Sunday, 1 December 2013

History of Wen Hsiu Quan

The Founder at his happiest- training!


This blog was probably supposed to start with a post about the history of what is my very own fighting style.
Fact is, though- I actually thought about doing it now. I have only realised now that the process of learning, training and modifying which felt up to this point to have been so recent and so fast actually happened over more than a decade now...

It is also because I realised that I have not yet really had the chance to teach this art to anyone yet. Right now I am actually worried that this art- this system of techniques, tactics and beliefs will follow me to the grave. On the one hand I can leave as much as I can on this blog, but what I'd really appreciate is the opportunity to see the art itself blossom and grow within someone right here with me.

One of the main reasons why Wen Hsiu Quan got developed is simply that it suited me- as a person. In karate students are known to have their "tokuiwaza" (favourite techniques) and in essence- Wen Hsiu Quan is a collection of my favourite techniques. 

Does that mean that it is limited? Well- yes and no. It is capable of adapting to any kind of fight, to attack in any direction and to defend from any position, but it does have a limit to the techniques employed. The reason why I actually chose it to be like this is that a combatant needs a quick, efficient response that comes to meet the situation at hand without thinking. Having too many options to choose from makes that difficult and in some split-second instances- impossible. 

Efficiency aside- I do like katas and I do like high kicks. That's why I have them. I know Bruce Lee removed forms and I understand why. But- unlike many MMA practicioners you see nowadays- I do want to spend time on stretching, flexibility and technique. These things- after all- are what give the Wen Hsiu Quan student an advantage over the brawler who tries to deal him physical harm.

Being able to fight does not make you a martial artist...

  Chapter 1: The kid with his nose in the books

Ever since I can remember a family tradition which was maintained throughout my childhood was the fortnightly trip to the town library. That gave me access to a source of knowledge and entertainment that rivalled television.A couple of years later I would of course actually go to the trouble of buying music and playing video games, but before all that- I had books. 

I can tell you now that I have not always read about martial arts. I actually had a huge love for science and a large number of the tomes I have perused in my preteen and early teen years were on subjects ranging from Astronomy, Physics and Chemistry (Mention should be made that I had a huge interest in robots at the age of 11...).

Now in these years I have found books on karate and judo. Having been really lazy to read and only copying the pictures I have actually thought that I now possessed what was necessary to defend myself- knowledge of a fighting art! Disappointment soon followed, however, when this knowledge did not prove to be enough in the informal sparring sessions I had at home with my father or with my friends at school. Still- instead of giving up I have decided to actually READ the books next time...

The first technique I can remember learning and executing with success was an outer leg throw from a book on Judo. Being 13 at the time I had a favourite book on Judo which I have borrowed from the library more than once. Although it was not able to teach me how to send somebody flying with a flick of the wrist I did find that it was simple and effective in its own way. A definite milestone on my road was the day an older, larger boy dragged me around the schoolyard and after having timed his force and momentum just right I yielded with the last tug he gave my wrist and rushed past him, grabbed his arm and hooked his leg from under him. I still smile when I remember him spitting out dirt in disbelief...

Other books followed of course. Books on karate, kung fu and even a book on boxing... I loved Judo, but nowhere in any of the towns in South Africa where I have lived have I ever come across a school that teaches it. Karate, though, that was another story...

Chapter 2: Karate Class

I was 14 years old when my parents finally agreed to enrol me into a karate club. The dojo was in a huge gym hall at the Mogol Sports Club in Ellisras where we lived at the time. This was where I was to learn my first style of karate from an actual Sensei, Sensei Piet Oosthuyzen.

The first technique I have practiced in that class was age uke, the basic rising block. As a white belt I was very quickly taught a large part of the basics- large enough for me to be able to participate in kumite (sparring) practice at the same level.

The style was Shukokai. Compared to the Shotokan I was to practice later in my teens this was a simple, no-nonsense style which was as combat ready as I have ever experienced. I quickly soaked up the technique and underlying principles like a sponge and the only thing difficult about the gradings ended up being the toughness of the kumite tests. I was always fairly timid by nature and forced myself to assume the tough attitude needed to get through kumite sessions. Despite this disadvantage I left that style having obtained my purple belt.

During this time with Shukokai I have kept on reading and researching whenever I had the chance. I also practiced religiously at home when I was not at school or the dojo. One of the things I had sent my pocket money was a monthly magazine called the Taekwondo Times. I was 16 when I found the article on Zen Meditation in one of the issues I had bought. This changed my life.

I made a point of incorporating meditation, and later also qigong into my training regimen although it was not taught by my sensei. At this time I have also learnt the basics of Taekwondo and found that its techniques, as well as that of Judo, fit seemlessly into my style at the time and devised attacks and defenses incorporating what I have learnt. The benefits of meditation and the Zen mind I had cultivated proved to be of immense value during practice at the dojo- especially during kumite practice. I actually started winning some fights for a change...

In High School, having been known as a timid boy often subjected to bullying (at one point I actually felt that karate was pointless as it id not solve this problem), my new mind actually enabled me to intimidate would-be attackers at school. Where I had spent the years of 14 and 15 in fear, I was actually a lot more confident and at peace with myself at 16. Still- I will admit that hitting hard was not a priority for me and I concentrated on developing quick reflexes and an impenetrable defense.

Just before I turned 17 my family moved to Nelspruit. It did not take long at all to find a new karate school. This time around there was no Shukokai club to be found. It was time to start learning a new style, which was the dominant style in the area at the time- Shotokan. The main source of Shotokan karate is the Japanese Karate Association and the dojo at which I have studied was a JKA dojo. The allowed me to keep my belt rank that I got from my previous style and in this style I proceeded to 1st kyu brown belt.
Although I vowed to fully embrace the new style a large part of its techniques I did not agree with and took to practicing more favorable techniques at home. One of the most prominent of these deviations was replacing the stiff and uncomfortable blocking of karate with the fluid sticking hands of Wing Chun Quan kung fu.

By this time I have concluded that my ideal martial art would have striking, kicking and grappling techniques. I was not happy with the cultivated habit of relying on only feet and fists that got cultivated by competition practice and made an effort to incorporate techniques like knife hand and palm thrust into my private training. I also loved weapon practice and my first nunchuck was a prized possession.

By now I have also learnt what I could of Aikido and Ju Jitsu and incorporated these techniques into the style which was still in formation. Fact is- these techniques are not so foreign to Shotokan karate, but are not seen much as they are not allowed in competition. Determined to experience what it would feel like to employ these forbidden techniques as a second nature when they were needed I continued my training.

Just after I had finished school I happened to get attacked at a social event in Ngodwana. My inability to use any of the techniques I had learnt was the last straw. I found myself forcing me to use the techniques taught by my school while the situation definitely called for something else. At the time I had no idea how I was going to fix the mess, but soon afterward I had left Shotokan.

Chapter 3: Zanshindo- The Way of Calm Awareness   

It is the year 2000 when I came up with the name for my personal style with its fluid movements and its focus on what is required by the situation and not by the style. By now I have left the last formal dojo at which I have studied and pre-set katas now made room for a new form of kata practice...

I actually began visualising myself being attacked, sometimes by one, often by more than one opponent. Incorporating Musashi Miyamoto's guidelines for dealing with multiple assailants and the techniques with which I came up I soon developed quick responses. Sparring sessions a year later showed that this way of practice was quite effective.

The Zanshindo practicioner has no will of his own in battle. He is one with his entire situation and his techniques come automatically to meet the attacks of his opponent. It felt perfect up to a point, but I was to discover a fatal flaw in my training...

Chapter 4: Internal Strength       

Chen Yu Chi

On 12 November 2001 I have finished my exams for the year. I was busy studying for my Law degree and worked at a Chinese Restaurant to cover the little expenses I had as a student. By now I was satisfied with Zanshindo and did not further research. I just practiced religiously. It was at my job at this restaurant where a Taiwanese girl called Wang Xing Yin visited and gave me the name: "Wen Hsiu". This name is often the only name by which Chinese people in my hometown know me...

It was on this day, about a year after I got my Chinese name, that I have met Chen Yu Chi, a lovely young Taiwanese who came to visit my boss and her family. We quickly became friends and she did not talk much about it, but apparently had training in Wushu. Being of much smaller build than myself, and looking really delicate, I was not prepared for what I was about to discover...

It was during a quiet day in the restaurant when we spoke about self defence. I wanted to demonstrate a simple technique for escaping a wrist hold and turning it against the opponent when I asked her to grab my wrist. Her grip was tight and secure and her wrist was almost impossible to turn for the escape to work. And she did not even seem to be trying!

In another demonstration she blocked my punch by thrusting her palm straight into my fist. Talk about "Iron Palm"... I soon found myself caught in a wrist lock. Yu Chi's friend Wei Jie Yu studied Taiji and Judo. The ease with which she could push me off my feet was amazing.

These encounters revealed a gap in my fighting art that needed to be filled: I needed Internal Force to be cultivated in my techniques.

Chapter 5: Wen Hsiu Quan- My style of Kung Fu

By 2002 I have learnt enough of Shaolin Qigong and Force Training to understand how one develops the power to break bones and subdue and opponent with a single wrist hold. By this time I have also developed a strong affection for the Chinese martial arts. Now Zanshindo's Japanese name no longer suited me. I chose to name it Wen Hsiu Quan- literally "Wen Hsiu's Fist".

The one thing which sets this style apart from others is that it suits me. It was designed by myself for myself.

When Bruce Lee created Jeet Kune Do he abandoned forms and intricate rituals to focus on what was absolutely essential for an effective way of fighting. That was Bruce Lee- not me. I admit that I have studied his Tao of Jeet Kune Do religiously and for a long time adopted the techniques taught by him at the cost of my own, but in the end I felt that I was not meant to copy a master who had created his own system by following his own way. Bruce Lee's way was born from a strong Chinese martial influence which came from the Taijiquan he had learnt from his father and the Wing Chun Quan he had learnt from Ip Man. With this foundation he later went on to explore other styles and found his way.

I, however, started with Judo and Karate. I came to realise that, although I have learnt many techniques and methods- my heart and body is that of a karateka. Whether it is Zanshindo or Wenhsiuquan, a style of Kung Fu or a style of Karate or maybe just a new version of the MMA movement that is now here to stay does not matter at all.

The important thing is- It works.

I know I have left a lot unsaid in this blog. That is the idea. Anyone who wishes to learn can contact me by email at

My contact number is +2784 799 7030.   

Friday, 22 November 2013

I just had to say something

I have enjoyed Black Belt TV's Move of the Day inserts since the channel came to South Africa. The inserts show some martial arts movie legends demonstrating the most basic of moves. This is actually a nice way of interacting with the viewers to get them interested in martial arts.

The back fist demonstration, however, was not on. I recognised the type of back fist as the one I used to perform when doing the Shotokan kata, Tekki Shodan. Let's just say that I have found no use for that technique in actual combat and when I began developing my own style- that technique was gone before even the first unwanted techniques got thrown out. If I could re-write that kata- I would have put a descending hammer fist there!

In the video I demonstrate and discuss the proper technique when performing the back fist strike. I have left out some of my favorite methods to perform the strike and used only the most common and basic examples. If you want to know more about the versatility of this technique you are welcome to email me at Believe me- it has a bit more uses than just being an uraken to the head...


Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Roundhouse Kick

Depending on which style you practice or which technique you prefer- this kick could either be your weakest or your strongest kick.

This video is especially a must-see for any karateka who wants to test himself in the MMA arena.

Feel free to comment or to email me at

My Kusarifundo

I'll admit that I don't practice with this weapon much.

Recently I decided to make the chain longer for extra reach.

For those who do not know this weapon it is a chain with an iron weight at each end. The weights are flung at the opponent to stun him/her while the chain itself is used to ensnare or as a garrot.

This particular weapon is associated with Ninjutsu, but Chinese martial arts have similar weapons using blades or weights at the end of ropes or chains.

As you can see from the video I have some trouble controlling this weapon. If anyone has a better video to post- you can email it to me at

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Running and jumping

Most of us who have actually joined a dojo for martial arts like karate or judo know that running does not feature as one of the techniques taught.

Fact is, however, that the running technique worth mentioning is not taught- it is developed.

In an age where martial arts were actually used in warfare and not just as a sport- exponents of some known martial arts relied not only on attacks, but also on ways to move oneself as efficiently as possible by climbing, running and jumping.

Shaolin has a known skill called "Running on Grass". The translation from Chinese makes very little sense to me, but it's supposed to mean that the exponent can run really fast...

A known technique which most of you will probably have heard about a couple of years too late is the straw hat- sprints used by the Ninja. Young students from the age of about 8 and up are given a straw hat. they are then made to run fast enough, without holding the hat in their hands, for the hat to be pressed against their chests by mere air resistance.

Korean soldiers of old trained themselves to run up walls- a skill not seen taught that often today.

As for jumping- records of Chinese martial arts show that flying kicks were used to dismount horsemen.
The jumping techniques of Chinese martial arts rely on Qigong- and inevitably internal strength, but a more mundane approach would involve having weights strapped to the body and limbs while jumping during training.

This post is rather short- as these techniques are not my field of expertise. Other martial artists who read this blog, however, are welcome to submit their contributions hereto at


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Awesome Workout!

Finally! I got ankle weights, wrist weights and power bands.

This is THE way to train for karate or kickboxing! If you have been practicing martial arts for at least a year I am sure you don't need a DVD to tell you how to execute your techniques. With the resisitance from these training aids your workout should be a lot more fun!  

Monday, 23 September 2013

These bands are still awesome!

I have combined the PT247 with ankle weights and wrist weights to give me a great workout.

Following the example of Goku and Rock Lee, I can testify that this workout works wonders!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

A Martial Artist's analysis of the All Blacks

Rugby is definitely close enough to a fighting sport as it is. It is a tough contact sport that requires physical strength as well as psychological toughness.

The most successful team in this sport is undoubtedly the All Blacks. No doubt that the warrior spirit displayed by the Haka plays a crucial part in their success. Their passion and skill are world renowned and they are known as a force to be reckoned with throughout the rugby community.

I have stated in an earlier post that the martial arts are comprised of 3 elements- power, technique and tactics. This post briefly evaluates the All Blacks in these 3 respects.

1. Power:

Whether it is the front row taking and dishing out punishment in the scrums and the rucks or Dagg that can kick a ball hard enough to drop a sturdy built front row player to his knees- the All Blacks have shown us that their players have all the physical strength they need.

Being elbowed in the face, stepped on and knocked really hard during tackles serve to reveal another strength, though. This team is psychologically tough. Often involved in the most physical matches the sport has to offer they have shown that no amount of punishment can deter them from reaching their goal.

2. Technique:

This is one area that sets the All Blacks apart from most teams. These players don't just play the game, but seek to perfect it in every kick, every pass and every maneuver they carry out. Having displayed the ability to accurately kick a ball into bins placed a distance away, to kick a ball through a basketball hoop or passing with enough accuracy over long distances to knock selected water bottles from a table (sometimes without even looking in the direction of the throw!) the All Blacks serve to demonstrate time and time again how valuable these techniques are and why they should be developed and perfected.

3. Tactics

When these guys have their backs against the wall, seeming just about to buckle under the pressure of the opposing team's onslaught they suddenly conjure up the most amazing plays to be found in rugby. This, however, is not just luck and it is definitely not magic. What it is, however, is the ability to not only devise the most surprising of strategies, but also to execute them with seemingly the greatest of ease.


I'm not certain whether it is correct to say that the warrior ways of the Maori have found its way onto the rugby field, but just as mastery of any or all of the above elements have delivered martial artists who keep us in awe with their apparent superhuman abilities, these guys show us these principles in action whenever they are on the field.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Knockout blows

Having researched knockout techniques I have found that apart from the holds and grabs that constrict major arteries to the brain, the type of blow most likely to cause a knockout is a sharp, explosive blow of which the force is channeled into the opponent's body, causing sudden trauma to the brain or heart.

To develop such a blow takes the right kind of practice. It already takes a lot of concentration to execute such a technique from a grounded position, like one would do during form practice. So- it will take even more practice and clarity of mind to execute such a technique in a real fight.

To give you an idea of the blow you are looking for, take a bucket of water. Then punch into the water with the intent to have as much of that water splash out with one blow.

Keep punching until the bucket is almost empty. :)

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Billy Blanks is a genius!

My mother recently gave me these rubber bands with gloves and straps in a box with a DVD, a nutrition guide and an exercise program. Having enough exercise equipment and an exercise program that utilises the limited time I put aside for it I did not expect much from this gift to be honest.

Having watched the first DVD I strapped on the bands- out of curiosity- and I can say that I was pleasantly surprised! One of the first positive changes I have noticed was that I was able to pick my side kick up properly and keep it all together in a way that would have made my first sensei proud. :) Another positive change was that I realised that it was not age that has slowed me down, but a bunch of bad habits in posture that I have developed since I had left the dojo. These bands recitified it all and made me feel 18 again!

Billy Blanks, creator of Taebo, came up with these bands as a training method to tone and strengthen muscles while enhancing the Taebo routine. The resistance provided as well as the tension that is necessary to be maintained throughout the workout forces the body to use proper technique and posture.

I strongly recommend this training method to any person who is not a martial artist, but especially to martial artists as it is an excellent way to cultivate proper technique.

Thank you Billy Blanks!!! :)


Sunday, 31 March 2013

Projectile weapons

Projectile weapons may include weapons such as bows and slingshots, but this article focusses mainly on sharp weapons which are thrown by hand.

To outline the differences in technique I will differentiate between straight projectile weapons, which include the Chinese throwing knife, needles, quills, the Japanese kunai and the bo shuriken on the one hand- and on the other- spinning weapons, which mainly consist of the Japanese shaken or throwing star, but it van also include playing cards and coins.

Straight throwing weapons:

Incidentally, many of these weapons make good stabbing weapons as well. Because the sharp tip is the only point of contact the aim of the throwing technique is to have the tip penetrate into the target.

 The most effective way to accomplish that is to keep the grip on the weapon very loose during the throwing movement and to guide the weapon by supporting it with the thumb or index finger of the throwing hand.  The weapon is then propelled by centrifugal force and nothing else. The longer the distance to be thrown the more speed and centrifugal force will be necessary to prevent the weapon from rotating while in flight. This technique also forms the basis of the Shaolin "Needle through Glass" as well as Ninjutsu's shuriken jutsu.

 Spinning weapons:

Most important to get out of the way is that it is not the objective to have the weapon pinned into the target.

The technique used to launch these weapons require less effort and more speed as these weapons are mainly used to instantly create an opening in the heat of battle. In may cases a casual flick of the wrist should be enough. When in flight, the weapon is to spin at the speed of a buzz saw blade. :)

Multiple projectiles can also be flung in rapid succession after enough practice.

The flick can be developed by practising with dumbbell discs.

The above applies to throwing stars, coins, cards or any type of disc that may be available.

A weapon I have not dealt with, but which deserves mention is the Indian Chakram. Anyone with knowledge about the use of this weapon is welcome to make a contribution to this blog by emailing me at

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Staying positive

It is very easy for caution to turn into a hindrance, preventing us from acting.

While it is important to keep one's guard up, to be aware of risks and dangers, one should not be pre-occupied with that.

The best way to avoid getting hit is to keep your opponent on the defensive.

You will also realise that you have an unhealthy pre-occupation with negative aspects if your fears and concerns prevent you from having a happy and fulfilling life and career.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

My new tonfas

I have bought these new tonfas today.

The tonfa is one of those weapons originally used on the Ryukyu Islands (of which Okinawa is one) in the martial arts known to us as Kobudo and Kobujutsu.

To me, these weapons are synonym with traditional Karate, which I regard as an unarmed form of  Kobudo. If you really want to know why I say this you can email me at for the explanation.

This double weapon makes an effective shield with blocking techniques that can be taken directly from karate. Its attacks include thrusts and swinging slashes when the handles are used as pivots. Pommels on the handle and short end allow for even more short range attacks (not seen in the video).

Tonfas today, unlike the traditional version, are made in the fashion of the modern night stick, meaning that the extra handle allows it to be used as a baton. Police training handbooks usually contain arresting and immobilising techniques that can be executed with the night stick.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The timid martial arts student

When I saw Hinata's ordeal in Naruto I was reminded of a student in our dojo. The Sensei told him to be more aggressive and not to duck or turn his back on his opponent.

After a while of quitting our club he went on to study Jeet Kune Do and when he sparred again he actually surprised his former classmates with spinning techniques and slipping and ducking techniques.

Being overly timid is as much a problem as being over aggressive in martial arts. A lot of fighting sports coaches urge their students to be pumped up with aggression. That mental attitude may come in handy if your sole occupation in life is going to be cage fighting.

True Martial Arts strive to cultivate a state of mindless awareness and being able to act without hesitation when needed to. An aggressive fighter will always lose against a fighter like that.