1. As a quick intro, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your school? When, where, how and why did you start practicing?
My name is Andy DiGuiseppi, I run the Connecticut Wing Chun School of Kung Fu. I run weekly courses in 3 locations through out Connecticut.
I started practicing Wing Chun at aged 19, in September of 1999. My first Wing Chun Sifu was the late Kevin Becker., his school was in the Danbury, Brookfield area of Connecticut. I started with him in his very first classroom as a full Instructor level Sifu under his master, Sifu Chung Kwok Chow.
I studied with Sifu Chow after I received my instructorship through Sifu Becker. I was fortunate that he would take me on as a student and provide a very wonderful bridge between American and Chinese culture. I found Wing Chun out of pure chance.
Some of my friends from college invited me and so I decided to try it out. I had always wanted to learn something like this from when I was a young child, I knew I had a warrior that wanted to come out.
As soon as I saw Sifu Becker in action and got to see his Wing Chun in real life, my mind was blown away, it was as if my spirit opened, and I knew instantly that I needed this. That I had finally arrived… sounds cliche, but it’s how it happened.
I decided that I wanted to know how to do what he did. So I’ve never missed a week or a class since. Now I’m instructing new recruits of my own, and enjoying the exchange of knowledge they all provide me with.
2. What are the most common mistakes, or assumptions, you’ve encountered during your years of teaching?
Mistakes. a lot of people are really stiff. They need to relax, they need to cycle a long breath and then let gravity do it’s thing.
This is the best part of good Wing Chun. Also a lot of students and masters all over, float around on their toes, and stand up too tall.
I remember when I couldn’t understand how to beat my Sifu’s power. Ever. Until I realized he was drawing force and strength from his stances.
So I always suggest that people work their legs harder, so that you can draw more power from them.
3. Movies such as “Yip Man”, “The Grandmaster” and such and probably one of the reasons many people start to practice at some point. Since reality is mostly not matching most of these movie scenes, what are some key aspects a beginning martial artist should focus on?
Those movies are a wonderful catalyst to get people inspired about the Wing Chun style. There can be an emotional roller coaster watching these stories unfold. Most of the recent films have done a great job showcasing a good quality version of the art in action.
The philosophy and culture are also very well represented in these films. I say that new students should enjoy them whole heartedly, and look to see if they can understand what moves the actors are using.
To see if they can intelligently take their wing chun understand to decipher what they are using. Whether its good or bad, fake or real.
Anytime you see a guy float through the air, you know it’s just fantasy. The wire work in many of the older films are not my favorite, I prefer the gritty, realistic style, like seen in the first Ip man movie with Donnie Yen.
4. How can Wing Chun be used in an educational, non martial arts setting?
Wing Chun is a philosophy of self, and a study of the existence. From the combat understanding and body mechanics, we can become our own personal trainers and use the fitness knowledge to keep our bodies strong and healthy.
To take the philosophy to everyday life is easy. When you want to learn something, just study it intensely, like anyone of the repeat drills in the system. if you want to have a calm and confident conversation with a superior, just address them with respect and get right to the point.
Breathing to a relaxed heart rate and calm demeanor can be advantageous in and outside of the ring.
There are so many ways to bring the Wing Chun training into your daily life. But by far the practice of self discipline and improvement are the highest gifts the system can bring over to the regular life routine.
5. The internet has completely changed our lives over the past 10-15 years. We now have access to lots of information (both good & bad) and connections like never before. How do you feel about this evolution and it’s impact on Wing Chun?
Fortunately the internet has given us all a wonderful library to draw variety and understanding from. I for see a lot of lost footage from seminars and private collections coming out to the world stage, and helping us all even further to improve our wing chun and continue to evolve and advance the system.
But I know that there will also be countless more half-skilled masters coming up and telling the world how they should be doing their wing chun, and why their method is the best of the best. If you’ve been around and watched a lot of videos, you’ll be able to sort through the nonsense.
I can’t wait to see what else is yet to be shared and revealed. Still holding out for some long lost footage of old generation masters just doing their training.
6. What direction do you see Wing Chun or martial arts, as a whole, heading in?
The art will for sure get greater exposure, and continue to blossom. It’s normal that students who reach instructor level will take on students of their own.
I fear that if an instructor leaves the school before he completes the full course, he or she may be passing on incomplete knowledge, and cause a major watering down of the system.
This has been happening for decades. So it’s on us, who are looking for the best skills and knowledge, to continuously look to unlock the system and spread only the best version we possibly can.
7. To end this interview in style, what is the best wing chun or martial arts advice you have personally ever received and what is the best advice you would give to our readers?
The best advice I ever got was from my favorite training partner, my wife Sandra. That advice was to always strive for your absolute best. If you do your best, it’s just a matter of time before opportunities will open up, and your skill and enlightenment will raise to the next level.
Trying to improve with a whole heart and earnest dedication will surely unlock doors. The real secret to getting good is to never stop your training.
If you can’t make it to your local training group, train at home, find friends who might be interested and share with them. The practice itself is the journey. So you simply must keep working and never tire. This is the real meaning of Gung Fu is it not? Skill learned through hard work.