John Gangemi – Coach Level

John Gangemi

John Gangemi is a Healthcare Professional who owns a Compounding Pharmacy which specializes in HRT Therapy, anti-aging medicine, and specialty medications. I was very athletic in high school, and in college with background in some boxing, wrestling, football and baseball. However, as I got older starting gaining weight and put on 40lbs I needed to get rid of. Wing Chun has provided the vehicle that I needed to get the weight off, and has allowed me gain the knowledge and ability to protect myself, family and friends. It really allows you to test your inner strengths. I highly recommend this to anyone who is trying to get back into the shape they were in years ago. For the record, I am 55 years old!

I joined and started my Wing Chun Training in February of 2010 and it has been the best decision I have ever made for my physical and mental well-being.

I was looking for a self defense martial art primarily for my daughter who has a masters in criminal justice and she was applying for law enforcement positions. Our concern was that being that she is very petite that she would need a major upper hand in order to defend herself who may be considerably larger than she is. After considerabe research on the internet and checking out every martial art form in respect to a REALISTIC martial application. Almost every martial art forum and school told us if you want realistic self defense, Wing Chun was the martial art you needed. Out of all the martial arts size was not an issue for Wing Chun and that Wing Chun was very direct and very thorough. At this point we decided to look for a Wing Chun Martial Art program and by pure accident living in Lakeland, Florida we stumbled across Sifu Och’s school. We went down for the trial day, the Sifu Och trial day was made up of a intense workout and instruction and foundation in the basic applications of Wing Chun in street fighting. It was very eye opening and to this day I still remember how to get out of a side headlock. We were both looking to get into shape which this definitely provided that as I was extremely out of shape as I put on 30 unwanted pounds. We both agreed that the instructor Sifu Och knew a lot of Wing Chun and we liked the format and the way the material and instruction was presented.

The way that the curriculum and the classes were structured was very impressive as there were an actual ciriculum and testing requirements. The curriculum along with the testing requirements allows you to see exactly how well and how far you have progressed and where you stand with respect to the information you have been given. This is a school where you definitely earn your information, skill and sash. There is a great sense of achievement and accomplishment when you move to the next level. Sifu Och makes it so you become extremely well versed in every aspect of the particular level your working on. I have never once felt that I have had to “search” for the information if anything I have felt as if I was always receiving “bonus” information that wasn’t required but made me better. With speaking with the more advanced students it was obvious they knew their art as well as were extremely fond of the instructor and the way he presented the material and we decided that we wanted to enroll.

Some where between 6 months and a year a light bulb went off and I finally started to put together the different combinations, fighting techniques and forms that I had learned early on. It wasn’t such a struggle any more and it became very easy to adapt and to learn new techniques. I had major improvements in speed, eye-hand coordination and my power improved dramatically. I could tell with the intensity when I was hitting it was a very focused blow, very direct and I was able to knock the person backward. This was around the same time that my footwork improved dramatically. I started pressing with my heel into the ground and it felt ground, with more power and a greater center of gravity. I literally was able to start focusing my own energy.

First I want to say that with much respect for my seniors in the art I write this.

We had a gentleman come into class one day who professed to be in Wing Chun for over 20 years and that he had a school up north with many students. I had only been training for 2 years at this point and was anxious to see what techniques he would use against me. As we did sensitivity training and close quarter wrist on wrist sparring Sifu Och paired us together. I had no idea what to expect and I really thought with 20 years of experience this guy was going to take my head off. I thought it would be over and done with pretty quick but I figured I would try my best and do what I was taught by Sifu Och. I was absolutely shocked on how fast and how well I shut down anything he threw at me. It felt like he had no offensive Wing Chun techniques and I was able to out maneuver using footwork and out strike him during the matches we had. With much respect his Wing Chun didn’t feel “tight” with his Wing Chun centerline offense and defense but rather felt open and his speed didn’t have have the power behind it. After about five or six of these matches he asked me to stop and slow down because he was frustrated. He asked me to please show and instruct him on what techniques I was doing as he said “I just can’t get in and I’m not learning anything can we just stop and you show me what your doing”. Which I did, I stopped, slowed down and showed him some of the basic moves I was doing. I really wanted him to feel like we wanted to help him, I wanted him to know that he could learn something here too and that Sifu Och and his students are very open and friendly. I will be honest though I felt very out of place teaching a senior from another school. I was prepared in the beginning to ask him to show me some techniques and felt very off because he had been training much longer than I had been. He did not believe me when I told him I had only been training in Sifu Och’s academy of Wing Chun Kung Fu for only two years at that point. He asked if I had previous marital arts experience as he said this must be where you got your experience and fighting from and I told him I had none before coming here. He looked at me shocked and he seemed very baffled by these matches. I felt great after the night was over, I felt like my private lessons, my class training, endurance training had really paid off. Before the end of the night we shook hands and he acknowledged to me “the way you fight and the way you have been doing this is like a guy that has been doing this for years and years. For all the years I have trained I did not get in 20 years what you have been given in your 2 and I’m not sure why.” After talking with him most of his training seemed in the forms, chi sau and not much actual fighting application and fighting combinations.

Another situation arose when I was at a get together with a bunch of friends and people I did not know and the subject came up that I was training in Wing Chun. After much discussion a gentleman walked up who I did not know stepped forward and interrupted the conversation saying “well you know I am a kickboxer!” and I respond “Oh ok, that’s awesome.” (with much respect to his comment) It was about this time that I set down my drink, looked back at my friend to finish my sentence when I saw out of the corner of my eye that he was throwing a round house kick at my head. As I saw this attempt my reaction was a block and attack application where I struck his shin bone with my forearm and placed my fist right near his face. I said “don’t do that cr*p again” and I shook my head and went about my business. This guys response was “geez, you guys are fast” he laughed it off, turned and walked away. When he put his leg down to walk I noticed that he put his foot down softly indicating I really had smacked his leg good. My buddy the one that I was originally talking to said “what the h*ll are you learning at that school” he was very impressed. He said “wow I can’t believe how fast you have gotten”. Did I mention I’m 55, yeah bro 55.

Another time me and my buddies were down in Sarasota, Florida at a biker event and we are standing in line waiting to get some food and drinks and I was giving one of my friends a razzing. He knowing that I was going for my blue sash test, said “do you wanna go for your blue sash test right now”. I said sure why not he proceeded to throw a quick but jesting jab at my face. Which I then paak/punched (paak is slap block similar to that in boxing) and placed my foot at his groin and made multiple striking gestures towards his groin. He then threw a cross which I paak’d with a chop to the side of the forehead (none of which I actually hit him with as we are great friends and this was all in fun.). At that point I just looked at him and I said “bro I think you are dead” at which he laughed.

The Sifu Och Wing Chun school has a great group of individuals with a variety of backgrounds, professionals and non-professionals from all walks of life and all socioeconomic levels. Everyone has the same passion, great comradery, everyone gets along and for the most part the ego’s are left at the door. All of us share one passion, Wing Chun. This has been the best decision I have ever made for my physical and mental well-being.

John Gangemi
Wing Chun Coach Level