Wing Chun Blog Sifu Linda
My Introduction Into Martial Arts
I moved back to Melbourne in 1991 to be with my partner Garry Baniecki. Garry and I had originally met in 1977, there was an instant spark between us and we spent a few years together. I felt he was the one, but fate intervened and we went our separate ways.
10 years later our paths would cross again, and we would realize that spark was still there, so I moved back to Melbourne in July so we could be together.
Garry informed me that he was training in the Art of Wing Chun, a Chinese Kung Fu system, at the William Cheung Academy. He told me that he was training to become a professional Wing Chun teacher and run his own business in this field and if we were going to spend time together, it would be worth my while coming along and trying a class, as this was where he would be spending most of his time for the next few years.
Not knowing anything about martial arts, except the word 'Karate', and the series' Kung Fu' with David Carradine, I found it slightly amusing.
For one thing, Chinese Kung Fu sounded really exotic, to me something allusive and mysterious from China. I had never seen Bruce Lee movies, as I grew up in central New South Wales and they were never played at our movie theatres. So I had no concept of what Bruce Lee or Wing Chun was all about.
The second thing I found amusing, was, that Garry would be doing martial arts in the first place. He certainly didn't need to learn how to fight, it was something that he was always very proficient at. He grew up in the sixties and seventies as a European descendant. At that time there was a lot of racism and a lot of gangs on the streets. Fighting seemed to be part and parcel of life those days.
He participated in and was undefeated in the bare knuckle underground fighting in the seventies and I personally have witnessed him being challenged many times when we would go out, in those early days. I have never seen him loose a fight. Beside his reputation, he just seemed to have one of those faces that people liked to challenge.
So for him to tell me he was learning martial arts and was going to be a teacher, was like reading a book or watching a movie, about a young man who fights all his life, only to grow up meet a master, train and become a Kung Fu Master himself.
It really sounded quite literally like a dream. I did take him seriously though because if anyone can make their dreams come true, it is Garry.
Having just moved to Melbourne, and not having a job, I had plenty of time on my hands. I'm a very active person and not wanting to sit around and do nothing, I took up his offer to try a class. Having never attended a martial art class before I was quite curious to try, especially after Garry gave me a brief history of it being developed by a woman.
Garry had taken a couple of months off training, to spend some time with me, he was missing his training and was now keen to get back into it. So late in October he took me to the William Cheung Academy in Flinders Street for my first class. I never could have imagine how profoundly it would change my life.
As we walked in Grand master William was there, so Garry introduced me to him. Not knowing the correct etiquette of showing courtesy I thrust my hand out and William shook it. As we walked away Garry chuckled and said you cheeky bugger I've never shaken his hand. It was then I realized, just how much respect he held for this man.
Dana was the head instructor at the time and was to take me through my first class. He was very friendly and made me feel comfortable. After attending my second class, I decided to join. I enjoyed the activity, it was different from lifting weights (something I that had interested me) or doing aerobics (something that had never interested me). What I enjoyed most about it, was that it was very mind stimulating. Even when I was not in class, I would find myself going over the different techniques in my head and with my hands as my feet would be stepping trying to get a handle on this new way to move. I was quite surprised at how much it occupied my mind.
It was great having Garry to help me in our spare time. We would spend hours talking about wing chun, its history and ideas. I fell in love with the challenge of wing chun training very quickly and the idea that it could empower me if I ever got into trouble. My safety had been in jeopardy a couple of times in the past and I had felt totally helpless. Exercise with benefits.
Trying the class had worked out really well, I could train in this wonderful art and get to spend time with Garry, while he could train to become a teacher. I had no intention or ambition to become a teacher.
Little did I know what was actually in store for me.
I trained full time, so I was showing diligence and progressing quite well. After 3 months I was invited into the demonstration team. Garry encouraged me to take up the offer as he was already a part of this team. I was very nervous about it, I was not use to performing anything in front of anybody and I didn't feel like I was ready to be showing off any of my new skills. But, understanding that it was a great privilege to be asked, I humbly agreed to join. I was excited to be spending more time around the grandmaster, as he quite often attended these sessions.
As we performed around Melbourne at different venues and in China town for the Chinese New Year, I quickly learnt to get up and do the job. I would always be so nervous and worry that I would make a mistake. The trick was to just keep your poker face and continue as if nothing had happened, if you did make a mistake, no one would know. To start with it was easier said than done, but eventually my confidence grew and I absolutely loved performing and demonstrating, even though every time the adrenalin would be pumping and stirring up my nerves.
Then, to my astonishment, after another 3 months of training, I was invited to attend the private classes taken by Grandmaster William Cheung at the Dandenong Academy. There were only the teachers and a handful of students in the class, so I felt very privileged.
I remember one class specifically, it was not long after I had joined in. We had been broken up into two groups, the beginners (all men bar myself) and the seniors. Being the only female in the beginner group and I could feel a slight resentment toward me from some people in the group.
For our session we were to stand in the middle of the group, while each person would walk in and attacked you randomly with one or two punches.
One of the bigger guys, who did not like me being there, came at me really hard, hoping to intimidate and scare me. He threw a couple of quick, hard round house punches at me. I responded automatically; without even thinking I thrust a Biu sao out with a simultaneous punch, followed by another Biu sao, simultaneous punch, it was totally action reaction. He then surprised me even more by reeling back with a moan and covering his face. When he pulled his hands away his nose was bleeding quite badly, I had made contact and he was not happy.
Like Bruce Lee had said to Yip Man, action without thinking, just doing, I was quite impressed with my reaction.
I turned to call Grandmaster William for help with this guys nose, but there seemed to be some sort of a commotion happening in Garry's circle. I expected the GM to be terse with me once he came over and discovered that I had struck this guy in the nose, enough to make it bleed; but instead he seemed to have a bit of a smirk on his face. To my amazement he looked like he was actually finding the situation slightly amusing, and I was relieved to say the least.
After class Garry informed me, that during his circle game, he had swept and dropped one of his senior students. The senior student was not happy and Grandmaster William had to settle the student down. As this was going on, I had my little altercation with the senior student in my group. We both laughed about how uncanny our timing was, both dealing with little challenges at the same time.
The GM knew we were partners and this is probably what he found amusing about the situation also.
And so my journey began, I had always felt there was something I had been waiting for all my life. Joining the Wing Chun fraternity would change my life forever, so profoundly, in a way that I never expected. Never did I imagine the journey it was about to take me on. I finally had something I could sink my teeth into.