Full disclosure, before I get into this review: I have taken five years of Wing Chun Kung Fu, though I’ve been off training for a couple of years as I got my injuries taken care of and launched FitIn, so I was a little rusty.
Nevertheless, this is why I was so very excited to head over to Markham and take Sifu Diego Bastianello’s class! He offers three different classes, one of which is a moving meditation class (which I can’t wait to try). I chose the “Technical Touch & Reflex” class – mainly because it was the one that fit into my schedule the best.
Traditional Wing Chun Canada
I arrived as Sifu Diego was leading the class in a warmup which moved into punching exercises. If you’ve never taken a martial art before, this is a great way to work your shoulder muscles! They were burning in no time, but a little hint: keep at it, and the warmth turns very satisfying.
After practicing some flows, where we moved through a routine of steps, while punching, he had us pair up and start the Chi Sau – ‘sticky hands’ – exercises.
Diego’s class listing explains what Chi Sau is: “[it] teaches speed, reflexes, and how to spot an opening. Sticky hands training can also be done blindfolded, in order to refine those skills further.”
Practice makes perfect
My partner and I had to learn a sequence of punches and blocks, while keeping our arms in contact for almost the entire time. It was interesting how the smallest of moves communicates directly to your brain, making you react and stay engaged with your partner.
Sifu Diego would hop in from time to time, as we practiced, to either add another step to the sequence, or to give us some context for what we’re doing. Chi Sau isn’t combat, but preparation for combat, so sometimes it’s helpful to understand the application for the practice.
Kind of like a dance routine, you need to break down the whole exercise into parts in order to learn it properly. At the end, when you put it together, it’s pretty darn cool.
This Chi Sau exercise had us stepping back and forth as we punched and parried, and getting the feet moving in tandem with the hands sure can be challenging for the brain. You can almost feel your brain wake up and sharpen, as your body warms up and moves.
It’s a great feeling to be able to strengthen that brain-body connection, and I have found in the past that this is one of the most helpful things in combatting what I always thought was natural clumsiness.
There’s also the hand-eye coordination that this kind of work is very good for: having to precisely note distances and track your opponent’s hands with your eyes. It’s an excellent lesson, learning that kind of laser-focus.
What I loved
I loved how passionate Sifu Diego is about his subject! – and with good reason: he’s been training to be a Sifu for 15 years. I know from chatting with him how grounding he finds the art, and the mindfulness that comes with the spiritual aspects of almost any martial art.
There’s still a perception out there that martial arts are challenging for girls and women, and while I might agree that most women seem to be less aggressive than men, that doesn’t mean that we’re not capable or competent enough to learn this skill as well as the next person.
One thing I love about Wing Chun is that it was designed by a woman for women…and to boot, it was designed to combat a larger, stronger and more forceful opponent, making it literally a perfect discipline for women who are interested in learning self-defense.
So this class was a great way to challenge myself in an environment where I could hold my own with everyone else. It might take some time to get there, but it is worth it!
You can read more about Sifu Diego’s classes and book them on FitIn:
Catherine Chan is the Founder & CEO of FitIn.io, a new fitness platform connecting Canadians with personal trainers/instructors, fitness, exercise or movement classes near them in mere minutes. A mental health advocate, she has dedicated a part of her platform to mental health and wellness classes, promoting movement + mindfulness in order to find profound, sustainable health.