By Sifu Anthony Iglesias:
I started my martial arts journey when my brother Randy took me under his wing and started teaching me boxing and Ishyn Ryu karate. But to be honest I never learned very much karate because boxing was much more my thing.
He was best friends with NYC boxing champion, the late Mario Pontillo, and together, they would put me through my paces to toughen me up. I truly don’t think Wing Chun provides anything that boxing doesn’t. Well, technically in Wing Chun you have kicks, knees, elbows and stuff like that but I view both as beautiful systems and I still practice boxing to this day.
Boxing to me is hand striking perfection. Even MMA guys who claim to have boxing skills, most of the time fall incredibly short when they face a pure boxer. I guess that’s why many MMA fighters go to boxing gyms to better their hands aye?
My very first talk video on YouTube was called “Sport vs Traditional Martial Arts”. In the video I discussed how important a sport like mentality can be when training in traditional martial arts. The video mostly got good praise and as a result, I released a bunch of Youtube and Facebook talk videos discussing various topics, many of which are in relation to sports and traditional martial arts.
Shawn Obasi gave you high praise when he said you are the only Sifu he has gone “all out” with. Can you tell us about this exchange? Why are so many Sifus reluctant to spar or chi sao with people other than their students?
Shawn Obasi is a super cool guy and I am very proud to call him my friend. I don’t think he went all out with me. If he did I’d be a smudge on the floor. But he did go far harder with me than he has with most other instructors because I literally asked him too.
I don’t play that political and polite game. I’m there to train and get better. Having rank means absolutely nothing. I wanted Shawn to push me because to me that is how real martial artists think and act. There are not a lot of real martial artists around these days.
Most people (not all) in Wing Chun just dress up like Yip Man and play Chi Sau. And in most of those Chi Sau meets, if they know someone like Shawn is coming, they play politics and talk their way out of having him really go at them.
I’m not very popular for this opinion but hey, it’s the truth. Shawn said it himself when he spoke of me on youtube. I think most of these “Sifu” are just too afraid to look human in front of their students because it will affect their wallet. If your students think you are this bad ass “Grand Masta” and you’re successful in keeping them in the dark about the truth, the money will keep flowing.
There is a train of thought in Wing Chun circles that Wing Chun is too deadly to spar with. What are your thoughts on this?
I think that is complete hogwash and only spoken by people who have never fought a day in their lives. They claim they have, but we all know the truth. Think about it, how many fights have you had in your life time?
OK fine I had a bunch growing up in the Bronx when I was a little kid, but that all stops when? When we’re in our late teens? So most of us get normal professions that don’t land us in constant street fights. So then there are those who enter some sort of security job or law enforcement.
They don’t fight most of the time, they have backup. Their job is not to fight but to subdue people. So they aren’t using “The Deadly” Wing Chun techniques either. So the excuse is nothing more than that, an excuse. Most of the people in Traditional Martial Arts live off the tales of GrandMaster’s former glory, and most of those glory stories are fictional or greatly exaggerated.
Many years ago, I made this comment about Bruce Lee – “Next thing you know he’ll be walking on water and parting seas.” – My statement isn’t far from the truth.
There are many people using Wing Chun in sparring and they often get accused of not using Wing Chun. To be fair, Wing Chun in sparring does not look like Wing Chun during forms or Chi Sao. Why this discrepancy?
That’s because their accusers have watched too many wing chun movies and think that’s what Wing Chun is suppose to look like in a fight.
These same people think it’s Ip Man instead of Yip Man. Wing Chun is Chinese boxing and its sole purpose is to be efficient and hit hit hit the other guy or girl. Sticking and trapping are just tools to that end. I don’t spar with someone looking to stick or trap. I look to hit them.
However, sticking and trapping comes in to play when they have a good enough defense to stop your strike. Your strike is like a fishing line. You find your angle and toss out the line. Chi Sau training should have taught you what to do from there. To a trained and experienced eye, the Wing Chun can be spotted easily even in the midst of a skirmish.
Recently one of my young fighters competed in a local tournament and used his Wing Chun very effectively. Like me, he grew up with a sports background and knows how to apply what he learns under pressure. He ended the fight with a Wing Chun kick that dropped his opponent who was unable to continue.
Do you see Wing Chun evolving and perhaps losing some of its unique look and identity as sparring becomes more commonplace? Are future Wing Chunners destined to look like boxers and kickboxers?
What doesn’t grow with the times fades. Everything evolves or at least it should. But I must ask, what exactly did Wing Chun look like in a fight before all this? I mean, there’s zero evidence. No one truly knows.
They just take it on faith, like religion. In my opinion, most of the stories are just that, stories and mostly made up. As for what Wing Chun is destined to become, I for one hope this movement of truly testing Wing Chun in competition continues.
Then Wing Chun can become something with real evidence to support it like other systems of martial arts. I think Wing Chun is incredibly effective, but it’s all theory if not applied under pressure. Chi Sau and Gor Sau are just not enough in my opinion. They are great training tools, but one must move to the next level.
You have stated in the past that all Martial Arts do forms and gave the example of shadow Boxing as a form. Is it time for Wing Chun to change its forms to more“flowing” versions such as shadow boxing?
No, I don’t think so. Why change the ABCs? The Wing Chun Forms are a great beginning, middle, and end. I run my forms every day. But, if all you do is forms and dead drills, then don’t expect to be very effective or flowing in a real fight. Then again, not everyone cares about fighting, and that is perfectly fine too. Just be honest with yourself. To advance we must hone the basics and move to the next level. Most never move into the higher levels of pressure and thus continue to be taken out of their element when faced with real pressure.
You have a background in Jeet Kune Do. In your opinion, why did Bruce Lee feel the need to create this system?
Everyone has their own opinions on this topic. To be honest I really don’t care anymore why he did what he did. The man is dead after all. I just appreciate that he did it. One of the stories is he never completed his Wing Chun training and sought out ways to fill the gaps. I tend to lean more towards that story.
Another story is he felt Wing Chun was limiting and decided to create a more streamlined way of fighting.
I think that story is incorrect and here’s why. Why would he continue to ask for instruction from his two main Sihings (elder brothers) and Sifu all the way up until his death, if he thought Wing Chun was ineffective or limiting?
It just doesn’t make any sense. There is far more evidence pointing to the fact that he was an open-minded yet incomplete Wing Chun practitioner who just wanted to get better.
He got better by exploring other systems available to him.
How much Wing Chun can be found in Jeet Kune Do and what are the main differences between the 2 systems?
Well, that depends on which line of JKD you ask. If we compare the concepts and principles of Wing Chun and JKD, you find many similarities. The most obvious one is the hand trapping. But the angles, lines, and vectors of Wing Chun are still there.
What I think Bruce Lee did was what I wish all Wing Chun practitioners would do – test it against other styles.
Bruce Lee evolved into what he became because he was fearless in that respect. What I notice is, Wing Chun people of today who share that fearlessness look like Bruce Lee in their movements. More realistic…. kind of like Boxers and Kick boxers. Hey go figure LOL.
The main differences between the two are the range, tactics, strategies and mindset. JKD employs longer-range kicks, western-style boxing, and fencing attributes. JKD also has very specific plans of attack in the form of the “5 Ways”, which were mostly adapted from Fencing and Wing Chun. Many Wing Chun people for example won’t use feints.
In your opinion, what are the worst (technical) habits amongst Wing Chun practitioners today?
Standing like a statue, chasing hands and no head or body movement are in my opinion the top three. How many times do we have to see a youtube video of a WC’er getting knocked out by a boxer to see this obvious truth?
Then all the intellectuals chime in with excuses like “Well, if there were no rules…..”.
I’ll make more friends with this statement (joking of course) and quote Adam Singer who is a BJJ Blackbelt in Matt Thornton’s SBGi.
“Beat me with no rules? You can’t even beat me WITH rules!” This again emphasizes the need for more live training in Traditional Martial Arts. Only then can youunderstand the level it takes to fight effectively and adjust your training to make your style of choice work. It really is that simple. The hard part is putting in the work.
There has been much discussion on the mechanics of the Wing Chun stance lately. In your opinion, is the traditional adduction stance still valid or is a more relaxed “sitting” stance preferable for modern combat?
The traditional YGKYM stance is still incredibly valid and important but you must remember what you are training. You shouldn’t be training to be an immovable rock.
You should be training your stance to feel and connect with the ground and your partner or opponent. To absorb, redirect and expel force. Stance training is still super important to me, especially after being on the receiving end of individuals with incredible stance control. A “sitting” stance is for basic attribute building. Nothing more, nothing less. Again you have to move to the next step. We didn’t stop at the ABC song. Why stop at basic stance work?
“The Gathering of Sabers” – can you tell us a little bit about it? Is this just for fun or can real Martial Arts concepts be learnt from it? Any Wing Chun Butterfly Swords movements or principles in your light saber play?
OMG you’re going to ask me about this? LOL, OK you asked for it.
The Gathering of Sabers is a light-saber dueling and fight choreography club I started back in Oct of 2015. The traditional martial arts systems involved come from various disciplines, such as Wing Chun’s blade and pole work, Kali, Escrima and Chinese sword work.
For our duels, we wear fencing helmets, protective gloves and pads. The blades are made from polycarbonate, which is the same material used in bulletproof glass.
You can break bone with these blades. I started the club because I have been in love with Star Wars since I was 7 years old. I remember sitting in the theater back in 1977 and seeing Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader’s light-saber duel. I was hooked from that day on.
Star Wars is partially to blame for why I got into weapons training. I decided I wanted to form a club about a year before we launched it, and right now, it’s one of my favorite days of the weeks. We get to play pretend with awesome light-sabers while at the same time, train authentic weapon arts. I love it! Ω
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