WT goes University

The Bulgarian State University of Plovdiv is one of the very view universities to teach the martial arts in theory and practice as part of the faculty of sporting science. The Dean invited Dai-Sifu Kernspecht to Bulgaria as a visiting professor.

Karate as an example

Keith R. Kernspecht, "the father of WingTsun in the West", was one of the very first Germans to take up Kempo and Karate at the end of the 50s. When one of the pioneers of Karate, the fondly remembered Werner Popp, came to the University of Kiel at the end of the 60s, where Kernspecht was a high school teacher and lecturer in the faculty of philosophy, Keith R, Kernspecht learned Shotokan from him as part of the university sports programme.

This student group was extremely active and played an important part in this development of Karate in Germany. Regular tournaments were held, Karate masters such as Ochi, Shirai, Enoeda etc. were invited to hold courses and karateka from all over the world came to Kiel.

Many students who learned Karate during their time at the university took their knowledge with them and became proponents and patrons of the martial arts they had practised in their youth when they later achieved influential positions in their chosen careers.

WingTsun as a university activity?

This was an objective which Dai-Sifu Kernspecht never lost sight of when he was appointed national instructor and then European chief instructor by his Si-Fu Leung Ting in the mid-70s.

And so it was that the then Principal of the University of Kiel and Dean of the Anglo-American department, the unfortunately prematurely deceased Prof. Dr. Buchlo, became his first private WingTsun student, an honorary member of his legendary "Budo Circle" in Kiel and his mentor for Anglo-American studies.

In China the martial arts were shunned by intellectuals

The young WingTsun instructor frequently pondered over the fact that the martial arts were able to establish themselves so successfully in the Japanese universities, while Chinese Kung Fu traditionally had no importance whatsoever in Chinese universities, for example in Hong Kong. In fact the martial arts were strictly a matter for the lower orders following the advent of the Manchurian Ching dynasty (1644-1912). This was because following the overthrow of the Ming dynasty, the intelligentsia rushed to join the new foreign dynasty with flying colours, as the Manchus accorded even more privileges to the literary class than had the Ming dynasty.

The defeat of the "Boxer Rebellion" in 1900

Thousands of patriotic secret societies were subsequently formed for the preservation of ancient Chinese culture, one of whose particularly important aspects was that we nowadays refer to as "Kung Fu".

During the "Boxer Rebellion" (1900) against the European powers, Kung Fu or "Chinese boxing" had a far more significant role than the "cult status" misguidedly ascribed to it by some contemporaries. This rebellion, for which a measure of blame attaches to the Germans and rather more to the British, is not however our topic of discussion. Suffice it to say that thousands of red-clothed, wild and uneducated "Boxers" who firmly believed in their own invulnerability cast China into even more misery and dependence on the western powers, at the same time giving martial arts as well as soldiers and officers a poor reputation. As Grand Master Yip Man relates in 'Wing Tsun Kuen' and the 'Wooden Dummy Techniques', a real Chinese gentleman was not permitted to have social contact with soldiers.

It was Grand Master Leung Ting who restored Kung Fu to university respectability in Hong Kong

It is only in this knowledge that one is able to appreciate what a sensation it was when the young academic Leung Ting not only opened the first Kung Fu class at his university, but was also the first and only person to persuade his Grand Master, Yip Man, to attend a WingTsun contest he had organised at the Baptist College, with demonstrations by various Chinese Kung Fu masters.

Dai-Sifu Kernspecht in the land of the clever chessplayers and powerful wrestlers

Academic colleagues, including the Chi-Kung expert and Taoism master Professor Chu, who had been to Bulgaria frequently as part of a cultural exchange programme and knew the Dean personally, brought Kernspecht into contact with the Bulgarian State University, where the "Chinese martial arts" are not only taught for recreational purposes but have formed part of the teacher training curriculum for many years. He had no hesitation in accepting when the Dean, Prof. Futekov, asked him if he would be interested in joining the teaching body as a visiting professor following their first intensive discussion together. Even the Principal of the University, Prof. Dr. phil. O. Saparev, a martial artist and kayak sportsman with the strength of an ox, spontaneously took the opportunity to challenge the European chief instructor to a bout and establish the superiority of WingTsun for himself at first hand. Later Kernspecht made the acquaintance of the Dean of the sporting science department, Prof. Dr. Margaritov, who is not only the national wrestling trainer but also the manager of the Olympic team (which incidentally won one gold and two bronze medals in Atlanta!), and the instuctor in the University`s Kung Fu department, Stanislav Bagalev, who immediately asked to become Sifu Kernspecht's student after performing Chi-Sao with him.

Inaugural lecture with WT and (Latosa-)Escrima demonstrations

Just one month later, the European chief instructor returned to Plovdiv to deliver his inaugureal lecture on Chinese education methods using example of WingTsun. His four-hour lecture was translated by an extremely skilled lady interpreter. Five WingTsun instructors gave impressive assistance: Sifu Heinrich Pfaff (Langenzell Castle), Sifu Oliver König (Chief Instructor for eastern Austria), Sifu Sepp Schembri (Chief Instructor for Switzerland) and Sifu Roland Liebscher-Bracht (Frankfurt, EWTO Press Officer).

Some of Kernspecht's friends were also present: Escrima Master Bill Newman, 8th master level in Latosa-Escrima, and as a cameraman his oldest school friend Dr.Hannes S. with his daughter Friederike ("Freddie"), who was to play a special part later on. While Dai-Sifu delivered his four-hour lecture, the WT and Escrima instructors interspersed his remarks with choreographed demonstrations of their skill. The conclusion and highlight was a fight between the girl Wing Tsun and the Kung Fu bully Wong, during which Freddie gave a "good hiding" to Sifu Roland Liebscher-Bracht in true WT style, and to the huge delight of the assembled students.

In honour of their foreign guests the martial arts faculty of the State University led by Stanislav Bagalev then demonstrated forms and applications from soft Chinese styles such as Tai Chi, Ying-I, Pakua and - WingTsun. Some of these students had in fact learned this form directly from Grand Master Leung Ting in Sofia. Naturally Master Bill Newman was also happy to oblige with a demonstration of his own skill together with Heinrich Pfaff, 2nd level Escrima. This demonstration too made a profound impression on the assembled students. Heinrich has remained unforgotten by many budo fans since his appeareance at the Budo-Gala (92), armed with the long pole against Grand Master Leung Ting's double WT knives.

Practical exercises

It then fell to the EWTO head to hold a practical WingTsun training session lasting several hours with the students of the martial arts faculty, and in the presence of the Principal and Dean of the University's sporting science departments. Dai-Sifu took this task very seriously , going through the theory, practice and applications of the Siu-Nim-Tau with the students for several hours.

Honorary members of the University's martial arts council

Following the successful inaugural lecture and training session the European chief instructor, clad in an academic gown and chain of office, was ceremoniously presented with a certificate of tenure as a visiting professor for education science by the Principal. The members of the EWTO demonstration team were no less ceremoniously appointed as "honorary Members of the Martial Arts Council", and the EWTO head was made an honorary member of the academic council. Impressed by the enthusiasm and gratitude of the Bulgarian students, he had spontaneously decided to join the circle of University patrons by lending practical rather than financial assistance to the martial arts faculty in the form of instruction and know how. In addition to his duties as a visiting professor, the German WT-master will not only give regular instruction in Bulgaria each year, but also second assistants, support the University with teaching aids and encourage a lively student exchange programme.

Following Dai-Sifu Kernspecht's invitation, Prof. Dr. Saparev subsequently took part in the traing sessions at the Langenzell Castle martial artsacademy for one week.

The Principal of the Bulgarian State University as guest of the EWTO

This was a response to Kernspecht's second visit by the amiable and surprisingly young Principal, a professor of literature. As a martial artist (wrestling, boxing, Karate etc.) of many years standing, a weight-lifter and kayak competitor he was curious to know what awaited him at the castle. His visit was also to establish how the theoretical and practical training for EWTO instructors compares to the curriculum at the Bulgarian martial arts faculty. To this end he was able to gain an insight into examination topics and standards, as well as the areas covered by theoretical training for would-be instructors.

He also took part in Sifu Kernspecht's seminar on "the history of WingTsun", a communication seminar and a further training course for instructors. Since he understands and speaks German quiet well, he was not only able to follow what was happening but also contributed his own insight to the proceedings, for example when it came to discussing whether Kant's categorical imperative was more important than the comparable statement by Confucius, or whether the negative form of the Chinese "golden rule" is necessarily inferior to the positive form used by Christians. In October the Vice-Principal of the educational faculty, Prof. Dr. Margaritov, and the chief instructor of the martial arts faculty spent two weeks training and carrying out joint research at Langenzell Castle in order to further a lively student exchange programme between the martial arts academy and the State University. Here the Bulgarian national and Olympic wrestling coach also met Kernspecht's master student, Sifu Emin Boztepe (Chief Instructor for the USA), who was conducting a special "anti-groundfighting" WT seminar at the castle, as well as the European Chief Instructor for Latosa-Escrima Bill Newman, who acquainted him with Escrima and the use of medieval weaponry. Before this, Toni, the University's assistant interpreter for German, made use of the student exchange arrangements and spent 3 weeks as a guest of the EWTO and Keith Kernspecht's friends in Hanover and Berlin.



We hereby confirm that Prof. Keith R. Kernspecht has the long-term tenure of a chair in "Education" and "Martial Arts" at the Bulgarian State University in Plovdiv.
For this purpose he holds regular lectures and seminars for our Bulgarian students, and will also be available as an examiner. There is a lively exchange of both teaching staff and students between the sports department of the University of Plovdiv and the Martial Arts Academy in Langenzell Castle.
Joint research projects in the fields of philosophy, (sports) education and biology are also envisaged.

Professor Kernspecht has already attended the University on two occasions for periods of one week during this year. I myself have been a martial artist for many years, and benefited from a further education course at Langenzell Castle from 15. - 22. 04. 96.

It is anticipated that during the course of this year, Prof. Dr. Vesselin Margaritov, the Vice-Dean of the Educational Faculty, national wrestling trainer and trainer of the Olympic wrestling team will undergo training at Langenzell Castle for a further week together with the head of our martial arts department.

Prof. Dr. O. SAPAREV