Sifu Rawcliffe


Sifu Rawcliffe
 

Sifu Shaun Rawcliffe - The man behind the Martial Artist

An article written about Sifu Shaun Rawcliffe for Qi Magazine
Sifu Rawcliffe
Is there one special quality that raises a practitioner of any martial art above the ordinary? Yes and no. Special quality, yes. Just the one, no. Hard work, Commitment, discipline, self-sacrifice - all the usual suspects. No surprises there. But what about the unique qualities every one of us, as ordinary human beings, brings to our martial art? Those experiences and idiosyncrasies that influence our training perhaps more than we realize, could they explain the extra-ordinary martial artist?
Sifu Shaun Rawcliffe's martial arts pedigree is well known to Wing Chun Kuen practitioners in the UK, Europe and Hong Kong. Anyone who has seen him in one of his memorable demonstrations (notably COMBAT '95, SENI and 1st World Ving Tsun conference in Hong Kong), or seminars has seen his passion for Wing Chun in action. Anyone who has trained with Shaun has shared in his enthusiasm for teaching it. However, given his habitual teaching persona, a fluent stream of witticisms, punctuated by gob-smackingly realistic demonstrations, it is easy to overlook the depth and scope of the technical information being passed across. This is what lies beneath the showmanship, the hands-on skill, the jokes and the confidence.
Shaun is quick to emphasise that every martial arts instructor brings different strengths to his or her own teaching style above and beyond technical ability. For him personally, the highest level of martial arts skill rests upon a broad and deep base of knowledge, gained slowly over many years. Blessed with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, the tenacity of a pit bull terrier and instinctive teaching ability, Shaun certainly puts his natural energies to good use in everything he tackles, but particularly into his martial arts.
Sifu Rawcliffe
It is his ability to see the bigger picture that sets him apart. In parallel with his practical and theoretical study of Wing Chun, he has invested hundreds of hours in talking and training with other martial artists from many different disciplines. Looking for the similarities as much as the differences, these verbal and physical conversations have given him a deep appreciation of the fighting arts and genuine respect for skilful practitioners, whatever their style. An interest in other martial arts is certainly not unusual (the late great Bruce Lee's fascination with other fighting and defensive systems was legendary) but it defines Shaun's readiness to look outside his own art, without diluting his absolute belief and loyalty to Wing Chun.
As many more hours have been spent in detailed research of all manner of subjects, directly and indirectly related to martial arts. As well as specifics like Wing Chun genealogies, Shaun has studied Chinese culture, learned a smattering of Cantonese and got to grips with combat philosophy and psychology. If that was not enough, and for the majority of us, it would be, Shaun has also acquired a decent knowledge of less obvious techniques such as positive mental attitude, body language and physiology. Research is often triggered by a chance remark in conversation, random question by a student or magazine article. His research is not limited to reading or trawling the 'net, either. Believing that life is a participator, not a spectator sport, over the years Shaun has actively participated in many seminars, lectures and training courses, totally distinct from martial arts, all in the pursuit of the underpinning knowledge he values so highly. In this Shaun is treading an historic route, since traditionally in China, Japan and elsewhere martial artists were taught a whole raft of skills ranging from bone setting to poetry and often their celebrity came from these, rather than their combative ability. His students frequently benefit from Shaun's knowledge of soft tissue massage or acupressure plus a smattering of osteopathy, cracking spines back into place!
Sifu Rawcliffe
It is Shaun's heartfelt view that knowledge is there to be shared and undoubtedly this is one of the main qualities he brings to his martial arts teaching. This is not only his personal creed, but also his teaching culture and everything he learns or discovers is passed on, nothing is held back or kept secret. What you see is what you get with Sifu Rawcliffe. No closed doors, no pretence and no ego. He is convinced that the proof of a good martial arts instructor is in producing students more skilled than him and that withholding information reflects only the teacher's lack of confidence in themselves and respect for their students. Passing information down the generations is Shaun's mission.
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Being keeper of so much information definitely makes for a varied and entertaining teaching style. Not one scrap of knowledge goes to waste and Shaun will delve deep into his encyclopaedic memory to find some analogy, some perspective to help illustrate whatever technique or principle is under discussion. Eating, sleeping and breathing Wing Chun as he does, work and leisure pursuits constantly infiltrate classroom explanations. With a career spanning close protection, architecture and IT Security, it is not unusual for a basic teaching session on Wing Chun theory to include references to defensive driving, architectural and structural design and computer technology, peppered with anecdotes of real-life situations and all of it entirely natural and relevant. Should words prove inadequate, Shaun draws quite literally from his knowledge base, sketching diagrams on odds scraps of paper or turning mundane objects like pieces of rope and chairs into teaching aids and practical demonstrations. From a student's point of view, this makes struggling to make sense of abstract concepts or master unfamiliar techniques so much easier, since Shaun can always be counted on to come up with an appropriate and memorable explanation.
The process of gathering knowledge continues for Shaun personally and is accelerating in every aspect of his life. Shaun never stops learning because he never wants to stop learning. To him, the day he stops learning is the day he stops breathing. Leading by example, Sifu Rawcliffe continues to travel thousands of miles each year to Hong Kong, continuing his personal development under the guidance of his own Sifu, Grandmaster Ip Chun. On top of his teaching and training regime for the past two and a half years he has devoted many hours a week to gaining and maintaining his higher-level professional ICT qualifications (MCSE) and EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) for career development. He is also father to a beautiful daughter. In his spare time (!) Shaun is still reading, still researching, still learning. Every year Shaun sets himself personal goals; he is a qualified SCUBA Diver, has passed both the Institue of Advanced Motorists and RoSPA advanced driving tests, he is a member of MENSA and list goes on…
If all this sounds too good to be true, do not take my word for it. Anyone is welcome to check it out for him or herself, simply by turning up at any of Shaun's classes or seminars. Or by reading the book he has finally (after years of persuasion from his students) agreed to write. Driven by his strict attention to detail, Shaun has been researching even more assiduously to ensure accuracy and clarity but typical of his appreciation of expertise in others, he has commissioned several of his own students to contribute technical articles, acknowledging their credentials in specialized areas. He frequently does exactly the same thing in class. Anatomical detail of shoulder musculature required? Ask the doctor training over there. Confirmation of Einstein's Theory of Relativity? Check it out with the PhD in the corner. If his years of martial arts training, research and study has taught Sifu Shaun Rawcliffe anything it is this. No one is invincible and no one has all the answers!
But even this is only part of the story; Architect, Bodyguard, Author, Scuba diver, ICT Systems administrator/Manager. A good martial artist is the sum of many parts and when you understand the man behind the martial artist it all starts to add up …
2004
 
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