Our School, my Father & my Personal Kung Fu Journey.
Being a teacher of Wing Chun is a big responsibility and one I am proud to have. I feel it's important you know a little about my family and my background, as we all have our own stories to share, and it explains the reason I started training and still train today.
8 years old I started training with my dad.
My Father was a complicated man, he was in the army for 28 years during which time he was involved in many conflicts ranging from Ireland to the gulf. Starting as a rifle man in 3 RGJ Royal Green Jackets, he joined at 15 years old by lieing to the recruitment office and geting away with it. He quickly moved through the ranks and became an SAS soldier, British Army boxing champion and left the army as a captain and intelligence officer.
My Father also helped train Andy McNab who later became famous for an SAS operation called Bravo Two Zero where he was captured behind enemy lines.
The chief of general staff (CGS) and commander of the British Army's land forces Sir Richard Dannatt attended my Fathers funeral and he was cremated with full military honours and regiment bugalair, I was very proud as you can imagine.
My dad, having an interest in boxing was also attracted to all types of martial arts. At the beginning of some time in Borneo he told me he met someone after seeing them training Qigong just outside a town on the edge of the jungle. I don't know much about this other than what I remember my dad telling me but I know the person he trained with was old not young and very powerful, but I don't know what his lineage was. After training Iron Shirt Qigong during his time in Borneo it had an impact on his life that changed him forever and his outlook on Kung Fu and Qigong.
By the time I started training with my dad he held instructor qualifications in karate, boxing, judo and western sword fighting (fencing) but also was training and a teacher of Tai Chi and Qigong because of his influence in Borneo and continued development there after in these skills, in fact he stopped training all other skills to focus on Tai Chi and Qigong for the rest of his life as this had the biggest effect on him and most benefit in his opinion.
After this time and because of the high skill level he had developed through his training he was also invited and asked to become a coach for the British Bob-sledge Team. Under his guidance they won bronze in the 1998 winter Olympics training traditional methods along side modern methods to develop more power and speed when getting the bob-sledge off the track. Despite all of this and many other opportunities to become well known due to his past he kept himself to himself. He was actually a very thoughtful and quiet man who generally liked his own company and to be by himself if not with family.
Until I left school I would train with him most mornings. Sometimes boxing, sometimes Kung Fu and 18 Qigong exercises as well as just talking strategy or just about life in general and how the arts connect to this.
He used to always say to me that I was a second generation of our family to study martial arts and this was very important to him. He would say, like him, I must keep up training and studying my whole life so these skills can be passed down my family and every generation would get better and achieve more. This is one of the reasons I' ve worked towards achieving this, besides my love for this art form.
When i left school i started to follow in my dads foot steps and became a out door instructor and fencing sword instructor, i moved to the island of white to teach full time, however it wasn't till i came home before also joining the army i came across Wing Chun Kung Fu for the first time.
My Time In The Forces.
8 years old started training with my dad
In China With The Tse Qigong Centre Performing The First Form on one leg on stage.
My Wing Chun Journey Begins.
Like most people I had seen the Bruce Lee films and heard of Wing Chun so found the most local school I could to start training. At the time I didn't know that there were different lineages of Wing Chun, and some skills were closer to the source than others, so was happy training. Not long after, I decided to join the army.
Because of my infantry roll I got to learn close quarter combat skills with and without weapons and although it's very effective for that situation and a good experiance it is not ideal really for street application.
After coming out of the forces I was keen to get back in to Wing Chun and after a few years was teaching at a school under a different lineage of Wing Chun and I was doing ok as a junior instructor achieving Brown Sash so far.
However on my fathers advice i left and started from the beginning under Master Darryl Moy at the Tse Qigong Centre until passing my instructors course (black sash equivalent) in 2015.
Some of my Fathers medals.
My Farher had an idea of starting a family style school origanally and I liked this idea and wanted to be part of it.
Unfortunately my Father became ill with cancer as so many people do nowadays so this was never realised with him. When my Father died it hurt me deeply and has taken me a long time to truly get over this as I was so close to him. The reason I ended up at the Tse Qigong Centre instead of somewhere else at first though is actually down to him and something he said to me.
Four days before my Father passed away he said to me "Sean if you really want to teach Chinese martial arts there are a few things you need to do. Find Michael Tse and go to the origin of the art you love so you can better understand the reason you like to train in the first place"
Actually he had said this to me many times but was only now I listened.
My dad never told me that the man who was now my Sigong did Wing Chun only Qigong. As a young man I didn't understand this was actually very important and used to say to him it was not what I was after and he didn't understand. He just smiled at me and said "Ok" and only ever said that I needed to find Michael Tse. It took my Farther to die for me to listen and learn what would be for me his final lesson.
After finding the Tse Qigong Centre on the web I decided to email to ask advice on what I should do as I felt pretty lost and wasn't sure what direction my life was heading in. It was only then I found out that the centre was very close to the origin of Wing Chun through Sigong's relationship with Ip Tai Sigong Grand master Ip Chun. It made me smile as it was typical of my Father to encourage me to learn my own lessons in life as nothing is handed on a plate and often he would say nothing worth having was ever easy.
After this point i travelled to China and trained at Ip Sigong class and attended a seminar with him as well as training in Foshan province the birth place of Wing Chun and was apart of the Ip man museum opening ceremony in 2012. Also going back again in 2016 to continue my training experience outside the UK in China, It was a great honour. since then we have been back to China to train again and i look forward to future trips with my students as well.
My passion to succeed can sometimes get me in to trouble but my heart is in the right place and Wing Chun is helping me to develop as a person all of the time.
Originally I thought my Father must of trained with Master Michael Tse but now after getting to know him and Darryl Moy and speaking with him about it I think he just knew it was the right place for me to be considering what I wanted at that time in my life.
Now its 2018 and after nearly 9 years of training and becoming a qualified instructor (Sifu) for the second time, but this time under Michael Tse's lineage and 15 over all years of experience i decided it was time to move on to further increase my knowledge and understanding of the Wing Chun system again under Grandmaster Colin Ward, a direct and senior student of Ip Chun son of Ip Man. Once again, i started from the beginning to work my way back through this system under his guidance to make sure the skill level and structure that is passed on to our students is as close to what Ip Man would of wanted as possible and insuring we preserve our direct connection through our lineage back to China.
Although i will spend the rest of my life passing on and developing this system from this point forward under Grandmaster Colin Ward it is all my combined experiences that have allowed me to keep an open mind, good heart and clear understanding of what i have needed to do in order to achieve my goals and do the best by my students, if we want something in life we must work hard for it and never be put off no matter what, a saying i will never forget that has kept me on the right path is this "right is right even if nobody is doing it and wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it"
For me the skill and development will always be more important than money or status, this was not only my farther wish and my wish but also a very basic and very important part of been a good Sifu as well as a good person. It is easy to talk the good talk and over time loose our way, even if we obtain the highest skill level possible it doesn't give anybody the right to stop respecting others equally, this is of course one of the reasons Grandmaster Ip Man is now a legend today.
If we talk about integrity and good principles we must also make sure our own are in check as well, if we put others and good morals first always making sure we do not use our skill to bully others or to just achieve god like status then this to me is truly reaching the highest skill level and greatest understanding of what it means to be the best teacher possible.
We are all first and foremost students and are allowed to make mistakes but we must never kid our self's about what we are doing and the way we are doing it.
This is why my Sifu Master Colin Ward is such an inspiration to me, he is everything he says he is but very humble at the same time, he is a good person first in his heart and treats people as equals even though in the world of Wing Chun he is considered one of the best and most senior students under Grandmaster Ip Chun in the west today. To meet him you would just think he is a nice man that goes out of his way to help others and never know about his skill at all unless you was to ask him. I want my students to be the same and am very grateful for the time and effort Sifu is giving me to help preserve the skill, my family school and lineage under his guidance for many years to come.
My Daughter and sons are now the third generation in our family lineage to train the skill, maybe one day one of them might choose to continue the school as i have, please see below a video of Amelia Jessica Mann now 6 years old training, we are very proud of her.
Thank you for taking the time to read and look at my site. I hope to see you at class soon and again would like to thank my Father, Mother, Ip sigong and Sifu for everything they have done or they still do, as without them non of this would be possible.
Sifu Sean Mann
Mann Family School of Kung Fu.