“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there”
Most people try to avoid stress, because it is uncomfortable. Chronical stress is bad for you, but short bursts of stress are actually very good for you. In biology phenomenon, the term “hormesis” refers to beneficial effects to short-term exposure to a certain substance or stressor, such as improved health, stress tolerance, growth and/or longevity, whereas longer term exposure could prove toxic or lethal.
For most of our human history, we often needed to endure a variety of harsh environment, with little protection from destructive forces of nature. Fierce winters and burning summers, and if we don’t adapt to it, then we die. From the genetic stand point, our body changed to adopt to the environment and stress.
However, what happens when we take those stressors away, and replace them with our warm clothes, and comfortable temperature controlled buildings? Interestingly, living our lives in constant comfort and pleasure results in a decrease in our overall health and growth.
Have you ever felt better about yourself while training WingChun in a regular base? Challenging cells and body systems by mild stress resulting in us not only becoming stronger but effecting on anti-aging and faster wound healing. Mild stress-induced physical stimulation can help you to overcome challenges and grow stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally, even outside the classes.
The year of 2017 coming to the end. It was an eventful year, yet our future will always come with huge uncertainty. So, why don’t we reach out of our comfort zones a bit more. Let’s look forward to encountering even more challenges, stress, and pressures, in 2018. Eager to face your problems and eat them as breakfast. If it is too much to handle at once, maybe save some for lunch or dinner. You can eventually digest and make them part of yourself, and tough up. Remember, we are the ones evolving!
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
In each class that I teach in one way or another, I’m trying to recreate an experience that I had as a student of WingChun. But other than the talent of the instructors or that of the student’s, there is a path that the student has a choice to either partially go down or go down in totality. That is to say a practice in body, mind, and spirit. A lifestyle if you will.
I’ve heard it said that a good teacher, above transmitting information, creates an optimal learning environment. It is up to the instructor to invite you on a path. But it is the choice of the student; how far they would like to delve into the path. Now, before I make this sound like I’m trying to get you to join some cult and drink the Kool-aid, understand what I’m really talking about here is involvement and commitment to yourself.
In this digital age, I find that commitment to something, or commitment to a practice is scarce. Kierkegaard had something to say about this. Busy people “fill up their time, always find things to do,” but they have no principle guiding their life. “Everything is important but nothing is important.” To be everywhere is to be nowhere. It’s my opinion that we have never been more busy, stifled by choices, and frankly never been more unhappy.
Having the platform, and making the choice, to commit oneself is a very special thing. Even if you feel frustrated or your arms hurt a little bit from practicing, you are forging your will and committing yourself to something. You are making a deposit into the bank account that is your martial ability and fortitude. There are no short cuts here. Being a good WingChun practitioner takes hard work as does anything in this world that has any value. ‘Kung Fu’ literally means “hard work.”
So I cordially invite you on this path. But I can’t do it without you. I am only one part of this ecosystem that is our school. And your fellow students are also a part of this ecosystem. The more that you attend, the more spirit/focus/power/technical ability you exemplify, the more you give to your classmates. And……. The more you get back! The rising tide lifts all the ships.
One So I encourage you and I invite you to go down this path. I pledge my commitment. Dare to commit yourself. You are worth it.
It’s very exciting for all of us to announce the beginning of new chapter for the Academy of WingChun Berkeley. Huge thanks to Dai Sifu Klaus for his strong support, kind words, and believing in us. Of course, we really appreciate the invaluable supports from WingChun students in Berkeley, who train together, sharing and loving the arts, passions, energy, and excitement.
As instructors, we do really get inspired and re-charged by the energy and excitement from each one of you during the class. We will do more than our best to make sure our students are well trained, cared and supported here at Academy of WingChun Berkeley. We can all grow together and continue building the fantastic community, filled with respect, trust, and fun.
WingChun is an amazing art of self-defense. Along with learning the techniques, we would like to live a life like WingChun. WingChun is a life-style. Toughing up inside and outside. Get stronger and live a life in full.
Sihing Tom Richards
Sije Yuka Yoshioka
The WingChun Academy Berkeley is leaded by Sije Dr. Yuka Yoshioka (PG) and Sihing Tom Richards (4th TG) since March 1st 2017. Sifu Paul Wang (5th TG) handed over, the task of leading the Academy, to two of his best instructors. I was very happy about this step.
Sihing Tom started his training under me in the Bay Area of San Francisco in 1998, at a time when I flew to California five times a year, to establish WingChun on the US West Coast. We had seminars and demos in Santa Cruz, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Rafael, Rohnert Park, Santa Clara, Los Gatos, Cupertino and San Jose. Sihing Tom was always a support for Sifu Paul and me for the leading of the Headquarters (IAW-HQ US). He is an examplary for the WingChun scene in the USA and, together with Sihing Carl Hettiger (4th TG, Academy Leader Santa Cruz), one of the two highest WingChun Students of Sifu Paul Wang.
Sije Yuka started in 2009. At this time we had already well-established the IAW in the USA. Sije Yuka was an enthusiastic and above-average, diligent student from day one. She participated in a WingChun Combat Class, in Santa Cruz in October 2009, as a Tae Kwon Do Black Belt and she started to train WingChun directly after this Combat Class. She is a proud fighter and she lives WingChun. Since April 2016 she heads the IAW US Office and I must emphasize that she fulfills this task with excellence.
Sije Yuka and Sihing Tom are highly qualified instructors and well prepared for this task.
Dai Sifu Klaus Brand
NOTE: This article was originally published on August 19, 2014 at www.WingChunUS.com.
How did you hear about WingChun?
Through IAW Santa Cruz: They moved into the same studio where I was training Taekwondo. WingChun class started right after my class ended. Also, I knew one of the WingChun Santa Cruz instructors and we talked about it sometimes. Back then, I was not quite sure what WingChun really meant.
What motivated you to try your first class?
Sifu Klaus Brand visited WingChun Santa Cruz for an open Combat Class in 2008. One day, I noticed many of my training buddies were signing up after Taekwondo class for this special event. I didn’t really know what it was. My instructor encouraged me to take a chance and get exposure to a different type of martial art. WingChun might help open up a new perspective or I might even like it! So I decided to attend the Combat Class for fun.
What made you join the Academy?
The Combat Class was surely unique and inspiring: I had never seen any human being move so fast and explosively. Also, it thrilled me to feel how the techniques worked when I tried them out. It fit to my body system really well. The movements were so natural but the techniques actually worked — effectively and aggressively. In addition, I felt a great energy flow through my body while capturing Sifu Klaus Brand’s moves and executing them myself. It was totally different from any other martial arts I experienced before.
However, I did not start learning WingChun immediately because I was not sure if I wanted to start over with a new style of martial arts from scratch. A year after this Combat Class, when I incidentally heard that Sifu Klaus Brand was in the Bay Area again, I decided to contact the IAW and learn more about their system. I took another Combat Class and a few introductory WingChun Seminars with him. I experienced the IAW as a very welcoming community and found that learning WingChun was interesting, so I decided to join the Regular Classes of Sihing Carl Hettiger in Santa Cruz.
Why is attending Regular Class important to you?
Regular Class have become a significant part of my life; without routine training, I would simply feel offbeat. I need some time to focus on myself and review what I do on a frequent basis.
First, in order to make WingChun work for real, we have to practice the technique repeatedly until it becomes totally natural and sensible to the body — in other words: to build a long-term muscle memory. Once repetitive practice seeps in to build those muscles, it allows us to execute the techniques flawlessly without conscious effort. This decreases limb stiffness, thus creating smoother motion and maximum efficiency. It is where the tasty part of WingChun begins!
Second, the perception training — reading an opponent’s intention; timing; distance to the attackers; body positioning; impact from arm collisions; and decision-making process based on observation — can’t be done without well-experienced instructors and training partners. Recognition of danger and response needs to be instantaneous for the body to be fully committed in powerful action.
Third, for stress management: training safely simulates brutally stressful situations. Then we practice to solve those conflicts promptly and effectively. We also spend a lot of time on stimulating the body-brain connections, which makes us keener and more coordinated. As our level of perception improves, we start seeing things from many different prospective. As a consequence, in daily life beyond self-defense situations, WingChun allows us to embrace stress and leverage pressure as catalysts, to activate the energy needed to confront any obstacles and grow through it. The training vitalizes me, clears out my head, and lifts me to focus on what really matters.
How do you practice at home?
As a supplement, I work on coordination exercises and stretching.
Describe what aspect of WingChun you most enjoy training.
Sometimes I achieve a state of my mind being fully awake but free from thoughts or emotions during training. When it happens, I feel ready to act and react to the opponent without hesitation or disturbance. I rely not on “what I think I should do” for the next move, but rather on my trained natural reaction or what I feel intuitively. My mind expands and works at a very high speed but with no set intention, plan or direction as if it exists as a merely living being moving through space. Such is a moment of pure enlightenment — fully present, aware and free.
What makes WingChun unique?
One of the unique parts is that WingChun techniques are designed for real function and deliverable regardless your body size or quantity of muscle.
The majority of modern martial arts were converted to sports. Especially in these combat sports, techniques have been intentionally re-designed to be less efficient and less dangerous to avoid severe injuries while people are competing. The training methodology is to win competitions within the given rules. In those styles, they mainly practice techniques to get points; therefore, the training is rather limited to “fit into the style”, rather than being applicable as self-defense or combat.
I had been training Taekwondo for almost a decade before spending more time exploring WingChun. Taekwondo is a very acrobatic sport. I was enjoying the training and learned a lot of valuable things in the meantime. However, as time passed (a few years after getting my black belt), I started to feel stagnation. It was a fun and excellent cardio exercise but I was not sure how practical it was in realistic situations, especially since I sparred a lot with tall and strong guys. My physical strength was not so great compared to them. Intrinsically, there were many physical advantages on their side. I always wondered if I could ever find a way to compensate those fundamental facts.
I recently learned that many WingChun techniques were designed based on weapon (knife, pole, sword) coordination. Compared to empty hands combat, weapon practice requires more flawless coordination and solid stances. This is so the body can tolerate high collision impact from lethal attacks and create maximum power and speed toward the finish. With WingChun, we build our own arms as alternative weapons. It makes this style really hardcore and strong. Also, like many weapon systems, strength and efficacy becomes less correlated to the body size. Rather than that, training quality, determination and experience directly matter to your advancement in WingChun.
How would you sum up WingChun in one word?
Explain your favorite WingChun principle, concept or motto.
“Klagt Nicht, Kämpft.” (In German: Don’t complain, fight.) Those who complain the most, accomplish the least. Accept the reality, make a conscious change and take action!
Define the qualities of an ideal WingChun practitioner.
The ideal practitioner trains consistently and sincerely. One is determined to properly execute the technique with intensity each time. Progress only comes to those who train in the right way: tighten up the slack, toughen the body and polish the spirit.
What are your long-term WingChun goals?
The primary goal is to stay appreciating and enjoying the training; plus, explore deeper fundamental understanding, cultivate positive thoughts and evolve at a pace aligned with my intrinsic human capacity.
What hooked you to WingChun?
At the IAW, I encountered and trained with many highly dedicated practitioners to look up to. It inspired me to train more and to be better at WingChun. Ultimately, those efforts were directly reflected back on me and I grew profoundly through the past years. This feeling of perpetual challenge and growth is the prize.
How do you apply WingChun in life?
WingChun refines your mind and body. Life requires fast decision-making everywhere under uncertainty and pressure. Knowledge helps to some extent, but WingChun teaches careful observation and precise perception of reality as well as trust in our intuition and guts to act based on our experience. This attitude and approach becomes applicable in general; for example, during strategizing, negotiations, communications, troubleshooting, experimentation, data-processing, investments and innovation.
Per action, WingChun creates the habit to work relentlessly towards our goals. In effect, we can become more real, fearless, passionate and ambitious. It leads me to live strong and free, full of energy and joy. The true fun of life is this continuous progress to realize how far out we can reach our potential.
NOTE: This article was originally published on September 16, 2016 at www.WingChunUS.com.
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.