Sid Sofos and Andrew Sofos - Wing Chun Boxing Academy - Cult or Not?


Introduction
Sid Sofos, Martial Arts Instructor
Andrew Sofos, Martial Arts Instructor

Last Updated: 20 Sept 2016  

Introduction

What is a cult? Wikipedia defines it as the following.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult

I would describe a cult as a group of people, club, society, organisation or company that actively recruits new members, and which conditions, grooms, manipulates people and which also brainwashes people into non-mainstream views (to make their leaders feel better about themselves) or whatever values they claim to represent; which gives people half truth and does not tell the truth; which has a powerful leader or central figure who all members aspire to be; who condition members or attendees to hold the same world view for the benefit of the continuation of the cult; who often use their control, pressure, bullying or influence over members to extract sums of money, which is really what many cults are all about, and to do what they say; and who make it difficult to leave.

Some organisations are described as cults which do not actively recruit, and in some senses may be described as cults, but do not have all the qualities of a 'classic cult'. Cults tend to prey on those that are naive, easy influenced, weak willed or those partially indoctrinated already. They may well lure in members with 'carrots' and promises of great things and power or enlightenment and promises of boosting confidence etc. Cults often give the impression to members that they are there to help you and they are if anything doing you a favour. An examples of a Christian cult was the The Branch Davidians.

Other examples include The Church of Scientology and possibly even some Lodges within certain branches within Freemasonry, although certainly not Freemasonry as a whole. Clearly some groups are more clearly 'cults' than others, but many groups display cultish characteristics. Not cult ever admits to being a cult. Clearly cults must have some redeeming features or attractive aspects or no one would join them to start with.

Of course, the term 'cult' is used by many Christian churches to describe any group, sect or organisation that embraces a non-Biblical interpretation of the Christian faith or incorporates non-Biblical concepts or practices into its repertoire. This is highly subjective of course, and a form of slander, and in any case, most of mainstream Christianity has beliefs and practices that are non-Biblically based but can trace their origins to modern Christian traditions, notions and indeed 4th Century Catholic definitions. The 'cults' in question are often picked out because they actively recruit on the streets. Examples of such 'cults' or non-mainstream Christian groups include Children of God, The Church of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Freemasons.

The International Cultic Studies Association's web site is shown below. It contains reference material and support groups for ex-members of a wide variety of national and international cults.

http://icsahome.com

London's Cult Information Centre (CIC) web site is shown below.

www.cultinformation.org.uk/faq.html

Below are some other miscellaneous web sites about cults, secular and religious.

www.religioustolerance.org/cultmenu.htm

www.howcultswork.com

Below are two examples of cultish groups of varying degrees, that I have personal experience of. Both were part of The Wing Chun Boxing Academy, which I would say fulfills most of the definitions of a cult. I am merely relaying my personal experiences of these two schools with the academy, Fatshan and Shaoshan. The detail regarding the former Wing Chun Boxing Academy covers both my understanding of the flaws in techique compared with other wing chun styles I have learnt, and in addition documenting of the culture of bullying and cultish behaviour and instances of misrepresentation, inconsistency and dishonesty. I have tried to stick to my own personal experiences and to note some of the good and bad points to try to keep the article as balanced as possible - as good times were had on occasion. I have removed the majority of testimony from others on account of reliability issues and retained that which I deem to be credible. I have tried to be clear about what is fact and what is opinion and in those few instances where there is speculation, be clear that it is such. It is sometimes said that there is no such thing as bad publicity and perhaps this is true, but I felt that I owed it to the martial arts community to share my story and experiences. I have not intended this page to be interpreted as an attack on those people who are members of these cults or organisations, or who are affiliated with them or associate with them in any capacity.

In a generic sense, I personally wish any member of a 'cult' the strength to break away and do his own thing and not be controlled, conditioned or influenced by anyone in this manner. I respect the right of people to belong to whatever club or organisation that they want to, whether it is a cult or not, as ultimately it comes down to freedom of (informed) choice and self-knowledge (or lack of it), depending on the individual in question. 

Sid Sofos, Martial Arts Instructor

http://grandmastersidsofos.com

I trained with 'Master' Sid Sofos (now claimed Grandmaster), short for Sidney Sofocleus, back in the early to mid 90s. In total training with Sid's school and his brother Andrew's school for 5 years, attaining assistant instructor status (I was near top of the class during his latter training years). Sid's school was called Fatshan. Andrew's school was called Shaoshan. The academy which both schools belonged to was called Wing Chun Boxing Academy. Sid trained new students up to senior instructor level. Andrew's school was designed for beginners and intermediates only, as Andrew was himself a student of Sid in his senior class at Fatshan. The top students at Shaoshan would then be selected to move over to Fatshan to train with Sid. I trained at Shaoshan for roughly 4 years and at Fatshan for roughly 1 year or so.
Whilst at the academy, I secretly attended a number of seminars by actual students of Yip Man, including Grandmaster William Cheung and Grandmaster Yip Chun, son of Yip Man, to experience other styles of Wing Chun. After finally leaving the Wing Chun Boxing Academy, I joined another school (a different style of Wing Chun Kung Fu - affiliated to Samuel Kwok, in 1996) and was almost bettered at Chi Sau by a student had only been training for just 3 weeks! Sid/Andrew's chi sau was lacking in break out moves and has a forward energy that rendered it highly detectable. The instructor of the class was very happy when I walked that night for the first time and said that I had done Wing Chun for 5 years and wanted to train, as his class was comprised of beginners. We did some chi sau and sparring, and he took me apart. I didn't understand what was going on as he was terminating his strikes. I then explained how I'd trained before, and he said that yes we could do it this way (went into brief and rapid freefighting), but he said there was no point as it was good for flow but wasn't actually achieving very much. It was clear at this moment how the structure and technique I had learnt was highly flawed. Since leaving, there has happened much with the Sofos brothers, including a big argument and falling out, whereupon the two brothers ceased contact and run separate schools. Some of Sid's senior instructors set up their own schools and called themselves 'Sifu'. Below are some of the issues I had with Sid Sofos during his time there:

Origins of Sid's Style:

Analysis of Sid's Technique:

Attitude and Bullying:

Claims, Denials and Evasiveness:

Fees and Money:

 

Andrew Sofos, Martial Arts Instructor

[Please read the above section about Sid Sofos before reading this section, as Andrew's former style and many issues shared with both Sid and Andrew are discussed.]

www.sas-martialarts.co.uk/Pages/Academy/Branches/head_office.htm

Sifu Lakis Phillipou

Sifu Lakis Phillipou (a.k.a. Fillipou) founded the The Delta Wing Chun Academy in 1989. After having been initiated as a Sifu by the late Sifu Moy Yat, Sifu Lakis started to develop his Delta Wing Chun system, which is based around practical street self-defense applications, more than many Wing Chun styles. He has Schools in London Edmonton, Larnaca, Nicosia, and Dali in Cyprus, Bulgaria and also LA.

Lakis' web site is below.

www.deltawingchun.com/

www.deltawingchungungfuacademy.com/

The web site of Sifu George Hadjicostas, a student of Lakis', is below.

www.deltawingchun.net

Perhaps Lakis was no saint, but he always treated his students with respect, allowed for a positive, highly energetic but relaxed and often entertaining atmosphere in classes where people could work to their own pace and ability, and had an awesome natural, childish enthusiasm for what he was doing, that was totally infectious in the class. The chief instructor Michael, who runs classes in London today, was hilarious and the way he shouted out the numbers when counting the punches and press ups would make everyone in the class laugh hysterically - but whilst still training hard. Only once at one of Andrew's classes did this ever happen, when Andrew was away and one of the more reasonable instructors was taking the class. He farted whilst doing a form, and we all laughed - he allowed us to laugh for a few seconds then said shut up and get on with it. That is almost human for one of these instructors!

© 2006-2014 Fabian Dee