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?
Sifu William T. Graves, 57 years old, married 37 years.
I began Wing Chun in Sanford Florida under Sifu Karl Godwin. I started in 1981, my wife and I were looking for something to do together and this seemed like a good idea. 36 years later I have taught hundreds of students with 6 Sifu’s who have their own schools and a school in Switzerland.
I have many private students as well as travel to each of my students schools and give anual seminars and private lessons to the students there.
2. What are the most common mistakes, or assumptions, you’ve encountered during your years of teaching?
People are very impatient. People believe the martial arts are easy, and can be learned quickly. When approached by a new prospective student I’ve noticed the ones who come in with big plans and speak of big expectations usually are the first to leave. It’s always the quite ones who stay the course.
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?
Always to develope good basic skill. Learning a proper foundation for your art is key. For my people, I focuse on a strong, internalized structure. Once structure is aquired, most of our practice is about sensitivity, conditioning and mapping proven, basic wing chun efforts thru repititious drill work and sensitivity excercises.
Movies arer fine, I find local events, such as murder, robberies and violence in the news has just as big of an impact on driving people towards self-defense.
4. How can Wing Chun be used in an educational, non martial arts setting?
Sifu Adam Willis of The Dragon Insitute in Dana Point, California, one of my senior students, uses Sil Lim Tao form as a vessel to help the addicted and troubled people found in State directives like rehab. I trach Wing Chung concepts to be applied in everyday life. Most apply it in every day to day situations.
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?
In Wing Chun I’ve seen more bad than good. I’ve been able to touch hands with many here in the U.S. and in Europe, only to find my earlier statement to be true. My wing chun is Internal. When I tell practitioners from other lines, they argue with me and tell me that’s not true, until they touch my hands.
One of the first things every one of them ask is….How can you do that to me? Another thing I hear is……you feel like a wall, I can’t do anything to you. And I will touch hands with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
6. What direction do you see Wing Chun or martial arts, as a whole, heading in?
Martial arts will always be there in some form or another. Wing Chun on the other hand is on an unclear path. Hopefully, there will be the tride and true, good instructors that will still be around to teach the correct way of wing chunand not succumb to the watering down tendencies of people in the U.S.
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?
Advice is simple…………….
You get out of it what you put into it
Practice, Practice, Practice, Train hard, Train often
Who should you fear…….the man who practiced a thousand kicks one time. Or the man who practiced one kick a thousand times?
Sifu William T, Graves
The System Wing Chung Gung Fu