NO TRICKS, JUST TRAINING – NO BULLSH*T, JUST BETTER SKILL
Author: Sifu Bobby
My name is Robert Bartkowski. I'm just a regular dude who has been studying martial arts since 1994, and has been training exclusively in Wong Shun Leung Ving Tsun since 2002. Among other rankings I hold an Instructor’s certificate in the Wong Shun Leung system of Ving Tsun from the Ng Family Chinese Martial Arts Association headquartered in Chicago’s Chinatown. I'm a Charter Member of the Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Coalition of Chicago and a member of the Carolinas Association of Chinese Martial Arts. I founded the 820Express Ving Tsun Martial Science Club (820XVT) in 2012 to further propagate the WSL system of Ving Tsun as passed to me by my Sifu Philip Ng. I conduct private and semi-private training by appointment. My purpose and mission is to constantly functionalize, refine and improve my skills in Wing Chun as a system of combat for personal protection as well as to aid others to do the same, for in doing so we all grow and the art of Wing Chun perpetuates in an honest and practical manner.
Anyone who knows me knows I love a good quote, and whenever I happen upon one that really resonates with me and passes my stringent criteria for some really cool stuff Master Po would say to a young Grasshopper I copy it down in a little journal I have that I use for on-the-spot motivation and reinforcement in my noggin.
One such great quote I read re: all things self defense goes like this:
A tornado haze of windmill violence… brutal defeats refined; simple dominates complicated.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
When the student is truly ready…the teacher will disappear.”
I am a fan of quotes and I’ve always like that one but it was not until I begin my journey of training in true Wing Chun purely for self-defense and combat skill proficiency that that quote took on a much deeper and profound significance for me.
The Most Difficult Aspect of Wing Chun Training
The most difficult part of Wing Chun training, I submit to you, is not in the hours and hours of dedicated, difficult and at times seemingly fruitless training. It is not the facing of one’s fears and mental barriers, it is not the fear of contact or being hit and it is not developing skill through repetition.
The most difficult part of Wing Chun training is finding a true instructor; someone who can, as Bruce Lee once famously said, act as “…a finger pointing a way to the moon,” guiding you along the way to discover the truths of the Wing Chun system for yourself and showing you how to unlock your true potential.
I read somewhere recently that the population of earth hovers around 7.6 billion people.
Think about that for a second-7.6 BILLION. Wow. If you are like me and just like knowing stuff, you can even see a running total up to the minute here.
According to several surveys I have come across, roughly 4-6% of the world practices some form of martial arts. That means that of out of the entire world’s population, all the people who begin any form of martial arts training amounts to only around 5%. Keep that little gem in mind the next time you start comparing yourself to any of your friends or some random douchebag standing on a yacht in your Instagram feed. Continue reading
“It’s a procedure. Like rebuilding a carburetor has a procedure. You know, when you rebuild a carburetor, the first thing you do is you take the carburetor off the manifold? Supposing you skip the first step, and while you’re replacing one of the jets, you accidentally drop the jet, it goes down the carburetor, rolls along the manifold, and goes into the head. You’re fucked. You just learned the hard way that you gotta remove the carburetor first, right? So that’s all that happened to me today. I learned the hard way. Actually, it was a good learning experience for me. “
-Joe Pesci, My Cousin Vinny
One thing that I have come to learn is that you can know something intellectually by research, by reading and by observation but when you experience it; when you feel what it’s like, then and only then do you truly KNOW something.
For example, you can offer sincere and heartfelt condolences to a friend who has lost a loved one but unless you have experienced that pain and sadness you truly do not KNOW what that is like. Now that’s not your fault and it does not in any way take away from your kind words of comfort to your grieving friend; it’s just the way shit works in life.
The story I want to share with you is about how all of my experiences in martial arts culminated to bring about a transformative experience in my own Wing Chun and self-defense training, and that’s what life is all about: evolution and transformation of one’s consciousness. I hope you find it useful. Here goes:Continue reading
It has been said that water and creativity go hand-in-hand. Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu, a prolific inventor who has been called “The Edison of Japan,” credits swimming with the source of his best ideas.
While in the shower the other day I had my own mini Dr. Yoshiro moment as it relates to Wing Chun, and forms training in particular.
The other night, after returning from work I hopped into the shower to get cleaned up. I realized halfway through my shower that I always follow the same pattern: I shampoo my hair, then lather up and wash my face, neck and shoulders. From there it’s the left arm, then the right arm and so on. I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details but it did hit me under that stream of water for just how many years have I been doing this the same way without thinking about it at all. At that moment, I made it a point to switch up my routine and it was as if I started a brand new activity.
As the water flowed it then dawned on me how many times in my own personal Wing Chun training I have trained our forms without Continue reading
We all know people who have gone through a little bit of martial arts training at some point in their lives, which is precisely the reason that as I get older, less and less people know that I train. I choose to keep both my involvement in Wing Chun and my close-quarters self-defense training to myself. I’m not hiding anything, nor am I actively keeping it from anyone-I just choose not to bring it up unless asked directly.
Now part of this is the maturation process that comes with not seeking anyone’s approval the way we do when we are young, but the other part is much more selfish.
The main motivation for my choosing not to yap about my self-defense and Wing Chun training is for the simple reason that one of three reactions almost always presents itself:Continue reading
One of the most the most underrated benefits of Wing Chun lies in the mindset and mentality it develops in you; in my opinion, a discerning mindset is the one that will carry you farthest in life, not just in your martial arts, self defense or combat sports training.
Think of the following scenario:
Imagine walking to your car from the local supermarket and suddenly realizing you absent-mindedly put a Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cup from the dollar rack in your pocket while you were walking through the store, fully intending to pay for it. Honest mistake, right? You walk back in, explain what happened, laugh at your scatter-mindedness with the clerk, flip them a buck and go on about your day. Easy fix.
Now suppose that you are driving home in a blizzard when you realize this. Continue reading
It was in February of 2002 – Sunday, February 17th to be exact – on the day of the Chinese Lunar New Year parade when I quite literally stumbled upon what has become my true home in martial arts.
That day, while looking for anyplace to get in from that winter Chicago wind that slices you like a knife and find a nice cozy spot to watch the parade, I wandered into a school in the upstairs of a 2 tier strip mall on Wentworth Avenue in Chicago’s Chinatown and was first exposed to the art that I have continued to train in and consider to be my root and base in the martial arts: the Wong Shun Leung system of Wing Chun Gung Fu. The school was the the Ng Family Chinese Martial Arts Association. Continue reading
In the pantheon of Wing Chun training, the “how-to” aspect occupies far too much of the time.
Now obviously in order to improve at something you first have to learn how to do something, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I am talking about is the fixation on “how-to” skill at the expense of the other aspects of training that are more important in the furtherance of your ultimate goal of combat effectiveness and efficiency and practicality in self-defense; aspects that force you to venture out past what you are comfortable with.
These can be mental, emotional or even psychological aspects of training or they can be a next level of physical aspects such as sparring or full-contact training, scenario self-defense work or even chi sau with a new partner whose motions perplex you.
In both Wing Chun and in my personal fitness regimen, I prefer to train in silence. Always have, always will. Just give me a space with no distractions where I can tune out the outside world and tune in to what I’m doing and I’m set.
I’m not against music when teaching class, hitting pads or the heavy bag and sparring – I actually prefer and find music to be much more enjoyable and useful in this context – but for private solo training, I have found that Continue reading
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