What do Zhong Xin Dao and grappling do for us?
GM Kernspecht and his team came up with something new for Whitsun 2018: he invited WT-people to Biddersbachhalle in Wiesenbach for a 3-day intensive seminar in which grappling was practiced in the morning and Zhong Xin Dao (ZXD)in the afternoon.
More than 200 WT-people came to this familiar venue in Wiesenbach with me, to get to know or learn more about two unfamiliar fighting disciplines. So what are the intentions of GM Kernspecht and his team in arranging this?
Everything in the EWTO is about WingTsun. That has been the case ever since the 1970s. How can ZXD and grappling enhance our WT? What impulses can ZXD and grappling give to our WT?
A great French philosopher once said that he only understood ancient Greek philosophy, which after all spread its influence throughout Europe, when he contrasted it with the completely different philosophy of China. And perhaps the most famous Japanese Karate master of the recent times ascribed the same effect on his Shotokan Karate to TaiChi. In the 1970s and 80s, GM Kernspecht used Philippine Escrima for purposes of comparison with WT, the inner styles from the start of the new millennium and in recent years has above all used the Chinese style Zhong Xin Dao. His team of grandmasters, Giuseppe Schembri, Oliver König and Thomas Schrön, accompanied him on this path, and the latter two additionally explored the art of grappling. The aim has always been to understand the principles and functions of these reference styles, and to examine the exercises which they use to develop their specific skills for their usability in WT. The aim has never been to copy their techniques.
What can a WingTsun person learn from Zhong Xin Dao?
Like WT, ZXD has forms, applications of these forms, "sticky hands" and what we in WT call LatSao and ZXD calls Sanda, i.e. free-fighting. But how they do it is not the same. And it is precisely these differences and why they exist that can be very revealing for a WT expert for a better understanding of his own WT.
SiFu found ZXD to be particularly well worth researching into, because it gave him all the ingredients to realise the transformation of WT into the inner style that he and Prof. Tiwald wanted it to be. Even before meeting Prof. Tiwald, he had identified mindfulness & consciousness as the first capabilities that must be achieved. Just as WT as a Zen-Buddhist martial art from the Shaolin Monastery actually and absolutely requires. But it was the creator of ZXD, GM Sam Chin, with his more than ten years of experience in a Buddhist monastery who provided valuable practical teachings on how to bring this about in practice, i.e. when teaching. SiFu was always in search of suitable exercises that would lead to the seven essential capabilities in WT directly, and not by way of the forms. GM Sam Chin had successfully put the same idea into practice with his solo exercises 15 years beforehand.
The situation is similar with the "linkage theory" developed by SiFu, where GM Sam's developments likewise helped him to progress.
And last not least, WT-people can benefit from the structural and energetic exercises in ZXD. One might therefore say that ZXD can give WT valuable support as a complementary science.
Moving on to the grappling of GM Gokor Chivichyan:
What does grappling have to do with WT, and how can grappling enhance WT?
Grappling fundamentally has nothing to do with traditional WT, just as there is no groundfighting in WT. A WT fighter should avoid being grabbed and brought to the ground by an opponent.
And it really is not so easy to wrestle an experienced WT expert to the ground, as he has many suitable methods in his repertoire to forestall such attempts by the wrestler. Hand, elbow and knee techniques spring to mind. However, not all of our 60,000 WT members are already experts.
Moreover, we have a large proportion of lightweight men, women and children.
It is interesting to note that in Hong Kong, it is particularly the last group that learns falling techniques and basic groundfighting techniques. It does not make sense to go to the ground in a serious fight, or voluntarily go to the ground to attack the opponent's legs. Yet exactly that is propagated in a one-sided advertising message by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with the result that more and more street thugs are adopting this attacking technique, and we can nowadays expect to be attacked in this way. One even gains the impression that attacks to the legs to bring an opponent to the ground have now become part of modern ritual combat.
This is why SiFu always emphasises that "while groundfighting and wrestling attacks to the legs do not form part of traditional WingTsun, we have to accept that they are now part of the scene on the streets."
If we see self-defence as our most important and essential task in WT, we must not neglect "anti-groundfighting" and defence against, or prevention of, "wrestling attacks to the legs", or ignore the fact that we can nowadays expect to be attacked not by just one, but by several opponents, that opponents who have brought us to the ground will kick us in the head with no regard for possibly fatal results, and will also have no compunction about using striking and stabbing weapons.
But we can only defend against something that we know. Which is why it makes sense to concern ourselves with groundfighting and arrive at "anti-groundfighting".
As SiFu once told me, one of the reasons why Escrima was taken up in the EWTO as early as the 1970s was the realisation that only someone who has learned to handle weapons (e.g. sticks or knives) himself is in a position to defend against such attacks.
In the mid-70s SiFu also invited a Muay Thai champion master to teach Thai boxing, so that his students became familiar with its low kicks and had a chance to cope with them.
As SiFu also emphasised at the Leadership Congress before the three-day seminar, we must immediately adapt to any changes made by opponents and in the attack scenario on the streets to maintain the upper hand in every respect.
Let's return to grappling and groundfighting:
Every boxing match would soon degenerate into some form of wrestling contest if there were no referee to separate the protagonists. In the same way, a real fight consists of kicks, blows, wrestling and possibly groundfighting if it goes through the different distances and lasts long enough.
So let me repeat SiFu's statement that wrestling and groundfighting are not a part of traditional WT, but are part of effective self-defence.
In this context it is right to see Escrima, ZXD and grappling as supporting sciences that help us to better understand our WT and apply it more effectively for self-defence.
Nonetheless we are delighted to see that Newman Escrima is not merely an auxiliary discipline for WT, but thanks to GM Bill Newman has developed into a fully-fledged martial arts discipline within the EWTO over the years, with many enthusiastic followers. The grappling of GM Gokor Chivichyan and the ZXD of GM Sam Chin will develop in a similar way. Both have attracted many enthusiastic fans within the EWTO in record time, as the three-day seminar with over 200 participants shows.
Although I am not an early riser, and my ZXD brother Hsin Chin certainly isn't, we seized the opportunity to attend the grapping sessions each morning, either against each other or with the many-times world champion Gokor Chivichyan. Hsin proved to be a very talented grappler, and it would not surprise me if he took part quite often in the future, to round off his groundfighting skills.
All were impressed by GM Sam Chin's lively teaching method, with numerous clear demonstrations and precise, down-to-earth explanations.
I particularly remember one of his pronouncements: "The ZXD approach will help you to become a better person – but most importantly a happier person."
A few days after the ZXD & Grappling Seminar, one of the participants said to me:
"I have never before experienced such unison amongst participants. I felt I was part of something greater. As a beginner to ZXD and grappling I was learning amongst WT masters and grandmasters. We learned the same things, wore the same T-shirts or rashguards. No grading badges or hierarchy separated us. Everybody shared what he had understood with others. We were all equal. We were all witnesses and participants in a historical event. That's how it must have been in the mid-1970s, in the early days of WingTsun in Germany."