On Friday May 13th 17 members of the IEWTO flew from Dublin to Frankfurt on the first leg of a journey to Hockenheim for the European Wing Tsun Organisation's 40th anniversary weekend.
For most of us Friday was about travel and after landing in Frankfurt there were two trains and finally a bus to be taken before finally arriving in Reilingen where, following a quick walking tour, we checked into our hotel and headed to the bar to plan the evening. It was agreed that we would split into two groups and while a small scouting party set off to investigate Heidelberg the remainder had dinner in a local Chinese where we were joined by Dai Sifu Tausend and Sifu Canavan who were at the end of a long day training with almost 100 other Masters of the EWTO. Dinner was followed by a trip to the pub and then back to the hotel bar to ensure we were all fully hydrated for Saturday's training.
With around 800 people taking part in the weekend attendees were divided up into groups based on grades. After a quick breakfast and collecting our packs for the weekend we split up and headed to training. I was in a group for 1st and 2nd Higher Grades and the first item on our timetable was intriguingly titled "Maintaining an action capability in realistic combat situations". This turned out to be an energetic and interesting session looking at fighting against surprise attacks, attackers shoving from behind, escaping from groups and continuing to fight while being pushed and jostled. In the middle of this session we took a short break for a talk on strikes that could be used to immediately disable or kill an attacker in an emergency situation.Then it was back to partnering up with EWTO members from all across Europe to knock each other around.
Next up for our group was an Escrima session with Master Bill Newman. Possibly inspired by recent stabbing attacks in Germany, this session focussed on defending against a knife using an umbrella. The umbrella was used as it's an everyday item that is regularly carried. The emphasis was on the dangers of the knife and that the principle of the defence is key while the weapon the defender uses is unimportant.
After a short break for lunch and a quick catch up with the other groups it was back to the main hall for some traditional Wing Tsun with Grandmaster Schembri. This session started with a run through the Biu Tze form. A number of moves from the form were then practiced both in Chi Sau and against non-Wing Tsun attacks. This was possibly the highlight of the day as it introduced us to a different approach to some of the Chi Sao sections. While there was nothing revolutionary in what we covered, getting to work with GM Schembri and grab just a snippet of his incredible knowledge was pretty much priceless. We all left this session feeling as though someone had pointed out a new chapter in what we had thought was a familiar book.
Still buzzing from this we moved on to a session I had long being looking forward to, Inner Wing Tsun with Grandmaster Kernspecht. Wing Tsun is a principle based martial art and Innner Wing Tsun is a move closer to fighting with the principles rather than techniques. For a number of years Dai-Sifu Tausend has been introducing us to Inner Wing Tsun through the regular seminars but this was to be our first time to work hands on with the creator and it didn't disappoint. Although we did work with a simple technique the focus was not on the technique but on reading intent from the point of contact and using the entire body to attack and defend. Grandmaster Kernspecht explained that Inner Wing Tsun is aimed at WT Masters so we were really only getting an introduction but it still left us with plenty to think about.
Following this we had a break from Wing Tsun as our next session was the first with a guest instructor. Ulf Ehlert is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and he gave us an introduction to grappling where we worked on a simple leg lock and an arm bar and escapes from both.
We finished the day off with a large outdoor open Wing Tsun session with Grandmasters Koenig and Schembri. Grandmaster Koenig brought us through a transition to a variety of standing chokes and arm locks when an opponent, in attempt to defend a low or double punch, turns their flank towards us. While the techniques followed a defined path it was easy to see how the moves could be implemented in any number of situations.
Once this session had ended we pretty much kidnapped Grandmasters Koenig and Schembri for photos before eventually making our way back to our hotel. A quick shower and change of clothes later and we were bundled into taxis and heading for a dinner of traditional German food in the beautiful city of Heidelberg. There was also beer.
What better way to start the day than with a (surprisingly strenuous) Chi Kung session? We joined Sifus Regula Schembri, Petra Weipert and Constantin Mock who took us through a joint rotation sequence based on the Biu Tze form. This was followed by some partner stretching and partner training before we moved on to some exercises aimed at aiding with Inner Wing Tsun training. The session then closed with some standing meditation which left us feeling refreshed and re-energised.
More Inner Wing Tsun next and another opportunity to work with Grandmaster Kernspecht. This session started with a little more information about where Inner Wing Tsun began and a reimagining of the basic Wing Tsun hand moves as different points on a circle. As part of this talk Si Gung Kernspecht demonstrated a simple exercise to practice which helps develop the unity between the body and arm movements. We then worked on controlling an opponent using neutral force and finally on a counter to this using the entire body to power the hand movements needed to open up the opponent.
Sunday was a shorter training day due to the big social event on Sunday evening so this was the final session. We took advantage of this early finish to get some group photos with Grandmaster Kernspecht before heading back to the hotel.
Sadly for me this was the end of the weekend. Other commitments meant I had to say my goodbyes and head for the airport. This meant I missed out on the Sunday evening event and on Monday's training where Derek Dorris was awarded his 1st TG by Grandmaster Kernspecht. I'll leave the review of those events to someone who was there.
The weekend was a fantastic opportunity to work hands on with the Grandmasters of the EWTO as well as allowing us to train and chat with other EWTO members from all around Europe. Although the IEWTO is a small organisation we really only get to mix with people from other schools at our regular seminars. This weekend gave us a great opportunity to really get to know each other and build closer ties between the schools. Obviously a trip to Germany is an expensive way to do this so hopefully we will be able to arrange something closer to home in the near future.
There's a gallery of photos from the weekend here.