EARLE'S ACADEMY VING CHUN KUEN
AN INTERVIEW WITH A SCHOOLBOY
(Editors note: Since the following interview is now a quarter of a century old, we thought it would be an interesting document to publish, since it is a valuable part of the historical record of Earle's Academy.
The introduction provided by Sifu Kevin Earle may provoke some interesting thoughts and ideas. For example; what about the standard of Wing Chun at Earle's Academy? The text of the interview may help to answer questions students or prospective students may have. For example; Has Sifu Kevin changed his ideas on Wing Chun, or is he unwavering? Perhaps you can see for yourself!)
Introduction to the following historical document: by Sifu Kevin Earle.
Every journey has a beginning. Every path has its winding. Every student has a mentor. Others to, play their part. So who inspired Leigh Jenkins to begin his Wing Chun journey? Who was it coached him to the highest levels? Who else played their part? Perhaps my introduction will provide at least some answers to those questions. Following my introduction is the text of the interview that began it all, from the hand written copy of that assignment as provided to me by Leigh Jenkins.
From memory I met Leigh Jenkins in about 1986 - he would have been about sixteen at the time. He approached me and asked if he could interview me for a school project - a research assignment.
One of our South Canterbury Instructors, Neville Kingsbury, (a student of Sifu Awatea Edwin's, in fact) had recommended Wing Chun to Leigh as a sporting activity to replace the Shushikai karate he had been practising. Thus Leigh decided to evaluate Wing Chun for himself while using it as the topic for his research assignment. As well as granting the interview I provided Leigh with research materials and ideas, the only proviso being that he give me a copy of his completed assignment for my own use.
As a result of that interview Leigh asked if he could join Earle's Academy and study Ving Chun Kuen. He was accepted as a student and trained with our academy for some ten years, and through my promotion and introduction he was lucky to train with Sifu Beau Bouzaid and my eldest son, Clay Earle, at the Hsiao Loong Kung Fu Kwoon in Sydney, for a period, where he attained the rank of Black Belt in Sifu Beaus' Wing Chun.
By the foresight of myself in encouraging students to become members of the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association, and by personal introduction from Sifu Beau as well as extensive preparation by myself, Leigh then travelled to Hong Kong to experience training there.
In his own words, following his very first night training in Hong Kong he was invited to become a teacher of Wing Chun in their association.
Thus the questions can be answered; "Who taught Leigh Jenkins to such a high standard that the invitation was extended?" "Who prepared the way?" "Who made possible the introductions?" The answer is obvious. It was myself and Sifu Beau Bouzaid - which in no way is meant to detract from the personal training ethic of Leigh Jenkins. (I should point out here that the same path led Leigh to Doces Pares Escrima). Kevin Earle
INTERVIEW BY LEIGH JENKINS
I interviewed Kevin Earle, of Earle's academy, who is a Christchurch based Wing Chun Kuen instructor.
"Wing Chun kung fu is the fastest form of close quarter combat ever devised", stated Kevin quite confidently. "It is the only system of martial art originated by a woman, it is ideal self defence for ladies and frail people. It is nothing like other martial arts, having little similarity with say Karate or Tae Kwon Do. People who think it is similar have a very limited understanding of Wing Chun. In fact, people who are experienced in other forms of martial art who begin training in Wing Chun find themselves having to begin from scratch, as our techniques and methods of training are completely different from other systems".
I myself had trained in a form of karate and had heard my instructor and other martial arts experts I knew praising their own arts. So I pursued this a little further. "How exactly does Wing Chun differ from other martial arts?" I asked.
"Well, there is no shouting, jumping, or rolling about on the ground. There are no displays of brute force, and training between students is non-competitive. Rather, they help each other to develop their skill. Because of these apparently gentle training methods, some people mistakenly think that Wing Chun is not suited to real fighting, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Wing Chun is an extremely aggressive and brutal system of self defence. It may not look showy or flashy, it isn't pretty to watch, but then neither is a street fight."
Interesting, but I was drifting away from my topic. I needed to probe deeper. "Can you elaborate on some of these differences, Instructor Kevin? I mean, how can it be faster but require less strength?", this is what I wanted.
"Most other martial arts are what we describe as structurally slow. They use a system of blocks and strikes that tend to follow each other in a one two pattern." He asked me to hold out my arm as if I was punching towards him. He then demonstrated a classic block (for karate etc.) against my outstretched arm, followed by a punch towards my body. "However", he continued, "in Wing Chun there are no blocks. We use simple parries (parries are deflections - redirecting arracks) in combination with simultaneous punching and kicking".
As he spoke I felt my arm being brushed aside as his fists exploded towards my face, and I felt a light tap to my shin bone as his shoe touched my leg. I tried to regain my composure. "Perhaps followed by chain punching". A further explosion of fists in front of my eyes and I was backed into the wall. He stepped back which gave me a great sense of relief.
"Wing Chun is very fast. In Hong Kong it was known as "lightening hand kung fu." I could believe it. "Other arts use what we call brute force to overcome an attacker whereas in Wing Chun we perfect techniques using only the persons natural strength. This is what is meant by the principles 'using skill to overcome brute force' and 'conservation of energy'."
"I understand", I replied, "but if Wing Chun uses only the natural strength of the student, would a relatively small person have the power to deal with say a '61/2 foot' mongrel mob member, in a crises situation?".
"Yes, we understand real power as being equal to speed x mass. When teaching a student to use natural strength, they learn to utilise maximum body mass. Using our special training methods they learn to develop real power by conserving their energy. However the power of Wing Chun cannot be seen, it must be experienced." I was game to try anything. "for example", he continued, "suppose someone was to attack with an uppercut or lifting punch to my midsection, I could use this deflection." His hand barely moved. I wasn't to sure about that so I asked him if he could demonstrate on me.
I steadied myself and launched a powerful blow towards his stomach. He used the same deflection and my arm felt as though it had been slammed in a door. "The harder the attacker strikes like that, the more it will hurt him," instructor Kevin said, "so in effect the stronger they are, the more it will hurt." I was impressed, "hold this to your chest," Instructor Kevin said, handing me a telephone book. "Some people think our punches are to fast to have any real power." I barely heard the last word because I felt myself flying through the air until I was stopped by the wall. Once again he had barely moved.
"That is how we demonstrate the 'Inch Power' of Wing Chun," he said smiling. I didn't want anymore demonstrations for the time being, so I changed the subject. "Instructor Kevin, does your Academy enter students into tournaments?"
"Do Generals send their armies to tournaments? Do their soldiers spar on the battlefront? No! Real fighting is not sparring. Nor is Wing Chun. Tournament fighting is governed by rules and regulations and requires different training methods. Our students are not trained to win, but to survive." His message came across very strongly, so I changed my angle of questioning. "Do you feel it is necessary for women to learn self defence? Some people are of the opinion that it is dangerous for them to fight back."
"Should only men be able to defend themselves? In my experience assailants are looking for victims, not fighters. Often a confident manner will deter an assailant. Training in self defence is one positive step a woman can take to ensure she does not become a victim of the increasing number of rapes and violent attacks on women."
"Why learn Wing Chun?" I asked. "Because women can develope more explosive power than a man, using the unique training concepts of Wing Chun, concepts originated by a woman for those of lesser strength to overcome brute force. It is easy to learn, practical, and, importantly, it really works. In the words of Master Tsui Seung Tin, "Wing Chun should be learned by those who are vunerable, with no strength, who are preyed upon'," was Instructor Kevin's reply.
Well, I had covered my topic plus more so I was ready to finish my interview. "Yes, I can see that Wing Chun is quite different to other forms of martial art in many respects, and it certainly is effective," I added, rubbing my chest.
"One final question Instructor Kevin, when can I start?" LeighJenkins.
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