Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: Inner Wing Tsun by Keith Kernspecht

We have today a book review by our frequent contributor, Jonathan Bluestein. Enjoy!

Review of ‘Inner Wing Tsun’ – a course book for all martial enthusiasts
By Jonathan Bluestein

Inner Wing Tsun is a not a book, but rather a poem; an ode to martial arts. It is a song of character, testifying to the thought and nature of its author, master Keith Kernspecht. It ought to be understood as Kernspecht’s artistic (rather than technical) transmission of his arts in writing; a personal message, first and foremost from him to his students, and to practitioners of Wing Chun worldwide.

A petite yet impressive work, it bears an aura of seriousness and importance, conveyed strongly first and foremost through its oldschool hard-cover design, as well as its highly professional editing. 

Though mass-produced, it has the feel of a collector’s novelty item. The book’s atmosphere and tone are very rational and North-western European, and those who see themselves at home with that sort of attitude will enjoy this work to the utmost.

Falling mid-way between philosophical/psychological discourse and a martial arts journal summarizing decades of experience, Inner Wing Tsun reads like no other book of its kind.   
Those looking for technicalities would be let down. This is not an instructional. Rather, it is concerned with various Principles: those of practicing, teaching and even living correctly. Most of these are based on the author’s decades-long experience in his art (and his training in many other arts along the way), but anecdotes and musings are also drawn from a myriad of other source materials, oftentimes writings by great thinkers of Western Philosophy and such. It is meant as a life-guide. A pocketbook for the right mindset in difficult times. Something one carries along and goes back to again and again as his or her martial arts path continues to evolve.

Albeit written from a Wing Chun perspective, this book is not only for practitioners of this art. The thoughtful anecdotes of the author on matters relating to personal development in the martial arts can appeal to anyone. I myself am a practitioner and teacher of other Chinese martial arts, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it.    

This is one of very few books which address modern scientific understandings as they relate to Internal mechanics in the martial arts (Nei Gong). Like my own book, Research of Martial Arts (, it addresses the role of fasciae in Internal training, which is a very important subject which has been neglected up until the last decade by martial artists. There is also referencing of the training of Yi (Intention), which is something usually missed from martial arts books. 

Covered are also some very advanced training and fighting concepts. The use of actual empathy to gain an advantage in fighting, the ‘touching’ of an opponent without touching in the psychological and spiritual sense, and more. All of these easily reveal the depth of the master Kernspecht’s personal research in his arts and practice.           
The psychology of combat is a field of study often reserved to intuitive learning by veteran fighters. Here however we are given a more coherent take on this topic. It is here similar yet different to Rory Miller’s works, and covers many aspects of the self-defense oriented combative mindset – from ritualistic street brawling to intricate strategic maneuvering. Though none of these are technique-specific in the book, that is actually an advantage, as the author allows the reader a broad room for interpretation and implementation into what he or she are already familiar with.

Some observations made by the author, I take to be simply brilliant. For instance, he writes: “when our arm or arms are in contact with the opponent, the only thing we need to do is to avoid our own arms!”. This simple truth, which could easily be dismissed as being ‘all too obvious’, is a great asset as an instructional order for a beginner student. I would not exaggerate by saying that things such as this, put in the right context and said to the right person, can save one months and sometimes years of training with an incorrect mindset.   

At 350 tiny pages (which do not sacrifice quality for size), you could easily get through this book in one go if you wish, in no more than 3-4 hours. Yet the text draws you in, slowing the pace and tempting you to read it more solemnly (as in other small but deep works, such as the Dao De Jing). 

Regardless of the time spent, if you are a serious martial artist, you would likely enjoy this work. 

Especially for martial arts teachers, this is a true gem for expanding their general overview of training and instructing, and providing new ways to think about old ideas.

This fine book may be ordered directly from master Kernspecht’s organization (the EWTO). It ought to cost about 30$. You can make an order by emailing the EWTO here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read the book, and I agree! This review hits the point exactly, I strongly recommend the book "Inner Wing Tsun", it is the smallest, but the best book of all the books of Keith Kernspecht.