What has WingTsun given me?

In the guest editorial of this month Hans-Peter Schnabel describes how WingTsun influenced his life.

"Why have you particularly chosen to publish my essay?", Hans-Peter Schnabel asked me when he learned that I planned to include his written dissertation for the 2nd Technicain grade in this edition of WT-World online.
In many of my monthly editorials I write about the different levels in WingTsun. Sometimes my articles are abstract, and appear to have little to do with WingTsun, but sometimes the direct references to our martial art are very apparent. Anybody who practices WingTsun for a long time will find its principles reflected in all areas of life. But as I once wrote in one of my earlier editorials: "Let us not confuse study with the work itself!" The important thing is the extent to which we let these principles enter our daily lives.
In his essay Hans-Peter Schnabel does not write about profound WingTsun philosophies, but simply describes what WingTsun has contributed to his life. In doing so, he shows so lucidly what it means to apply the principles of WingTsun on a universal basis that we feel we should share his findings with our readers.

Keith R. Kernspecht


Hans-Peter Schnabel: What has WingTsun given me?

Once I had briefly thought about the subject for a while, I sat down at the computer and started to write. A blizzard of thoughts flooded into my mind. Images from my childhood appeared in my mind’s eye. Situations I had long forgotten, along with the associated emotions, were relived. Fights, victories, defeats, pain and the accompanying mental states. It all flooded through my brain. Many an old memory made me laugh, while others brought tears to my eyes. Innumerable questions occurred to me.
Why did I do things this or that way at the time? Had I not beaten many an “opponent“ and perhaps sent his life in a new, possibly more negative direction? Didn’t bad friends and poor role models carry part of the blame too? After all, these were the people who patted me on the back when I had won a fight. Was I just looking for THEIR approval, or was there more to it than it? Was I driven by primeval instincts and acting on them, or was I conscious of my actions?
Question after question, and only unsatisfactory answers. I now think that Sigung was right when he said: ”Every person does what he must do.“ I did what I had to do!
But this opens up new questions.
Why are things different today, why am I no longer the way I was? What do I now have, or rather what did I not have before? Was I not already capable of fighting beforehand? Was my self-assurance so weak that I needed to confirm it to myself over and over again? Etc., etc.
One could say that I was young and ignorant at the time, and was looking for my place in life, but is this enough to justify my earlier behaviour?
I rather think not! Especially as I am still not sure whether I have found my place in life. Nonetheless, I no longer go through life in a permanent state of tension, and I no longer hit the roof over every trifling matter, like Donald Duck. I also have much more respect for the life of others than before.
Is this due to age, or is there more to it?

Having been brought up as a selfish child and had the benefits confirmed by my surroundings, I had very little interest in other people. My entire environment was dominated by “lone wolves“ who only thought of themselves. Accordingly it was always the strongest who were respected and listened to. Their word was law!
Either you went along with this, or you were an outsider. Self-criticism was not part of our vocabulary in those days. Without really being aware of the reasons, I had enormous problems with other people, though often enough I managed to get away fairly lightly. There was never any question of e.g. a harmonious relationship with others. Accordingly I became more and more dissatisfied, and a long rethinking process gradually started. I no longer accepted the opinions of so-called alpha-males without question, and I began to examine my own behaviour more and more. I began to be more conscious of my surroundings, and realised that in certain situations, people basically all act according to the same patterns.
Stress, job constraints, financial and family problems etc. are always with us, and everybody is subject to these things. Most people respond in the same, predictable manner, all of them just talking about themselves and their problems. I did not want to end up this way.
It became clear to me that I must break through these behaviour patterns, and control my life and actions more consciously. My circle of friends had meanwhile shrunk to a more healthy level, and I no longer needed to prove anything to them or myself. I slowly became easier to get on with as a person. As a result I met the woman who was to become my wife, and we had our first daughter Romina. Having reached the age of 30, I now led what one might call a settled life.
And yet I still had the feeling that something was missing. I was no longer enjoying my hobby of strength training either, so I looked around for something new. At the time my brother-in-law Tobias was learning a ”new martial arts system”. Only mildly interested, I let him persuade me to at least go and have a look. After all, I already knew how to fight. But as so often in life, things then took their natural course!
During the introductory session, I sat in the first row and simply could not believe what was happening right in front of my eyes. A certain Sihing Klaus Hennrich was demonstrating the most breathtaking stuff with very short, sharp movements. No high kicks or other ridiculous acrobatics that do not work in the street anyway. Instead people were flying across the room without the use of any techniques I could recognise. He showed his skill with unbelievable effortlessness and precision, and all his techniques and “tricks” really worked. Moreover, the whole thing went on in a very confined space, with very short movements and no yelling. UNBELIEVABLE: I just had to learn this!
Around 4 years of “hard“ WT training followed, and during this time I got to know myself and others better than in all the years before. My physical awareness took on unheard-of dimensions, and despite being packed with muscles at that time, I felt as lightfooted and supple as never before. New virtues such as discipline, patience and respect entered my life. Every training session confronted me with new problems, but also showed me a suitable solution at once.
No technique was a one-way street. There was an answer to every question. Everybody made the effort to learn as much as possible, and also to pass it on. For the very first time I found that people were not just fighting for themselves, but worked together for the good of all. After a while all my thoughts and actions were influenced by WT, and the WT principles entered my life more and more. While I had once been stiff and rigid in my actions and thinking, I now started to give way when there was no sense in sticking to my point of view. I had meanwhile realised that giving way does not mean giving up!
I realised that it was better to look for a door rather than going through the wall head-first. On the other hand, I remained ”on the ball“ when I would once have given up. It now became much easier to look for new solutions, rather than taking predetermined routes that led nowhere. This saved me enormous energy for what was really important. At the time when I was learning WT, my employer changed his working procedure over from individual piecework to group piecework, and I was able to apply my newly-gained knowledge and thinking to the full. I was able to tackle problems much more freely, and with more focus. As a member of the workgroup, I was increasingly asked for my views and my proposed solutions were accepted and implemented. I had far fewer problems with my superiors, as I had meanwhile come to accept their point of view and assumptions.
My WT training overcame my lack of confidence, which gradually gave way to a healthy self-assurance. Speaking freely in front of several people was something I no longer worried about.
I learned to laugh about things that would once have got on my nerves immediately. This enabled me to ”master“ many situations in which I would certainly have been totally frustrated before. My entire way of thinking and behaving changed. I was no longer driven by inner turmoil and uncertainty. I applied many wise sayings to myself which I would previously have laughed about, and adopted them in my daily life.
I changed from a pigheaded loner into a team-player. My relationships with my work colleagues became much more personal, and new friendships developed which enormously enriched my life. I was now able to distinguish very clearly between false and real friends. Nobody was able to force his opinions on me, and no false friends were now able to divert me from my path.  
My entire family also benefited from my new life. I started to make fewer and fewer demands on others, but made increasing efforts to give and help. After about four years I was unfortunately obliged to interrupt my WT training, firstly because of serious health problems and secondly because we bought a house which needed complete renovation. This was a very difficult time for me, and today I am convinced that without the attitude I had gained through WT, I would not have withstood the situation so well. All my free time and strength was taken up for several years, and there was no question of returning to WT or any other hobby. But never mind, for I knew that ”everything in life has its time“,  and my time was not yet over.
And so around 7 years passed with no WT training. In 2000 I learned from friends that a certain Toni Schmidt was opening a WT school in Limburgerhof. This aroused my curiosity, and I also had more time for regular training now, so I contacted him and arranged for a trial session.
In a highly motivated frame of mind, I went to the school with my now 11year-old daughter to “show them how it’s done”. Unfortunately I was to be disappointed more than ever before, as my WT was nothing compared to the WT I now ”experienced”. I immediately knew that I had found the right teacher for me. Naturally my daughter was also full of enthusiasm, although she had no clue of what all this was about. But from now on we attended the training sessions as often as possible, and our knowledge grew with each one. We discovered completely new facets of WT, and of course about ourselves. New people entered our lives, and once again enriched them. My relationship with my daughter took on a completely new quality, and we had endless conversations about the various aspects of our training. I was also able to give her a great deal of advice about dealing with people, and in my view our development in both WT and personal terms was phenomenal.
I became conscious of a deep sense of contentment. After all, I knew what I could best do for myself – and much more importantly, for my daughter. I was never bored, and all our thoughts and actions revolved around WT. I was able to contribute my entire life experience to our training for a relaxed learning process. Everything I had learned in my earlier training sessions was now improved and refined to an unbelievable extent. New impulses showed me new ways. With every seminar and grading examination we attended, a feeling I had never known before came over me. I was incredibly proud. I was an important part of my daughter’s life, and what more could a father want. I was able to accompany her up to the 12th student grade, but unfortunately the vicissitudes of life again caught up with us and I was obliged to interrupt my WT training for about 1 year owing to injury. At present my daughter is also being exposed to the “hard“ side of life, as school stress has left her no time for WT for some time now. We have to set priorities!
Fortunately – and partly thanks to WT – my daughter is mentally strong enough to understand for herself what is important in life, however I think she will be able to resume her WT training in the foreseeable future.
Once Sifu Toni had moved into his new premises, I decided to resume my own training. My injury had now healed to the extent that regular training should be possible. And once again I am experiencing everything afresh. I am getting to know Sifu Toni’s new students, and rediscovering the joys of learning and teaching. Old training companions have made enormous progress. Where I would once have been envious, I now see this as an opportunity for me to improve as well. I am also much more tolerant towards impatient students, which means I am more confident about explaining and showing techniques.
All the WT principles are now finally making themselves felt in my training, making it easier for me to answer my own questions and those of students.
My respect for Sifu Toni and the more advanced students is greater than ever – after all, I know how much hard work lies behind their skill. Thanks to WT, my entire development in the martial arts and in life will continue apace. I am becoming more and more of a WT follower. I am learning new movements and techniques, but am only now beginning to understand the point of what I have already learned. My movements are becoming more economical and precise, and my physical awareness is better and better despite my advanced age. On the other hand, I am constantly made aware of my own shortcomings, which constantly motivates me to work on myself even more. I no longer waste time and energy on unimportant things. Everything is influenced and guided by WT. Nothing compares with WT. During all the many years I have been associated with WT, I have never found any disadvantages and am grateful that I am able to learn such an ingenious fighting and living system.
But despite all this time, my most wonderful experience only occurred a few days ago. This was when my small, 8 year-old daughter Singa, who was attending her very first WT class, looked at me with large, questioning eyes after performing her first “correct” WT punch to my stomach. At that moment I was as proud as Punch. I now know that life does not go in a long, straight line, but rather describes a circle. Everything repeats itself, and yet everything is new.
Once again I am standing at the beginning, starting on a new road. Al the virtues I may have will be required once again. Accordingly it is not important WHERE I stand in life, but rather HOW.

The present is the result of the past, just as the future is the result of the present. WT is a major part of my present.
I can therefore look into the future with reassurance, for the adventure that is WT will continue. WT will continue to accompany and enrich our lives, and I have never been more certain of one thing: I am on the right road.