New to Wing Chun - Is This School Legit?

Discussion in 'Wing Chun' started by ailCeejae, Apr 4, 2017.

  1. ailCeejae

    ailCeejae White Belt

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    I have my very first class in Wing Chun (or any martial art period) this evening and I'm pretty excited. But I'd like to know if anyone could tell me how legit this school seems..

    I'd really like to know that I'm getting involved with a solid Sifu / School since I look at this as a long term investment and would not want to throw away a year or more before figuring out I started off in a bad place.

    I live in Irving TX so this also happened to be the closest of all the schools I could find. All of the others are about 20 miles or more away from me and round trip 4 times per week that would cause me to go way over my lease on my car.

    Below is the link to the school. The only thing that concerned me was when I emailed to ask the Sifu if their students spar and this was his response,

    "As for sparring it is not possible in class setting to spar with each student in a one hour session. Also we do not spar at all. We train to fight, this would mean that one or two attacker (or more) would be assigned to kill you or take you prisoner your job is to kill them with no wounds. This class is $20 a month extra and is restricted access . Which means unless you have good control and skill or until you do you would not be invited to this section . It is not based on rank or how long you are there it solely depends on your attitude and ability to control your emotions.

    Sorry Chris I have ten people asking me questions at same time, I hope that explanation makes sense to you, first things first is you have never seen our class and seen wing chun before you wouldn't know that our class is mostly close to sparring as possible at the level of individual. I have students in class that have trained 20 years and some that are on. First week."

    This concerned me because one of my goals in learning Wing Chun is for self defense and basically everything I've read in my research before going into this suggests that if you ever want to be good at self defense in a real life scenario, you'd be far better off if your training involved sparring.


    Rister International Martial Arts
     
  2. BrendanF

    BrendanF Green Belt

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    A couple of points I would make:

    Your question regarding sparring is an old one, with a long history of debate and as many opinions as there are people interested. Wing Chun as with most CMA often don't 'spar' in the traditional western sense. If you want someone to convince you that 'not sparring' is ok, or vice versa - don't waste your time, just do what interests you. If sparring is of critical importance to you, join a muay thai/boxing/mma gym.

    Posting private correspondence in public is considered incredibly rude. If the instructor sees this I'd be amazed if he were still willing to accept you as a student.

    And lastly "would be assigned to kill you, your job is to kill them with no wounds" - run as fast as you can from anyone spouting such nonsense. Or ask sincerely "how many people die in each training session? How do you retain students if they are constantly killing each other?". That melodramatic rubbish is Hollywood stuff. Absolutely, there are traditional arts that 'do not spar' - but anyone thinking that their training is equating to "killing with no wounds" is batty and/or stupid.
     
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  3. ailCeejae

    ailCeejae White Belt

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    My apologies, it was not my intent to be rude towards him at all. I figured that the info he provided me was either mostly info already on their website or info that he would freely give anyone who asked, not confidential so I didn't really think much of it. Is there a way to edit my post? I can't find an edit option but if there is I can certainly take down his message to me.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts anyhow, did you by chance check out their website? He apparently trained under Francis Fong and Dan Inosanto
     
  4. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    As always, should you or any of your Wing Chun Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.

    Good luck, ailCeejae
     
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  5. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    I wouldn't worry too much about sharing that correspondence if it was offered as general information in response to an inquiry about their program. As you pointed out, it's all stuff already in the public domain. BTW, BrendanF is almost as new on this forum as you are, so he might not realize that most of us are pretty laid back here as long at your intentions are good.

    Now regarding that school, first, I wouldn't worry too much about the lack of straight up sparring. A lot of TCMA schools are like that. I don't have time for frequent sparring in my classes either. I'm trying to rectify that. I'm actually more concerned that there is no info on how long the head instructor trained with any of the big names he posts, and I really did not like his little double-stick Kali demo. But hey, that's just my opinion.

    If you want another option to check out, the guy I train under, my kung fu brother Jeff Webb will be coming up from Austin to offer a seminar at his Dallas School next month. Might be worth investigating. You can check out his website via the link in my signature below. Meanwhile, it couldn't hurt to try classes for a month or so at the Rister school. Let us know how your first class goes! And welcome to MartialTalk! :)
     
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  6. DanT

    DanT 2nd Black Belt

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    Every traditional style of kung fu that I learned has had sparring as a fundamental element. I don't know a single traditional style that doesn't implement sparring at some point. One thing that they may not use is gloves tho.
     
  7. BrendanF

    BrendanF Green Belt

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    No worries - it could be that he wouldn't mind at all - just saying I would is all.

    I did happen to check out the website - as you say it seems to be Francis Fong WC/Inosanto JF/JKD.

    I have mixed feelings with regards to all of the JKD background WC I've seen - from a WC point of view (to my mind) it seems 'contaminated' by the JKD. By that I mean that I was taught that in conjunction with the concepts and principles applied with WC there is a body method or way of approaching those principles and concepts which provides the appropriate form.

    Abandoning that body method (as I was taught) can from a WC viewpoint expose weaknesses or openings. With that said what I saw when I youtubed (very briefly) 'rister wing chun' seemed fine.

    I've always been very impressed with Dan Inosanto, and I've heard good things of Francis Fong. If I were you (if you have an interest in Wing Chun) I would absolutely go check them out. I personally would also be checking out the JF/JKD too..

    Regarding the sparring issue - despite what DanT says above, the reality is many if not most traditional CMA did and do not 'spar' as I understand the word. Drilling, even high intensity uncooperative drilling, is not sparring. Inosanto's JKD as I understand it is a very well thought out curriculum which can provide some of the best technical development outside of combat sports.

    Alternatively, if you think you are more interested in regularly sparring and ultimately fighting in order to develop a solid base, you could as I said attend a muay thai, boxing or mma gym. Or both.
     
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  8. DanT

    DanT 2nd Black Belt

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    While I understand many self acclaimed "traditional" schools may not spar, sparring with contact is, and always has been an essential part of most styles including Wing Chun. Every traditional style that I've studied has had sparring (with or without gear) as one of its elements. Its only in more modern times with the shifting emphasis to wushu that many so called "traditional schools" replaced sparring with additional taolu practice.
     
  9. ailCeejae

    ailCeejae White Belt

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    Rather than quote everyone who has responded to me thus far let me just thank everyone as a whole for providing feedback/opinions/thoughts on things I've asked or brought up. I just returned from my first night of Wing Chun ever and I'll hold out on writing some sort of review/critique on Jon Rister's school for now as I will be checking out 1 other school tomorrow (Wednesday) night.

    Once I've seen both I'll have a better ability to compare/contrast between the two. I will say that I am VERY excited to dig deep into this art and start learning the forms along with all the principles behind them.

    If anyone is curious, the other school I'll be checking out is Sifu Steve Cottrell's and I've provided a link below... their website isn't flashy by any means but I spoke to the man for about a half hour earlier this afternoon and he was very eager to share his knowledge along with answering all my questions about his classes and his background.

    Main Page - Authentic Kung-Fu
     
  10. BrendanF

    BrendanF Green Belt

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    Best of luck with it aliCeejae - I think Wing Chun can be an incredible art; I hope you enjoy learning it.

    DanT - do you think there was sparring (with or without gear) in Yip Man's classes?
     
  11. DanT

    DanT 2nd Black Belt

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    Yes, many first generation Yip Man students mentioned sparring with Yip Man without gear.
     
  12. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Thoughts...

    It seems a lot of WC schools don't do much (or any sparring), preferring to focus on chi sao. I'm surprised to see an instructor who also does JKD dismiss the need for sparring, since sparring was built into the JKD ethos from the start. Personally, I'm a fan of sparring. We haven't been doing sparring in my WT classes since I started training that art 15 months ago, but I've been testing my WT in sparring against boxing, kickboxing, and even capoeira on my own time.

    If you look carefully at the wording on the JKD page, it mentions JKD "as taught" by Dan Inosanto, JKD "as taught" by Larry Hartsell, Muay Thai "as taught" by Chai Sirisute. It never specifies that Mr. Rister has trained with or is certified by any of those individuals. It says they are members of the associations created by those three, but that means nothing. Anyone can pay a membership fee. Mr. Rister apparently has a JKD instructor who has certified him as a teacher and allows him to use a belt rank system, but we are never told who that instructor is. This is in contrast to the WC page where he makes it explicit that his WC sifu is Francis Fong. This isn't necessarily a huge red flag, but it would make me curious.

    This is nonsense and would be a huge red flag for me. I might give him the benefit of the doubt and think he was expressing himself poorly through hyperbole. From the rest of the paragraph you quoted, it seems like he does have some sort of separate invite-only sparring class which cost extra - even if he doesn't call it sparring? The whole bit seems confusing and a bit contradictory. He did say that he was distracted by other people while writing, so it's possible he just explained things poorly.
     
  13. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Okay, I found the blog page and there he does state that he directly learned from Inosanto, Hartsell, and Sirisute. I should note, however, that all three instructors do (or did in Hartsell's case) a lot of teaching via seminar. It's not clear whether Mr. Rister was a regular student for years at the Inosanto Academy, an occasional seminar attendee, or something in-between*. It's also not clear who awarded his instructor certification or who he considers to be his current primary JKD teacher. If he did learn primarily though seminars, that might explain the lack of emphasis on sparring, since seminars usually don't include sparring sessions.

    *(Technically, I could say that I learned from Dan Inosanto and Chai Sirisute, since I've attended 2 seminars with the former and 6-8 with the latter. I'm even certified as an apprentice instructor under Chai in his association. I would still feel fraudulent listing either one as my teacher.

    On the other hand, if I had attended dozens of seminars with one of them and developed a personal connection and was receiving focused advice and correction from the instructor during the seminars, then that could properly be considered a teacher-student relationship. Perhaps that is Mr. Rister's situation. It's just not spelled out very clearly.)
     
  14. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    Jon Rister is an instructor certified by Guro Inosanto. He has trained under Sifu Francis Fong and has hosted him from time to time for seminars at his school. He may have been awarded apprentice instructor under Sifu Fong several years ago but has not been in Fong's instructor list for the past several years. I know he has attended seminars with Ajarn Chai Sirisute but not aware of Chai certifying him as an instructor. I know nothing of his training with Sifu Hartsell.
    He states he is a 'member' of:
    Wing Chun USA with Fong. It was the WC Association USA which is Fong's old association that has been defunct for 5 years now. He is not listed as an instructor in the Francis Fong Instructor Affiliation. To become an Apprentice Instructor one has to test directly under Sifu Fong and maintain a least 20 hours of instruction by him per year. If not you are not listed as an instructor under him. One can become an apprentice instructor and not have completed the system but can only instruct and award beginner level material recognized by Sifu Fong.
    Thai Boxing Association USA which has now become the World Thai Boxing Association which doesn't necessarily recognize those from the TBA. A person could be a TBA member simply by purchasing a $25.00 membership but that doesn't mean they were an instructor. A person could be certified as an Apprentice Instructor by having passed student level II under a certified TBA instructor and then passing an Apprentice test under an Ajarn in the TBA. To become an Associate Instructor you were to have 20 hours of training directly under Ajarn Chai a year for 3 years and attend the Thai Camp for testing.
     
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  15. Cephalopod

    Cephalopod Green Belt

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    Hi Ceejae, welcome to the board.

    One of the difficulties when considering sparring is that there are many differing opinions on how it should be conducted and how it is used to advance your skill. Same holds true for Chisao.

    For one perspective, I'll share with you my personal experience.
    I trained for nearly a decade in another CMA where sparring with and without gear was trained intensively once or twice a week. Looking back I realize that this sparring, as it was conducted, helped to reinforce some bad habits of mine. There would be a lot of testing the water with tentative kicks and jabs and then occasional frenzied clashes of wild strikes from an uprooted base regardless of the hits I was taking in return (perhaps I'm being a little harsh on myself but this was a while back and that's the way it seemedo_O). Now obviously others have had better experiences learning from sparring and indeed some in my old class seemed to 'get it' and develop into great martial artists, but it didn't work for me. I would always lose ground to stronger, more aggressive opponents.

    Presently, I've been training WC for over a decade. My sifu's emphasis (Jiu Wan lineage) has always been LOTS of chisao and live bridging drills. Now of course the chisao is anything that my partner and I decide it is. Sometimes it's soft and focused on developing a particular idea, sometimes it's shoving, braking, punching and bridging and might look to a neophyte like an all out brawl. There are those that would call the latter sparring, all I know is that it doesn't include the game of playing tag from a safe distance. Again, I not suggesting that all sparring is like that which I experienced in the past, I'm simply saying that a school is not ordained as being the 'Real Deal' just because they offer sparring.

    I can't and won't speak for how anyone else develops their fighting skills. All I can say with certainty is that if past me tried to 'spar' with present me, he would get launched though the drywall.
    (Actually, no, I wouldn't do that. Past me could use a little slack:D)

    For what it's worth here are a couple of things that I would look for in a school:
    1) Are you introduced fairly early to live (non-choreographed, non-cooperative) training?
    2) Does your sifu encourage his more advanced students to train with others from outside of his school?

    Anyway, Best of luck!
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2017
  16. wingerjim

    wingerjim Green Belt

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    I only wish I could hit the agree button more than once....well said!
     
  17. wingerjim

    wingerjim Green Belt

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    Did you look both of them up? On day 1 my sifu walked me around his school and showed me a recenet picture of him with his sifu and some older ones with his sifu and his sifu's sifus and pictures of his sifu with his two sifu's, both Leung Sheung students and a number of pictures of Leung Sheung with those sifus and finally several pictures of Leung Sheung with Yip Man.....there you go, documented evidence my sifu is of the Leung Sheung liniage of Yip Man's Wing Chun....it does not get much better than that.
     
  18. Tony Dismukes

    Tony Dismukes MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I've highlighted what I consider to be the important factor. I'm a big advocate for sparring, but plenty of schools do a bad job of carrying it out. When the people involved are taking turns playing ineffectual tippy-tappy tag from long range with occasional awkward clashes in the middle, then it's not especially productive. (It would be particularly unproductive for learning WC.)

    Fortunately, that's not the only way to do sparring. A good instructor should be able to guide his/her students to spar with correct distancing, good body mechanics, proper base, and so on.

    BTW - it's been my experience that people with significant experience in hard-contact sparring or fighting do a much better job of doing light-contact sparring correctly. They aren't so prone to throwing out an off-balance "strike" with poor body mechanics from out of range and saying "gotcha!"
     
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  19. ShortBridge

    ShortBridge Black Belt

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    It seems to me that what you have there is a JKD school. "Legit" is in the eye of the beholder, but their legitimacy should be evaluated as a JKD school, not as a Wing Chun school.

    I guess another way of answering would be: As a Wing Chun sifu, this does not appear to me to be a legitimate Wing Chun school, nor does it appear that they claim to be. I can not opine on their legitimacy as a Jeet Kune Do school. They are not the same thing, though.

    None of that has to do with the sparring question, I'll leave that to others. The part of his response that I relate to however is "...First things first you have never even seen our class..."

    A "legit" school will not let you design your own ciricula and progression. You appear to be questioning his method, admitting that you have zero experience, but "based on everything you have read on the internet".

    One of the best things to be gained from martial arts training is the ability to be a good student. Make up your own mind about this school and this teacher, but whatever you do, you're going to have to approach it differently to get the result you want.
     
  20. BrendanF

    BrendanF Green Belt

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    Ok; we can agree to disagree. If you are referring to the accounts I'm thinking of, we must just view the definition of 'sparring' differently - no worries. I would describe those as tests performed within far stricter confines than sparring. And knowing how those things go in traditional CMA culture, it would be surprising were any of the students actually looking to punk the master. The reality is, contrary to your assertion earlier - sparring was always the exception rather than the rule in traditional CMA gwoon. With the advent of the internet and the shrinking of the global marketplace, the obvious value of sparring, and the skill it produces has become undeniable and more traditional artists are sparring these days, which I think is great.
     

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