The heart of WingTsun or the secrets of the higher grades

While training for your student grades, you learned how to defend yourself effectively. You have learned many new things that were unknown or unfamiliar to you. Now you are at the transition point from the student grades to the 1st higher grades. Our subject this time is what happens there.

Student grades make you able to defend yourself

The WingTsun programmes are structured so that students learn to defend themselves efficiently in the first few years. To this end Grandmaster Kernspecht has developed EWTO programme contents that make this possible and proceed on a graduated basis. Early on in the first student grades the student learns simple things such as registering the various possible position of an attacker’s arms. In the intermediate stage this is followed by defences against roundhouse punches, kicks and wrestling attacks. In the higher student grades the student then learns defences against armed and/or multiple attackers.

This all happens using WingTsun techniques that Grandmaster Kernspecht partly adopted from higher programmes, to usefully incorporate them into the student grade programmes in line with the students’ current level of knowledge.

The real WingTsun and senso-motoric learning

However, the “heart“ of WingTsun – what really makes WingTsun what it is – is only learned by the student during the course of training for the higher grades. The heart of WingTsun is ChiSao, i.e. tactile and reflex training. While students already obtain a small insight in the student programmes, with simple grade reflex exercises, DanChi and PoonSao – i.e. one-armed and two-armed reflex training, the body is only really conditioned during training for the higher grades.

This is all about the body’s capability to flexibly adapt to the actions of an attacker, and deliver the corresponding answer like a spring reflex. Over time this all happens automatically, as our nervous system remembers the impulses and movement sequences and stores them in memory. This way of learning movements is known as senso-motoric training, as it trains the connections between the nervous system and the movement apparatus. In this way WingTsun offers a really unique way to train body movements.

On a superficial level, the so-called ChiSao sections instil a sequence of movements. But a more in-depth examination shows that movement possibilities and reactions are being implanted into the body. Once these have been absorbed, there is no longer a need to activate the conscious mind. The body already knows how it should react to a certain pressure caused by the physical contact of an attack – and it does it automatically. This makes reactions possible with minimal delay – also in stressful situations.

ChiSao skills stay with you

Whereas so-called “individual techniques“ will become lost unless we regularly practice them, ChiSao skills remain instilled in the body. Once they have been learned, these movements and reactions can be retrieved “at the touch of a button” even years later. We may have forgotten the movement sequences, but once the teacher or partner provides the impulses, the movement responses are automatically reactivated.

Because this form of body and movement training is in itself really sensational and unique, it is known as the ”Higher School of WingTsun“. It can be compared to a course of university study. It correspondingly requires the teacher to have a high level of personal movement skills, and the ability to communicate the content, for the aim of this teaching approach to be truly achieved.

As a student it helps you enormously if you devote your full attention to this form of training from the very start. It is important to perceive every single movement, to immerse yourself in it and explore it. Cooperation between the mind and body is required here, but we will discuss that in a later editorial.

Studying for your own movement skills

So what must you do to obtain a “red sleeve“ and above all these higher WingTsun skills to immerse yourself in studying your own movements?

As soon as you have passed your 12th student grade, you are at the entry level for the higher grades. From this level onward, one new feature is that a form of tuition fee must be paid before you permitted to learn the programmes, however this fee already includes the examination fee as well.

So you are now ready to learn the higher programmes, and begin your training. If possible make sure that you are taught by a qualified master, and regularly checked to ensure that you obtain the maximum from your training.

The learning time for the 1st Higher Grade (HG) – also known as the ”preparation time” – is normally 18 months. Three months before the end of this period you are able to start taking parts of the examination for 1st HG. At this level a written essay is required. The subject is “My martial arts history“ and be four pages in length. The content of this essay can be e.g. a report on any other martial arts you practiced before WingTsun, or how you found your way to WingTsun and what it has given you so far – a review of your previous martial arts career, so to speak. Ideally you should submit your essay before starting on the practical parts of the examination. In Switzerland this is even a requirement before being able to start the examination. After all, it would be a pity if having absolved the practical examination, you lost time for the theoretical part, as the examination for 1st HG is only considered to have been passed after both parts.

As a Higher Grade candidate you are also able to absolve the trainer curriculum. To start this, attend the seminars for WingTsun Assistant Instructor and WingTsun Trainer 1. These are held as part of the trainer seminars that take place four times each year in each year in Wiesenbach, Munich and Kiel. You need these two qualifications to obtain the 1st HG/teaching grade, which entitles you to teach students.

If you do not intend to teach, a Trainer 4 seminar is sufficient as an additional qualification. These seminars are likewise offered as part of an instructor seminar on a variety of subjects, one of which you can choose. Ideally you should attend the seminar in good time before your practical examination.

The practical examination usually consists of two parts. In the first part the examiner will observe how you perform the SiuNimTau and ChumKiu forms. Naturally you are well familiar with the sequences in these forms, but at this level much more importance is attached to precision of movement. This too is a senso-motoric exercise. The examiner will then observe how well you perform during Sections 1 - 4, and how well your reactions are instilled. The sequence is of less importance during this, as it is just a table of contents for the examiner.

In the second part of the examination the ReakTsun programmes are tested, and how well you handle the BlitzDefences when you are attacked in various ways. There are also stress exercises, e.g. attacks without prior contact using punches, shoves, grabbing and locks.

If you have met all the other requirements, you will then receive your confirmation of passing to the 1st Higher Grade.
But the quest continues. You are now a candidate for the 2nd HG level, and will learn to control your own body – and that of a potential attacker – in a quite different way.

I wish you much joy as you discover the heart of WingTsun!

Your Giuseppe Schembri