By Brian Yam (student WingTsun Vancouver, BC, Canada)
Preparation for the Seminar
I've been with the Wing Tsun School for about a year and a few months and have been in contact with Si-Suk Ralph for about a year and half. It has been unfortunate for me in that period as I have not tested nor attended any seminars due to my limited funds for school and countless monthly payments. Well, things did turn for the better and I was able to get enough money to test and attend the seminar.
Being notified of having Si-Fu's permission of testing all three levels in one seminar was terrific! On the other hand that meant more responsibility in training and it carried a heavier load of (good) stress than testing for one level. So, I've got a year and a bit of Lat-Sao and Siu-Nim-Tao behind me (although I must admit I have not been keeping up with my daily chain punches or forms practice).
Also in preparation for the seminar, Si-Suk has devoted a number of classes to Lat-Sao and Siu-Nim-Tao so that any final questions could be answered. In addition, it would allow our bodies to get back into the groove of things and be ready - or at least feel that we were ready - for the seminar.
Prior to the big day, the only sources of information I could get about seminars were from my classmates that have attended the past ones. Some tell of Si-Fu's character, others describe their experiences with him, and others describe the testing that they underwent with Si-Fu.
Others mentioned his test for weight distribution in our advancing fighting stance-a quick sweep to our leading leg (how beautiful). In the WT system our stance should have all weight distributed on our back leg and is kept there all the time so that sweeps cannot easily break our structure and that the lead leg can be easily used to defend against leg attacks and for throwing swift kicking attacks.
Quoting from an article about Si-Fu Emin in Inside Kung Fu magazine, "…Emin Boztepe, 33, is ELECTRIC. The charismatic Turkish martial arts strongman was, prior to the infected Gracie Feud, perhaps known for his confrontations with famed Yip Man student and wing chun master William Cheung in 1986…"
From that time on and the drive to the school, I felt fine and relaxed. Pulling up to the parking lot and seeing those doors wide open calling my name was getting me slightly worked up.
Suddenly, I heard the car pulling up and everyone, including myself, knew that Si-Fu was here. As he entered the kwoon, everyone just stood up straight, eyes wide open, and amazingly silent.
A quick statement suddenly caught my attention from Si-Fu, "Who's testing for the first three levels?" My hand quickly shot up and Si-Suk directed his attention to me. We quickly shook hands and he told me not to worry about the tests too much. In my mind, that statement was quickly followed by "I sure hope so." :-)
The first half of the seminar consisted of primarily footwork exercises. It was very intensive. No hand techniques nor Lat-Sao practice was conducted yet. Keeping close contact and maintaining form and pressure was the key to the exercises while the opponent moved back.
I had the chance to work with many students from other parts of the continent, some from the United States and from other parts of Canada and even from Germany. Before we knew it, we were all breaking a sweat and we weren't even using hands yet.
Break time then fell upon us which gave us a chance to get some water and food. We were also given the opportunity to sit with Si-Fu and ask him questions. The discussion of ChiKung came up and it even ended up with Martin Gonzales giving us a little demonstration of a non-WT ChiKung form he learned from Professor Chu.
The second half of the seminar consisted of drills that defend against snapping front kicks, jabs, and low jabs. The primary response emphasized was Gaan-Sao with punch and then we were able to use our own creativity to continue the attacks to get our partner in an off balanced and open position for more attacks.
After these partner exercises, we were separated into groups determined by level and if we were testing or not. The group that I was in was instructed to do what Si-Fu Emin called "Pak-Da, Gum-Da."
It was very interesting to note that the drills that we covered during the seminar, especially the ones that emphasized defense against an attack, could be applied to not just the specific attacks fed to us but to other possibilities. In other words, the defense was not specific to, let's say, a right jab to the stomach, but more of a defense to the "gate" where the stomach is located.
The end of the seminar has fallen upon us, and I was hoping that I had passed my tests. It was only after the seminar had I realized that Si-Fu tested us in this seminar by watching us as opposed to actually having to do Lat-Sao with him. Of course, this is only one of many seminars so the Lat-Sao days are sure to come.
We all gathered around Si-Fu and one by one he called out the names for those who were to receive their certificates. My hands were itching for them.
Quickly, a small request from Si-Fu, "Show me part 7 from Siu-Nim-Tao." My mind raced into the form performing each step like a VCR in fast forward. I shot right into my stance performed part 7 from the form in front of him.
I've learned not only Wing Tsun, but also what is required and the people that are involved in this lineage. Throughout the seminar, the people I worked with, whether they were from my school or not, carried heart and displayed a sense of determination and hard work.
Observing this kind of attitude in everyone showed me that this organization has what it takes to get where it needs to go, that the instructors are doing a great job with the students, and it brings a sense of unity that has been lost in many martial art lineages.
Another issue that has been brought up in the past is the cost, especially for us living in Canada with our spectacular dollar!! For myself, the cost itself held me back from testing or attending a seminar.
But how many of us are striving for that? Personally, I feel the rewards gained from the seminar outweigh the costs of the seminar itself. For example, you get to learn from the master himself.
You can only get to that level if you test. But you don't need to have to test to attend; the atmosphere and knowledge that one is in the presence of is more than enough incentive to go.
The overall seminar in itself is a great experience. Just think of it this way, from my dear friends from Master Card:
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