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Grandmasters Wing Chun Kung Fu

A Dominating Martial Art for Every Ability Level!

I am protective of my girlfriend, whom I will refer to in this article as “the girl” for the sake of her anonymity. She is small -- I have seen people board airplanes with carry-on heavier than her. The girl is also, thanks to some clever trick of genetics, blind. People first meeting her often ask how blind she is. Close your eyes in a dark room, and you get the picture.

When I am walking with the girl, I take comfort that I look like a big, lumbering oaf. It can be no coincidence that seeing eye dogs are so often German Shepherds, whose intimidating looks alone must prevent a lot of crooks from equating the tap of a cane with an easy payday. I am no German Shepherd, but even at my worst I can be a wall of meat to hide behind during a violent altercation.

The girl doesn’t usually go out without her seeing eye oaf, but I still worry when she does. What if some scoundrel tried to do something to the girl when I couldn’t protect her? My American solution would have been to give her a .380 ACP, but that is out of the question. Her aim is terrible. The fix, as it turns out, is Chinese: Wing Chun Kung Fu.

Steve Lee Swift, or Sifu Swift when addressed properly, is a grandmaster of Wing Chun, a centuries-old martial art with a flowing, improvised move set meant only for self-defense. There are no Wing Chun tournaments for the same reason that boxers wear gloves instead of brass knuckles. A master of Wing Chun fights like a V8 engine turned on its side, pistons flailing, unleashing a relentless flurry of blows until their opponent deeply regrets their life choices.

Sifu Swift has devoted his life to Wing Chun. He learned the method from the sons of Ip Man, the same martial artist who trained Bruce Lee himself. (If you are familiar with Ip Man from the movies about him, you have Sifu Swift to thank -- they’re his stories of the hallowed fighter that inspired the movies’ creation.) For the past 50 years Sifu Swift has case-hardened his hands and feet by striking a wooden dummy, and sharpened his reflexes to the point where he can bulldoze a man twice his size in an instant, blindfolded. Who better to teach the girl how to defend herself than a man who can fight without looking?

I took the girl in to Sifu Swift’s training hall in Eden Prairie, where he began by sitting us down to explain why Wing Chun, the only martial art he teaches, is best not only for the fittest among us, but people with disabilities as well. “Wing Chun has so many incredible hand techniques, its masters have hands like magicians’,” said Sifu Swift. “It teaches traps that turn every one of your opponent’s movements into an opening for a strike, and to move with resistance instead of against it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re standing or sitting, one-armed, or blind -- Wing Chun works.

“Everyone’s anatomy is the same. You may not be able to see your attacker’s head, but you will know where it is once you’ve felt his wrist. And no matter how big and strong a man is, his eyes, groin, knees, and carotid and jugular will always be his weak points. I’m going to teach you how to strike those.”

The Queensberry rules are all well and good when both fighters have agreed to them. But the girl, in order to defend herself, very much needs to be able to divine the coordinates of a man’s ghoulies and inflict trauma upon them. I know she is capable of this. She has inadvertently managed to make me hit the high C on a number of occasions, although of course I forgive her each time once my breath has returned.

Sifu Swift led us into his training hall, where his students were eager to assist with the girl’s lesson. One, a former enlisted Marine gunnery sergeant who is built like a proverbial brick you-know-what, volunteered himself as the object of attack. To demonstrate he put his hands around his seated teacher’s neck, a gesture that is seldom friendly, and the next moment found himself on the ground with Sifu Swift’s fist poised a few inches from his exposed throat. The master had crumpled the gunnery sergeant so quickly that the girl and I were equally incapable of seeing how he did it.

Hands-on instruction, naturally, is key in such circumstances. With the gunnery sergeant's fingers now gingerly clasped around the girl’s throat, Sifu Swift guided her hands and feet to mirror the barrage he had just performed: Grab and twist the wrists, kick the groin, pull in for an eye gouge, and let the attacker droop to the floor for further abuse as needed. Watching Sifu Swift teaching the girl reminded me of my own German Shepherd that I had growing up. His teeth were strong enough to crack a soup bone in half, yet his dexterous lips could pick blackberries off a bush without smashing them. Likewise, the grandmaster’s hands that could hammer nails were capable of gently guiding the girl through an onslaught.

Surely enough, the girl learned the technique for dropping a man while seated. Sifu Swift next walked her through the Wing Chun solutions to being put in a headlock, having one’s wrist grabbed, and having one’s neck reached out for. He instructed the girl, who can not run away, to especially focus her attention on pulverizing her attacker’s eyes, while making as much of a scene as possible. Her loud fuss would attract welcome attention from bystanders who could help.

Thus edified, we were treated to a demonstration of just how devastating a blind person’s Wing Chun could be. Sifu Swift tied a black cloth around his eyes, revealing only his muzzle and shock of salt and pepper hair, and bade the gunnery sergeant to try and hurt him. The gunnery sergeant proved ineffective at this, as every time the grandmaster perceived so much as an air molecule out of place the man wound up on his back, knuckles bearing down on him. To witness the blindfolded master turning the Marine’s attacks aside as casually as if he were parting a bead curtain was inspiring. The girl truly could level out a bad guy if she needed to. 

This revelation has emboldened the girl. Even days afterward, she is still giving me healthy chops when I least expect them, each accompanied by its own enthusiastic “pa-CHEW” sound effect. We’ll no doubt return to Sifu Swift shortly so I can learn to defend myself from her.

I must be honest. When I first reached out to Sifu Swift, I had envisioned a story in which he would teach two blind women how to fight, and that they would then fight one another. I abandoned that thread for three reasons. First, Wing Chun is vicious. You do not spar with a martial art that is meant only to put your opponent down through the most direct measures available. Second, Wing Chun isn’t something you pick up overnight. It is a complex martial art which lets you treat a fight as though it’s a game of chess where you get three times as many turns as your opponent. A single lesson couldn’t turn anyone into a streetfighter. Third, the other blind woman was sick that day and couldn’t make it.

If life were a Kung Fu movie, then Sifu Swift would be the kind of teacher you’d have to climb a mountain in order to meet with. Thankfully, it is far easier in real life to visit his training hall in the suburbs. You can learn more about him at grandmasterswingchun.com, and order his instructional DVDs including Attacked While Sitting there as well. For the real deal, you may attend class at Grandmasters Wing Chun Kung Fu at 6566 Edenvale Blvd in Eden Prairie. You can also learn more at grandmasterswingchun.com.

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