The trouble with traditional martial arts is that they are all too often impractical in a real life physical altercation, according to long time Kung Fu instructor Armando Sainz.
“Although they are great for discipline, and a good foundation for self-defense, most martial arts systems are for sport and are not always effective,” said Sainz. “I have developed a fighting system for any situation—for the streets.”
But Sainz’ fighting system is not simply an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) amalgamation of styles and techniques, nor is it simple blocks or strikes.
After practicing various martial arts fighting styles for more than thirty years, chiefly Wing Chun Kung Fu, Sainz developed his own system, which he maintains is realistic and reaches beyond the scope of sparring or breaking boards by applying “reality based selfdefense thinking”.
“My system is Innovative Wing Chun and it is unlike most systems which are not concept-based,” explained Sainz. “My students learn how to defend against any attacker.” Innovative Wing Chun (IWC) teaches students how to defend from all assailants, be they empty-handed or armed with weapons ranging from knives and bats to even pistols.
For 24-year-old Robert Nunes, the system is versatile and more than adequate for situations where self defense is needed. “It brings together all levels of fighting. It covers all bases,” said Nunes, who has been studying under Sainz since he was 11 years old. Nunes is a home/commerical security firm manager.
Nunes maintains that IWC can stand up to any martial art, even with the advent of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which has been lauded by the Mixed Martial Arts community for its effectiveness on the ground against a wide variety of fighting styles. “It’s a different mindset. You’re fighting for your life. [IWC] doesn’t play into the game practiced in Jiu Jitsu,” said Nunes, an MMA competitor and Jiu Jitsu practitioner.
Sainz’ system draws from several sources, but mainly Tai Chi-influenced Wing Chun for its use of energy and balance in striking and bareknuckle boxing for its violence and scientific practicality.
Whereas Tae Kwon Do or Karate practitioners are trained to block first and attack, Sainz’ system teaches students to do both simultaneously, a concept exclusive to Wing Chun—the foundation of IWC. “When you use forward energy like that you are able to deflect damage that you might take from an attacker and open them up during the process.”
Sainz trains his pupils to strike swiftly and directly, however he also administers “contact reflex” training, in which the student practices body positioning while guarding numerous areas of the body. In doing so, he says his students gain greater sensitivity to their physical awareness and a fast, automatic defensive response to whatever attack they may face.
“Wing Chun means ‘eternal’ or ‘beautiful springtime’,” said Sainz. “It implies freshness, innovation or creativity. It is ever-changing. But the problem is that most practitioners learn it traditionally and it loses its value.” Sainz said that IWC preserves the art by keeping it loose and innovative.
IWC functions in contemporary fighting situations, a break from traditional Wing Chun. Sainz asserts that in pursuit of expanding the art, he has had to adapt it to the various martial arts being practiced throughout the world. In doing so, he believes his students can overcome other fighting systems, be they striking, grappling, stand-up or ground-based.
In fact, since he began teaching IWC in Jacksonville in 1998, he boasts of having defeated every challenger of his system. “I would have Shotokan guys, Jeet Kune Do, Shorin Ryu, Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga guys and even other Wing Chun guys come in and fight me,” he said. “It wouldn’t take long for the fight to be over.”
The reason Sainz never lost, he explained, is that in other fighting system training, practitioners only acclimate to their own form of fighting.
So far, Sainz began teaching to a wide variety of students after moving to Franklin from Jacksonville last March. From home security professionals to federal law enforcement officials, Sainz goes from the basics of simultaneous striking-blocking to advanced weapons training.
“Many of my students are from other states like Virginia and Georgia,” said Sainz, adding that most of his students are in Florida where he maintains his first school. “They will fly in and train for a few days and head out. Usually they will train for four hours at a time over two days, twice a month.”
Each student receives a different experience, he explained. “Everyone learns differently so every lesson is tailored to the individual student,” he said. “I train one student at a time though. One on one is best.” With extra students, Sainz feels his attention is too far divided.
For Eric Marcotte, 32, IWC training provides intensive and intuitive training for every individual who practices it. “Armando is a great teacher... Every thing is scientific in its approach,”said Marcotte, who has worked in federal law enforcement for 14 years. “All people are the same. We have two arms and two legs. There is a finite amount of moves or attacks that you can use. As far as that goes, [IWC] opened my eyes and train of thought on how we think of selfdefense.”
Not only do his students receive rigorous, one-on-one training at his Iotla Valley property, but he only teaches adult men. “I don’t teach women. If my students would like to teach their kids or wives what I have taught them, then that is up to them,” he said. “It is just weird to teach a woman one on one because of the nature of self-defense I teach. I wouldn’t be comfortable teaching to other women who might be married and I am also married.”
IWC students receive no flashy awards or colored belts nor do they participate in tournaments. “The black sash is the only belt, and students receive theirs once they have completed my training. There aren’t any Gi’s either, my students wear comfortable, loose clothes.”
As far as influences go, Sainz said that he has been impacted by many martial artists over the years. “Early on I was inspired by Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris,” he said. “Then once I started training I was impacted by my instructor Karl Godwin, who first began getting innovative with Wing Chun.”
However nobody has influenced Sainz more than renowned Wing Chun master Yip Man (who the 2008 film “Ip Man” is based on), who brought the art out of Communist China and into Hong Kong in 1949. Man taught many great Wing Chun practitioners including Wong Shun Leung and Bruce Lee. “He inspired me by how he could not be hindered by anything,” said Sainz. “And that is the value I try to instill into all of my students.”
For more information on how to learn about IWC, visit Sainz’ website at www.innovativewingchun.com.