Wing Chun in Birmingham

Shaun Rawcliffe – Midlands Wing Chun Kuen

Shaun Rawcliffe, Birmingham If you’re willing to venture into the furthest suburbs of South Birmingham, you’ll find Shaun Rawcliffe’s Midlands Wing Chun Kuen based in Hall Green and Solihull which has quite a reputation. Shaun Rawcliffe studied for many years directly under Ip Chun. Shaun was a bodyguard for Jackie Chan and has extensive experience in the security industry. He always has a good story to tell. Many teachers around the UK also have stories to tell about Shaun Rawcliffe – they are generally to his credit, and he doesn’t talk so much about them, he just does his own thing and his classes stay busy and his association is pretty widespread and very well known in & around Birmingham.

Website: www.wingchun.co.uk

Location: 1st Hall Green Scout Hall, Highfield Road, Hall Green, B28 0BY

I trained in Shaun Rawcliffe’s classes for a few years (nearly 20 years ago) before leaving to focus more on Tai Chi (for more commitment to balance & softness).

His Wing Chun was quite linear and forward-leaning compared to where I place my own style.

He had most of the usual characteristics of Hong Kong Wing Chun, especially Ip Chun lineage.

My view on Shaun Rawcliffe’s style of Wing Chun, is a bit like Bobby Fischer’s view on Alexander Alekhine’s style of chess: “It’s hard to find mistakes in his games, but in a sense his whole method was a mistake.”

I find this an appropriate quote, not just because Alekhine is famous for his very linear attacks (Alekhine’s Gun). But as much as I felt his focus on closing the centre and driving forward was over-emphasised, when tested in Chi Sau, he was still as good as anyone I’d stuck hands with.

I only had the opportunity to stick hands with Shawn Rawcliffe once or twice during the three years that I trained in his school on a weekly basis, and I very much enjoyed it when it happened. He was usually leading the class, or standing back while an assistant instructor did, but he didn’t stick hands with beginners often himself.

He was not aggressive in Chi Sau, like he sometimes is in drills. He was very relaxed and quite balanced, albeit seemingly quite laterally squashed and over extended forward. All very linear. That was his style and he carried it very well. He had the energy & experience to back it up and it was very hard to prove fault in it.

I refer to Bobby’s quote when considering Shaun’s style of Wing Chun, because I’m coming from more of a Tai Chi perspective where we want to be balanced in all directions at all times. Having said that, the Tai Chi principle of Sau Tai Sun (手提身) is also sometimes taught in Wing Chun – in fact, I first learnt it from one of Shaun’s former Wing Chun teachers who wasn’t a fan of Tai Chi.

While training in Shaun’s school in my early 20s I developed a lot. Many stubborn preferences emerged that are still with me today. Unfortunately, this didn’t go down well at the time. While Shaun himself remained polite and impartial, his assistant instructors occasionally pulled me aside and said I need to stop doing things my own way (even during solo drills), they said I need to attempt to copy fully else leave the club and train elsewhere. One such talking to, happened on my last day there. I really felt my hands were tied – I would have loved to continue training there but with a bit more freedom to make my own adjustments – unfortunately I felt unwelcomed to do this. I’ve since had the same experience in endless other martial arts clubs – this is one area where JKD excels because Bruce Lee made a point about not stifling such things (probably because he experienced the same problem himself).

I recall one time, Shaun had something to say about Bruce Lee’s quote, “absorb what’s useful, discard what’s not, and add what’s uniquely your own” (there’s a few variations of this quote). Shaun said (paraphrasing) this is a nice idea but it doesn’t work because students don’t know if something’s really not useful, so they need to continue learning what they’re taught and keep an open mind. In a way, I agree this is true, especially for beginners, and for people who can’t “feel”. But I think when people have the experience and sensitivity to have formed solid preferences, it’s generally for good reason and they should be encouraged to go with what feels right to them. And Bruce didn’t say “reject what you suspect is not useful” he said “reject what is not useful” so you still have a duty to get to know if it’s really useful or not.

Now if I have a student who I think is making a mistake, I will attempt to exploit that mistake so they can immediately see what they’re doing wrong and correct it, rather than simply telling them they’re wrong and leaving them in doubt. I hear Bruce was also very quick to prove things any time his students doubted something.

Adrian Rhodes – Warrior Wing Chun

Adrian Rhodes Adrian Rhodes teaches in Dudley under Samuel Kwok’s association (Sam trained for many years under Ip Chun, then many years under Ip Ching). Ade’s classes are based in a small boxing gym with a good ring and some punch bags. Well worth considering if you want to try a slightly different style to Ip Chun lineage, or if you’re based nearer to Dudley / West Birmingham.

Website: www.warriorwingchun.co.uk

Location: Priory Park Boxing Club, Priory Road, Dudley, DY1 4EY

I met Ade once at a seminar he put on for Chris Crudelli in Dudley. We had a funny back & forth online after that. Then he started training more with our mutual teachers. Then he set up the UK Wing Chun Gathering. I’ve never trained seriously with Ade before – only touched hands with him once or twice at that non Wing Chun seminar, and I reckon he’s developed a bit since then, so I can’t really comment on his Wing Chun skills or style. Check it out if you’re interested.

Ish Shah – The School Of Wing Chun Kuen

Ish Shah, Birmingham A little more than half an hour’s walk due south from Birmingham New Street and you’ll find The School Of Wing Chun Kuen, which stems from Ip Chun → Michael Tse lineage.

Website: www.schoolofwingchun.com

Location: Concord Centre, Claremont Road, Sparkbrook, Birmingham, West Midlands, B11 1LF

I’ve never met Ish before but his London based teacher Michael Tse is well known in the UK as a teacher of both Tai Chi and Wing Chun.

Abid Mahmood – Midlands Wing Chun School

Abid Mahmood, Birmingham If travelling to Birmingham by train, you may like to join the Midlands Wing Chun School / Academy, run by Master Abid Mahmood, as it’s quite centrally located in the Jewellery Quarter (20 mins walk due north from Birmingham New Street station). Abid is a student of James Sinclair who himself studied under Ip Chun.

Website: www.midlandswingchun.com (expired and registered by Chinese spammers)

Facebook: @MidlandsWingChun

Location: 64 Northampton Street, Birmingham, B18 6DX

I’ve never met Abid before but am aware he’s been teaching Wing Chun in Birmingham for decades. Especially popular with the local South Asian community.

Umar Choudhury – Midlands Wing Chun Kuen ‘Intensive’

Umar Choudhury, Birmingham About half an hour’s walk due south from Birmingham New Street and you’ll find Sifu Umar Choudhury’s branch of Shaun Rawcliffe’s Midlands Wing Chun Kuen association. Umar began his martial arts training with 5 years of Shaolin, then was recommended by his Shaolin teacher to continue his development by training in Wing Chun with Shaun Rawcliffe. Umar is one of Shaun Rawcliffe’s most senior students, having assisted him with teaching in Hall Green and Solihull for many years. Umar has fast hands and a high level of natural ability while staying faithful to Shaun Rawcliffe’s school & system at the same time. Sifu Umar Choudhury continues to train in these locations while also now offering his own intensive classes in the Digbeth area, ideal for people based at the north end of Stratford Road or otherwise near the south side of Birmingham city centre.

Website: www.wingchun.gb.net (expired and registered by me – in before the spammers – get in touch if you wish to reclaim this domain)

Facebook: @umar.choudhury.94

Location: 60 B, Stratford Road, Birmingham, B11 1AN

In the 3 years I trained at Shaun Rawcliffe’s classes (about 20 years ago) most of those classes were led by Umar. Above all, he was an advocate of discipline and hard work. He drove a Mercedes and had a ‘polished’ vibe about him. He generally welcomed questions and had no problem demonstrating things to beginners. There were some times I challenged the authenticity of his demos but he remained professional and went straight back to basics. 20 years on now, I reckon he may be among the top 100 Wing Chunners in the UK. His teacher Shaun, I would probably put in the top 10. This is not about status or reputation, it’s about my personal view of their skill level.

Alternative options

As you can see, there are plenty of options for learning Wing Chun in Birmingham, especially under Ip Chun lineage. If you wish to train in a different type of Wing Chun, for example Ip Ching lineage, or pre Ip Man style Wing Chun then you may need to commute a bit further, but rest assured the UK is buzzing with Wing Chun teachers of all varieties – there’s plenty of options in every large town & city.

If you’re still looking for something a bit different, you’re welcome to come for private lessons with me in Swanage on the south coast of England – it’s only 4 hours’ drive from central Birmingham on a good day – or catch a train to Poole or Wareham, then get the Purbeck Breezer 40 bus from there. This is an unnecessary trek for most people, but it was the kind of thing I used to do myself. I used to travel to all corners of England in search of the best tuition in various martial arts. Browse this website for more insight into what exactly I teach today and why. If you’re really interested in travelling so far to train with me, feel free to get in touch via the form below.