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Interview with Grandmaster Keith R. Kernspecht about BlitzDefence

Could you briefly summarise again why competitions and sparring are not adequate pre-paration for a real-life threat on the street or in the disco?

Kernspecht: Certainly. Because ritual combat as I have described it in this book differs from a sporting bout or the classic challenge fight in “Easterns” in at least 5 important ways:

1. There are no rules, no fair play, others can get involved, nobody prevents the opponent who has floored you or knocked you unconscious from kicking or maltreating you further.

2. The aggressor talks himself into striking range and attacks at very close quarters.

4. The attack takes place when
a) you are unprepared for it or
b) paralysed with fear.
In other words, it starts without a signal from a referee.

5. You are not faced with a good-natured training partner but with an adrenaline monster who has worked himself up into a rage. But you have neither learned to handle your own fears nor the naked, ferocious aggression you might encounter out there.

If I have understood correctly, the very first programme teaches one how to cope with a right-handed person who is threatening violence.
That means more than 90% or even 95% of all conceivable opponents. How can you morally justify showing such dangerous tech-niques to anybody who comes to your school without first checking on their character?

Kernspecht: This is a serious question which I have discussed at great length with my assistants and colleagues. In cases of doubt we do indeed insist on Police confirmation of a clear record in countries where this is possible.
Moreover, the psychological role-playing element in our first programme is designed to let the experienced instructor quickly identify and exclude people who want to learn from us so that they can become even better thugs.
Neither is it enough just to have learned the technical basics. It certainly takes 6 months before a student develops the necessary sense of distance, becomes familiar with the pre-fight rituals and body language and trains his punching power. This also means learning how to handle your own feeling of “fear” and recognise the opponent’s adrenaline symptoms so as to detect his intention to strike at the last moment.

I am a WingTsun student and learn classical WingTsun (WT) with Man-Sao, Wu-Sao etc. from my instructor, who was incidentally a student of yours. Looking at this amateurish pre-fight position with raised shoulders and practically helpless gestures makes me very irritated.

Kernspecht: As you have quite rightly seen this is only the PRE-fight position. During the fight itself we use the same techniques as always, namely effective WT solutions that have proved their worth in the most extreme circumstances.
When things get serious it tends to be a disadvantage if the aggressor considers you to be dangerous and capable of defending yourself. He could call his friend(s) over to help him out, for example, or get hold of a weapon to gain the superiority he lacks.
Deceiving the enemy about your real strength, distracting him and disguising your own tactics are the keys to success in battle, and the threat of violence is akin to a battle which has been imposed upon you against your will.
You should not try to look like a proud WT-fighter beforehand. Whether you have done your job well it will be apparent afterwards: if you have successfully managed to avoid a fight (3 points!), if you have not been obliged to strike a blow (2 points) or if you have been able to limit the damage with a single blow without injuring the aggressor more than necessary (1 point). After 40 years of practical experience, vanity before a fight appears to me foolish and naive.

You always used to say that a WT-fighter does not retreat. Now you are advocating cowardly and demoralising retreating steps.

Kernspecht: Well spotted. Purely technically speaking, any retreating action constitutes a risk in WT terms unless the other man happens to be swinging a scythe to amputate your legs. But the technical aspect is only one amongst many. As a teacher it is also my duty to confront you with the legal interpretation of your right to self-defence.
How you behave when the worst comes to the worst is entirely up to you, and you can only decide this on the spot, however you may be called upon to justify your actions in court. And if you want to win not only the first battle (the fight itself) but also the last, which takes place in court, you must ensure that you have acted in accordance with the law. Where there are witnesses this means using words (which nobody can hear in a disco), body language (empty hands = no weapons) and retreating steps to make it absolutely clear that you do not want to fight. You are only entitled to use the legal right of self-defence if you are quite clearly the one being attacked.
But since the aim is to protect your own life in the final analysis, I can only give you my recommendations. You can and must set your own priorities yourself.

Does your “defence” programme only consist of WT techniques, or where do the techniques shown in this book come from?

Kernspecht: Without exception, all the techniques are from the Leung Ting system of WingTsun (WT). What is more, the programme combines the most effective techniques of all.
Since we are talking about self-defence in an emergency, i.e. a life-or-death situation, I have selected three of the most effective and suitable movements from the legendary 116 WT wooden dummy techniques.
Naturally I have had to adapt these techniques and positions to the capabilities and skills of BEGINNERS, however. I have therefore intentionally dispensed with the “neutral” ready or pre-fight stance used in the 1st section of the wooden dummy form.
The experience gained from 30 years of teaching has shown me that a beginner can rarely carry out the protective forward step quickly enough.
Instead I immediately teach beginners the forward stance with the bodyweight on the rear leg. The beginner should advance his left arm and leg against an orthodox opponent and his right arm and leg against a southpaw opponent, so that he only needs to take short step to control the aggressor’s leg.
Like the requirement “keep the strongest hand back” and “the strongest hand strikes first” this only applies for the first few months.
In the 1st programme, i.e. against an orthodox stance, I have chosen a pulling movement from the 1st section combined with a low kick from the wooden dummy form (not shown) and a punch. As I have already explained, the knockout power of the punch comes from the falling-step movement (after the “slant-kick”) in the 2nd form of WingTsun. This is because two or three months are not enough for the beginner to develop the necessary punching power using the advanced whiplash technique of WT. As an alternative to the pulling movement, particularly if the aggressor has his leading arm low, I use the “Kao-Sao” from the 6th section of the dummy form.
The technique in the 2nd programme comes from the 8th section of the
wooden dummy form, “Pak-Sao with palm-strike”. But instead of the palm-strike I prefer the BEGINNER to use the punch from the 8th section of the wooden dummy form (not shown), as it takes many years of hard training to achieve a corresponding effect with an open palm. And because only very advanced WT students who have trained intensively for several years can develop enough power without first drawing back, I teach beginners to obtain their power by using the hips and the upper body as e.g. for the “lifting punch” in the “Chum-Kiu” form.

How do these new programmes differ from the old ones?

Kernspecht: We have adapted our training to the changed requirements of the present day. Previously we prepared the beginner for the entire spectrum of “combat” in its widest sense, with a particular emphasis on the challenge fight or duel which was once popular in Asia and begins with equal chances for both combattants.
However, more than 90% of all physical confrontations are now macholike, territorial ritual fights, and once again we are among the first to prepare our students for this phenomenon in technical, psychological and legal terms.
This includes an emphasis on the guiding principle of WingTsun, namely that attack is the best form of defence. A fact that defence and sparring-minded WT students all too often forget.
I can also hear the philosophers among us quietly muttering that in apparent contrast to my remarks in “On Single Combat” I do not start beginners off with the four fighting priciples, but clearly tell the beginner which hand he should use to strike first and which leg he should advance during the first few months. Of course I am pleased to have students who have read my book so thoroughly that they now confront me with my own pronouncements. But “On Single Combat” describes the whole system, which is actually based on an ingenious concept consisting of incontrovertible principles. My experience and that of most instructors has shown that while the beginner is soon fascinated by the logical principles, he needs clear instructions concerning stances and techniques at first. It is only when Chi-Sao training has enabled him to let his arm be deformed when it advances as a wedge, to stick to the opponent, give way and borrow the opponent’s strength that he can turn the principles to practical use in an emergency! In the first (forward defence) programmes I therefore base my teaching on the 1st fighting principle, on the wedge and the outside position, which gives the beginner more security than he would have between the opponent’s arms.

In “On Single Combat” you describe very comprehensibly in my view (I belong to a special Police unit and have been learning WT for four years) that one should confront a thug very aggressively right from the start, so that he has no chance to inflate himself into an adrenaline monster. In this book you seem to depart from this approach.

Kernspecht: This book is intended for beginners who have trained for 6 months at the most and who should preferably remain conciliatory, disguise their intentions and use the element of surprise. For if you issue threats you must be able to back them up if necessary. Those who are advanced and in control can usually stop any escalation by sheer intimidation.