Member Spotlight on Ken Lerch

NOTE:  This article was originally published on September 16, 2016 at

1. How did you hear about WingChun?

In my twenties, I studied T’ai Chi and was familiar with several other internal systems. I knew of WingChun through my studies, and was somewhat familiar with its philosophy and history.

2. What motivated you to try your first class?

I wanted to get more exercise, hated running and found gyms boring; always fascinated by martial arts but concerned whether I could still keep up, I investigated systems I thought I could handle physically and those offering a balance of rigor, discipline and application.

3. What made you join the Academy?

I visited several studios. I also spoke with Sifu Paul Wang, knowing I would likely be older than most students, wanting to discuss whether the training and approach was something matching my physique and capabilities. I was invited to an introductory class to see if it fit with my goals. I found the Academy and instructors patient, focused and supportive, and discovered an immediate balance of technique and application.

4. Why is regular attendance important to you?

Without continual repetitive practice, I tend to lose focus. It is as much mental as physical, particularly in the beginning when you are readjusting attitudes, focusing on a discipline and training yourself in becoming more aware of your surroundings. In the beginning the intricacies and subtleties of the movements can be a challenge but the system ties it all together, reveals clarity, and the practice gets you there quicker. Also, being in the Academy forces you to separate and block all other facets of your life and just be present for this one thing.

5. How do you practice at home?

I wish I had more time. I work in downtown San Francisco, and I have found a location where I can retreat during the day, sometimes at lunch, and practice. This usually occurs 3-4 times a week. I also try to internally visualize my forms. I can sit quietly, close my eyes and slowly think through routines, focusing on each move, feeling the weight shift, slowing the breathing, thinking through the positions. It becomes meditative.

6. Describe what aspect of WingChun you most enjoy.

The balance in the training between precise technique; discipline, both physical and mental; training with others; and the mix of approaches working with the different instructors.

7. What makes WingChun unique?

Not being familiar with many other systems, I would come back to “balance”. It is a system that anyone can learn. It does not require great strength, power or speed to learn but all will be enhanced with the training. Emphasis on quickness and anticipating other’s movements rather than relying on brute force offers a mental rigor that carries into other aspects of living. It feels like a “smart” martial art where you anticipate rather than react.

8. How would you sum up WingChun in one word?

This may sound odd but I would say “trust.” You start out trusting your instructors that they know how to prepare you and teach the techniques but you slowly develop trust in yourself to manage and protect yourself and those you care about. You slowly begin to trust that you do not need to be as fearful, that you can be free from worry of at least a few things related to living in a complicated world.

9. Explain your favorite WingChun principle, concept or motto.

“Combat is not harmony.” To me, martial arts develop an awareness that allows you to recognize and avoid conflict prior to it occurring. While being able to manage conflict, should it occur, you train to increase your options and you do so with the goal of always returning to and maintaining harmony.

10. Describe the qualities of an ideal WingChun practitioner.

Patience, awareness of your surroundings, dedication, diligence, hard work, caring for the safety of others.

11. What are your long-term WingChun goals?

Increased physical conditioning, proficiency in advanced techniques, mental discipline. I am older than most all other students at the Academy and I have a desire to maintain a level of vitality and purpose as I grow older. The physicality and mental discipline of WingChun contributes to that goal.

12. How do you apply WingChun in daily life?

I take time to think about my training and use it as a meditative device to feel more in control of my own life and surroundings.

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