First, there was only one… now, there are three. Classes, that is!

To compliment the growing number of modern and traditional martial art styles available to RAF personnel today, a small but dedicated cadre of martial artists have banded together to help co-ordinate the delivery of a unique and fascinating system of kung fu – first popularised by the legendary Bruce Lee – called Wing Chun Kuen…

Formation of a School of Kung Fu

About two years ago, after the establishment of a second class at RAF Waddington and much discussion about the practicalities and challenges involved, the concept of a dedicated School to co-ordinate an organised network of Wing Chun classes slowly emerged. The goal would be simple: promote the interests of the Royal Air Force Martial Arts Association (RAFMAA) by directly serving those members who wanted to learn Wing Chun kung fu. It was also important to the founders that the martial values of their forebears were also preserved, so the Royal Air Force Wing Chun Kuen (RAFWCK) was formed on 12th August, 2010.

On January 20th 2011, Group Captain Bea Walcot graciously accepted the position of Honorary President for the newly established School. For two hours on a drizzly Thursday afternoon, she watched and learned how the system worked as students from RAF Waddington, RAF Henlow and London were carefully demonstrating the complexities of this rich and diverse martial art form.

So what is Wing Chun?

In short, Wing Chun is a southern Chinese, Shaolin Temple derived art that can be described as hard in offence and soft in defence. It favours upright narrow stances, low kicks (below the waist), the avoidance of force-against-force and employs economic strikes and deflections with the hands, elbows, knees and feet. Any natural weapon is valid.

Specialising in close-quarters combat (sometimes called ‘in-fighting’) it is renowned for developing contact-reflex skills and enhanced sensitivity to an opponent’s movements – ideal attributes for self-protection. These skills are honed through a Wing Chun exercise called Chi-Sau (sticking hands) where two practitioners test each others’ skills in attack and defence, sometimes even wearing a blindfold! Why a blindfold, you may ask? Simply because the hands can be too quick to see, so a blindfold encourages instinctive reactions to what is felt instead.

Stripped of all unnecessary and superfluous movements, Wing Chun Kuen was designed to be learnt comparatively quickly. Although it might take years to master, it can be used for self-defence in just one lesson, as the esteemed Group Captain found out when she (almost) confidently took on two large men wearing padded armour and head-guards!

The benefits of training

Wing Chun kung fu caters for all ages, fitness levels, build, gender and natural ability. All students of Wing Chun, and of many other martial arts for that matter, will find some benefit from learning.

Some of these benefits include:

•Becoming proficient in an established and effective fighting system for self-defence
•Improved health and general fitness
•A boost to self confidence & self-awareness
•Improved balance & co-ordination
•Learning in a safe, friendly & positive environment

In addition, beginners are welcomed and all training is FREE for members of HM Forces (serving or retired), the Reserves and Auxiliaries, their adult dependants and MoD employees.

Fancy a try?

Local classes are held in the Climbing Room at RAF Waddington on Tuesday lunchtime, 1200-1300hrs.If you want to find out more about training in Wing Chun kung fu at RAF Waddington, please contact myself on 95771 6226 or email: AWC-APP TES LA TSO1.

Alternatively, visit: http://www.brampton.raf.r.mil.uk/review/Martial_Arts/HTMLpages/Index.htm and: http://www.waddington.raf.r.mil.uk/review/Wing_Chun/Wing%20Chun%20main.htm

You can also contact the RAFWCK directly at the following unclassified mailbox: rafwck@gmail.com.For more information regarding martial arts and competitive opportunities within the RAF, visit: http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafmartialarts

“My first response to the request to be Hon President was certainly one of surprise as I have no previous involvement in martial arts; however, when you delve into the history and understand a little more, this particular form has complete relevance. The story goes that it was first ‘invented’ by a woman to get rid of an unwanted suitor – well before the days of body building and Jane Fonda! So, why have a go at Wing Chun? First, it involves more brain power than brawn: as a fencer in the past, I recognised some of the moves demonstrated and that it is worth engaging brain first if you wish to save nugatory effort.  It really is an ‘asymmetric’ sport ie rather than rebuff blows with equal blows, one can disarm one’s opponent surprisingly easily.  Second, it does not require strength – as I discovered in my first session when encouraged to ‘disarm’ a suited up male with just half a dozen cleverly aimed blows (not one fingernail broken!). Third, it does wonders for your core for all those like me vain enough to worry about their abs and general fitness.  And lastly it does indeed give a boost to your confidence to be able to pick up a skill which could also prove useful on a dark night. It really is an art worth trying and I am delighted to be supporting FREE lunchtime classes at Waddington and Henlow – no special kit or coordination skills required, just a will to have a go.”

Group Captain Bea Walcot
Station Commander
RAF Brampton Wyton Henlow