Saturday, May 17, 2008

Religious Roots, The Birth of Wing Chun

By Damian Ross and William Pehush of The Self Defense Company

The Shaolin monks of China are known throughout the world for the martial arts prowess and have become the stuff of legend. The monks training started out as just simple morning exercises, but their training evolved into several different styles of martial arts so that members of the holy order could use them to defend themselves in combat. They learned quickly that having a healthy body, a clear mind, and a rich spiritual life meant nothing if you couldn’t protect yourself from scumbags. Now most people today know the flashy styles of Kung Fu made popular by films and television, but traditional Wing Chun practiced by martial artists like Bruce Lee is a hard hitting style that is all about taking out your enemy as quickly as possible.

Like many martial arts styles it is hard to determine exactly when and how Wing Chun or Ving tsun as it is sometimes called came into being. Some believe Wing Chun was developed by several different Shaolin grandmasters that picked the best techniques for self defense from Chinese martial arts and made them all into one system. One persistent legend is that Ng Mui a nun from one of the Shaolin temples created Wing Chun as a form of boxing. It is said that she taught a woman named Yim Wing Chun how to fight, so she could defeat a local warlord in hand to hand combat otherwise she would be forced to marry him and not her lover. Whatever the true story is will probably never exactly be known, because the training was passed on through oral tradition as it was in those days.

The idea behind Wing Chun is to attack along the center line of your opponent’s body, and strike vital areas. This is extremely effective in breaking his balance and keeping him from mounting and offensive. At it’s core, Wing Chun is all about striking and destroying the target. This is seen in Bruce Lee’s “straight blast” method. The strike doesn’t need to be hard, but if it is done correctly it can do real damage. Rather then absorb the strikes of an attacker a Wing Chun practitioner deflects the attacker’s energy.

The style also teaches its students two traditional weapons, the dragon pole, and the butterfly knives. The pole arm has been used for centuries and was used to teach bayonet training. The butterfly knives used in pairs can hack down an opponent. Training secessions in Wing Chun are similar to most martial arts and like several Japanese martial arts, a wooden dummy is used to simulate striking an opponent so a student can refine their techniques and toughen their natural weapons for combat..

In other styles there is the block then the strike, but in Wing Chun the two movements are combined into one swift action. There is no pause between movements. When an attacker strikes at a Wing Chun practitioner they will deflect the blow and then strike back simultaneously. There is a structure to the style that also allows a practitioner block any attacks long as they’re protecting their core. With balance, body structure and relaxation a Wing Chun practitioner is able to maintain this attack/defense structure, but its strength is also a fatal weakness.

While someone can use Wing Chun to defeat a larger opponent only if they can stay strong enough long enough to maintain their attack/defense structure. Now in theory Wing Chun sounds great for self defense, but only in the short term. In a self defense situation there is no set time limit. You have to be able to keep fighting, and your method of self defense has to work whether you’re tired or hurt, because you can’t tell your attacker you need a break. Also there is no ground fighting techniques in Wing Chun. Now granted in a real hand to hand combat the last thing you want to do is end up on the ground, but you still need to know how to fight from there and improve your position.

The greatest person of note to practice Wing Chun was martial arts legend Bruce Lee (student of Yip Man). Lee saw flaws with his style and worked to strip away some of the pointless traditions and positions and turn Wing Chun in an even more basic and effective form of self defense. He also didn’t confine himself to just Wing Chun and studied many other martial arts, so don’t let anyone ever tell you Wing Chun was his style alone. Like so many martial arts today, Bruce Lee cross trained in boxing, jujutsu, karate, judo and greco-roman wrestling just to name a few. But despite all of Bruce Lee’s knowledge and expertise, he knew that Self defense is basic and brutal. There is no “style”. If you survive you win.

Martial Arts

Martial Arts Training

Martial Arts Videos

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How to Conquer Your Fear

I just received an email from a woman who is being stalked by a so-to-be parolee. He has a history of violence and she already has a restraining order against him. I did advise her to remind the police of her situation if she didn’t already. But this still doesn’t solve her problem. There is a real possibility that she will be attacked. Unfortunately, the police can’t be everywhere at once, so it’s up to you to prepare.

This is understandably affecting her. It has gotten to the point that her anxiety is taking over her life. Every day his parole approaches, she becomes more and more consumed by fear. The mere thought of it makes her hands begin to shake. Her reaction is not irrational, it’s about as real as it gets. There’s no therapy that can calm her down, change her mind and “convince’ her that her fear is misplaced. This is something she will have to deal with and prepare for. She is not unusual; everyone who has encountered violence has this very rational reaction.

Every week, another police officer enrolls at one of my schools or enrolls in the Self Defense Training System after a close call with some skel (perpetrator). It usually begins as a routine situation and then it goes south when the suspect decides to be non-compliant. The next thing the officer knows is that he’s in a roll-around and the cavalry is no where in site. He can’t call on his radio, he’s becoming exhausted and he’s alone. He quickly comes to the realization that his training in the academy does not work OR he needs to practice on a regular basis to keep sharp and not just do his job well, but survive and go home safely.

Civilian or professional, the answer is simple (not easy): you have to train. The harder your train and practice, the less anxiety you will have. Because you are solving your problem by taking control and doing something about it, you become more confident in what your ability to meet the threat. The harder your work and train, the better you’ll be.

I have my own built in mechanism which is not uncommon. Whenever I start having dreams that I’m in a situation, fighting for my life and I’m completely ineffective, I know it’s time to step up the training. Once I do that, my anxiety goes away and the dreams stop. When you’ve prepared yourself to the best of your ability your anxiety decreases. That goes for close quarter weapons and hand to hand tactics. The more you train, the more you prepare, the less nervous you are.

You will always have fear or hormone induced stress, there’s no way around it. You just need a way to develop it, channel and turn it into something useful. Talking about it won’t help; thinking about it won’t do it, only preparation will. That comes from practicing the proper techniques, the right way and of course, being honest in your training.

Until next time, Train Honestly,

Damian Ross
Instructor, The Self Defense Company

Martial Arts

Martial Arts Training

Martial Arts Videos

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Were The British The First To Teach Modern Self Defense To Civilians?

When many people look back at World War II they only see a string of Allied victories and think victory was always certain, but in the early days of the war things looked very dark. The Nazi war machine had ravaged most of Europe, but that still didn’t stop a handful of determined volunteers from answering their nation’s call to duty, instead it only served to inspire them.

In the spring of 1940 British and French forces had been defeated by the Nazis and were evacuating France. Hitler had made it clear that he wouldn’t stop at the English Channel. The British military was in shambles and tons of valuable weapons and equipment were abandoned on the beaches of Dunkirk. Faced with a very real possibility of invasion, the British government formed the Local Defence Volunteers also known as the Home Guard. It was believed that if England was to survive the average citizen would have to know how to defend him or herself.

The Home Guard was the idea of Captain Tom Wintringham, a soldier, journalist, and World War I veteran. Between world wars the Oxford educated veteran became a communist supporter and fought in Spanish Civil War as part of the International Brigade against the Nazi supported Nationalists. The fighting he experienced was brutal and he was wounded several times. During this conflict he learned many valuable lessons that would help him in World War II. Once back in England he wrote How to Reform the Army which called for changes to the regular military and for the formation of civilian defense forces.

After he witnessed the destruction of Poland under Commander-in-Chief Walter Kirke, Captain Winteringham realized just how unprepared and vulnerable Britain was to a fight the Nazis. The first point of order was to build up the civil defense forces. In May of 1940 the government announced over the radio that any British subject wishing to volunteer to fight should report to their local police station. The government expected only 150,000 volunteer applicants but was shocked when they had 1.5 million applicants by the end of the month! Among them were women who were barred from service. These women would eventually organize their own group called the Amazon Defence Corps. They were trained in close quarters combat and all skilled markswomen.

Since the military didn’t have any weapons to spare the volunteers were forced to go on patrol with outdated military equipment, shotguns and even pitchforks. It soon became clear that if the Home Guard volunteers were going to be effective against well armed, enemy troops, the volunteers would need the best training possible. Captain Wintringham setup a school at his home and taught recruits the principals of guerilla warfare, anti-tank operations, demolitions and street fighting.

At this time two other important individuals were tapped to help train the Home Guard. They were veteran police officers William E. Fairbairn and Eric A. Sykes. They had spent their careers patrolling the dangerous streets of Shanghai China and learned a lot about close combat and battlefield martial arts. Fairbairn had made an extensive study of Asian martial arts and created a system that only used simple and effective moves. Also he and Sykes created law enforcement’s first Swat team. They taught the volunteers practical self defense methods, and they also taught the volunteers how to disarm attackers, take out sentries, and take prisoners.

Though they’re best known for training police officers, soldiers, and secret agents Fairbairn and Sykes proved you could even teach civilians effective hand to hand combat in a short amount of time with no modification to the curriculum. The volunteer forces learned the same methods that Special Forces troops would learn later in the war. Fairbairn and Sykes knew that in a fight it is about doing what you need to do to survive, even if it means using deadly force. The same holds true for the civilian, agent, police officer and military operator: a fight is a fight is a fight.

While Britain was never invaded, the Home Guard did help free up troops for more important duties during the war and made things more difficult for enemy spies. It also proved the need for everyone to learn effective methods of fighting and proved that anyone can learn these methods and apply them successfully regardless of age, size, man or woman.

The need to defend oneself and loved ones is even more imperative today as it was in 1940. The police and the military can only be so many places at once. With the violent nature of crime on the rise, every person should have an increased awareness and even the most basic set of self defense skills. It’s up to you as an individual to learn effective combat training. It’s always better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Martial Arts

Martial Arts Training

Martial Arts Videos