"Sharing the wealth of knowledge is the future of WingTsun!"

During the international EWTO seminar in Lübeck, Markus Senft had a conversation with Sifu Victor Gutierrez ...

WTW: It appears that we are now seeing more of you in Germany in recent months, after hardly seeing you at all for a number of years. Tendentious articles in the martial arts press were already causing some people to think that you might leave the EWTO.

I have been a member of the EWTO for 29 years, and in all this time I have always learned and benefitted from my Si-Fu, Grandmaster Kernspecht.
15 years ago, my brother and I decided to return to our home country of Spain and popularise WingTsun there. Even building up a single WingTsun school successfully is not easy, as everybody who has done it knows. Building up an organisation for an entire country is an unbelievably time-consuming challenge. Without wanting to appear big-headed, I think we can claim to have established WingTsun and Escrima in Spain. WingTsun, and therefore the EWTO, is well-known to anybody interested in the martial arts.
Even though I had little time to travel to my second home of Germany for some years, I never really lost contact with my teachers, Grandmaster Kernspecht and Grandmaster Newman. I regularly invited them to seminars and took private lessons from them.
We can now say that we have completed the major part of building the organisation, therefore there is more time to devote ourselves to our own progress and new tasks. Particularly in the area of responding to tactile impulses, and after years of scientific research, GM Kernspecht has gained and tested completely new, combat-related insights, and translated them into practical teaching programmes that produce results which were previously not possible within such a short time, and will raise our WingTsun to a higher level.

WTW: There have been a few wild rumours that you have developed your own style, and that it is only a matter of time before you form your own association.

As I have said, I was intensively occupied with building up the Spanish WingTsun organisation for many years, but have never lost contact with my teachers. My Si-Fu has taught me that it is not only OK, but essential for an experienced WT master to develop his own interpretation of WingTsun, and that merely preserving the movements of our forebears does not help WT to progress. In principle GM Kernspecht – like Grandmaster before him – is always concerned with developing an anti-WingTsun. This is the actual tradition of WingTsun: better is the enemy of good! And nowadays I know how true this is. I had to learn to adapt the principles of WingTsun to my own physical and mental characteristics. Only in this way could I develop an unmistakable profile that distinguished me from the competitive line-up. Accordingly it was important to find a suitable way of attracting the attention of the martial arts scene in Spain. If you only imitate the movements and techniques of your teacher, you can never bring them to life and make them part of you. WingTsun is simply not a collection of dead techniques.
The same applies to marketing concepts: they cannot simply be transferred from one country to another. The basic principles are similar, but not their detailed implementation.
The casual observer only sees the differences and draws the only possible conclusion, namely that a separation is clearly in the offing. I have been suspected of having this intention for many years, presumably by people who have so little character themselves that they consider such a course of action to be normal. As for me, I still continue to follow my Si-Fu!

WTW: It can hardly be denied that your interpretation of WingTsun is considerably different from that of your Si-Fu.

Quite the contrary! It is essentially very similar to his own approach. Like him, I have been observing the continuing degeneration of our WingTsun training methods with concern for some time, e.g. Chi-Sao becoming merely "dancing with a partner". If you knew more variations and more Chinese names, you were the greatest. Anybody who had learned a form which was actually meant for the 6th Practician level thought he possessed the qualifications for calling himself a 6th Master level ...

I understand the clever thinking that led to the creation of "sections" or "fixed Chi-Sao sequences", but there is a danger that the student, and even the instructor, might take these exercises, which are no more than "two-man forms", to be "living" Chi-Sao reaction exercises – which they are certainly not. Used correctly, as Grandmaster Leung Ting created and developed them, the solo forms (Siu-Nim-Tau, Chum-Kiu, Biu-Tze, Wooden Dummy form) and the 2-man forms (= Chi-Sao sections) have an important and irreplaceable role to play.
But as with all tools, we must not use them incorrectly.
I wanted to counter this danger in my area of responsibility, i.e. Spain. As there is great interest in free-fighting in the Spanish martial arts scene (and no wonder, as no less than three fighters from the Gracie clan live in Spain), I naturally consulted my Si-Fu and decided to apply the WingTsun principles to this. This naturally resulted in very specific training methods that look very different from the "familiar" WingTsun at first sight. But in "familiar" we are always talking about WingTsun against WingTsun, which – as Si-Fu repeatedly warns us – does not reflect reality. After all, we are dealing with non-WingTsun people in the street! Because WT looks quite different from the usual against e.g. a wrestler, it is not only beginners who conclude that this cannot be "real" WingTsun. However, experts should be aware that WingTsun can adopt any external form we choose. It is the principles that decide everything ... let me refer you to Grandmaster Leung Ting‘s very fitting image of the "wolf in sheep’s clothing", which he used during one of the wonderful tutorials I had the pleasure of attending.

WTW: Has your concept proved successful?

My modified approach has been highly successful in every respect. We have been able to draw clear distinctions between ourselves and our numerous competitors, and at the same time demonstrate that the principles of WingTsun can be applied to any form of combat. In this way we were able to establish ourselves in the Spanish martial arts scene.
It is now important to consolidate and expand our position with further innovations. Here too, I am relying on the ingenious ideas of my Si-Fu and the experience of my many highly qualified colleagues within the EWTO. In my view this is the great strength of our association: the wealth of know-how and insight that so many masters have gained over the decades. The ability to share this knowledge and develop it further together is in my view the basis for the successful future of WingTsun.
WTW: What should we make of an article in a martial arts magazine, in which it was said that you would be presenting your concept as a "new, revolutionary teaching programme for the Association" at the international EWTO seminar in Lübeck?

To my regret I found that the views I had given to the editor of the magazine were not accurately reported, and had even been completely distorted. This may be because it is always in the interests of magazines to gain attention with spectacular or provocative articles, but it may also be that the translation from the original Spanish text into German led to certain inaccuracies.
My method is in no way a "new" teaching programme for the EWTO, but merely a special training approach that is tailored to a specific, limited scenario: combat with an opponent who may already have taken punishment, but then begins to grapple and wrestle with a view to involving me in a groundfight.
This is what actually happens in my experience, and I want to share with my colleagues how I successfully use the WT principles against this. The fact that our two grandmasters, who play in a very different but very lonely and elitist league, have very different and highly sophisticated options at their disposal is quite another thing.
My offer is therefore addressed to average WT people who want to protect themselves as well as possible according to their skill level.
Like other WT teachers before me, I merely want to contribute my almost 30 years of WingTsun training and teaching to help make the EWTO’s student training programme even more varied and effective than it already is now. Those who attended the seminar in Lübeck were able to gain some impression of the versatile and complex programmes offered by the EWTO. I only see myself as one teacher among others. With respect to my Si-Fu Keith R. Kernspecht and his unique skill, I still continue to regard myself as a student.

Some of my colleagues quite rightly accuse my techniques of being "rough-house", with a fair emphasis on strength. Yes, that is my personal style of our WingTsun. From experience I know that Si-Fu will immediately deliver a strike to my neck with the inner edge of his hand if I try to knock his arm aside, so I would not risk this with him. But who else has that level of skill? Even when I use my attack-dissolving strike (a form of "Noi-Moon-Pat-Dar") against a higher Technician grade who is grappling, he does not immediately respond softly and give way like Si-Fu, but initially becomes hard and rigid. When my opponent realises his error, it is already too late for him. What I mean to say is that on the street, we do not need to assume that our opponent is the world’s greatest WingTsun Chi-Sao expert - otherwise we could all go home right now anyway. We will normally be dealing with a seasoned thug or "only" a drunk, who has somehow weathered our first blow and is now trying to clinch or pull us to the ground to gain recovery time. It is against this opponent and this frequent but often neglected and underestimated situation that I have developed the fighting programme I showed in Lübeck. 

Sifu Victor, thank-you for your time.