Interviews About WT:


• Interview Frank Schäfer • Interview gm Keith R. Kernspecht • Interview ggm Leung Ting




FRANK SCHÄFER - a soft way for hard times!


Sifu Frank Schäfer, 6th Master level WT
(Head and Chief Instructor, NWTO)

(Translated by Jennifer Winkler)

WTWelt: Why did you decide to go to Holland? Did you speak the language before you moved there?

SFS: Well, I'll tell you how things began:
When I started studying WT in 1980 there were not many WT-schools, so I travelled to as many seminars as possible - all over Germany. I guess you could have called me a WT-"groupie".
Later on I was accepted as a private student to Dai-Sifu Kernspecht and in 1982 I met Sihing Emin through Dai -Sifu, he was teaching WT in Fritzlar at the time. It was my idea that he should open a WT-school in Kassel, which he then did. At that time I wasn’t planning to teach WT, I just wanted a WT-school close to where I lived so I could study WT without having to travel for hours.
But since I was an advanced student (back then the 6th scholar grade was considered advanced), I was more or less automatically Sihing Emin's assistent. Since he had little spare time to give me private lessons - he was not yet a full-time instructor and had to work for a living - I was once again travelling to seminars and had to rely on Dai-Sifu's private lessons. After a while I began to enjoy teaching. It seems that I'm a natural teacher, even though I was often confronted by prejudice because of my age (I was 15 at the time).
Back then, a career as a Kung-Fu teacher was not taken seriously. Many people would give me pitiful looks when I told them of my plans, and many tried to talk me into changing my mind, hoping that I would decide to pursue a "sensible" career. So I soon stopped talking about my ambitions - I started to realise them. Teaching WT for a living wasn’t planned, it more or less just happened.

In September 1983, Dai-Sifu Kernspecht allowed me to start my own WT-group in Kassel, which was very unusual at the time since only one WT-group was normally allowed per city. That’s why it was allowed only under certain conditions which didn’t bother me at that time. I stopped high school when I was 18 and concentrated on WT.
In 1984 I had to decide what I wanted to do for a living - I was seeing Petra and our relationship was at the point where there were responsibilities for me, including our financial future.
To make a long story short, I decided to no longer be a "semi-professional" instructor (the conditions under which I was allowed to start my own WT-group in Kassel did not allow me to teach WT full-time). I wanted to try my luck as a professional WT-teacher. So I had to find a worthwhile place to do so. In the end, I had two possibilities to choose from; either Munich or Amsterdam. Since an aunt of mine lives in Amsterdam and I visited her every now and then, I knew the city quite well.
But I had never considered the possibility of teaching WT in Holland. Out of curiosity, I had a look at the Dutch martial art scene and analysed the market (actually more for Dai-Sifu than for myself).

In April 1986, I went to the castle for my monthly private lessons with Dai-Sifu. The weather was beautiful and Si-Fu Kernspecht picked me up from the train station in his convertable and for and while we drove around, chatting about this and that, and eventually we started to discuss Holland. Si-Fu thought that it might not be a good idea to teach in Holland, for it was a tough territory and I would have to live there in order to be successful. I told him that I was willing to immigrate if I had to, and then things went very quickly.
He asked me if I would be at the seminar in the castle that weekend. Since I had planned to stay only for my private lessons, I was not prepared for this, but Si-Fu helped me and I stayed. Then I called Petra and told her to start packing, we were going to Amsterdam. Two days later I had a pre-contract for Holland. I then had to wait for Grandmaster Leung Ting to give his OK since The Netherlands was his "turf". About two months later I received the confirmation from the IWT(MA)A.

To sum it up: in 1986, Holland was the place I chose and Amsterdam the headquarters.
We both didn’t speak Dutch. I began to teach in English while learning Dutch all along. I started off with terms such as attack, punch, defence, head, knee, etc., and tried to use these words during the lessons; after a short while the language barriers were overcome.

WTW: With what feelings did this happen for the both of you?

SFS: Well, it was a cold start for both of us. After all, we left everything behind us!
We had to find new students and new friends, no-one could guarantee us success. We had a lot to loose, but also much to win. We had very mixed feelings and no time to hesitate. If I didn't have a good WT-fundament I wouldn't have dared to make that step. Today I don‘t regret my decision in any way. We are finally where we want to be - and can continue following our path.
I'm also glad that I didn't know beforehand of the difficulties we have had to face (and will be facing in the future)!
Would I make the same decision again? Yes, I would, although I would proceed in a different way, but you are always wiser afterwards.

WTW: Did you experience any setbacks in the beginning?

SFS: You would be better off asking if anything worked out the way it should have in the beginning!
I think that this subject would stretch our interview time: the innumerable official barriers, being confronted with drug criminality, fraud, hostility towards us as foreigners and problems with the house-squatter scene; I guess that we went through everything that can be defined as a nightmare for someone in a foreign country trying to start a business. Maybe I'll say more about that someday; I doubt that it's a subject of general interest to our m.a. readers.

WTW: Did you experience anything during that time that sticks in your memory?

SFS: Of course there were some pleasant experiences in the beginning and the hard times brought Petra and I closer together, you could say that we are an almost perfect team, it’s no coincidence that we’re called the "dynamic duo" by some people. I believe that Amsterdam was a very tough school, but we’ve proved ourselves (and still have to prove ourselves) and I think that it was one of the most important experiences for us.
Apart from that it is very satisfying when you can see the positive influence you have on some pupils, and how they continuously develop to their betterment. I don’t "only" mean this in a WT-way, I’m talking about other factors such as communication skills and self-image, when you, for example, observe a very shy pupil come out of his shell and find his place in the WT-family.

WTW: Where was your first school and what was it like there?

SFS: The first school was in Amsterdam, after a more than 1-year construction phase it was "taken over" by squatters. The school is situated in a urban part of Amsterdam so there was no possibility for the officials to get rid of the squatters, for that would have meant a situation similar to a civil war in that area.
Nine WT-students, Petra and I tried to talk to them, but we were hopelessly outnumbered by over one hundred people, some with baseball bats and chains, and without sufficient police support it was a hopeless attempting to communicate with them.
One of the few policemen who helped us ended up in the intensive care unit with a cracked skull, and other people were injured as well, but not so seriously. The court verdict has not be spoken to this day (after more than 11 years), and we still haven’t received the money we invested in the building (about DM 60.000.-).
So, due to our financial situation, we were forced to rent a smaller school for the time being. Once again, things weren’t happening as planned but we were finally able to begin teaching so our earnings covered part of our running costs. From then on, slowly but surely, things began to get better.

WTW: Did you ever experience problems because you are German? The Dutch are often sensitive about matters concerning Germans and the Second World War.

SFS: Yes, it’s a touchy subject. Normally, the Dutch are very open to foreigners but this doesn’t always apply to Germans, even with the younger Dutch generations. The older generations tend to forgive, which is not always the case with the younger generation. Germans have an especially hard time with the Dutch authority! Sometimes it is as though the European Community doesn’t exist.
The anti-German attitude isn’t always kindled by the war. It also has to do with football. The world championship of 1974 has many people harbouring a grudge against Germans. There were also other problems concerning martial arts: the Dutch martial arts scene (including the kick boxing scene) is often associated with criminal energy.
So while looking for rooms for our WT school, we often experienced problems when the authorities or landlords realised that we were planning to open a martial art school.
But we have also met many friendly, open-minded people in Holland who judge what they see without falling victim to prejudice. It’s interesting that in the beginning we had more non-Dutch students than Dutch. In the meantime it’s half Dutch, half non-Dutch.

WTW: What is the martial arts scene in Holland like?

SFS: Of course the Budo and Wu Shu scene is present but not as much as in Germany. The largest scene is the kick boxing and free fight scene as well as the Indonesian Penjac Silat style, which has many different sub styles, everyone does their own thing.
Sadly, so-called "champions" are often involved in shady things such as "paying visits" to people who owe others money or other "jobs" connected to the underworld, which does great damage to the general reputation of martial arts in Holland. In Holland, there are three different Ninjutsu groups who all claim to be the "only real Ninjas in Holland". And during the past few years, the free fight scene has become quite big.
The Wing Chun section is also present in Holland, whereas Wang Kiu’s function is mainly a representative one. He stopped giving classes a while ago. We have seen his "best" pupils and have also accepted a few challenges with them. I find some wrestlers and kick boxers that I have fought against much more dangerous!
I have met Sifu Wang Kiu on a few occasions and I must say that he makes the impression of a gentleman and of a humorous person, and his wife (Dutch) is very nice as well.

WTW: Are there any differences between WT training in Holland and WT training in Germany?

SFS: I don’t believe that there is any difference in the training itself, the student motivation is generally an individual factor, and of course the trainer can play an important role for the group motivation.
I have noticed that the German students show more respect from the start, which is not so much the case in Holland - you have to earn respect here. The effort of the individual student is also very important; no-one can improve by discussing details; work and sweat cannot be replaced by theory!
While our test program is compatible to the program of the EWTO, our teaching program is variable. Here we make space for "old" WT programs such as circle defence (from 1981), "palm stick" (1985) or the simple Lat-Sao attacks (1983). Things are different when we advertise or give trail lessons. I would say that the Dutch mentality is more critical but not less enthusiastic.
While the German prospective student will quickly say "yes", it is often followed by "but"; the Dutch "yes" takes a bit longer, they try to make an exact picture of things and then make their opinion, so their "yes" does not contain "what if" or "but".

WTW: Have you demonstrated WT in public?

SFS: Yes, Petra and I have given countless WT demonstrations, for example at sport centers, when we have 'open house days', at general martial arts demonstrations, and we are also invited to demonstrate WT.
We have so-called "standard" demonstrations and "flexible" demonstrations. Everything is planned during a standard demonstration, whereas nothing is planned with a flexible demonstration, we approach the audience, answer questions and demonstrate the appropriate WT-techniques.
A flexible demonstration can only be done when we are able to receive feedback from the crowd, which would be very difficult, for example, during the Budo-Gala. A standard demonstration would surely be more successful in that case (also it requires less advanced partners).

WTW: Do you have any plans for the future?

SFS: To find a place where we can settle down - not having to move so often, and we want to open more WT schools in Holland.
Every now and then we think about starting a family, but that’s something we won’t have time for in the near future.
Besides that, it’s WT, WT, and maybe a bit more WT.

END OF THE INTERVIEW (1993)



Prof. Dr. Keith R. Kernspecht,
the Father of WingTsun in the Western World.

Sigung Keith R. Kernspecht, 10th Master level WT
(Head and Chief Instructor, EWTO)

Keith R. Kernspecht has nearly 40 years of martial arts experience.
At the end of the Fifties, he began to study various Western and Eastern martial arts including freestyle wrestling, pro-wrestling, jiu jitsu, judo, kempo and Shaolin kung fu. These were followed by Shotokan and Wado Ryu karate. He has established the Leung Ting System of WingTsun (spelled as one word and abbreviated as 'WT') in all European countries on behalf of the IWTA in Hong Kong and there is a current total of more than 1,500 associated schools in Germany, Austria and Switzerland alone!
The IWTO/EWTO (the Western section of IWTA founded and led by Kemspecht) is the world's largest professional martial arts association and has branches in all the continents except in Asia where Grandmaster Leung Ting is in charge himself. Since 1982, Kemspecht's organisation has published its own magazine 'WingTsun World', which appears twice a year.
From this year on, the charismatic German with English ancestors is in charge of Grandmaster Leung Ting's British and Irish WingTsun Association. He will start entirely from scratch and he will do it his way, combining Chinese ingenuity with Western proficiency.
Although Kemspecht's best-selling book ON SINGLE COMBAT has only recently been published it is already in its 2nd edition. It is Kemspecht's 9th specialist book on the martial arts. Endorsed by Geoff Thompson, it is probably the very first comprehensive treatise on the phenomenon of individual combat including aspects such as strategy, tactics, psychology, physiology, law, history and philosophy.
It undertakes to show how the complex processes occurring in a combat situation dictate the reactions of the defender and therefore circumscribe his actions. In his book, Kemspecht takes a critical look at the real combat value of the conventional martial arts and self defence methods, and is not afraid to slaughter a few sacred cows in the process!

COMBAT: Why did you take up martial arts as opposed to, say, soccer?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Team sports have never been my cup of tea. I prefer to rely on myself and to accept the whole responsibility for victory or defeat. My uncle was a wrestler and so my first martial art was wrestling - the oldest fighting art in human history. I learnt Graeco-Roman, Free Style and later, Persian wrestling. A neighbour ran a professional wrestling team that travelled Europe and I was asked to travel with them. I fought quite successfully in several tournaments.

COMBAT: Did you have a wrestler's name?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Yes, I was known by two titles. They named me 'Lord Keith' because I have British ancestors, and 'Strangler Keith' because I used to finish my opponents by choking them. I was quite strong at that time and one of first modern power-lifters in Northern Germany. My speciality were dumb bell flies with more than 150 lbs in each hand!

COMBAT: I have seen photos in your best selling book ON SINGLE COMBAT in which you are using about 450 lbs in pressing movements for reps. I've also seen a photo that shows you lifting up a training partner with one arm. Have you always been so strong?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Not really. I was tall and skinny as a teenager but I always loved comparing my skills with those of my school mates. I never lost, even though were usually stronger and heavier than me. I was very creative and invented lots of techniques myself before I learned anything from my instructors. I always used grappling techniques because I never wanted to make my friends bleed or really hurt them. I never had problems with boxers and if you read my favourite book BLUE BLOOD ON THE MAT, you will know why!

COMBAT: Why did you take up weight training, then?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: I am the excessive type who can never get enough of anything before he has had 200% of it. So at the age of 15, I began to transform my skinny body by very intensive and progressive power training. In the end I had multiplied my power and stamina without losing speed. My training partners were Eberhard Schneider (who later became one of the most famous German experts on power training) and G. Rohrsch, the World silver medalist in Olympic Heavyweight lifting. So I had enough inspiration to pull through.

COMBAT: Do you think that weight training is a must to be successful in martial arts or in self defence?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: It is definitely a short-cut for beginners and helps you do things which normally would require a much higher level of skill. Most martial arts depend on strength, although instructors do not admit that openly. Most styles need power because they rely on prearranged 'dead' or fixed techniques to break the of the opponent. Very few styles borrow the force of the opponent and use it as both an impulse and for speed and power. Therefore it is most unusual that I, the former powerlifter, after having studied kempo, judo, jiu jitsu, Shaolin kung fu, Shotokan and Wado Ryu karate, taekwondo and Muay Thai, at the end of the Sixties discovered a love for the intelligent and flexible methods like aikido and Wing Chun, and later, for WingTsun.

COMBAT: You began martial arts at the age of 14 and have been practising for more than 37 years, so you must be over 52 years of age by now. Yet you look very young and fit! I guess you must be 6'2" and over 180 lbs of muscle? How many hours a day do you train with weights to keep in such good shape?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: In fact I am much lighter than I look - I'm only 165 lbs. Although we do not think it is necessary for the scientific art of WingTsun, I admit I love working out every day! But instead of weights, I move my own body, doing push ups, dip chins and sit-ups with the occasional weights attached.
Only from time to time do I test my bench pressing power (and I can still move well over 300 lbs for reps, which satisfies me!). Contrary to what I thought when I was very young, I now believe that it is better to use your own bodyweight as resistance because it is more natural, and maybe the other 'secret' is the special Chi-Kung Breathing Form of the Leung Ting System which prolongs life. So I am positive that I will live to be over 100!

COMBAT: Do you follow a special diet?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Yes I separate carbohydrates from proteins, eat only fruits from morning to afternoon and eat fish or fowl plus plenty of vegetables for supper. For the last six months I have refrained from alcohol - which is hard for me because I live one third of my time in Tuscany, where there are great wines that go so nicely with the food there .....

COMBAT: Before we talk about the Leung Ting WingTsun system that you teach, do you practise other martial arts and if so, what do you think about them?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Since 1975 I have practised only WingTsun or WT as we abbreviate it, and some Escrima. WT gives me everything I need. And being the WT-Chief Instructor for Europe and Grandmaster Leung Ting's representative /co-ordinator for the Western world my techniques must be pure WT and not mixed up. But I like and respect other martial arts like wrestling. I rate Escrima very highly - especially the Combat Escrima of my friend and former instructor, Rene Latosa.
Also, I can appreciate realistic martial arts like Muay Thai or Ling Lom which I studied myself in the Seventies under my friend, Master Sunthus Supasturpong. I have students who are World or Vice World Champions in karate, taekwondo, Thai and kickboxing as well as in boxing and wrestling, so I can spar and compare techniques with them. All these styles have their strong points. But only he who knows himself and his opponent win be successful in the end.

COMBAT: Which English martial artists do you know?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Unfortunately very few. I highly rate Master Bill Newman the Father of Escrima in Europe, his assistant Steve Tappin and Geoff Thompson. All are top-notch experts in their chosen fields, and I am honoured to call them my friends. I also met Derroll Connery - a very good jiu jitsu instructor while I was teaching a seminar to German jiu jitsu black belts.

COMBAT: What do you think about the standard of martial art practice in Britain?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Oriental martial arts had been introduced to Britain before ever they found their way to Germany. As a university student I went to England where I had a chance to continue my study of karate under Enoeda-sensei and Suzuki-sensei. The first Wing Chun I saw was from Sifu Cheng Chun, whom I liked very much. I was one of the few non-Chinese who had the privilege of being admitted to Sifu Cheng's class.
Whereas the first non-Chinese, I believe, must have been my friend Alan Lamb, who later went to Hong Kong to train under Sifu Koo Sang. Sifu Cheng introduced me to Grandmaster Leung Ting and I can still remember the time when both Chinese sifus were sitting by my bedside in a London hotel, using their Chinese medicine to try and heal me from an illness I was suffering from. In 1976 I studied Escrima under Grandmaster Rene Latosa and his master-disciple, Bill Newman (who is also a former Wing Chun man).

COMBAT: We heard that you have a weekness for Britain and before you made WingTsun your profession, you used to be a university lecturer in English literature.
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: I have English/Scottish ancestors and my parents were very Anglophile - which you can see from my Christian name, Keith. So I regularly spent my holidays in GB. I love all things British! I restore and drive automobiles such as old Morgans, TR3s, early E-types, Astons, etc. If I did not have two wonderful dogs which I hate to put under quarantine, I would have travelled to Britain much more often. My dream is to have a place in London where I would live for at least three months of the year.

COMBAT: Is it true that you divide your time between Kiel, old castle close to Heidelberg in Germany and Livorno in Tuscany?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Yes, I have to take care of nearly fifty countries in which my students have established WingTsun branches. In Europe the only two countries where we are not presently represented are Andorra and, I think, San Marino. So I must constantly travel! Every weekend I teach seminars in places where I teach and test students, and supervise the instructors. Kiel, Langenzell Castle and Livorno are my residences. There I stay and teach during weekdays.

COMBAT: You chose to become a WingTsun instructor but could you imagine being a karate or taekwondo instructor?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Like I said, WingTsun is exactly my cup of tea and since I was the pioneer of it in the Western world, I've had the chance to design and shape it into the product it is now. My WingTsun is very, very realistic, but at the same time highly scientific and philosophical. I stress principles and concepts rather than techniques and love my students asking me questions and being creative. I do not think that I could have achieved these aims by teaching a different martial art.

COMBAT: Do you think there is something like the best self defence?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: If there is something like the 'best driver' and 'the best car' - at least for a special purpose - then I believe there to be 'the best self defence'. But this 'best system' (which is WT for me), may be Thai boxing or Escrima for someone else.

COMBAT: What is your definition of best self defence?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: The best method of self defence is the one which is able to cope with the most attacks using the least number of movements.

COMBAT: And in this respect WingTsun is the best?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Whilst other styles proudly boast that they have 6,000 or more movements, we believe that less is more and make do with only two active movements. To these movements you have to add four passive reactions, one passive emergency reaction and the WT concept that ties everything together with eight governing principles which are mostly derived from Taoism. So according to my definition - which might not be yours - I like to say that WT is the second best while I am still looking for the best (which can do the same or more but with less movements and less fuss).

COMBAT: What was it especially about WingTsun that convinced you to dedicate so much time to it?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: In the middle of the Seventies I was a power-lifter, tipping the scales at 220 lbs. I was a black belt and instructor in many styles. However, the first master who offered to me to attack him in any way I wanted was Grandmaster Leung Ting. He did not say 'Give me a punch to the face,' or 'Kick me to the groin,' or 'Grab my arm,' or 'Try to bear-hug me'. He just said 'Attack me as quickly as you can in any way you like.' I tried my best but I couldn't punch, kick nor grab this 135 lbs Chinese master. He neutralised all my vain attempts so effortlessly that I knew this was what I wanted - to be able to stand confidently facing my opponent, offering him the chance to attack me in any way he wants.

COMBAT: You are now Grandmaster Leung Ting's highest graduated disciple and hold the 9th degree master's qualification. When you began, did you ever believe that you would one day surpass all your WingTsun classmates in The West and in Asia? That you would become the most successful professional martial arts instructor in the World?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: No, I never thought of it. And I never thought of becoming a full-time WingTsun instructor either! I was teaching German, Latin, Sports and English, and I was a lecturer at the university. I was never really interested in money but I had this urge to become really good at WingTsun and since I had to work for a living in Kiel, I had to invite Grandmaster Leung Ting to teach me privately in Germany. I arranged for him to visit me at least three times per year and to this day I still train with him three months out of every year.
To finance his flight tickets, hotels, meals and teaching fees I was obliged to organise seminars for him and to teach WT myself. This is how the German WingTsun Organisation, later called 'European' and International WingTsun Organisation came into being. Actually my sifu, Leung Ting, must be the most successful instructor in the world. I am only ambassador and very much satisfied to be his sea command. And I have a lot of respect for my colleagues in Hong Kong, especially for my sisuk Chen Chuen Fun, whom I admire not only for his skills but even more for his humanity and strong character.

COMBAT: What is your relationship with Grandmaster Leung Ting? After more than 24 years, you must be old friends by now?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: No! According to Confucius, friendship can only exist between equals, I am his kung fu son ('to-dai' in Cantonese) and he is my kung fu father ('si-fu'). I respect him very much for what he taught me and for what he still teaches me.

COMBAT: Do you always see eye-to-eye? Do you always share the same opinion?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Not at all! We are very different and argue all the time. And we are both very proud of our cultural heritage. I only have to mention jokingly that Alexander the Great or Marco Polo might have introduced some kind of WingTsun art to China and I have a war on my hands! So our relationship is never boring and leads to surprising results and solution when East and West meet. Western proficiency and Chinese genius - this is the formula for our common success. And this is what attracts our mutual students from all over the world to the EWTO.

COMBAT: Do you think that some people in the past found hard to co-operate with Grandmaster Leung Ting and so had to quit or were dismissed?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: My sifu is a very intelligent person with lots of humour but he knows exactly how he wants things to be done. And it is not easy to meet his high standards. But since we have known each other for nearly 24 years now, our relationship is very, very good and we can trust each other 100%. I, for my part, would never want another sifu.

COMBAT: How is WingTsun organised or structured?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Grandmaster Leung Ting is the International Chief Instructor and the head of the International WingTsun Association (IWTA). And he is directly in charge of Asia and special countries like Poland, Rumania and Hungary IWTO and EWTO are Western organisations which affiliate to IWTA and which take care of the remaining countries. Altogether we have branches in more than 60 countries now. The strongest WT country worldwide is Germany which has well over 1,500 gyms.

COMBAT: And how about Britain and Ireland?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Britain was directly under Grandmaster Leung Ting because of its traditional ties with Hong Kong. But now it is no longer a British Crown colony and Grandmaster Leung Ting for some reason was not so happy with his former British representative, so he has put me in charge of it. WingTsun-GB is now part of the EWTO, the European WingTsun organisation. I will personally run the EWTO-GB while Grandmaster Leung Ting helps me teach seminars and supervise future instructors.
I will come with a team of experienced master instructors like Emin Boztepe who teaches a club in London, a 5th degree Master will take care of Scotland while another 5th degree Master will run Ireland. We already have some small clubs such as the one in Stafford which is run by a 4th level instructor and another in London, taught by a Chinese student of Grandmaster Leung Ting's from Hong Kong. I hope all Leung Ting stylists in GB will contact me now to build up a new GB WingTsun Organisation which Grandmaster Leung Ting can be proud of.

COMBAT: Will you admit ex-Leung Ting students who turned to other martial arts through lack of an original Leung Ting gym?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Everybody who wants to learn the pure Leung Ting WingTsun is welcome. People who for some reasons were unsatisfied with our former British organisation are welcome to rejoin us. If they are already instructors or advanced students, then they may help us in building up the future GB-branch. We are just beginning and now is the best time for ambitious pioneers who want to grow with us to join the EWTO.

COMBAT: How about people from other Yip Man schools?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: I hope we find a way to communicate and assist each other in making Yip Man martial art recognised as the great art it is. We should not allow technical differences and interpretations to split us apart. Nor should we continue and perpetuate traditional quarrels and fights that had their unlucky origins in Asia. We are Europeans and should understand that quarrels over who taught who more will not strengthen the image of Yip Man martial art. It is tragic that a Wing chun man gets better along with such as a karateka than with a clansman of the WingTsun-style. Familiarity breeds contempt and it is the little differences which seem to be harder to accept than the really big ones. I for my part do not want to be drawn into the vicious circle of style politics. I do not want to steal students from other sifus. I would rather attract complete newcomers.

COMBAT: Why? Would it not be easier to recruit students from other Yip Man schools?
KEITH R. KERNSPECHT: Maybe, but the Leung Ting system of WingTsun is very different from its brothers. The difference is not for the eye to see. While our techniques look alike - at least on the surface - our concept is often a world apart. To explain this to an enthusiast of another Wing Chun or Ving Tsun school is a hard and ungrateful job - like trying to convince someone to change his religion. I am a scientist and not a religious believer and fanatic. I try to convince my students by logic and not by beating them up.
I want to make friends, not life-time enemies in Britain! When I was young I believed that many enemies meant lots of glory, but now my thinking is different!

On 26 and 27th September, Professor Kernspecht will hold a seminar in London for everyone interested in the original WingTsun and in the future of the GB WingTsun Organisation. Not only will Grandmaster Leung Ting be present but also the future branch leaders for Scotland and Ireland as well as many international instructors such as Emin Boztepe from the USA. And of course Master Bill Newman himself, the EWTO Chief Instructor of Europe for Latosa-Escrima, will also be in attendance. All departments will be presented to the participants including WingTsun Anti-Ground Fighting and WingTsun for Health.



END OF THE INTERVIEW (1998)


Questions about Prof. Dr. Leung Ting's
'Philosophy of Fighting'/'Dynamic WingTsun'

Sijo Leung Ting, 10th Master level WT
(Head and Chief Instructor, IWTA)

Dr. Leung Ting, founder of the Leung Ting WingTsun System, Permanent President & 10 th Level MOC of the International WingTsun Association, is also a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese & English Literature & Language. In 1979, he was conferred the title Doctor of Philosophy.
Graduated from the Hong Kong Baptist College in 1973, Sifu Leung Ting devoted all his energy in developing WingTsun Kung Fu. At present (1998), the International WingTsun Association has been enlarged into a world-wide martial-art organisation with branches over 60 countries and is regared as the largest professional Kung Fu organisation amongst all the martial-art organisations.
Nowadays, Dr. Leung Ting's WingTsun Kung Fu is world-widely practised by hundreds of thousands of martial-art instructors of special forces, such as the FBI and Marine Corps of the USA, SEK of Germany, GIP of Luxembourg, RAID of France, NOCS of Italy, etc. Thousands of people practising WingTsun are former experts of the other martial-arts. Some of them are already high Dan instructors while some of them have been obtained titles of National Champions , runner-ups, and even World-Champions in different martial-art tournament.
In December 1978, Dr. Leung Ting published the first book on WingTsun Kung Fu. The first edition was sold out within four months. Thousands of letters were sent from all over the world for enquires and congratulations. Since then, Grandmaster Leung Ting has determined to try his best in writing more Kung Fu books not just on WingTsun but other than his own system. He has already written about 20 books and produced 10 videos regarding WT and other Chinese martial-arts.

SFS: Can you compare street fights with fighting contests?
GM LT: Fighting is no game! The street fighting differs from a martial art contest, in a street fight there are no rules governing the age, weight, qualification or even the number of fighters. Therefore fighting in the street in never a fair thing. In a martial-art contest, however, a contestant can give up, or raise an objection, and as far as he admits defeat, everything can be settled easily. But once you join a fight, you can only hope defeating your opponent, but not to surrendering yourself to him, for you get no chance of doing so!

SFS: What is about the traditional Chinese martial-art spirit?
GM LT: Besides teaching students techniques of martial-arts, a traditional Chinese Kung Fu master has to educate his student with morality of martial artists and the sense of knighliness, so as to prevent bringing up a student who will ruin his own reputation.

SFS: What is the meaning of learning the techniques of fighting?
GM LT: Learning the techniques of fighting does not mean equipping oneself for bullying others. It is meant to build up your own confidence of dealing with tough guys who bully weaker ones. When you get enough self-confidence, you will naturally despise bullying others who are weaker than you.

SFS: When do you have to fight and when not?
GM LT: I always remind my students that there are occasions when we ought to fight, and also occasions when we ought not to fight - we ought not to fight when there is no need to fight, or when victory of a fight can not be compensated. On the other hand, we ought to fight when we are in danger, or in critical situations that cannot be dealt with other means, or simply when we can do nothing but fight!

SFS: You mentioned once the philosophy of the poisonous snake, can you explain it?
GM LT: A real WingTsun practitioner should always imagine himself to be a poisonous snake - someone provokes you but if you think that it is not necessary to fight back, you keep silent or leave him alone. Seeing no reaction from you, he probably stops irritating you. However, if you feel you can’t avoid a fight, then don’t hesitate, but initiate an attack as fast as you can with an aim to defeat him totally!

SFS: What’s about armed attacks?
GM LT: There is a big difference between performance and reality. Most martial-art instructors like teaching students techniques of using bare hands to deal with armed enemies. However these techniques are not so often practicable in real life. Remember my advice: you can deal with an enemy who is holding a pole or a weapon that is not sharp. However, if your enemy is armed with a sharp knife or an axe, you had better get hold of a chair or a wooden stool to protect yourself.

SFS: And self-defence against firearms?
GM LT: Sometimes it’s better to run for your Life! Never dream you are a martial-art hero in a movie. Scenes in which an unarmed man defeats dozens of armed enemies only appear on the movie screen. In real life, you had better run away from these situations.
Don’t ever try to fight against a man with a pistol with your self-defence techniques, for the finger of the man holding a pistol will not move slower than your whole body, and will not pose himself in the way as your instructor does - pointing a plastic pistol at you.

SFS: How can you handle one fighting against many?
GM LT: Too many people think the best way to fight against a group of co-attackers is to stand against a wall. That is terrible wrong, standing against the wall means blocking your way of retreat, and you will have to fight until you have defeated or killed. The best way is to fight while escaping. Keep moving so as to distract your enemies, so that only two or three of your enemies can get close to you.

SFS: Why is WT so different - also in comparison with WC or VT?
GM LT: The gist of learning Kung Fu is not just in memorising sets of movement patterns but in the Way of using these movements. WingTsun movements are equivalent to the formulae in Mathematics.
Whether you can become a WingTsun expert depends entirely on how you can flexibly put these formulae into practical application under various circumstances.

SFS: Does WingTsun uses kicks?
GM LT: There are in fact not too many kicking methods in the WingTsun system. They include only the Frontal Thrusting Kick, the Sideward Thrusting Kick and the Slant Thrusting Kick, which, combined with variations in positions and angles, form the total of eight kicking methods.
These eight kicking methods, however, can be performed in correlation with various sets of offensive or defensive techniques. There are two characteristics of the kicking techniques of the WingTsun system. Firstly, a kicking technique of the system has to be performed in correlation with an arm technique so as far to diversify the attention of the opponent. Secondly, a kicking technique of the system is usually performed in close range, so that it can take its effect without giving warning to the opponent.

SFS: And the best defence against a kicking expert?
GM LT: The best way to deal with an opponent skilled in kicks is to get as close to him as possible, and attack him before he initiates a kick. This conforms to the saying "Attack his head to stop his kicks" - for as you are launching heavy attacks at his upper level, such as his head, he has to make defence and keep balance, and is thus too busy to launch a kick.
Besides, most practitioners would unconciously keep themselves away from an opponent who is skilled in kicks. This is wrong, for a good kicker does not like his opponent to get too close to himself, otherwise he can't make advantage of kicks as to conform to the saying "Legs are long but arms are short". It is a pitty that most martial art practitioners do not understand this point.

SFS: How does a WingTsun practitioner handle grappling?
GM LT: In the WingTsun theory it is extremely wrong to pull back or struggle. It is because when the victim tries his best to struggle, his whole body would turn rigid and this may offer a good chance to the Judoka or wrestler to make use of his force to throw him onto the floor. Any experienced Judoka or wrestler knows the principle that it is easy to carry a hard object on the back and throw it onto the floor, but it is extremely difficult to carry a soft object on the back and throw it down.
Once a WingTsun expert is being grabbed, he would never try to struggle but instead would relax his whole body totally. He would get very close to his opponent in stead of pulling back. Therefore, he will be able to re-borrow the pulling force from his opponent and strike back before his opponent can put him onto the floor.

SFS: Are there secret techniques?
GM LT: Some Kung Fu trainees are very curious to learn the "secret techniques" or "missing techniques" from their instructors. In deed this is a very wrong idea that would only offer their instructors a big chance to make money by trying to satisfy their curiosity. I dare say there is NO such what-so-called "secret techniques" or "missing techniques" treasured by their instructors!
The BEST TECHNIQUES must be those most commonly used by their instructors in training or actual combat. In fact those so-called "secret techniques", even if they were not "nonsense", would soon be missed if these were seldom used by their instructors!

SFS: Just one last question: Is there a key for winning a fight?
GM LT: Attack is the best defence! The way of fighting is to make use of what one is skilled in to attack the opponent's weakness. To render further attacks after a successful attempt until the opponent is being knocked down is the guarantee for final victory.
Always remember that Don't raise your leg, unless you are sure of hitting the target and the best tactic to deal with a good kicker is -as explained before- to deprive him of the chance of raising a kick.

Don’t try to become a hero!
There is a Chinese saying that he who knows how to deal with situations is a hero.
You are not a coward when you refuse or avoid a fight.
On the contrary, to accept a meaningless fight means you are a fool posing as a Hero!



END OF THE INTERVIEW (1988)