Iron Bridge School of Kung Fu and Internal Training, the new academy opened in Estepona by celebrated Kung Fu master Sifu Joe Williams, is bringing the martial arts and spiritual path of this most noble of ancient traditions to the Costa del Sol.
Sifu Joe Williams may have been born in London but his heart and spirit have been in the orient ever since he first found a natural calling in Kung Fu. “People talk about martial arts and often think of fight sports, but Kung Fu is much more than a mere sport – it is a philosophy that has the power to change your whole outlook on life.”
Unlike competitive sports and many forms of martial arts, Kung Fu is grounded in a life philosophy whose reach and effect can extend well beyond the forms and combat techniques for which it is most famous.
“Naturally our school attracts people interested in the martial side of things,” says Sifu Joe, “but as with many of the ancient Asian arts, Kung Fu also offers a path that can transform not just your body, health and strength, but also create a sense of purpose, discipline and focus that wasn’t there before.”
More than sport
Unlike most sports, which apply discipline and commitment yet focus mainly on the competitive side, The Kung Fu and Tai Chi classes offered by Sifu Joe can be taken into different directions, depending on your need or what you want from them.
“To do it properly takes a certain dedication, because whereas you can learn to play tennis or kick box, in the realms of Kung Fu and Tai Chi there are so many layers of skill and knowledge you can acquire that you could spend a lifetime doing so.”
His own journey has seen him become a practitioner of Kung Fu and Chi Gung, whose classical Southern Chinese tenets are taught at the Iron Bridge school in Estepona. “I studied under a sifu who is a monk of Xiaolin and now I impart a body of knowledge that might seem all about forms, or stylised combat movements, but which starts with focusing on how to control the body through your breathing, your movements, the clearing of the mind and the concentration of energy.”
The process creates a sense of self-awareness that not only improves an understanding of your own body, but also promotes self-worth, confidence and the ability to focus. “Even those people who don’t go on to pursue the more meditational and philosophical side of Kung Fu and Tai Chi often gain more focus and energy, which we see frequently in both adults and kids.”
The latter are commonly seen to become less rowdy and disruptive, their energy now channelled into an outlet that gives them a greater ability to concentrate in school and other activities.
As for the adults, they range from women looking for self-defence techniques and martial arts experts wanting to take their skills to a whole new level, to those ready for a greater sense of consciousness and the desire to connect with the natural world around them.
“Kung Fu and Tai Chi offer all this, and much more,” says the Sifu whose great credit is the fact that he is equally at home with beginners and children as he is teaching the all-out combat techniques of Southern Praying Mantis to advanced pupils.
From Marcos, who walks with crutches yet uses Kung Fu to bolster mind, body and spirit, to Simón and Rogelio, for whom the classes offer a method to leave the stresses of the modern world behind, the classes have a very personal value.
“The modern way of life disconnects us from nature, ourselves and those around us,” says Rogelio, “but step through the door here and you soon become more aware of what you eat, how you treat your body, where your energy comes from and how you interact with other people.
It is a process that Sifu – which means ‘adoptive father’ – guides you through for as long and as far as you wish to follow it. In six months I have gained not only knowledge about Kung Fu as a martial art, but also insights into principles such as the strength of subtlety, the power of courtesy and the confidence required to be kind and patient. These are the building stones of Kung Fu both on the mat and beyond it.”
Words Marisa Cutillas
Iron Bridge School of Kung Fu and Internal Training.
Tel: 678 472 239.