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Sifu Josif Heder and the magic of Wing Chun

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Photo: private archive

An ancient and beautiful legend, originating from China involved a young woman Yim Wing-chun, (Wing Chun literally means 'forever springtime' or 'praising spring',) and a local warlord, who was determined to turn the maiden into his wife, using even force, if necessary.

After Yim Wing-Chun rebuffed the warlord's marriage offer, she said she'd reconsider his proposal if he could defeat her in a fight. The young lady soon crossed paths with a Buddhist nun - Ng Mui, who was among the Shaolin monastery survivors, and asked the nun to teach her fighting. The legend says that Ng Mui taught Yim Wing-Chun a new system of martial art. It had been inspired by Ng Mui's observations of a confrontation between a snake and a crane, forced to fight in a close contact on a tiny path over an abyss. The animals had to use short punches and to be very flexible in avoiding the opponent’s strikes. This then-still nameless style enabled Yim Wing Chun to beat the warlord in a one-on-one fight. The style was later on named after her.

Being spelled by the mystery of Wing Chun we came upon sifu Josif Heder, who is well-known in Bulgaria. The first thing we learned was that late movie action star Bruce Lee contributed a lot to the fame of this martial art form:

“Wing Chun is a Chinese martial art form, created with the purpose of self-defense. It has preserved its goal, unlike other forms that have turned into sports. Its history and development are rooted in a very limited circle of elite insiders and this situation has been preserved for a very long time,” Mr. Heder says.

Josif Heder used to train different things, before entering that circle, while at one point he found out that he would opt for single forms and not team ones. He was involved in Judo and wrestling, Chinese martial arts, shotokan karate and Kyokushinkaikan… And when he went to study to Germany, Josif came upon Wing Chun.

“My first impression was very disgusting, I saw nothing attractive and beautiful,” sifu is honest to say. “However, a workshop with a famous kick boxing champ turned my life. The instructor was a tiny little man, who demonstrated his fighting abilities, leaving no chance to his opponent. I couldn’t forget what I saw and three months later I was already studying Wing Chun in Germany. Then I went through two special trainings for instructors in Munich and opened a school of my own there. However, later on I received an offer to come back to Bulgaria.”

Сифу Йосиф Хедер с учениците си.

Josif Heder has developed a serious network here - three schools in Sofia, two in Ruse and one with the American University in the town of Blagoevgrad. After an injury suffered he had to slow down a bit, but now he is gradually returning to the previous pace. We don’t see the colored belts that martial arts are usually associated with and I ask him whether this is not somehow de-motivating due to the lack of race, of a challenge.

“People, involved in martial arts use to laugh, saying that belts can only hold your pants, nothing more. Yes, we have 12 degrees with exams and everything, but one should bear in mind that the main thing about martial arts is the need to protect yourself against a stronger and better armed opponent. Our punches aim at the weakest points of the human body – eyes, throat, the solar plexus etc. So, that is why we don’t have competitions in Wing Chun…”

Wing Chun takes a year and a half to two with two to three lessons per week, in order for a student to be able to use it successfully in the street, sifu Heder claims. “We want to prepare people for different nasty street situations, because those are the main reason why people recently come here. Thus the element of surprise is not that shocking. However, sifu manages to change their attitude with time.

Снимка

“We are the most dangerous enemy of ourselves, because we often throw into or feel affected by situations that can be avoided. This is how I do see things. An experienced martial artist realizes that he or she actually has always the choice whether to be involved in a street fight or not. If we comprehend this freedom of our choice, i.e. if we mark the most important victory – over our own ego, few things can threaten or surprise us.”

English version: Zhivko Stanchev


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