I love the randomness that often happens in Amsterdam. It is a city that constantly surprises me. It can be seeing people you know as you walk or cycle around. Or discovering a new Mexican restaurant in the Jordaan that looks really good. Recently, it was a guy tightrope walking over the Prinsengracht! In January, I was cycling near the Leidseplein and I discovered something new that caught my attention. A new Kung Fu school had opened up on the corner of Lijnbaansgracht and Passeerdersgracht. It is called KEI and the style of the Kung Fu is called Wing Chun. I locked my bike up, went inside and became the accidental martial artist.
When I say new, it really is brand new. The whole place has been purpose built to be a martial arts training centre and it opened in January. I was greeted by a smiling face, the Sifu Lai Wing. I know him, but did not know he had opened this place up. His new martial arts centre, Kei Kung Fu, is in a very handy location for me. He is ably assisted by his right hand man and black belt teacher, Sihing Wesdy. I joined on the spot and started training soon after. I try to go at least twice a week, though there are many classes. The lessons are in the evenings which makes it handy and the ones that start at 7 PM means I start straight after work. That is a great way to wind down after work.
I always liked to be learning new things. To push myself outside the comfort zone. Sometimes it takes a random chance for that to happen, as in this case, but I am glad when it does. I take it as a sign. The first benefit of being in training was that I immediately gave up smoking. That had to go. Another physical advantage is learning to have a relaxed body all the time. Because I spend a lot of time in front of a computer, my neck and shoulders are often very stiff. With Wing Chun, you have to relax all the time and drop the shoulders, so I am improving my posture too.
The main benefit for me is learning self defence skills. They teach you how to use your body and your opponent’s energy to your advantage. These are important and useful skills. I have never seen a lot of violence in the streets in Amsterdam, but I have also been punched in the face by a drunk guy during the daytime, so it does happen. There are so many great techniques in Wing Chun to defend yourself and the more you learn the more your self confidence grows. The other side I really like is getting into a very relaxed state of mind. For people with very stressful personal of professional lifestyles, this will be a great benefit.
So, I am very happy to be in regular training. It was more by accident than by design. In order to get more insights, I gave Sifu Lai Wing some questions and he kindly took time out from his busy schedule to answer them:
Q1. Sifu, where did you learn Wing Chun ? Please give us more detail about your martial arts journey.
I started doing karate when I was 12, because I was too weak and small for my age. At that time I did not like it because it did not suit me. Around my 14th birthday, my friend introduced me to my teacher Sifu Sergio, who was 17 at that time. I was fascinated by the simplicity of Wing Chun and have been doing that for the past 28 years. For me efficiency and logic is very important to me. Also with Wing Chun, like many other martial arts, there are so many good and wrong teachings teachings nowadays. After all those years, it is still interesting to see how my Wing Chun changes and develops through experience and new gained knowledge.
Teaching was probably the biggest eye opener for me as a martial artist. A journey as a teacher is in my opinion more challenging then a practitioner. As a teacher you need to constantly develop your teaching skills that suite your student best. My way or method might not suite a student, so you need to find a better way to teach. So this helps me understand the art better myself.
Q2. What benefits does Wing Chun give to adults ?
Many modern illnesses, such as stress, headaches are caused by our own actions, but people don’t really realise that. People in the past had a lot more knowledge and body awareness. So we just bring that knowledge back to people. As an Academy we don’t want to just teach people how to kick and punch. We want to teach awareness that is powered by kung fu! Through that, all the benefits such as: confidence, body mind awareness, focus and stress reduction will come naturally.
Q3. I can feel the physical benefits of the training. What are the other benefits for adults?
As I said, we focus a lot on body awareness and want that awareness to be strengthened. You as a person will be more aware of your own little mistakes that causes discomfort in your body and improve and change that bit by bit. For example, improved breathing can reduce stress and help the body to eliminate waste.
Q4. Children can train from the age of 4 up until 11 years. What changes have you observed in children as they train Kung Fu ?
The past few years we have experienced an increase of mental and physical abuse of young kids. Social pressure through social media and bullying becomes a big problem now. Our programs are adjusted to particular age groups with focus on specific “life skills”. Life skills are important qualities that kids need to develop to understand their own value and to increase their self esteem. Bullies never pick on confident people.
We have 3 classes for kids based on age : Kungfu monkeys (4-5), Kungfu cranes (6-8) and Kungfu tigers (9-11)
They learn different skills and benefits at different ages, but to summarise it includes:
Balance, coordination and strength. Concentration and thinking skills. Confidence and self-esteem. Better discipline at home and school. Agility. Courage. Perseverance. Comprehensive self-defence
Q5. As well as Kung Fu, there is a Qigong class. Can you tell us more about that please?
It amazes us how many people ignores the signals that their body is sending to them. As a result of that, people have more problems and pain. We’ve created this program because we personally have benefited so much from this practice. It creates so much body awareness so you can help and heal your body in a natural way.
Qigong combines body movements, muscle relaxation, meditation, and breathing to improve physical, mental, and emotional health. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, disturbed or blocked flow of energy (Qi) can produce discomfort and illness within an individual. Free flow of qi is therefore, associated with better health. Studies have shown that qigong practice can have many positive effects. Benefits include: improved lung function, mood, sleep, quality of life, as well as reduced stress, pain, anxiety and fatigue. It is also beneficial for overall health maintenance, particularly in older adults.
Thank you Sifu Lai-Wing for all these great insights.
So there you have it. I happened across a new school for martial arts and I went in and then I joined. Now I am loving my sessions training, learning new skills and meeting lots of new friends. Maybe it is time you tried something new too ? Come on over, it’s great!
You can see the Kei Kung Fu website here
You can call to ask questions or plan a visit: 020 233 51 37 or email: email@example.com
The address is : Lijnbaansgracht 215, 1016 XJ Amsterdam