Sihing Jeff Gardner – 2nd Level Wing Chun Instructor
Currently Sihing Jeff Gardner has achieved the rank of Red Sash (1st Adv. Level Wing Chun Instructor), has a want to open a Sifu Och Wing Chun Kung Fu school in Bradenton/Sarasota Florida and continues to train with Master Sifu Justin Och towards his goal of leaning the entire Ip Man system of Wing Chun.
I started Western Boxing under George Yaniger, A.A.U. Golden Gloves champion (Rocky Mountains – 1962-63). Served with 2nd Ranger Battallion (Ft. Lewis, WA). C Co 2/75 held hand to hand combat and mixed martial arts. Studied Vee Arnis Jitsu under Shihan Charles Garrity and Sensei Rusty Hunter in Bangor Pennsylvania. In May 2008 after a challenge match with Sifu Och he started his training under Black & Gold Sash Sifu Justin Och in Lakeland Florida in the art of Wing Chun Kung Fu and he is loving it.
My self defense training started back in high school. My high school had an after school program for boxing. The instructor George Yaniger was the A.A.U. Golden Gloves champion (Rocky Mountains – 1962-63). We trained at in a maintenance garage behind the football field in a place the instructor called “The Bloody Bucket”. It was a very modest training area with a heavy bag, speed bag, some jump ropes, and the area we sparred in was just a concrete floor. He would instruct us on combinations and footwork. Every Friday we would warm up, train on the bags and do some sparring. He would allow us to chose partners some times, other times he would just toss out the names of the people to get into the ring. My boxing experience got me through a few scuffles in my high school years. After high school I enlisted in the Army with a contract for the 75th Ranger Regiment. The experiences in R.I.P(Ranger Indoctrination Program) at 2nd Ranger Battalion (Ft. Lewis, WA) taught me about respect, discipline and a sense of pride known by few.
Without the life lessons taught to me in the Army, I wouldn’t be where I am in life today. Discipline very important when training in martial arts and my military experience has made it easier to me to adapt to just about anything in life, and made it much easier to take constructive criticism from my Sifu. A few years after getting out of the Army and going to college I started taking Vee Arnis Jitsu under Professor Rusty Hunter and Professor Charles Garrity in Bangor Pennsylvania. Vee Jitsu is an art based on Muay Thai, Filipino Arts, Chinese Kung fu, and Japanese Aikido, it takes effective techniques from many fighting styles. In Vee Jitsu the instructors were always giving respect to the arts from which the techniques they were teaching originated. I recall a time when Professor Garrity was teaching the center line principles of Wing Chun, and it had me very intrigued. Throughout training, whenever Wing Chun techniques were taught, the simple principles behind them just made sense to me. One of the techniques I had to use on the streets was very effective, they called it the “Gung Fu” kick, known to me know as a half crescent kick.
I was out hanging out with some friends and the owner of the bar was drunk and obnoxious. He ended up singling me out and told me to get out. I said goodbye to my friends and was leaving on my own. At the exit, he shoved me out the door for no reason. It made me angry so I elbowed his door and decided to walk away and go home. The owner slammed the door back open and started charging toward me. I got in a defensive stance and when he got close to me I did a half crescent kick to his knee, then continued struck him until he dropped. I did what my instructors taught me to, eliminate the threat and get out. I checking my back as I was leaving, he got back up and came after me again. I knocked him down again and continued on to my car. A police officer came behind me, grabbed me and I almost turned to elbow him, when I saw who it was. He saw the whole thing and let me go because I was only defending myself, if I had taken the guy down and continued hitting him, I probably would have been arrested. My Vee Jitsu training just prior to getting my green belt because of a motorcycle accident in 1999. A few years after moving to Florida, I started looking back into martial arts. I checked out some local places, in my area there were mostly Karate, Taekwondo, and Jui Jitsu. They are great arts, but just not my style.
I started doing some extensive searches about Wing Chun and found two local places. I went to one class of each, but they seemed to focus a lot on the forms and not practical applications. The forms are important and maybe those schools teach application later, but main criteria for a martial arts school was self defense. I ended up calling Sifu Och and arranged to meet up with him in Tampa. I started asking him questions about the art and his lineage followed by me asking him if I could throw some attacks at him to see how he would defend them. He had an answer for all of the attacks I threw at him, from that point, I was convinced that Wing Chun was for me. After that day, I met up with Sifu Och for a few hours every Saturday or Sunday for private lessons.
The private lessons are what I feel really helped me to excel in the art. The one on one attention allowed him to correct the flaws in my techniques immediately so I was not practicing incorrectly. I remember one weekend, Sifu Och asked a few of us to go put on a demo in Plant City, Florida. We showed up and it was a pretty small crowd, but it actually worked out better for our demo. Sifu Och started explaining the principles of the art and some basic techniques. His demonstration brought on a lot of questions from just about everyone there. One of the guys who had been doing Tai Chi for 18+ years asked Sifu Och if he would do Push Hands. Our version of push hands is Chi Sao/Wrist vs Wrist fighting. This guy was probably a foot or more taller than Sifu Och and outweighed him by over 50 pounds. Sifu Och was able to control him to where the guy was unable to get a strike in. After Sifu Och’s demo I was talking to a guy who had been doing Muay Thai for 6 years, and he was asking me questions about different techniques and situations. After answering his questions, he asked if he could try a few things on me. I told him that he could, but my energy used to defend him would be determined on how hard he came at me. He attempted a few different combinations on me, and I defended each of them showing him that I had control over him. He was impressed by the speed and control I had when defending his attacks. At that time, I had only been with Sifu Och for a little over 2 1/2 years. I really enjoy my time with Sifu Och. A true Wing Chun instructor in every way, constantly growing and pushing his students to get stronger and better.
Not only is he my Sifu and Mentor, but my friend. I have never trained with another martial arts instructor who was so dedicated to is art. Sifu Och has a genuine love for his art and does everything possible for his students to advance their skills. Between Sifu Och and the other students of the school, it’s like having another family.
Bradenton/Sarasota Florida Wing Chun Instructor
Under Black and Gold Sash Sifu Justin of the Ip Man Lineage of Wing Chun Kung Fu
(Ip Man, Moy Yat, Yip Ching, Yip Chun, Simon Lau, Wong Shun Leung)