Introduction of the 3rd Martial Arts Discipline under the EWTO umbrella: "THE WAY OF GM SAM CHIN"
If one is a master in one thing,
one should start all over again as a beginner in another!
In this way one can fight one's own ego, remain young in mind and body and consciously experience the teaching process from the student's point of view again, thus improving as a teacher!
In my own field, the martial arts, I know of two masters* who embarked on such an adventure at the ripe old age of almost 70: it is reported that when he recognized the Aikido of Ueshiba, the creator of Kodokan Judo, Jigoro Kano, exclaimed:
"That is the real Judo"** – and not only for reasons of Japanese politeness, but out of inner conviction.
I think it important that I translate this brief system guide by my colleague and personal mentor, Grandmaster Sam F.S.Chin, and to introduce my own WingTsun students and other readers to Zhong Xin Dao which I consider to be the most logical inner (!) martial arts system that I have met. It was formerly known as "The school of masters", because only people who were already masters in their field had a chance to be accepted by GM Chin Lik Keong, the late father of my mentor Sam Chin.
Unfortunately I did not know GM Chin's System Guide before I printed the German edition of my "Coursebook inner WingTsun".
When GM Sam Chin read the English version of my "Course book iWT" with my "Linkage Theory" in 2014, he was surprised how similar our two systems are.
However, this similarity is partly due to WingTsun itself which I learnt from GM Leung Ting (1976 - 2008), the "closed door disciple" of GGM Yip Man, and to a great part to the theoretical teaching I had received from my late mentor and friend University Prof. Dr. Horst Tiwald. Horst Tiwald was an outstanding psychologist, philosopher and sport/movement scientist, and had a deep insight into Zen-Buddhism and the principles of mindfulness on which Grandmaster Sam Chin founded his family system.
It was also Horst Tiwald who on the one hand praised me because in comparison to related variants, my WT was "from a different planet", but on the other hand pointed out that there was something generally missing in wing chun, namely the progressive build-up of the structure and the ancient Chinese energy teachings which were probably lost as the system was passed down as a victim of the desire to impart immediately usable fighting skills in the fastest and most direct way possible.
As an expert in the theory of the three classic inner styles (TaiChi, Hsing-I/Yi Chuan, Pakua etc.), Horst Tiwald accordingly produced an itinerary for me, according to which I paid visits – usually incognito – to a total of 9 (nine!) inner styles, above all Chinese (but also Japanese and Korean) styles, and then examined them closely, as a scientist would study an insect.
Naturally I tried out my own skills based on my at the time 57 active years in the martial arts (Judo, Ju-Jitsu, wrestling, Aikido, Karate, Kempo, Hapkido, Escrima, Bruce Lee KungFu) and above all Wing Chun and WingTsun, against these inner systems. My daughter Natalie and I liked some of these styles so much that I studied them eye-to-eye with the respective grandmasters, while Natalie learned them from scratch as a todai or adopted daughter in accordance with Chinese tradition.
However as I soon found out, it is not enough to learn just one of the classic inner styles, because after you have absolved 20 - 30 years of this, your master who has practiced 3 to 5 of them since childhood advises you to add another, and then another so that you acquire certain additional qualities and capabilities which the first style was unable to impart. Quite a few internalists even learn external styles such as boxing afterwards, so as to be finally "complete".
When I reported my experiences in the world of the inner styles to my mentor Horst Tiwald, he said the following about the penultimate style I told him about: "Not bad, however they have not placed mindfulness in the forefront, but rather the power of the imagination, we need to keep searching!“
And so after visiting many other internal masters (Tai Ki Ken Kempo, Tai Chi, Hsing-I, Pakua, Yi Chuan, Da Cheng Chuan, etc) Natalie and I in 2014 finally found GM Sam Chin, who quickly saw through my incognito:
"Why have you come to see me? You are already the greatest KungFu master, with the most schools and students in the world."
"While it is true that I have a lot of students in Europe, you can do three things which I understand that I need to be complete: the correct structure and energy to generate power effortlessly, as my muscle-power is not what it used to be. And I would also like to have your clever behaviour at the meeting point."
"How much time do you have?", my chosen mentor asked.
We stayed for around 3 weeks, and GM Chin instructed us for over 8 hours per day including the lunch breaks and evening meals. It was all about the philosophy, the Zen, the concepts. GM Chin was still far too weak for practical lessons, as he was still recovering from major cancer surgery.
Those who know me know that I do not buy "a pig in a poke". Right at the start I asked GM Chin whether I could touch hands with him. Despite his weakened state, I felt some form of (at the time) unexplainable mysterious force acting on me, kind of "freezing" me in place at the very first touch and making my upper body (arms) and lower body (legs) unable to move the way I needed to in order to apply my techniques. Naturally we were not actually fighting but friendly comparing, but it did not take much imagination to realise what skills this amazing man must have had when in good health. I wanted them too!
After this small demonstration on myself, which he reinforced in a similar way each day, I was convinced that I had never invested my time more profitably.
The 3 weeks in 2014 turned into years, and at this time (November 2017) Natalie and I have enjoyed 300 teaching days with 6 - 8 hours of theory and practice, i.e. around 2,000 hours of private tutorials, as there is hardly a month when we do not study this method with GM Chin and his ZXD family. While Natalie is learning from the ground up, GM Chin decided to reverse the process in my case and – following the teaching style of his late father, GM Chin Lik Keong – take me from where I was. In other words, we began with his highest programme and have been working downwards for some years, where I hope to meet Natalie coming from below in the middle at some time.
However, I also learned according to what Prof. Tiwald called the "Zip Fastener Method": both sides must come together, so I also take "grammar lessons" in Zhong Xin Dao, which is done by means of intelligently conceived solo and partner exercises where the point is not to learn the exercises themselves, but rather use them to mindfully obtain certain findings about the nature of things.
We had the good fortune to have arrived in time, and thus became the last "closed-door disciples" of GM Chin. After a certain period of getting to know each other, and although I have a certain degree of experience myself, I felt a very profound desire to enter into a real, family-like teacher/student relationship based on mutual confidence. And although it is true that according to the rules of the Chinese martial arts, you can only have one SiFu, this only applies for the same style. In two different styles you can have two different SiFus.
I not only want to praise the unique master and teacher here, but also the charismatic man: he has always remained the same easily accessible, touchable, helpful and kind person as when he was a much appreciated member of a Buddhist monastery, where he worked as a cook and patiently listened to the complaints of the monks, then changed roles in the evening and taught them as a KungFu master with all the authority of the real expert. GM Chin provides the material for a great KungFu film!
Before we found GM Chin, we had the good fortune to meet with and study under a number of outstanding inner masters of various styles. Most of these styles were recommended to me by my late mentor and friend Prof. Tiwald. And when I sought the masters out I did not introduce myself as "the KungFu teacher Kernspecht". But often my incognito was seen through when I entered the gym or at least during the first week.
The fact that we did not remain with the great masters and grandmasters has nothing to do with the impressive personal skills of them, but with the language barrier and the fact that their styles would have had to be supplemented with further internal styles to be really complete for my fighting (!) requirements. At the time I was already in my mid to late sixties, so I simply did not have the time to master different inner styles.
Three further aspects that induced me to opt for Grandmaster Chin and his way amongst all these other, wonderful inner schools cannot be emphasised strongly enough:
- Zhong Xin Dao is free of any stylistic boundaries!
It is pure logic, strategy, biomechanics, energy management.
- Zhong Xin Dao lives!
It is the youngest inner martial arts school of all, based on the teachings of Zen. At any time, I am able to ask questions of the grandmaster who conceived it. This school and method continue to develop on a daily basis, based on what evolves within GM Chin's mind at the time, and where he wishes to go with it.
GM Chin's system originally had no forms, but to cater for the needs of students he developed two which clearly explain the principles of his Zhong Xin Dao and their application. Although I am rather tired of forms after almost 60 years in the martial arts, the Zhong Xin Dao forms have reawakened my interest in forms per se – and also in those of WT – because here I have an immediate connection to the living teachings and their teacher.
- Zhong Xin Dao really is learnable!
GM Chin has developed a clear method of approach which one only needs to absolve step by step to be certain of reaching one's goal. With this system guide he has met the requirement of Prof. Tiwald that the entire concept should be laid on the table in front of the beginner from day one.
So what has all this got to do with WT?
Our EWTO, as an umbrella organisation for WT, Escrima, Chi Kung, Grappling, etc. and about 60,000 active members, is happy to offer Zhong Xin Dao to its members as a stand-alone internal discipline based on Zen.
Of course the idea is not to replace WingTsun which is the backbone of the EWTO!
GM Chin offers an ancient teaching that was passed down through his family, but not a chiselled-out style where appearance has any value. I would call it "the science and logic of fighting".
GM Chin Lik Keong,
the father of the present
Grandmaster Sam Chin and
founder of I Liq Chuan
His father, GM Chin Lik Keong, optimized the various styles with which his master students came to him with his biomechanical/energetic teachings, and all of them were enriched when they left him.
Unlike our now joint KungFu daughter Natalie, I therefore did not start by learning the family system of GM Chin, but rather by understanding and optimising my own WT through encounters and comparison with him.
GM Chin is of inestimable help to me in transforming my WT into an inner WT, a process I had already begun with the help of Prof. Tiwald. He has been kind enough to assure me repeatedly that I was already very close to it, and would also have discovered it without him. With Tiwald's help I cannot entirely exclude that, but the two of us would have needed another ten years or so, if not much longer.
So why should I try to reinvent the wheel?
GM Chin has already built it. I can now continue from there and make use of the time saved for other developments. For Grandmaster Chin and myself the word "art" in the term "martial arts" is all about solid workmanship and finally science, where you work together with others and share with colleagues.
After having experimented around for years, and given great thought to what specific exercises I could use to bring out my "Big 7" (Mindfulness, Balance, Flexibility, Body Unity, Sense of Touch, Timing, Fighting Spirit) in WingTsun directly (without the help of form teaching) in students, and also make them transparently examinable, I was able to fall back on GM Chin's own research findings. I therefore now use a small selection from his numerous exercises in iWT, so as to promote internalisation (physical unity and centering) in our WT masters, something that cannot regularly be achieved by everyone without special tuition.
I have also greatly benefitted from my work with GM Chin with respect to biomechanics, energetics and especially the highly intelligent behaviour at the point of contact.
Those familiar with my own work on the optimisation of WingTsun may remember what Prof. Horst Tiwald called my "golden treasure" in his foreword to my book "The Essence of WingTsun":
"Mr Kernspecht, your golden treasure is the Linkage Theory, which not only makes WingTsun a superior martial art, but also a particularly effective 'physical exercise' able to help develop the personality even in childhood. …“
GM Chin also works in this specialised field, but has done so much longer than I and without either of us knowing about the work of the other. Indeed I only "recognised" GM Chin owing to my background in Leung Ting WingTsun and because Prof. Tiwald and my own research work had prepared me for him.
In deep gratitude for what has been shared with me so freely, and the confidence placed in me, I, Escrima Grandmaster Bill Newman and my Grandmaster students and partners Giuseppe Schembri, Dr. Oliver König and Master Andreas Gross have decided to ensure that GM Chin's ingenious teachings will be spread in Europe (in absolutely authentic, undiluted form) by the EWTO.
We will spread and represent Zhong Xin Dao e.g. in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Bulgaria, and probably Cyprus and support his students everywhere.
Natalie has meanwhile obtained her very demanding teaching licence, therefore we are also authorised to examine students strictly according to GM Chin's instructions.
GM Chin will visit us several times each year for seminars and demonstrate his style-free approach, his fighting logic.
On 15th November 2017 the State University of Plovdiv followed my recommandation and will appoint GM Chin an honorary professor on 15th November 2017 like my Karate Tutor Kaicho Jon Bluming (10th Dan Karate, 9th Dan Judo) before him.
A fitting recognition for a life dedicated to Zen and research into the martial arts.
Prof. Sam Chin is a true scientist of the martial arts, as he is second to none in having created knowledge for us!
Keith R. Kernspecht
* One is T.T. Liang (a famous master student of TaiChi teacher Chen Man Ching), who was already in his seventies when he learned an inner Praying Mantis style, the "Half-Step Praying Mantis", from the 80 year-old Master Wei Shao Tang.
The other is the student of Peter Urban, Frank Ruiz, Moses Powell and Leung Ting, Ron „The Black Dragon“ van Clief (born 1943), founder and 10th Dan in the Chinese Goju style, and several-times world Karate champion. At the age of 51 he honourably lost to Royce Gracie in the 4th UFC, and began to learn Brazilian JuJitsu (BJJ) in his late 60s.
** Tragically Ueshiba did not return this love, but instead mocked Kano and humiliated his master students. Judo nonetheless prevailed, and Aikido, which may have received some of the genes of a secretive, inner Chinese style (namely Pakua), is left in the role of a wall-flower.