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MARTIAL DIRECT- The Directory of Martial Arts Schools & Instructors

David Peterson


(Page 2)

[Martial Direct] If you couldn't train in Wing Chun and had to choose another art, what would it be? And why?

[David Peterson] I've always been fascinated by both Taijiquan and Bagua zhang, so I think that if I had to choose another art, assuming that I had my time over again, it would be one of those systems that I would study. The hard part would be finding an instructor in those systems of the caliber of Wong Shun Leung.

[MD] Wing Chun is know primarily as a stand-up art. Do you train any ground tactics at your school?

[DP] I don't have any desire to be a ground-fighting expert, nor do I have the time necessary to devote to such a detailed study, but I think that it is extremely important to have a consideration for the possibility of being taken to the ground, and a strategy for dealing with this possibility. As such, I encourage my students to interact with people of many backgrounds, including ground-fighters, and we regularly test our ability to deal with such conditions.
        The major difference is that we DO NOT allow ourselves to get into what we call "pretzel fighting", whereby we try to out-grapple a grappler, but work on causing pain in any way we can so that the grappler has as much difficulty as possible in dealing with us if they try to take us down, or in fact succeed in doing so. By this I mean that we utilize various aspects of the Wing Chun system that can be adapted to ground-fighting, and punch, knee, kick, elbow, bite, scratch, etc. if put in a compromised position, rather than falling into the trap of hanging on.
        I constantly try to place my students under very real pressure whereby they experience the adrenaline "dump" that occurs when all hell breaks out on the street, while keeping them as safe as possible by carefully monitoring the drills being done. What we have found over recent years, is that we are much more able to get each other into a grappling-type situation through 'Chi Sao' range training than is possible under more typical confrontational situations, and so tend to be able to put each other under a lot of pressure beyond what is likely to be experienced. As a result, through the same 'Chi Sau' enhanced reflexes, it is possible to repel and reverse many attempts to grapple in our own favor.
[MD] Do you do any other type of training to compliment your martial arts? Such as running, lifting weights, etc.? If so, how often and to what degree is their importance to you?

[DP] When I was "younger" and had a little more spare time on my hands, I did quite a lot of long distance running, but I have never really done any serious weight lifting, apart from the occasional toning with light weights/dumbbells. I tend to keep fit through my training, my job, sensible eating and it helps that I have a naturally good metabolism. My personal weight has remained virtually unchanged for 20 years. I'm a non-smoker and non-drinker, and have four young kids to keep up with, so all of these factors help to keep me in shape.

[MD] Do you have any specific ideas or philosophies on diet? Do you follow any specific diets?

[DP] As I said, I just eat a balanced diet, with an emphasis on vegetables and not a great deal of red meat (my wife is Cambodian so healthy cooking and lots of "greens" are the norm), although I must confess to being a "chocoholic" and certainly put away a fair amount of sweets. I guess that by virtue of my training regime and naturally high metabolism, I burn off the calories that I ingest from my "sweet tooth". The other thing that I consume in large amounts is milk, especially flavored milk (there's that sweet tooth again!), and in a recent bone study that I took part in, it was determined that I had a bone density of someone half my age, such is my intake of calcium.

[MD] Have you ever had to use your martial arts skills in a street situation? If so, could you describe it?

[DP] While I can't say that I've had a set of street experiences to rival my late Sifu, there have been a couple of occasions where my training has been called into play in the real world. Staying calm in manner and simple in response to the threat has meant that I have come out of these encounters relatively unscathed.
        In the most recent case, when confronted by an armed assailant (a balisong knife), I applied the next best weapon at hand and smashed the guy with a metal rubbish bin. Unfortunately for me, the guy was on some kind of drug, so he still managed to flee the scene, despite the whack in the face and a fall from a car park. Still, I was unscathed, as was my wife and friend, so all things considered, the outcome was okay.
        Whether or not you would consider my method to be martial arts skills, as far as I'm concerned, it was the result of the training and thinking that I had been through that enabled me to survive what could have been a tragic encounter.

[MD] What are your thoughts on Mixed Martial Arts/No-Holds-Barred competition?

[DP] The first thing to consider is that there are different degrees of competition, based on what rules do or do not apply. If the MMA competition is not a full-contact or "anything goes" one, then the Wing Chun exponent is very much at the mercy of the constraints put upon them by the rules. For example, if a minimum number of kicks must be thrown, this will penalize a fighter who prefers to keep his/her feet on the ground. Likewise, should those kicks have to be thrown above the waist, once again the Wing Chun fighter is disadvantaged.
        Over the years, some of my students have done excellently in contests where minimum rules apply, but disastrously where the rules demanded too many restrictions on the fighters repertoire of weapons and tactics. Even in full-contact contests, the rules can work both for and against the Wing Chun exponent. Even in the No-Holds-Barred events, such as the UFC or K1, the trend has seemed to be that the bigger and more powerful the fighter, the better. The Gracies saw this trend and even they got out while they were ahead, especially once time limits were imposed on the matches where originally there was no time limit. Open time limits suited the Gracies' style, the reduced time limit did not.
        Perhaps there is a Wing Chun man out there who is up to the challenge, perhaps not, but I personally still view these NHB contests as very different from the street encounters that Wing Chun is preparing us for, and there are limitations on the fighters because street shoes aren't permitted, eye gouging, throat attacks, etc. are all outlawed. The thing that I keep being reminded of is what my Sifu repeated many times over the years; Wing Chun is not for sport, demonstration, or meditation,'s for the "pavement arena" and not for playing around. Some people might say that that is just a cop-out, but even the NHB arena is still far from the reality and brutality of personal assault.

[MD] Do you think Wing Chun could be adapted to work in a MMA competition?

[DP] I guess so, but it would take, based on the current trend (if we're talking about NHB contests), a pretty big guy with experience in areas other than Wing Chun, and we would be talking applying Wing Chun CONCEPTS, as opposed to recognizable Wing Chun TECHNIQUES as such. Likewise, with any MMA competition, there have already been some successes here and there, but as long as there are rules to be adhered to, it would mean that the Wing Chun fighters involved would have to devote a large amount of time to ideas, techniques, and strategies quite alien to their basic training and few die-hard devotees of the system would be prepared to train against what amounts to their main goals and expectations in Wing Chun.
        After all, you react under genuine pressure the way that you train, so if the sh*t hits the fan, you don't want to be reacting as if you are in a contest when you may be fighting for your life.

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