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The Sifu Boztepe Experience
By Brian Yam (student WingTsun Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Preparation for the Seminar
The seminar was scheduled on Saturday, November 6th 1999. There were only a few things that flooded my mind that Friday - passing my WT tests, the seminar itself, and of course, Si-Fu Emin (Oh! And that blond in biology class :-) ).

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.
One classmate described his testing with Si-Fu that consisted of intensive Lat-Sao. Punches were coming at him at a range too close for comfort, while he still had to concentrate on attacking and knee pressure while maintaining forward pressure-it was all very stressful yet very needed.
During this Lat-Sao exercise, punches would actually connect when you least expected and at all times you know that in the back of your mind, Si-Fu (and Si-Suk) is simply choosing not to hit you although he can any time he wants to. That thought in itself is just too crazy, too scary, too amazing!

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.
Unfortunately, this is the "ideal" stance that we would like to attain and even the best of us testing happened to fail the patented "Si-Fu Emin Stance Test."

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…"
I'm sorry, but a good Keanu Reeves "WHOA" is called for! From my past martial arts experience consisting of Shito-ryu karate, Choy Lay Fat and Shaolin gung fu, and tai chi, I can honestly say I've never met anyone who could "walk the walk" in the presence of such publicity and especially with his or her martial arts. And I was only a few hours away from meeting this person.

Judgment Day
Could not sleep at all. I was too excited, and too nervous. Could have been the coffee, but I seriously doubt that. Slowly the morning daylight crawled up and I knew I had to get ready.

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.
But I sucked it up and kept walking in and knew that this whole seminar would be over before I knew it - at least that's what I kept telling myself.

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.
Personally, I was totally cool about it, didn't feel a thing and thought this whole thing was overrated. YEAH RIGHT!! I was literally frozen, I wasn't sure if I should approach him or let him approach me if he wanted to. I didn't want to seem like I thought high of myself or shy to my Si-Fu.
So I did what any chicken would do - I just stood there. I could almost see the tumbleweed drifting by.
To my surprise, Si-Fu was very warm to everyone and greeted the familiar faces with handshakes and hugs.

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.
This was further continued with drills of walking "into" the partner as opposed to just keeping the contact.

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."
For the remainder of the seminar, our group performed these hand techniques with a partner and emphasized Pak-Sao/punch, and Gum-Sao/punch.

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.
So that (almost) any attack to that gate can be defended against using the same technique covered in the seminar.

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.
Finally, he called my name and I was there ready and willing to receiving the certificates. In my mind I kept repeating like a broken record, "Eye contact, bow, two hands to receive the papers, step back and keep facing Si-Fu. Eye contact, bow, two hands to receive papers, step back and keep facing Si-Fu. Eye contact, bow, two hands…"

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 then received the certificates and sat back down. When the seminar was officially over, it hit me. I passed. I congratulated everyone I could and when Si-Suk was available, I thanked him.
I know I wouldn't be here without his help. And I felt great that whole day. It was like that feeling you get from getting an 'A' on a very important school exam, but it wasn't exactly the same-it was better, it was a WT exam.

The main purpose for me to attend this seminar was to pass my exams. Others were at the seminar to simply meet Si-Fu Emin and experience what his seminars had to offer.
Some, although not at this seminar, attend to learn more about the Leung Ting WT system. However, for whatever reason one attends the seminar for, you always leave with "all that and a bag of potato chips."

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.
That's what kung fu is. It was refreshing to see everyone helping each other out and examining the details in their techniques.

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.
Of course deciding on whether you want to attend a seminar all depends on your goals. If your goal happens to be staying in one level, never meeting your Si-Fu, and/or never enhancing your Wing Tsun knowledge, then you should be fine without attending these seminars.

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.
Wouldn't you rather learn basketball from Michael Jordan or Big Country Reeves? You also attain a higher level grade so that you can learn more. Wouldn't Chi Sao be awesome?! I can't wait!

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:
- Entry into Seminar: $80 US
- 2nd level testing fee: $20 US
- Black eye from Si-Fu Emin: priceless :-)

Brian Yam
January 6th, 2000

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