Interview with Sifu Stefan Crnko about the “BlitzCombat” WingTsun-Programme
After having seen the demonstration of Stefan Crnko for "BlitzCombat" the WingTsun-World redaction wanted to know more about him und what he is doing.
WTW: Since when are you practicing WingTsun?
Quite a while now. I was given the best possible instruction up to 3rd TG level by Master Mario Janisch. Then I was accepted as a private student by GM Keith R. Kernspecht, and I continue to learn from him with great enthusiasm.
Do you have other martial arts experience? If so, what? For how long?
I started to practice martial arts at an early age. First Judo, then Karate. I then spent 14 years with Thai Boxing and Kick-Boxing, then discovered WT with Si-Fu Mario. I immediately thought: “Sh*t, why didn’t you discover this sooner.” I consider it to be the best fighting system to be found anywhere. But we must avoid having the rules and fighting methods of the other styles or “martial sports” imposed on us. We don’t do sport, we do self-defence.
Why did you get into cage-fighting etc.?
I started because I was looking for something where I could actually use all those wonderful things we were training in every day, but without risking a criminal record, a fine or even prison. And I am not joking, I am deadly serious: we practice very dangerous movements - I am intentionally avoiding the term “techniques“. One should not underestimate the enormous effectiveness of WT. You can defend yourself very well and effectively with it, but you can also get yourself into very great difficulties if you fail to control the methods you choose. It is very easy to incur legal problems through using excessive force, and injuries in the heat of battle can be very severe or even life-threatening if the tactile responses and sense of distance do not work as work as well as during school training. That is why I started to fight realistically with WT. In the cage you don’t have to worry about injuring the opponent, or possible consequences, as both of you know full well what you are letting yourselves in for. Everybody who takes part has made a free choice. You are up against just about all the martial arts there are, except WingTsun. And that is precisely what WingTsun was invented for, namely to prevail against the other styles and martial arts. GM Kernspecht is quite right to be critical because today’s WingTsun (Wing Chun, Ving Tsun) people always only think about combat against other WingTsun people, and only train for that.
I worked on the door as a bouncer for many years, and if I had used dangerous WT methods as uncompromisingly as I learned them each time, I would now be giving you this interview through the glass visitor’s window in a prison.
Do you have practical fighting experience other than competition?
Oh yes, I was in the military for a long time, and still train military people now. Not only in self-defence, but also in weapons and tactics. But these are not normal soldiers. The elite soldiers I train come and go without most people noticing that they were there in the first place, if you know what I mean.
How important to you is training for the groundfight, or perhaps to put it better, training on the ground?
Groundfighting is indispensable for sporting martial arts training and sporting competition. If you watch these competitive bouts, most of them continue on the ground after 10-20 seconds. This makes groundfighting the most important thing – for the sporting aspect.
Anybody watching these sporting bouts is bound to think that fighting on the ground is also of the greatest importance for real self-defence, or for the police and military who might have to arrest somebody. But this is not the case at all.
As GM Kernspecht has recognised, there is no groundfighting phase in the most frequent type of fight in the street, namely ritualised combat amongst men. Anyone who falls to the ground and does not get up again quickly enough is kicked in the ribs and head by the other.
Even someone who has managed to get on top and restrain his opponent is helplessly exposed to the kicks of the opponent’s friends. Nowadays you are increasingly confronted with several opponents, and there is no longer any fairness.
I have not often seen a man knock another down in the street, then throw himself onto his opponent and carry on. This is when the feet tend to be used. You are going to be kicked, and you use kicks yourself.
It may well be sensible and good fun on the nice, soft mats of a training room, when you are bare-chested or wearing the appropriate training clothes. But who would volunteer to lie down on a dirty, wet road, perhaps wearing smart clothes and going out for the evening? I think anybody who is honest with themselves will try to avoid going or falling to the ground. Am I right? The same applies in a disco or pub. Who really wants to start groundfighting in his good clothes, rolling around in cigarette butts and broken glass???
And what we should also remember is that road asphalt or the dirty, sticky floor of a pub or club are not as nice and slippery as the mats in a training room. So many of those wonderful techniques cannot be executed. Where does this leave the fun-factor, or the sporting aspect??? I certainly can’t see one. Anybody who doesn’t believe me should go out and try it for themselves.
Elite police and military units are also very averse to ending up on the ground. With all the equipment they need to wear nowadays, I would like to see the police officer who is still capable of groundfighting.
As I have said, it’s great for the sporting or fitness aspect on mats in a training room. And is better for usable stamina than jogging or cycling.
So is there any good reason for wrestling on the floor in a training room?
Certainly, to prepare yourself for sporting competition that involves wrestling on the floor. To have fun, and get a real physical workout. Ground-wrestling is very hard work. However often somebody pumps iron in the gym, I am certain that after one hour on the floor, he will have muscle pain next day in places where he didn’t even know he had muscles.
Does this mean you don’t teach groundfighting?
No, I must have expressed myself unclearly. I only teach WT people very little ground-wrestling. Instead I show how pure WT methods (blows, kicks, Chi-Sao), and especially elbows and knees, can be used on the ground to make life difficult for wrestlers …
In short: I teach a anti-groundfighting, i.e. WT methods that can be used against typical wrestling attacks on the ground!
What aspects are important for you in WingTsun training for real combat?
It’s very important for me that the applications (blows, kicks) can and must be executed with power. It’s better to mess around a bit less, and instead strike the target with certainty, accuracy and power. There is no point in prancing around my opponent for 5 minutes and trying out all the sections on him, but only with 3 kg of striking power. This costs a lot of time and is incredibly tiring. I am not saying that the sections are of no use in a fight, but they are only examples. You have to be clear about one thing: you cannot have a one-on-one fight following the sequences of the sections, and neither were they designed for fighting. Their purpose is to ensure that the knowledge is retained and passed on. Unfortunately many have not yet understood this. And if you want to use them to fight, you must not perform them as a set sequence. As GM Kernspecht showed us in Majorca and Livorno, you must break them up into very small parts, with many variations. And it is also indispensable to train with protective clothing. In fact it is stupid not to. The EWTO neck protectors that protect against chops to the neck are vital training aids. How can anybody practice the 6th section or Biu-Tze ChiSao without them? When I have a really hard, no-holds-barred training session, I also wear protection. This allows me to feel my partner’s striking power, and I can tell him which strikes are effective and which he still needs to practice. At the same time my partner can develop his striking power. He doesn’t have to use full force at once, only work up to it slowly. Overcoming the reluctance to strike a blow to the face is already a problem for most people, even though they know their opposite number. If they can’t even do that, then what are they going to do in the street? The excuse: “Yes, but when it’s for real I would …“ , is nothing but self-deception – he/she would actually do nothing. I’ve seen this happen again and again. Two aspects are more important than anything else for self-defence.
- Striking power
- The will to actually hit someone hard. Whether you like it or not, your opponent might not care what you want or don’t want. He’ll simply hit you.
These two aspects should definitely be included in our WT training. It is better to require only two blows for your opponent than deliver 100 with no effect. When I think of all those stupid videos on the internet, it makes me sick.
Who still uses the anchor or trigger word that psychologically helps us to overcome our reluctance to strike (BlitzDefence book: Attack is the best defence)?
Two years ago Sigung started to train with the neck protector and gloves. Some people wore them for about two months, then they disappeared again. Why? Training with protective equipment is necessary to develop striking techniques and power, without which there is no self-defence. I still use the neck protector a lot, but I have reinforced it a little – SiGung hits harder than he used to.
Stefan is laughing in acknowledgement.
In recent times, training on the ground has been increasingly influenced by Jiu-Jitsu. Do you think it necessary to train something in addition to WT?
I am convinced and quite sure that it is not necessary to train anything additional and non-WT. If somebody wants to practice a little sport as well, that’s another matter.
We have all we need in WT. Whether standing or on the ground. Anybody who doesn’t believe me, please get in touch.
What you see in wrestling, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu etc. is designed for sport, and the rules are also formulated accordingly. The emphasis is on the word ”RULES“. When I train (sparring and realistic self-defence), I very rarely train with WT people, as they are not my potential opponents. And usually – after the first two blows – my opponents come up with complaints like: “Oh, you deliver blows with your legs, you’re using your elbows and knees” … etc. Of course, I say, after all I do WT. I have no rules I must abide by, and I am not interested in your rules. Everybody must do what he can, and if you think you don’t have enough options, you should also start to learn WT too.
Stefan laughs before he becomes serious again.
We are equipped for everything with WT. But we must avoid being saddled with the rules of the others, and we must slightly amend our training method. We already have the knowledge how to do this within the EWTO.
I can’t think of any more questions, but that’s certainly a good start. I wonder when your official debut will be. Perhaps at the Leadership Congress?
No idea, I’ll wait to be surprised like here in Majorca.
Thank you, Stefan, for the interview.
Fotos: San Marco Regiments/hm