KUNG FU TAI CHI 20 YEARS: KFTC DAY
by Gene Ching
For Chapter 1, see KUNG FU TAI CHI 20 YEARS: Set-Up
Sunday at Plaza de Cesar Chavez was gorgeous. It was sunny with a mild breeze, a perfect day in San Jose. I got up early, recited my baduanjin qigong, packed my stuff and moved my car from the Sainte Claire valet parking to the South side of the Plaza, scoring a nice parking place that wasn't even one of the ones I had reserved for us on Friday. The Dragon Crew stumbled in on time, except for Chris, who apologized profusely for being a little late, which was funny as he'd already put in more time than any other member of the crew. Set up was minimal, some signage, tables and pop-ups. As many of the Dragon Crew work music festivals with me, we can put up pop-ups in our sleep (and often do). Putting them up on a beautiful lazy Sunday was a joy. There was no bloody asphalt, just nice green grass lawns, perfect for some friendly push hands. As an added treat, there was some vintage car rally that went driving by as we were all setting up. It helped set the tone for a lovely summer afternoon in the park.
As I said in the first installment of this report, we weren't exactly sure what was going to happen during KFTC DAY. We had arranged for demos all day from local schools and visiting masters. We had also arranged for some free workshops. Beyond the planned workshops, spontaneous lessons broke out all across the park as various masters and coaches tuned up their students for their demos or just felt like sharing. There was to be a Lion Awakening Ceremony and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. And we had a few vendor and information booths. Through the auspices of Councilmember Kansen Chu, the City of San Jose declared it KUNG FU TAI CHI DAY, and granted us use of the park. And it all turned out well - a perfect day for a modest street fair. The demos were low-stress. Some noted masters showed their stuff, while other schools ran their kids through their paces. A few masters started teasing me about demonstrating, telling me that my traditional Shaolin was looking solid. That was very flattering, and I don't quite believe them as several of them have seen my practice and it's about as solid as raw tofu nowadays. What's more, despite my intentions of sharpening up my skills for my Shifu, Shi Decheng, I got so immersed in the event that my practice was even more shaky than usual. And I could just see myself freeze again, like during the speech the night before, and that becoming a permanent embarrassment on our YouTube channel. Despite my demonstration dodging, everyone had a great time.
The Lion Awakening ceremony was a treat. Lion Awakenings are often called a "Dotting the Eyes" after a famous legend about a Liang Dynasty (502-587 CE) painter named Zhang Sengyou. He was famous for painting dragons, but always left the eyes unfinished. When a patron insisted that the eyes be painted in on a dragon mural he commissioned, Zhang did so and the dragon came to life. Just before it flew away, Zhang painted a manacle on the dragon's leg, shackling it in the mural. The saying "dotting the eyes" alludes to that final touch that brings something to life. New Lion Heads are blessed through a ceremony where the eyes are dotted. Similar rituals are performed with Dragon Boats and masks. As a former Lion Dancer, I've been in Lion Awakening ceremonies before, usually as the Lion. I once even had the honor of being in a Lion that was awaken by Carlos Santana. But this was the first time I had the opportunity to awaken a Lion myself.
Every school has its own unique variation of the Lion Awakening ritual. Dotting the eyes is central, but there are often other anatomical parts that need dotting. The ceremony was arranged by Peter Chan of Ben's Shaolin Kung Fu. Knowing that there would be a lot of noted masters in attendance, and that it would be very auspicious to have as many of them involved in the ceremony as possible, Chan had all the parts of the two Lions dotted: the nose, mouth, mirror, ears and spine. Dennis Brown, Kansen Chu, Humberto David de Jesus, Benny Meng, Ren Guangyi, Shi Decheng, Tu Jin-Sheng and Wu Bin all participated alongside Gigi Oh and me. Grandmaster Tu was the most impressive. As a painter and Feng Shui master, he knows his way with a calligraphy brush and is armed with some super fancy brush strokes. With a flashy intricate sequence of mudras and gestures, he dotted the Lion with a flair that I've never seen before. All of the other masters were impressed too. They acknowledged his skill with some light applause. Unfortunately, as there was such a crowd on the stage, only those of us involved in the ritual were close enough to see it and none of the video cameras caught it. A Lion Dance followed, and Gigi and I were called upon to receive the red banners that were unfurled by the newly blessed Lions.
After that, there was a ribbon-cutting by Dennis Brown, Chiu Chiling, Kansen Chu, Jack Fu, Liang Shouyu, Benny Meng, Gigi Oh, Ren Guangyi, Shi Decheng, Alex Tao, Tu Jin-Sheng and Wu Bin. I had stepped away to attend to other organizational matters, so I don't know if Grandmaster Tu got fancy with the scissors too.
Once the demonstrations got started, they nearly ran themselves. As everything was running smoothly, I ducked under the shade of the WildAid Booth and munched on Huang Fei Hong peanuts, which have become my latest obsession. Grandmaster Liang had brought several gift packages to share and I can't get enough of these. First of all, I love peanuts. Secondly, these are called Huang Fei Hong, a.k.a. Wong Fei Hung. Thirdly, they are very spicy as they are made with Sichuan peppercorns. Sichuan, often Romanized as Szechuan, is where Grandmaster Liang is from and it's a province known for its spicy cuisine. When I first tried them, Gigi told me that they were banned in America and that they would make my tongue numb. She didn't know what the peppercorns were exactly, which not only got me to raise an eyebrow but also got me to indulge in a mouthful. Gigi was right. Sichuan peppercorns will make your mouth numb and they were banned, but not because they were a controlled substance. From the late sixties until 2005, the USDA banned importation of Sichuan peppercorns because they carried a bacterial disease that, if spread, could damage American crops. Fortunately, it was discovered that the bacteria couldn't withstand significant heat, so now Sichuan peppercorns are legal to import as long as they've been cooked. Until recently, Huang Fei Hong peanuts were only available in Canada, where Grandmaster Liang currently resides, so he would bring them to us knowing how much we savored this Sichuan treat. Thankfully, they are now available at many Chinese markets in America, so I can easily get my Huang Fei Hong peanut fix and don't have to wait for Grandmaster Liang's next visit.
This brings up the last twist in my KFTC 20 YEARS tale. Grandmaster Liang has become my shigong-in-law, which is a Chinglish term that I just made up. It was the result of one of the most charming moments over the weekend that I'm very sorry to have missed. Grandmaster Liang became a proud grandfather recently, with the birth of Yang Junchen to his daughter Helen Liang and her husband Yang Chenhan. There's even a cute interview video - see Our latest Martial artist. It is a Chinese custom to have a newborn's fortune told, and there was some prophesy that young Junchen would meet a monk that would give him a mala and that would be very auspicious. And who would that be? My shifu, Shi Decheng. He hit it off wonderfully with the Liangs and right there and then, it was decided that Junchen would become a disciple of Decheng. There was a quick ritual, and now Dieter and I have a new baby brother, Xinghu. "Hu" means "tiger," and as I said in the beginning of the first installment of this report, dragons and tigers are the yin/yang of martial arts. The disciple name that Decheng gave me is Xinglong. "Long" means "dragon." So now my fate is linked to a young precious baby who, given his illustrious martial lineage, is destined to be one of the great masters of the next generation. I'm trying to get used to calling Grandmaster Liang shigong-in-law, Yang Chenhan shibo-in-law, and Helen shiguma-in-law. Actually, I can't wait until the next time I cross paths with Helen and can call her auntie, as I'm a little older that her and that would be rather funny.
A month later, I found myself reunited with shidi Dirty Hoel (a nickname that perplexes anyone but old kung fu movie fans). He has been with the Dragon Crew since its inception. At the inaugural TCKFMC, he was helping the late great Grandmaster Al Novak, who was wheelchair-bound by then. By sheer luck, he got pulled into a VIP Grandmaster photo with Thomas and Gigi Oh. You can see that on page 64 of our September October 2009 issue with an uncharacteristically perplexed expression, wondering if he is really supposed to be in that photo. Years ago, I introduced Dirty Hoel to psychiatric intervention event medicine and he really took to it. We are together again at the Oregon Country Fair as guest observers of another non-profit event medicine organization called Whitebird. The Oregon Country Fair has been on my bucket list since I worked with Whitebird in 1994 (if only that had been 1992, there would be a great poetic parallel for this KFTC 20 report, but sometimes it is fate and other times, it's just the way things go). That was when I toured as a consultant for the Grateful Dead. The Oregon Country Fair is the big granddaddy of gatherings with a 43-year history. If you've been to it, you know. If not, it would take me another article series just to begin to explain it. And that article wouldn't really fit with the content of KungFuMagazine.com.
It is hard enough to explain what we were watching together, a performance act called NANDA, which bills itself as "acrobaticalist ninja theater." As martial brothers, it's the ninja aspect that has drawn us in. We both found NANDA absurdly entertaining. It's a new frontier - martial arts live theater that is refreshingly outside the box. As Dirty Hoel and I share an ecstatic laugh, it's hard to imagine that just a month ago, we were holding the gates against a mob of frustrated parents.
We had a motto for KUNG FU TAI CHI 20 YEARS. It was Long Hu Feng Yun Hui, which literally means "Dragon Tiger Wind Cloud Assembly." It refers to a meeting of great masters, of dragons and tigers. For our 10 Year Anniversary, we had a different motto: Yi Wu Hui You. This means "use martial arts to make friends." Over the last decade, Kung Fu Tai Chi has made more than just friends. It has made family. From my dear longtime martial brothers like Dirty Hoel and the Dragon Crew to the newest addition to Decheng's disciples Xinghu, to our loyal readership and the incredible group of masters that have supported our work, I have been gifted with so many lifelong bonds. We were so honored and grateful to have this illustrious gathering of dragons and tigers, our beloved friends and family, grace our anniversary celebration. It inspires us to persist in publishing, despite the ever-vanishing newsstands.
In 2013, Kung Fu Tai Chi turns old enough to drink. While we won't be having a big Gala Banquet, we will be holding the 5th Annual Tiger Claw's KungFuMagazine.com Championship. Once again, it will be at the South Hall of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center on June 1, 2013. I hope you'll join us there.
KUNG FU TAI CHI DAY Demonstrations
- Master of Ceremonies: Sifu Bryant Fong
- Lion Dance, Dotting the Eye Ceremony led by Peter Chan of Ben's Shaolin Kung Fu.
- Ribbon Cutting and Proclamation
- Ben's Shaolin Kung Fu, Cupertino, CA. Headmaster Ben Zhang
- Shaolin Kung Fu Wellness Center, Fremont, CA. Headmaster Yuan Long
- South Coast Martial Arts, Costa Mesa, CA. Headmaster Philip Sahagun
- Ohlone College Tai Chi, Fremont, CA. Headmaster May Chen
- Shenzhen Polytechnic Wushu Team, Shenzhen, China
- China Tai Chi Kung Fu, Federal Way, WA. Head coach Wes Letioa
- Lee Koon Hung Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu Association. Representative Andrew Finell
- Donald Hamby's Hung Gar Boxing, Los Angeles, CA. Headmaster Don Hamby with Michael Goodwin
- Taiji Fan by Wang Yin, Beijing, China
- Baijiquan by Sun Qibo, Beijing, China
- Meng's Martial Arts, Dayton, OH. Headmaster Benny Meng with Kenneth Lin Xiang-Fuk
- San Jose Chinese Culture Center, San Jose, CA. Headmaster Chen Fei
- USA Tai Chi Culture Association, San Jose, CA. Headmaster Wayne Peng Wen
- Lily Lau Eagle Claw, Millbrae, CA. Headmaster Lily Lau
- U.S.A. Jing Quan Dao Academy, Cupertino, CA. Headmaster Alex Tao
- USA O-Mei Kung Fu Academy, Cupertino, CA. Headmaster Zhou Yunjian
- Seattle Kung Fu Club & Chi Life Studio, Seattle, WA. Headmaster John Leong
- Sanshou Pao by Bryant Fong, San Francisco, CA
- USA Wu Chi Kung Fu Academy, Fremont & Pleasanton, CA. Headmaster He Tao
- U.S. Kung Fu Temple, San Jose, CA. Headmaster Shi Yanxing
- Shaolin Temple USA, San Francisco & Fremont, CA. Headmaster Shi Yanran
|Discuss this article online|
|KUNG FU TAI CHI 20 YEARS: June 9-10, 2012|