Let's Get Wing Chun Out Of The Garage
By: Armando Sainz
Perhaps we should take a good look at how martial arts are taught today and the different mentalities involved. Maybe we should question not our methods of Wing Chun, but our motivations for teaching this great fighting system. There are several questions that come to mind when I think about how excellent Wing Chun is as a fighting system and yet here in the United States, we are few in number. If we were to compare to Tae Kwon Do schools we are last place. They have really nice schools that are not only beautiful to look at, but also safe to train in. Why is that? I know what you are thinking already. Tae Kwon Do schools are nothing more than McDojo's that only exist to make the owner of the school rich. Don't worry, I think that is true in many cases but not all. There are several reputable schools out there that have the complete package. Great martial arts and a great business for the owner. I believe the McDojo's are the extreme and we should not throw out the baby with the bath water.
What if Wing Chun were to become as popular as Tae Kwon Do in the U.S. without "selling out". Is it possible to run a very successful Wing Chun school that not only makes the owner really good money; but also produces above average, highly skilled fighters? Hasn't our mentality been... ‘you can't teach wing chun in a beautiful school with 50, 75, 100 or 200 students without somehow sacrificing quality.'? We all know famous masters who still teach out of a garage with only 6 or 8 students with this way of thinking. Of course they have to keep a day job to survive and there's nothing wrong with that. I believe many of us suffer from a mentality that has either been passed on to us, or we just assumed that this is the way it's done because after all, Master Dun Ol Way does it that way.
I used to think that if my Wing Chun was really good, I mean if I practiced so that no one in my city could come close to my skill, that people would just be busting my door down to learn from me. I wanted to at least achieve what my Sifu did in his school. The truth is I really wanted to exeed his numbers in the way of students. He didn't hold back. He taught me with utmost care. Surely many people would just show up. I could not have been more mistaken. I was actually surprised that I didn't have large numbers even though I saw other Wing Chun masters working out of ugly and sometimes dangerous looking buildings with only a hand full of students. No they didn't come. In fact if it were not for the few "hard core fighter types" that darkened my door I would not have any students at all. I found out I was really good at running people off. Of course I would justify it by saying that they were not worthy any way. Not worthy to learn from a master like me who possessed this level of skill. Why this skill was only for the few who I could pass it on to. I could pass on my Wing Chun to my worthy students and the rest could go take a hike. Yea!!! Now I'm poor!
My friends, I discovered that I had the Wing Chun Poverty Mentality. I don't quite know where it came from. Maybe it came from our Chinese fathers who operated out of the backs of restaurants and in homes. I don't know and I don't care any more. I made a decision that totally changed my school and made it not only an awesome place to learn hard core Wing Chun, but also a growing business with a high number of students.
I decided that I would have a new attitude and a new mentality about teaching. The first thing was to get rid of that old "poverty mentality" I didn't teach some mish mosh kung fu. I taught the best martial art in the world. A martial art worthy of kings and anyone in need of self-defense. I began to develop the "luxury mentality". After all Wing Chun is the Cadillac of martial arts. It has all the buttons and gadgets anyone needs in a martial art. But wait a minute, I bet you're thinking that I have some kind of big head or something. No. The opposite is true. I decided that I would become a servant of sorts. That's right. I would serve my students and help them achieve their martial arts goals. How did they hear about me? Well, an ingenious idea I found. I advertise on the internet with a very nice, well thought out website. No, advertising is not selling out! It's getting the word out that you have something good you want to show others. It's how we let people know about us and of course word of mouth is always good.
So now my mentality is this... I provide a beautiful, very Feng Shui kind of school for my students. I mean we have a real store-bought, CUSTOM-built Muk Jong. The walls and doors are painted Asian style and the floor is finished and flat. The dressing room and bathroom actually work and they are clean and sanitary. I have a desk, beautiful Asian decor on the walls and lovely furniture. We have a systematic approach to getting people in the door, interviewing them to find out their goals and sign them up in a very professional way. Most importantly we use a billing company that keeps track of membership for me.
The way I teach is this. I look for someone to help reach the goals they set. I am not looking for the so called "worthy student". I have found that this way I have their utmost respect and loyalty. Not only that, they want to stick around and learn more. And the highly sought-after, worthy student? I have them too and they get special training because of their commitment to high level quality. I even have inner-core students who I thought would never make it but stuck it out and now have become very proficient, excellent fighters. What if I would have run them off early on?
Imagine large Wing Chun schools in the United States that are the most beautiful places to train and contain the best martial artists in the world. I suggest we do away with the old poverty mentality ways if they bring us down. That old poverty mentality that would keep us in garages, poor and unknown. That old mentality that says Wing Chun and good business can never mix. I say it can be done because we do it every day. If I'm not mistaken, our school is one of the nicest and largest Wing Chun schools in the South East and the Wing Chun is high level, intact and undiluted. My Sifu and Si-Gung are pleased with our success and they quietly keep an eye on our success with familial pride. Now we have students who are happy to do it the "New Improved old way" if you will. And they have high level skills.
I would like to see teachers who want to train people for a living to believe that it is a possibility to have the best of both worlds and no longer think they are wrong for wanting a nice school with nice things in it. If Wing Chun is the Cadillac of martial arts, lets begin to put on that mentality. Let's begin to recognize who we are in the world. We are the best. If there was a better way we would employ it, right? Well there it is. It's the more balanced approach to running a Wing Chun school. Let us trust we can overcome this poor man mentallity and and act like we have something really good and well-balanced to offer people interested in self-defense.
Armando Sainz has been involved in martial arts since 1979. His school is highly recognized in the industry as being one of the top Wing Chun schools in the country.
Armando is also owner of Sainz Personal Defense Systems. A company dedicated to helping others stay safer through the use of self-defense products http://www.sainzpds.com/ and surveillance equipment. http://www.sainz-pds.com/