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  • Writer's pictureJames DeMile


There is no magic formula for training. I follow a structure I use for personal as well as for teaching students or instructors. This was a point of discussion in our early group since Bruce was not an instructor. He was only a student who needed to show us what he was doing , so we could train against him. Although our early training was helter skelter and very random, Bruce still followed a basic structure. What was the problem, what was the solution and how did you train to solve the problem? An example.... Trapping is word we use a lot, but it is not just a series of moves, like tying a shoelace. Trapping is a series of steps. "A" goes to "B" and "B" to "C" and so forth. You do not jump around with "B" to "A" and "A" to "Z". Before you do your traps you must first enter and then engage. You just don't leap in and get punched, you draw from your closing the gap options depending on the stance of the assailant. Is he a boxer, street fighter, is he set up to kick, are his feet parallel, is he in motion or stationary, is he close or slightly out of range, does he have a stance suggesting he has a martial arts skill, or very important, does he have a weapon???? This is why Bruce practiced different closes, to fit specific situations. Once you close the gap, how do you engage? Is he a boxer and therefore will counter punch as a reflex? Might he drop down under you for a shooting action? Is he bigger than you? Should you take him straight on or redirect his energy to a weak angle, which Bruce always preferred. Bruce would start at zero and work through a scenario step by step and then train through each step. An important element of training is knowing the value of what you are training in. Each step is not equal. Some are more important than others. By that I mean that some are general and some specific. Tool pouch techniques are critical, where general training of footwork, speed, power and sparring can be more loose and relaxed. Sparring is probable the one area most people feel uncomfortable, since it challenges their skills. It is an important part of training since it shows your strengths and weaknesses. However, you accomplish nothing when you spar against someone doing the same thing as you. That is why tournaments are not practical for preparing for street fighting self defense. Tournaments can be fun, but Bruce did not take them seriously. When we spar, it is never against Wing Chun Do principles, it is against a boxer, Karate, streetfighter or whatever. This lets you now the practicality of what you train in. You are never, hopefully, going to fight your fellow students, so why train as if you are??? One thing Bruce said, and we all agreed, you must have a good training partner. Your partner must be able to be a threatening aggressor in order for you to determine your actual skills. A good partner will give you instant feedback. Sparring to learn is not competitive, it is to set aside the ego and help each other grow. I am always careful to watch students spar and make sure it is a learning experience rather that an opportunity for the more aggressive students too pound on the weaker ones.

Although I talk about Bruce's selective tool pouch, it was only the end result of reviewing and training in many elements of self defense. I teach a number of Closes, many engagement techniques and the basic core principles of trapping, so the individual can evolve from that core information and design his own trapping options. Bruce knew that the clearer and better organized the information was, the better it flowed together, the faster he would develop a skill at it. Many instructors decide on the night they are going to teach, what to teach. I feel uncomfortable with this approach. To me, it makes teaching harder and it is unfair to the students. Students are usually in different ranks and at different levels of information. Also, students learn at different rates. The student pays dues and should be given a full bag. If the teaching structure is not organized from "A" to "B" to "C" then the instructor really does not know where the students overall skills are at any one time. Most instructors just lump ranks together and teach whatever he feels like. Much of the frustration that students experience is because they are not allowed to grow at their own pace. Some are slow and others fast learners and the teaching composition should allow for this difference. If you have the proper information in teaching, the instructor should be able to tell a students progress. Rank is good for teaching purposes since it allows the instructor to develop separate modules for different levels of information.. If you are training on your own, you should pick a specific goal of what you want to accomplish and then design steps to reach it. This will give a reference to where you are at any one time in your training

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