Full of skill or stuffed with knowledge? – Sifu Michael König

Sifu Michael König, 4. TG WT, on the debate initiated by Grandmaster Kernspecht concerningn the value of Chi-Sao in WingTsun ...

I was obsessed with sections

Dear Si-Fu.
Ever since I have been having private lessons with you (something I have always wanted, but thought an impossible dream), I have given a lot of thought to writing down my experiences.
You put your finger right on the problem in your editorial: when I started to have private lessons, my foremost aim was to learn the Chi-Sao sections.
But at the beginning of our first lesson, when I was newly-hatched 4th TG, you already indicated to me that the section has never actually existed as a fixed movement sequence, and that its importance is therefore exaggerated.
I confess that it was difficult to follow your direction and practice formless or free Chi-Sao. Basically I was obsessed with learning sections. I took pleasure in learning the sections and their variations, and in knowing more than others.
In my view it is still important (though less so, and for other reasons) to practice a certain, standardised section, as the student needs some form of stable basis.
The problem lies in applying a standard, as every person feels different and therefore attacks differently. In this respect it is not possible to have a section which is absolutely identical, and especially not in every school, as each teacher has a different level of understanding or knowledge about the section.
As I have been enjoying the excellent training given by Sifu Thomas Schrön at the Castle for many years, I have a relatively good knowledge of the sections.
Perhaps this enables me to give a better assessment of your free training approach.
If we call the section a two-man form as you say, it makes sense to practice it. There is still a problem, however, as every person feels different, attacks differently and is of different strength and size. This means that I cannot simply apply a general standard that covers all. WT has always been rebellious and non-conformist, and therefore successful. Perhaps standardising movement sequences would lead to standstill or regression, as the standard alone is rigid and lifeless. My motto is that free spirits can only develop if given free possibilities.
As I have said, I owe all the thoughts I am writing down here to you and your teaching. It would never have occurred to me otherwise. In this respect my thoughts and understanding relating to Chi-Sao (i.e. WT) have changed beyond recognition as a result of your Chi-Sao tuition. I have been attending your seminars for years, and so far you have seldom taught an entire, complete section. I never really understood why this was so, but I can still remember many details of your seminars which are already 10 (!) years in the past.
I found myself forgetting many a variation to sections after a short time, which is also due to the fact that one often lacks a training partner for the higher sections.
But the mere thought of having forgotten a variation created a feeling of uncertainty within me, and uncertainty is something I can do without when it comes to self-defence. Certainty creates self-assurance, therefore even a 1st SG should and must have certainty.
Since I have had the privilege of enjoying a two-hour lesson with you at least once (sometimes even twice) a month, I have kept or regained an open mind. During each lesson I stand before you and try to expect nothing, only to react according to your attack. Since my defence is always unsuccessful, you analyse the attack and the appropriate resulting defence with me. This analysis alone, plus the thoughts you express (you think out loud so that I can follow your meaning) gives me unbelievable progress.
The great variety of attacks and the resulting variety of defences makes me conclude that a consciously considered defence is not possible for time reasons. An appropriate defence is only possible by tactile means.
At one of your lessons my bodyweight was a good 98 kg. I should add that I do strength training at least 3-4 times a week, and am therefore no pipsqueak. At the same lesson you weighed 69 kg, but you still threw me around the room at will. Naturally it frustrated me, but in a positive sense!
During the very long journey home I wondered how this could be. There could be no magic or other mysterious things at work. After all, our WT is scientific and can therefore be analysed. I always noted down the content of each private lesson, and immediately incorporated what I had learned into my own classes. I can say that this knowledge has had an amazing influence on my thoughts, and therefore on my own lessons. New knowledge cannot be concealed, as it changes you.
Given the weight difference of almost 30 (!) kg and the difference in ages, it should be clear to any outsider that strength (at least in the way we interpret it, i.e. sporty and usually young) has no importance in WT, but tends to be a disadvantage.
Naturally I have a great disadvantage as I write these lines, as I am unable to clearly communicate the physical feeling and thoughts I have had since learning from you. This really is a great disadvantage, and perhaps one cannot express it in words anyway. Perhaps I can explain with reference to my teaching experience with students: I have private students from 11th SG right up to 3rd TG, and previously we have always enjoyed practicing standardised sequences.
As a result of your lessons and the thoughts you expressed, my own teaching methods began to change (and not only with private students). Some students found it hard to accept that they could not practice section variation xyz with me, while others were immediately enthusiastic about the free exercises. Since I insisted on free exercises, they all had to train in the same way I do with you. I found it amazing that I was able to attack students ranging from 11th SG to 3rd TG in almost the same way with no successful defence.
Just as you described it in your last editorial (as related by a witness), I attacked them all in practically the same way and none of them were able to mount a defence. I can only draw one conclusion where relative skill is concerned: quite an improvement.
This should and must make us think, for only the effectiveness of a martial art should be important to us.
Taoism teaches us that if we look at one or two leaves on a tree, the other leaves are of no importance. And yet the whole tree is beautiful and important. If we look at only one or two leaves, we lose our appreciation of the remaining leaves. It is also Taoistic to say that if you have a thousand arms but only use two, what is the importance of the others?
This must also continue to apply in WT. The goal is survival in combat. Nothing else.
I find your lessons liberating, as the emphasis is on the goal rather than lifeless movement sequences.
Forms, footwork, drills, Lat-Sao and Chi-Sao are means to an end, but not the end itself. Victory is the goal. The attacker may be as primitive as they come, and still win. The point is to beat him.
Michael König
4. TG WT