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?
Hi I’m Sifu Justin Och and I am proud to be the southeastern USA regional director of the World Wing Chun Athletic Association and I am certified under four different Ip Man Lineages.
I have attained my Sifu level three times under different masters and have trained with instructors in 12 different countries, I have been very fortunate that life has provided so much to me.
I had first started training in Kenpo Karate, Shotokan and Taekwondo, receiving my black belt.
As I progressed through college I had a want and need for a more realistic approach to self defense and personal protection against any size attacker.
This was before the websites and the internet got huge so finding a school was all based on the yellow pages.
I finally found the right place and first started training in Wing Chun Kung Fu back in 1999 with Grandmaster Swift and was eventually certified and tested to his highest level at that time Black and Gold Sash, which hadn’t been done but once before.
Over the years the school grew from a hand full to a solid group, though it was almost always like taking semi private classes.
As I was certified to the final test, I also started training with Master Nelson Rios under the Moy Yat system to get another perspective of what Ip Man had wanted passed on, I eventually was tested and certified as a black and gold sash under the Moy Yat system as well.
We now are the Southeastern HUB for the World Wing Chun Athletic Association whose goal is to bring legitimate wing chun practitioners together to expand the effectiveness of our skills in an age where chinese martial arts is seen as a fading style in the recent rise of MMA.
2. What are the most common mistakes, or assumptions, you’ve encountered during your years of teaching?
Dropping the hands, losing structure or bringing the feet too close together, and not enough realistic practice.
Many people assume they are good because their ego or teacher told them they are, we ALL have room to grow and that growth is what makes us better to every person our life uplifts.
3. Movies such as “Yip Man”, “The Grandmaster” and such are 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?
Consistent practice, everyone wants to be Ip Man or Bruce Lee overnight, remember if you want real skill you need to train under a real teacher and give them your all.
4. How can Wing Chun be used in an educational, non martial arts setting?
Personal awareness comes to mind, being aware of your surroundings is a martial arts embodiment, but this can also help you enjoy and take in all that life has around you by being personally aware of all of the good life has around.
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?
Let’s talk about the good first, you can access the thoughts and ideas of literally 100’s to 1000’s of techniques and skill sets, whether they are good skills and techniques or not.
You still have more at your finger tips now more than ever.
This evolution of video and ideas can uplift the practitioner but it also brings in people that are online warriors, that come into the studio telling us they have trained for years in Wing Chun, only to find out they don’t have any of the skills beyond doing forms they watched online, and their wing chun reaction and combinations were not honed by a skilled Instructor so now they have a claim that they do Wing Chun but they don’t have the skills or practical concepts of the art.
This can hurt the art, because we have seen far to often someone put their Wing Chun hands up in a stance and then get takedown or beaten quickly only to have people doubt and debate the effectiveness of the system, pointing out videos where people hold up their hands and chain punch forward.
My hope is that as time goes on we STOP the lineage and political wars and come together as Ip Man lineage students.
6. What direction do you see Wing Chun or martial arts, as a whole, heading in?
Two directions to start, those that can’t and those that can, and the ones that can need to pass on the information to the next generation.
We have too many people out there that can’t but sell people on the idea that they can give you the “real thing”.
Third and last, forgetting differences and moving forward together to uplift this art is key.
Talking poorly about another Wing Chun school still makes Wing Chun look bad, we need to come together. we need to uplift this art.
Because in 100 years the negativity and debates are invalid.
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?
Instructors shouldn’t be made overnight, that doesn’t take dedication or skill.
What you should worry about is finding the best instructor who is going to push and uplift your skills and then NEVER QUIT. NEVER STOP. NEVER QUIT.