Combat, Chess and the lightness of being
Those who know me will recognise the symptoms: Kernspecht is working on a new book. For a long time all my thoughts have been preoccupied with this, and it is high time that I let it see the light of day.
What is it about? What a question. Is there anything else but WingTsun – in its widest sense?
Somehow every person sings the same song or is writing the same book. I seldom sing, and then only if I am driving alone; but in my mind I am always writing a new version of my classic book "On Single Combat".
I am constantly starting this rewrite, though not from the beginning but from the end, teleologically, so to speak...What do I finally want my students to be capable of? My approach is not only consequential, however, but also minimalist. I have to use these long words, otherwise how can I prove worthy of the honorary professorship which the famous National Sports Academy in Sofia (Bulgaria) intends to award me this month - if it does not change its mind, that is.
My fundamental question is therefore always: what are the absolutely essential steps to achieve the goal?
Accordingly I do not start with the rules and techniques, the one and two-man forms which have previously been considered right and immutable, but with the purpose of the whole thing. And I only assess these training aids in terms of the extent to which they realise our goal self-defence in a ritualised combat situation).
In this way I have come to realise that precisely 6 reactions (or three pairs of reactions) are enough for anybody to prevail easily in 99.9% of all attack situations which – and this proviso is important – takes place at the distance typical for ritualised combat. What are they? I’ll tell you in my book. And every time I teach ...
If anybody wants to persuade me to go beyond these 6 "semi-reflexes", he will need to give me convincing, i.e. demonstrable reasons. Until then I steadfastly refuse to add further techniques to my repertoire if I do not have to, for excess ballast is a drawback when things get serious. More is less! That is why professionals immediately empty their bladders when a confrontation threatens. Otherwise the stress makes this – and also more substantial things - happen unconsciously and involuntarily anyway.
I am painfully aware that the art of reading is retreating in the face of videos, DVDs, CDs or whatever else these newfangled things are called, and which others have to operate for me because I feel nothing but snobbish contempt for them. Accordingly what I am writing is a picture book.
While my conceptual work of 1987 featured both text and images to show the logic behind WingTsun as I understood it at the time, and am still unable to refute, explanatory pictures will predominate in my new, A4-size opus.
20 years have meanwhile passed, and I have naturally learned more in the interim. Very realistic photo sequences in the picturesque surroundings of Italian, Swiss, Austrian, Bulgarian and Spanish holiday landscapes – usually with national instructors and other masters or private students – might belie the fact that my new book is very ambitious, and goes well beyond the confines of "On Single Combat".
And not only because I have identified e.g. the two Huen-Sao reactions as vitally necessary reactions at the earliest stages of an attack. There are also practical findings from recent years on the basis of my experience with "BlitzDefence", such as the importance of intuition, body language and hand skills in the battle for life or death, aspects which are unrecognised in "l’art pour l’art Wing Tsun".
There is also the implementation of ideas from the long pole and knife programmes in unarmed combat, the use of the "one-foot-forward stance" as in the long pole and a much more economical turn which is often no more than a scarcely perceptible shifting of weight. And not least the most rigorous adherence to the WingTsun concepts, which dictate the choice of technique and give the defender who concertedly acts accordingly an advantage over a stronger attacker.
The most important of these, and something Descartes (familiar from "Cogito ergo EWTO") once formulated, is that one can only either change the world (i.e. other people) or oneself.
In my WingTsun I turn this contrast into a rather more complementary or consecutive relationship, where changing oneself actually means changing the other person … I push myself away from him and he presents no more danger. I give way to his strength with Bong-Sao, and he no longer exerts a load on me. WingTsun is the lightness of being.
We love to make comparisons, and say that WingTsun is like chess – but using the arms and legs. For me the common factor is that neither of them is a sport. I presume this is intended to express the idea that in WT too, the movements appear to be strategically pre-planned. However, planning is inherent to the system in WT, which means that it is already part of the concept and that the creative thought process already took place hundreds of years ago. Neither is there even the tiniest pause between the action of our opponent and our reaction in WingTsun. Not only is it unnecessary to think between moves (movements) in WT, it would quite simply be counterproductive if consciousness and thought were allowed to interfere with the responses of the body. As we know, analysis is paralysis. This is at least one aspect in which WT and chess differ. WT is adapted, perfectly timed movement, and in this respect WT as I understand and teach it can be compared to another game of skill, namely pick-up-sticks or Mikado: if you move another stick, you lose. Those are the rules of Mikado, which I last played some 50 years ago. My last WingTsun session was only yesterday evening in Bregenz, where I was able to show that the first mechanical impulse gives the other party a clear victory if he can firstly detect it and secondly exploit it without delay!
An opponent who moves (pushes away, pulls) any part of me, even by mere millimetres, gives me the ammunition to defend or counter.
What will the book be called?
The provisional working title is "Win with 6 reactions! ... and the fight is over before it has begun".
P.S.: Please don’t order the book yet – although it has already progressed well, the EWTO staff know nothing about this project yet, and will be annoyed with me.