Stefan Kunev is born in 1970 in Sofia. During his teenage years, he practised a lot of water polo, but an unfortunate injury made him stop. Not long afterwards, thanks to two teachers at his school, he discovered Eastern martial arts. This is how his passion for Ving Tsun Kung Fu was born. We have the honor to share his fascinating story with you.
1/ When and how did you start practicing this martial art?
I have been practicing Ving Tsun Kung Fu since 1987. Shortly after, I’ve tried another Chinese martial art, but fate separated me from the person who was teaching me. In 1987, this man introduced me to my future teacher – Dr. Doriyan Alexandrov.
At first we were learning not one but several styles. Due to the particularities of the political system at that time, we were forced to practice illegally in the parks of Sofia.
After the system changed in 1989, martial arts could now be practiced and different schools began to form. Part of Doryian Alexandrov’s group formed the core of Ving Tsun.
Dobrin Vasilev was chosen as the chief instructor and I was his assistant. Shortly after, in 1990, we succeeded in inviting a Hong Kong master and so the foundations for structured training in Ving Tsun was laid. Since then, I’ve never stopped practicing this wonderful art. I went through different times – both good and bad, but I survived. And here I am where I’ve always been in the last 32 years – in the hall, among friends and students!
As for the reason, I do not know if there is one. Perhaps because the mysticism of the East has always attracted me, perhaps to prove myself to a girl (I was only 17 years old), or because of fear from someone. Whatever the reason, the result is important. I am still immensely happy with what I do and I am still infinitely curious and craving for knowledge. That’s why I’ve never stopped meeting with different masters from around the world – there’s always something new I can learn about Ving Tsun and the world of martial arts.
2/ When was the club founded and are there a lot more in Bulgaria?
Ving Tsun Kung Fu Club Beimo was founded in 2000, but we did not register it
There are many Ving Tsun clubs in Bulgaria – perhaps about 40. Ip Man’s students created different mouvements and at the moment we have at least 4-5 different styles in Bulgaria and unfortunately I do not know much about them.
I can only talk about Wong Shun Leung Ving Tsun. Only in Sofia there are 15 clubs. There exist also in Varna, Plovdiv, Rousse and other smaller towns.
3/ Can you tell how many people practised in the club throughout the years? Is this Art appropriate for children? What about older people who have not been practising sports for a long time?
I don’t have any idea how many people have practised in the club – perhaps over 200. Many of my students went all over the world – England, Denmark, Spain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, the United States, Japan.
Currently, the main core of our club’s trainees is aged 20-55 and therefore we have no children. We have an instructor who graduated from the NSA and who is willing to engage with children and maybe we will soon start a children’s group.
Ving Tsun is a combat system that does not require the existence of any physical training. For this reason, it is appropriate for any age and gender. If you remember when we talked about history, the first two generations of masters were women, and women are gentle and graceful creatures – we do not expect them to have great physical strength, to overflow with heroic courage, or have the flexibility of a gymnast.
4/ What changes in a person’s body who is practicing this art?
Ving Tsun’s practice gradually strengthens the body without causing stress, because everything happens naturally – without exertion and physical effort.
At the same time, considerable flexibility is gained in certain areas (mostly in the hands), which is the result of the specific training methods typical of Ving Tsun only. The strength of the legs develops, which is important for the structure of the whole body.
Another effect is the significant improvement in coordination – Ving Tsun is one of the few martial arts that develops synchronic and asynchronous work of all limbs at the same time. Working with the body in this way helps create additional connections between the two hemispheres of the brain and contributes to greater harmony between them.
Last but not least, Ving Tsun’s practice leads to a significant reduction in reaction time. Studies have been made years ago that undoubtedly proved a reaction time 2.5 times faster than an average man who is practicing other type of martial arts. This effect is achieved by working to overcome the limitations of the mind and reaching deeper levels of consciousness and subconsciousness.
5/ And what changes in the soul and consciousness? It is known that eastern martial arts are always associated with this.
As a rule, most beginners are tuned to the external form of learning. In external form I mean pure physical education – these are the different techniques, stands, moves, ways of protection and attack.
Over time, people understand that martial arts are like a floating iceberg. The visible part of the iceberg (which, if my memory doesn’t lie to me, is just one tenth of the whole volume) corresponds to the external form of training I just described. And, the invisible part of the iceberg, hidden from the sight, corresponds to the internal training. In many martial arts, there are characteristic methods for this inner learning (meditation, for example). In Chinese martial arts, the so-called Chi/Qi Gong and Neigong practices are applied.
In Ving Tsun, things are simplified to the maximum – external and internal practices are one. This is why, over time, those who practice understand that the more they do it, the deeper is the knowledge they acquire about things. So, in time, people begin to lose interest in the battle aspect of what they are practicing and become some kind of researchers of this activity and of themselves, which is the basis of most of the Eastern spiritual practices. The process is extremely interesting, and everyone develops in a different direction, but generally, people become more balanced, safer, and more curious about the horizons they face.
Expect the second part of the interview with Stefan Kunev as well as an article about the ancient history of Ving Tsun on the site of Elysium.