A Unique Approach To Wing Chun
Commonly translated as “Beautiful Springtime” the name Wing Chun is used to encompass ALL the different schools of thought within this one particular style of Kung-Fu, a martial art which is believed to have originated within Southern China.
The Federation Wing Tsun System – or FWTS for short – is the result of my personal journey through the martial arts in general, and Wing Chun in particular. It is my own approach to the art and my contribution to the discipline which I love.
Such things do not happen quickly or in a vacuum; I did not invent Wing Chun, I merely developed my own way of doing things. I am not the only person who holds an opinion on the art, and I am certainly not the only person skilled in it. In fact the only way I could have developed this system was after years of studying existing styles under the guidance of more experienced teachers. I’ve done that. I’m still doing it, and it’s still a great journey of discovery.
My Path To Wing Chun
In 1996 I was a martial artist with about seven years of training under my belt, mainly in Karate, Judo, and a little bit of Ju-Jitsu. One day my friend Tony Edwards took me along to a Wing Chun demonstration in Reigate, Surrey. The demo was delivered by an instructor named Martin Workman, who at that time was part of the NWCA organisation. I loved what I saw, signed up on the spot, and began training multiple evenings a week at his clubs in Purley and Reigate (sometimes Maidstone too), and at weekends at the NWCA’s little shared gym in Pembury, Tumbridge Wells.
Three years later in 1999 I was an instructor with the NWCA. I was receiving extra instruction from Andrew Cameron and Paul Hawkes, assisting Martin with classes, and also assisting another instructor, Fred Murphy, with his club in Wimbledon, South-West London. That year the NWCA merged with the European Wing Tsun Organisation (the EWTO) to form a UK branch called the NWTO-GB. Our syllabus changed, and we all began learning the Leung Ting WingTsun System under the guidance of GM Keith Kernspecht and several senior masters of the EWTO.
From this period onwards I was fortunate to be surrounded by some excellent contemporaries and training partners, who have since gone on to do great things. These include Alan Sawyer, Vik Hothi, Ross Sergeant, Col Maggs, Dave Bright, Dave Stanswood (RIP big fella), John & Pete Woolgar, Brian Clarke, Neil Gould, Damion James, Lee Jacobs, Tony Hollander, old Jim, and loads more – sorry if i’ve missed anyone. I was also extremely lucky to meet, learn from, and be guided by Mik Lane, who helped me to understand the differences between the old and new systems, and who really set me on the path of proper study.
By 2001 both Fred Murphy and Martin Workman had stopped teaching, and I was running the Wimbledon club myself. I had become a private student of Paul Hawkes, one of the head instructors of the NWTO-GB, and I was training like crazy! Evenings, weekends, every additional seminar I could find. I visited and trained at the EWTO Castle Langenzell near Heidelberg, and also attended and trained at the spectacular EWTO 25th anniversary celebrations in May/June 2001. I immersed myself in Kung-Fu (and in Chi-Kung too, with the late Klaus Schultz), and it was great. At the end of that year all my hard work paid off, and I was awarded my 1st Technician Grade (black-belt) in WT WingTsun by GM Kernspecht after a two-day examination.
From Part-Time To Full-Time
In 2002 I was offered voluntary redundancy from my job at EMI Records, and I took the opportunity to become a full-time martial arts instructor. I became the regional instructor for the NWTO-GB in South-West London, and was part of the special instructors group taught by GGM Leung Ting during his three-day visit to the UK in April 2002. I had also started studying Escrima as well as Kung-Fu. Initially at larger seminars with Rene Latosa, Bill Newman and Steve Tappin, and subsequently at regular small-group workshops with Bill Newman. I also opened further WT clubs in Chessington and Kingston-Upon-Thames. It was an exciting and busy time for me.
At the start of 2004 I passed my 2nd Technician in WT WingTsun, again from GM Kernspecht. Through Paul Hawkes I had also been studying for a while with several European masters including Hans-Peter Edel and his senior student Christof Hampel, both abroad and in the UK. These experiences were to have a very positive, long-lasting effect upon my overall development, and my thoughts about the art in general. A million thanks to both of you.
At the start of 2005 I opened a full-time martial arts studio in New Malden, Surrey. My thoughts on weapons training within Wing Chun in general led me to seek out private tuition from Steve Tappin and his Escrima Concepts system, and it was then that my world changed completely! I discovered that I had much to learn about effective body mechanics, correct positioning, and overall combat. So that year I started dissecting my Wing Chun knowledge and rebuilding it all in the light of proper weapons concepts, and it was a revelation.
A New Organisation
At the start of 2006 I had completed my 3rd Technician programme in WT WingTsun, but my growing weapons knowledge and the changes it was forcing me to make to Wing Chun were starting to clash. For the sake of the art, I took the hard decision to leave my old organisation and start a new one in which students could have access to everything I had discovered, with no limitations.
To say it was a hard decision is perhaps an understatement. At that time I had three successful clubs plus a full-time gym, and I was making a nice living from my teaching. I called a meeting of all my students, explained my vision for the future, and gave them the choice to stay or leave. Sadly not everyone believed, and I lost about three-quarters of my student base (and three-quarters of my income!) However those who stayed became the first students of the UKKFF – United Kingdom Kung-Fu Federation.
The UKKFF offered Steve Tappin’s approach to Escrima (called Escrima Concepts), my new approach to Wing Chun (called the Federation Wing Tsun System), and also supplementary health disciplines such as qigong and bodyweight training, which i’ve always had a love for.
The concept seemed to work really well, and my UKKFF organisation operated in the same format for a decade, until 2015. At the height of its reach it spanned twelve clubs – Wimbledon, Kingston, Chessington, Epsom, Ewell, Croydon/Sutton, Putney, Richmond, Guildford/Cobham, Streatham, plus my full-time studio in New Malden.
A vast number of students came through my classes, and I taught many people who went on to be good instructors. Some are still with me now, and others have moved on to do their own thing. I thank each and every student who studied with the UKKFF – it was a great organisation, and I had an amazing time with all of you.
During this exciting ten-year period I was fortunate to meet, socialise with and learn from many more great masters of Wing Chun, all via my membership of the fledgling World Martial Arts Alliance. These masters included Morten Ibsen, Benno Westra, Allan Jensen, Paolo Bonucci and Marco Mattioni, plus many of their senior students. I also managed to get several small-group workshops with MMA fighter and renowned grappler Robert “Bobby” Sundel, which was a real privilege, and all the while my training in Escrima and Historical Weapons continued via Steve Tappin, Wayne Tappin and all my EC colleagues across the UK and Europe.
At the end of 2015 I decided another change was required. Both arts within the UKKFF were becoming strong in their own right, and I felt that each part would now benefit from being promoted separately.
So, in September of that year I started to diversify my interests: My full-time studio became New Malden Studios, all my Escrima interests became Escrima Surrey, and my Kung-Fu system moved right here.
Lastly, instead of scrapping the old UKKFF Organisation, I chose to keep the assets and re-profile it into a new vehicle to explore and promote ALL types of Kung-Fu in the country, not just my own. In this way I hope to reconnect with all my old colleagues, plus lots of new ones, and try to create a friendship-based network of Kung-Fu interest and expertise across the whole country. It’s not happened yet, but it’s in the pipeline. Time will tell if it goes according to plan. 🙂
For FWTS, I had built this growing, dedicated website and a passionate network of experienced people who understand my vision for Wing Chun Kung-Fu, and who understand the reasons why my system had to be built upon correct, proven weapons concepts.
So, This New Way Of Wing Chun?
OK, so you now have a broad idea of the steps which led me to develop a different approach to the art of Wing Chun Kung-Fu. Now let me give you an overview of my system, and hopefully you’ll be motivated to start learning it yourself in the near future.
My system consists of three separate parts: The people, the martial art, and the training programme. If you’re ready, you can go deeper into each of these parts via my constantly-growing Knowledge Base.
Each part is meaningless when in isolation, it is only when the three parts intersect with each other that all the interesting things start to happen. This is best understood by way of this diagram:
My system was designed to include people as an integral component. Whilst this may seem glaringly obvious, I included it to remind everyone that they themselves ARE their art, it is not something you just do from time-to-time. Without people studying, teaching, training and sharing the art, it would cease to exist except on the pages of history.
People + Training Programme = Students
Whenever people encounter a training programme, the result is students. These are the Apprentices and Journeymen of the Federation Wing Tsun System, those who are working their way through the grades of the official training programme, on their way to mastery of the art. This process is similar to a medical Doctor progressing through medical school, completing their studies, then becoming a Junior Doctor at a hospital.
People + Martial Art = Masters
Once a person has internalised a complete martial art system, the result is a master of the art. However this doesn’t mean there is nothing more to learn, simply that the official training programme has been completed, and now experience must be acquired through constant practice. This process is like our medical Doctor moving from Junior to Senior, and finally up to Consultant level. They still practice daily, but do so at a higher level.
Martial Art + Training Programme = Syllabus
Where the martial art meets the training programme, the result is a syllabus. This is the order in which all the skills and knowledge within the martial art are passed to the student. There is no “right” way to do this, however experience shows that it’s best to start with the simplest, most fundamental things and build up from there.
Martial Art + Training Programme + People = Instructors
Finally, the place where all three parts meet is where we find our instructors. These special people are not only working on their own skills, but also working to develop the skills required to share the art with others, by way of the Instructor Training Programme.
You can go deeper into ALL the parts via my Knowledge Base right here on this website.