Yuka Yoshioka is a research scientist originally from Tokyo, Japan. Six years ago, while still a devoted Taekwondo practitioner, she had a chance meeting with WingChun that left a deep impression.
Now she is a full-time IAW Member who trains as an Upper Level WingChun student at the US Headquarters in Berkeley, California.
So what shifted her martial path towards WingChun? Read her story below:
How did you hear about WingChun?
Through IAW Santa Cruz: They moved into the same studio where I was training Taekwondo. WingChun class started right after my class ended. Also, I knew one of the WingChun Santa Cruz instructors and we talked about it sometimes. Back then, I was not quite sure what WingChun really meant.
What motivated you to try your first class?
Sifu Klaus Brand visited WingChun Santa Cruz for an open Combat Class in 2008. One day, I noticed many of my training buddies were signing up after Taekwondo class for this special event. I didn’t really know what it was. My instructor encouraged me to take a chance and get exposure to a different type of martial art. WingChun might help open up a new perspective or I might even like it! So I decided to attend the Combat Class for fun.
What made you join the Academy?
The Combat Class was surely unique and inspiring: I had never seen any human being move so fast and explosively. Also, it thrilled me to feel how the techniques worked when I tried them out. It fit to my body system really well. The movements were so natural but the techniques actually worked — effectively and aggressively. In addition, I felt a great energy flow through my body while capturing Sifu Klaus Brand’s moves and executing them myself. It was totally different from any other martial arts I experienced before.
However, I did not start learning WingChun immediately because I was not sure if I wanted to start over with a new style of martial arts from scratch. A year after this Combat Class, when I incidentally heard that Sifu Klaus Brand was in the Bay Area again, I decided to contact the IAW and learn more about their system. I took another Combat Class and a few introductory WingChun Seminars with him. I experienced the IAW as a very welcoming community and found that learning WingChun was interesting, so I decided to join the Regular Classes of Sihing Carl Hettiger in Santa Cruz.
Why is attending Regular Class important to you?
Regular Classes have become a significant part of my life; without routine training, I would simply feel offbeat. I need some time to focus on myself and review what I do on a frequent basis.
First, in order to make WingChun work for real, we have to practice the technique repeatedly until it becomes totally natural and sensible to the body — in other words: to build a long-term muscle memory. Once repetitive practice seeps in to build those muscles, it allows us to execute the techniques flawlessly without conscious effort. This decreases limb stiffness, thus creating smoother motion and maximum efficiency. It is where the tasty part of WingChun begins!
Second, the perception training — reading an opponent’s intention; timing; distance to the attackers; body positioning; impact from arm collisions; and decision-making process based on observation — can’t be done without well-experienced instructors and training partners. Recognition of danger and response needs to be instantaneous for the body to be fully committed in powerful action.
Third, for stress management: training safely simulates brutally stressful situations. Then we practice to solve those conflicts promptly and effectively. We also spend a lot of time on stimulating the body-brain connections, which makes us keener and more coordinated. As our level of perception improves, we start seeing things from many different prospectives. As a consequence, in daily life beyond self-defense situations, WingChun allows us to embrace stress and leverage pressure as catalysts, to activate the energy needed to confront any obstacles and grow through it. The training vitalizes me, clears out my head, and lifts me to focus on what really matters.
How do you practice at home?
As a supplement, I work on coordination exercises and stretching.
Describe what aspect of WingChun you most enjoy training.
Sometimes I achieve a state of my mind being fully awake but free from thoughts or emotions during training. When it happens, I feel ready to act and react to the opponent without hesitation or disturbance. I rely not on “what I think I should do” for the next move, but rather on my trained natural reaction or what I feel intuitively. My mind expands and works at a very high speed but with no set intention, plan or direction as if it exists as a merely living being moving through space. Such is a moment of pure enlightenment — fully present, aware and free.
What makes WingChun unique?
One of the unique parts is that WingChun techniques are designed for real function and deliverable regardless your body size or quantity of muscle.
The majority of modern martial arts were converted to sports. Especially in these combat sports, techniques have been intentionally re-designed to be less efficient and less dangerous to avoid severe injuries while people are competing. The training methodology is to win competitions within the given rules. In those styles, they mainly practice techniques to get points; therefore, the training is rather limited to “fit into the style”, rather than being applicable as self-defense or combat.
I had been training Taekwondo for almost a decade before spending more time exploring WingChun. Taekwondo is a very acrobatic sport. I was enjoying the training and learned a lot of valuable things in the meantime. However, as time passed (a few years after getting my black belt), I started to feel stagnation. It was a fun and excellent cardio exercise but I was not sure how practical it was in realistic situations, especially since I sparred a lot with tall and strong guys. My physical strength was not so great compared to them. Intrinsically, there were many physical advantages on their side. I always wondered if I could ever find a way to compensate those fundamental facts.
I recently learned that many WingChun techniques were designed based on weapon (knife, pole, sword) coordination. Compared to empty hands combat, weapon practice requires more flawless coordination and solid stances. This is so the body can tolerate high collision impact from lethal attacks and create maximum power and speed toward the finish. With WingChun, we build our own arms as alternative weapons. It makes this style really hardcore and strong. Also, like many weapon systems, strength and efficacy becomes less correlated to the body size. Rather than that, training quality, determination and experience directly matter to your advancement in WingChun.
How would you sum up WingChun in one word?
Explain your favorite WingChun principle, concept or motto.
“Klagt Nicht, Kämpft.” (In German: Don’t complain, fight.) Those who complain the most, accomplish the least. Accept the reality, make a conscious change and take action!
Define the qualities of an ideal WingChun practitioner.
The ideal practitioner trains consistently and sincerely. One is determined to properly execute the technique with intensity each time. Progress only comes to those who train in the right way: tighten up the slack, toughen the body and polish the spirit.
What are your long-term WingChun goals?
The primary goal is to stay appreciating and enjoying the training; plus, explore deeper fundamental understanding, cultivate positive thoughts and evolve at a pace aligned with my intrinsic human capacity.
What hooked you to WingChun?
At the IAW, I encountered and trained with many highly dedicated practitioners to look up to. It inspired me to train more and to be better at WingChun. Ultimately, those efforts were directly reflected back on me and I grew profoundly through the past years. This feeling of perpetual challenge and growth is the prize.
How do you apply WingChun in life?
WingChun refines your mind and body. Life requires fast decision-making everywhere under uncertainty and pressure. Knowledge helps to some extent, but WingChun teaches careful observation and precise perception of reality as well as trust in our intuition and guts to act based on our experience. This attitude and approach becomes applicable in general; for example, during strategizing, negotiations, communications, troubleshooting, experimentation, data-processing, investments and innovation.
Per action, WingChun creates the habit to work relentlessly towards our goals. In effect, we can become more real, fearless, passionate and ambitious. It leads me to live strong and free, full of energy and joy. The true fun of life is this continuous progress to realize how far out we can reach our potential.