The one-armed fighter for a better generation

Middle school children are arriving in the afternoon at the gym located in the center of Pecica, a town in Western Romania. At the entrance, above the glass door is a letter sized logo including a red and black Ying-Yang symbol and two hands drawn as they clash. All around are Chinese letters and the name of the club “C.S. Wing Tsun Martial-Art System, Kung-Fu Romania”.

More than 5200 miles away from the place it was developed, the dozen kids are coming twice a week to train themselves mostly for self defense in wing chun, a concept-based Chinese martial art.
Their dai sihing (senior male classmate), Valentin Maxim is already waiting them with the mattresses lined up on the flour, in front of the stall bars.
With his hair cut short and wearing a black t-shirt with red Chinese letters on it, he immediately starts a passionate demonstration of moves with only one hand; he lost his right arm at the age of 17 while he was working in a slaughterhouse.
Now, fourteen years later, is the leader of the Wing Tsun Kombat Romania, one of the few martial art schools in the western part of the country, where this concept became popular after Hungarian trainers heavily promoted it in 1996.
He is also the only one armed wing chun master in Europe recognized by the International Wing Chun Organization.

Staying positive all the time
Valentin likes to work with kids a lot and trains them in several locations in Arad County. He was 13 when started practicing martial arts, at first box, kick box and taekwondo.
“The martial arts club helps the development and improvement of character, attitude and discipline” he says.
After the accident, he had to rethink his whole life. It wasn’t easy before, living in a troubled family, with seven brothers and a mother who left when he was only eleven.
“I am mentally strong and this helped me pass this tragic chapter. I told myself: life must go on forward” the trainer recalls. “I am a tough man. We have to go forward and never give up in front of the obstacles” his philosophy sounds.
He discovered randomly this form of martial art, developed by a Buddhist nun based on his observations of a confrontation between a snake and a cran. The name comes from the first student he thought it, a young woman named Yim Wing-chun (meaning “forever springtime”). 
Legend says she got an unwanted marriage offer from a warlord but she could not refuse it, instead said will accept it only if he beat her in a fight.
After gaining the seventh grade in wing chun in 2006, Maxim opened the Wing Tsun Kung Fu school. In a few weeks, he was ready to give up. “I only had five students and that made me dejected. I thought the parents are not letting them because I have only one arm. In time, people hared I am a serious man and six months later I had almost 50 kids”.
For him, martial arts were a salvation. Valentin even has the spirit to find a good part of the accident he left him without an arm.
Probably if I had my both arms, I would end badly, because troublemakers don’t end fine. Wing chun thought me to martial arts doesn’t fit with being slick, tough or proud and beating everybody. You have to respect everybody around you, rich or poor” he explains.

Results with his students
Now is a first grade master and wants to teach his students to value life. Because he knows very well much of the negative aspects, tries to teach the kids how to avoid violence and bad influences, but to be able to defend themselves, if needed and always be optimistic.
Some of kids won already competitions what made Valentin really proud.
At the end of the latest training stage, held in December, all of them achieved the grades they wanted. Valentina, Alexandra, Mario, Iasmin and Andrei earned their first grade, Cristian his second, Andreia and Andrei their third and Viktoria her fourth grade. The biggest surprise was Adelina, who impressed her master and colleagues by advancing with two grades in the same time, to level 3.
Born on the last day of the year, the dai sihing invited his students before Christmas to celebrate together his thirty-first birthday.
Valentin always considered himself a religious person, but only this fall was baptised as part of a neoprotestant church. Since then, he is actively involved in their activities.
As a member of a group of young Christians who “take faith to the streets”, they visit every Saturday homeless people in Arad and hospitals to talk and pray with the sick.
They collect food and clothes for the homeless, because “they are in need and we have more than we use, even that we don’t realize this often”.
Besides objects, Valentin and his friend share some nice word, kindness and compassion with those who are living on the streets and improvised shelters.

Message through social media and TV
Maxim tries to interact with more people using social media. He has a lot of pictures on Facebook, created a group for his students and posted several videos of himself presenting self defense techniques on the streets of Arad.
The Romanian master likes to travel a lot in the country, mainly at competitions, but he enjoys visiting monasteries and mountains too. Last summer he spent his vacation in Greece with some friends.
Because he wanted to motivate other people with disabilities, he appeared on two well known shows of the most watched Romanian broadcast channel PRO TV: the local version of the “Dancing with the stars” format and in the popular “Romania got talent”.
 “I want to encourage the young people from all over the country to practice a sport. All of us has our own Everest, a dream, and do something to achieve it” he said when leaving the first show.

Photos: Valetin Maxim's personal archive