where we hang up a picture of O’Sensei.

As for the picture itself I’ve seen many varieties from what has become the somewhat standard A4 size black and white portrait photograph to a post card sized one.

If you’re lucky enough to have a permanent dojo then you can have a fixed kamiza and make it as elaborate as you want, whereas if you’re just renting a space then something portable is required.

White Rose Aikikai came up with a great solution to this by using a vinyl scroll, which could be easily stored in your sports bag, the rolled out and hung up at the training venue.

Under my last Aikido Sensei (Sensei Acaster) we didn’t have a kamiza, we lined up facing the same wall each week, but Sensei didn’t use a kamiza, he didn’t wear a hakama either, so maybe he didn’t want the traditional approach?


So why all this about kamiza’s etc…well last week we started at a new venue for the Wing Chun club, and this (our 2nd ) week Sifu was trying to decide which side of the hall to line up against, unlike Aikido, Wing Chun is generally less formal, we don’t have a ‘kamiza’ or any pictures of Ip Man or other prominent figures.

So began to think to myself that maybe we should have a ‘kamiza’ or something similar a photo of Ip Man (Yip Man) although technically not the founder, he was certainly the great modern innovator, and someone who we like to trace our system and association  lineage back to. This would not only serve as a focal point to the kwoon, but also as something to which we can show respect and gratitude to the heritage of the system.

My Sifu is very laid back and I don’t think we’ll ever have a very formal class structure to our Wing Chun, but years down the line if I have the opportunity to teach again, it’s something I will certainly consider.


Monday night was our first class at the new venue for our Wing Chun club, Sifu has made the move from the ultra modern exercise-4-less gym in Doncaster, to a recently renovated Victorian era village pavilion.

It’s a nice building, in a lovely park setting and closer to my home, which means less travelling so that’s great, but on the down side the lesson is now only one hour, which is not so good, especially with end of Year grades approaching.

Although I’m still really enjoying my training, I’ve found my energy levels have dropped off in the last few weeks, I’m still proud of the fact that I’ve only missed one class in the whole Year that I’ve been training (that was due to being on holiday) and I seem to be making good progress, I hope I can keep this up during the cold, wet and dark winter months, when my energy levels usually take a nosedive.

There were only four of us there for the class, so hopefully we’ll see a few more faces next over the next few weeks.


This transition is just one of many, as we move from summer into autumn, we see the effects of transition and change all around us, the shortening days, the golden leaves and the cold misty mornings.

Our lives like the seasons are in a constant state of change.


I’ve been undertaking changes in other areas of my life, In August we decided as a family to sell the car, this wasn’t an easy decision, as my old Renault scenic has been a great family car, and we have had some good times with it.

But it was 16 years old, and needing some work, so it wasn’t financially viable to keep.

I was sorry to see it go, but sometimes the mind has to rule the heart.

Spiritually I’ve made a transition and have begun to attend my local Methodist Chapel, this is my 4th week, so far I’m enjoying it, I’m also reading the Bible (using the E100 Bible reading program) which I’m finding interesting, I would like to pursue professional level religious studies, but at the moment I can’t afford to.

Oh well that’s it for now, I can’t believe we’re in October already, it’ll be Christmas before we know it.