This blog post is dedicated to the guy who started me on this journey, Sifu Alex Richter. Many long days and nights under his watchful eye, steady hand, and scientific approach helped guide me and many other students to take the road less traveled. To quote Si-fu “it’s kung-fu, it’s supposed to be hard, just train”. He has been the pebble hitting the calm cool waters, creating ripples of cultivated knowledge that will forever be in my mind’s eye. But yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah, why is he so freaking great?
1. Brutally honest when no one else will.
You ever been training something really hard, getting the technique or movement in your muscles, and finally start to feel good about it. Everyone around you tells you it’s great. When you look in the mirror, the thought “I should be a freaking action star, this looks great”, enters your mind.
Si-fu can bring you back to earth, like a meteor shower across the night sky, ego engulfed in flames, streaking ever constantly to the earth’s surface at 25,000 mph, only to crash in some remote field in Pennsyltucky. This is something that is absolutely important for the serious student, to be picked apart by a master is the highest form of compliment. If the master didn’t care they wouldn’t waste there energy, time, and brain power on you. So although it hurts swallowing that bitter medicine, it’s absolutely necessary for the growth of any serious student.
2. Encouragement, with impeccable timing.
You ever had a day where everything was 30° off to the left? I’ve had those days, big time…Wake up late with no time to drink that morning cup of Joe that I have grown to rely on. Kids are having meltdowns because they don’t want to get ready for school, obviously they would rather play with toys at 7:13 a.m. Finally I get out of the house, rush to my car, and start the engine only find that I’ve absolutely no gas for a 40min commute to work. Hell, I’m not even sure if I’ll make it the 2 miles up the road to the gas station.Get gas, jump on the highway, and make record time to the security gate, only to be lucky car number 10 which has to go through an extra security screening. Finally make it to work 3 min late only to receive the look of death from my boss, like I had just poured him a glass of shit juice. Fast forward, finally make it to training and the situation isn’t getting better. I can’t learn this new material to save my life, feel like I just started yesterday. That’s when it happens, Si-fu walks over and tells me, “great job, you executed that nicely, just keep training but focus on changing these small details”.
Arbitrary encouragement that has no substance, flartery, and useless compliments can be a total hindrance to growth. Si-fu has the ability to give the right encouragement, at the right time, with the right details to give you that extra push you need.
3. Skillz, talk is cheap.
Si-fu has the skill to annihilate you like a tiger playing with a ball of yarn at any given time. Not abusive, in fact, the most extreme controlled force shellacking I’ve ever gotten was days before his shoulder surgery. Talk is cheap, if I’m paying money, it sure as hell better work. I’m six feet tall, 200lbs., with several years of Wing Tsun in my bones. I’m generally not tossed around that easily.
4. A patient trainer.
The role of a trainer is of utmost importance. Too often, in an effort to make training more realistic, the trainer will sabotage the trainees ability to complete the exercise or learn the movement. Si-fu remains ever vigilante in reminding us what we actually need, really pretty simple when you take a step back. Practice the correct movement, with the correct impulses, don’t add extra steps, be as efficient as possible, and don’t cheat the timing. Although simple, students of Si-fu are constantly reminded the importance, because we are constantly forgetting. So it’s really nice to have our true north reset, on our Wing Tsun compasses when things get out of whack.
5. Physically fit and a shining example.
Mobility, power in flexibility, speed, and razor sharp technique are the characteristics of Si-fu. As martial artist, we should be fit. We should be constantly shaping our bodies to become better, greater flexibility, strength, and speed are all part of the total package. Especially when we are young, there should be little excuse not to strive to improve our physical conditions. This isn’t to say Si-fu has the strength of 10 gold medal gymnast, but he is constantly seeking improvement which I have personally seen over the past 10 years. This kind of work ethic has been a great example for me and the other students, as we get older it’s much harder to keep our athletic physique, agility, and stamina. By having someone so dedicated to the science of physical improvement, who is selflessly devoted to sharing with his students, we have been given the location to the fountain of youth.
6. Learning is an everyday process.
For a guy who didn’t go to college, he’s one of the smartest people I know. Speaks 3 languages (reading and writing), traveled the world extensively, owns a successful small business in one of the hardest cities in America, avid reader, self-development and self-reliance are in his DNA. I’ve had the privilege to watch Si-fu grow, ups and downs, ins and outs, he has still managed to keep growth and completion of goals in the forefront. For me this is true intelligence, the way in which we deal with adversity, growth/self-development, and the accomplishmenr of clearly stated goals. The improvisation of life.
7. Make the hard decision.
Si-fu has to be the one to make the hard decision sometimes. We all don’t agree with it, we question it, and we wish he made a different decision, but at the end of the day it’s his decision. You have to respect a man that stands for something. When running a small business, there’s a lot to be done, but only one person that will get it done.
8/9. Almagamating the best of the Masters. Improving the Wing Tsun teaching system.
These two have to be talked about in tandem. Very rare that you meet someone so thorough when it comes to different Wing Tsun/Chun pedagogy, applications, approach to training, and weapon fighting. Si-fu has the German organizational sense of how the material is organized and taught but the Hong Kong flavor of street tested application that can be applied in the thick of chaos.
Constantly seeking further knowledge from Wing Tsun masters all over the world but also not afraid to leave his comfort zone and seek out some of the great masters of the other styles. Taking all that information he has been gathering, trimming the fat, slowly refining his curriculum, testing what works and what doesn’t, and updating what is to be expected on the street. The result of this massive level of effort is a learning experience for the student like no other and to be a Si-fu under his system is an education far more valuable than any university degree.
Si-fu teaches his students that there is no one better style (admittedly we love Wing Tsun), no lineage, or attack better than the other. It’s simply how well the individual trains and how well you’re able to apply concepts. He is always trying to promote Wing Tsun/Chun as a martial art style, history, and the masters that are left that need to be documented. Although in many circles he is considered a master he simply prefers to be called Si-fu or senior instructor. Always reexamining, codifying, modifying, and improving himself internally and externally makes him the best teacher and leader I’ve ever had the opportunity to follow. The true lesson in humility for me is Si-fu’s ability to constantly stay grounded and train hard. A lesson for all of us.
These are the top 10 attributes of my Si-fu and why I think he’s totally awesome. If you’re interested in learning more about him please visit here. You can find lots of cool information on him and start your Wing Tsun journey. If you enjoyed this blog please leave some comments below.