Wing Chun: man to man

Parents spend a fortune trying to give their children an edge in the rat race of the British education system. They’ll buy homes that fall in the right school catchment area, force them into various extra curricular activities, pay thousands for a public school education, and pack in those extra hours of private coaching. Some consider these practices unfair, as they couldn’t easily be described as egalitarian, but what most would generally agree on, however, is that they work.

If parents are able to game the British education system, then it begs the question: how can I get one up on my Wing Chun peers? Looking at the tactics employed by pushy parents, it’s clear what the trick is here: it’s all about exclusivity and it’s quite a bit about access.

Bruce Lee understood the importance of exclusive access to his teacher. He once addressed his fellow students as they waited for class. He told them that their Sifu was sick and that class would have to be cancelled. He stood at the doors with his friend as the class disbanded. Then turning he opened the door and, to his friend’s consternation, led him inside to an illicitly obtained private class.

The value Bruce Lee placed on private classes was later reflected when he scaled back the teaching of Jeet Kune Do. Preferring instead to deliver private tuition, or smaller classes led by personally approved practitioners.

This personal relationship then, between student and pupil, should be highly prized. It was with this in mind that I signed up for a private class. Surely this would give me that much sought after edge?

The format wasn’t radically different from a regular class. We worked on technique and later we sought to apply the said technique in sparing. The difference was a subtle, but a substantial one. When we learn in class, feedback is given infrequently. It is possible to adopt an inexact technique and have it fly under the radar for months; in a private class it is different, feedback is instantaneous.

Enhanced feedback is perhaps the much sought after extra element that makes the difference. Identifying the error immediately not only allows instant correction, but in doing so doesn’t give time for any errors in technique to become embedded. This streamlines the process of learning.

It also scrutinises your technique. Every area of your practice is pored over. It makes you question every action. We focused upon the weak areas, stopping wherever necessary to examine exactly where the error was and, what’s more, why the error was occurring. It was an entirely bespoke syllabus.

It is easy to see how one to one tuition could bring big changes to my Wing Chun. Just like a well-prepped Oxbridge candidate, I could give myself all of the advantages to excel. Though there is perhaps one thing I missed. The reason that not all success stories are limited to an exclusive privileged few. Personal coaching on its own just won’t cut it. Sadly it takes time, it takes commitment, – most annoyingly of all – it takes talent: Something which private classes alone just can’t compensate for.

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