Sifu Adam Williss, founder of The Dragon Institute, was recently featured on the deput episide of Wing Chun Discussion’s new podcast, “Wing Chun: An Art of Self Mastery”.
Sifu Adam Williss Episode Highlights:
• Getting hit while sparring and checking the ego.
• How to communicate with your students on their level.
• Focus, flow, & center-line; the state of mind in combat.
• Using a sound metronome to amplify your kung fu training.
• Wing Chun Kids: How active should a kung fu training program for children be?
• A comparison of Combat sports vs. Traditional martial arts.
• Wing Chun life skills; harmony and self mastery.
See Sifu Adam Williss’s podcast interview at Wing Chun an Art of Self Mastery – EP1 Wing Chun Discussion Podcast with Sifu Adam Williss
Vito: Welcome to the Wing Chun podcast. I’m your host Vito and I’m Dane and we’re here with Sifu Adam Williss of the Dragon Institute and he’s from Dana Point in California
Sifu Adam: Thanks guys I appreciate being on this
Vito: It’s nice to meet you Adam. I’ve seen you online you have your videos and like instructional Wing Chun and personally I’ve seen them pop up on reddit the subreddit. It’s always interesting when you see somebody in video and then you’re like able to talk to them. Tell us a little bit about about where you’re from.
Sifu Adam: Well originally I was born in Baltimore Maryland and then my mom got transferred with her work down to Jacksonville, Florida when I was about 12, so I grew up most of those years through junior high and high school in Jacksonville, Florida.
Vito: What was it like for you growing up in Jacksonville?
Sifu Adam: It was interesting you know, it’s real hot area down there and very humid. Jacksonville isn’t a huge population and it’s very southern, which people don’t realize because they think of Florida as beachy. North Florida has a lot of Georgia influence, so there’s a lot of Southern culture. I found my Sifu right there in Jacksonville beach. Bill Graves is his name and he keeps fairly low key. I found him through a buddy of mine that I went to high school with who was attending his classes.
Dane: Does he still have a school there in Jacksonville?
Sifu Adam: No he teaches privately and then gets his group together at his house.
Dane: So when did you make your way to the Pacific side?
Sifu Adam: I believe that was 2003 I was working with JP Morgan Chase. I met my wife through work and then I got transferred out here to Orange County, California. Orange County is a whole lot different than Jacksonville or Baltimore. It’s a lot more people and just a whole lot more expensive.
Dane: So did you find any teacher when you went out there?
Sifu Adam: I met a couple teachers, but in the end wanted to continue with my Sifu. Other places just didn’t have the same, in my mind, effectiveness as what I was experiencing before.
Vito: What’s the one thing that your Sifu teaches that really sticks with you?
Sifu Adam: It’s the practicality in everything he does. He’s straight to the point, a super honest guy. A lot of people can’t handle brutal honesty. He’s one of these guys that’s like, ok enough talk, but can you fight? So with that level of honesty and practicality, you’re kept to a standard by him that sometimes other people don’t have.
Dane: So do you guys do a lot of sparring in your school? Or in your teachers’ school?
Sifu Adam: Oh yeah, we did. Two things we had were mouthpieces and cups and we would basically duke it out. We would get bloody lips quite often. We’d spar every single class, there was never a class where we didn’t.
Vito: Wow, yeah, that sounds like a good way to learn mistakes pretty quickly.
Sifu Adam: Yeah, you know, very little discussion of what was going on because you have your mouthpieces in so nobody can really talk. You learn by getting hit and the whole thing was, if you get hit, it’s your fault. It’s not the other person’s fault, it’s always your fault. So you try to figure out what you did wrong, and you’re trying to be as honest as possible. You have to take your ego out of it too, which is no easy thing for anyone. You’re literally getting hit and we also hit to the head. A lot of people don’t hit to the head when they’re sparring. Well, we do it all the time so you get bruises and cut lips, but no serious injuries. We train as realistically as possible, so we aren’t going to have headgear or gloves.
Vito: I’m assuming though, when you’re sparring in class, it’s more of a controlled spar. It’s not like full contact.
Sifu Adam: Yeah, you know, it’s all about precision. When I say precision, it’s also a matter of where you hit somebody. When you hit somebody in the head, you’re trying to be very precise. You don’t want to punch too much, but you also don’t want to under punch. You never pull a punch, you always hit. You’re never trying to go super hard, but you’re also not trying to go super soft. So there’s a medium in there. You must be able to move their mass, you must be able to move their body. That’s the barometer of what a strike actually is.
Vito: And like you said, it’s the fault of the person that got hit.
Sifu Adam: Yes, so it’s the person’s fault who got hit, which is a very honest and simple way to go about it.
Vito: You know, that’s starting to make sense because when it comes to controlled sparring, you’re right about the balance because you’re not trying to kill the person when you’re practicing. You do want to practice the techniques and practice them right, so there is some gray area in there. The more rules that you remove, the clearer it becomes.
Sifu Adam: Yeah, you know, having someone like my Sifu who was always in control in everything he did and very confident is the key. He would not only tell you the way, he would literally show you the way. He has a way of cutting through the BS and showing exactly how to do it. He’s never afraid to hit and you are never afraid to hit him. You’re not worried because he’s never out to clobber you, he’s there to help you. He will hit you in an attempt to show how it needs to be done. It’s that level of honesty that I think is so crucial, where you’re not afraid to hit or be hit by someone.
Vito: I think that’s a special thing because with this approach, you become very comfortable with knowing you can give or receive a hit.
Sifu Adam: Yeah that’s true you become very comfortable in what most people see as super uncomfortable
Vito: Right, so I’m thinking about this and I want to ask you this question because you brought up before like you have to take your ego out of it. I imagine in and in my own experience too, when you’re doing this kind of practice sometimes if a person gets hit they get hit may be harder than they would have liked to, get mad and then it becomes now it’s not about practicing the technique, it’s now it’s like they’re slinging. What’s your approach to how have you approached that phenomenon?
Sifu Adam: You know, during training everyone has those moments during training. You get tested all the time, every single person does. The number one best thing that you can do that my Sifu did, and I try my best to do as well, is to be the example. You need to hit your Sifu and he needs to allow you to hit him because then you see exactly how he reacts when he gets hit.
That example shows you that it isn’t about getting mad. It isn’t about oh I may have hit a little too hard or not, this is a matter of if somebody hit me too hard, it’s my own fault. I should have been better, it’s not their fault. They’re not doing anything to me, we’re all here to help each other by doing the right thing. I know I’ve hit my Sifu too hard at times but that’s only because as you get better as a student, you don’t have the same control that your Sifu does. So he’s always that barometer. I can’t remember a time that my Sifu hit me too hard, he hit me good but he just has so much control of himself. The only time I would get hit harder would be because I was the one rushing into it. It’s a wonderful example. As I have taken on students of my own over the last 15 years, you see how important to be able to be that example for them.
Vito: It’s really cool to hear you talk about this relationship with your Sifu
Sifu Adam: Yeah, I appreciate being given the chance to talk about him. He’s just an honest guy and a lot of people don’t know about him. He just loves Wing Chun and he loves teaching. He always takes an honest approach and because of that, I give him all the credit because he’s been that example.