Wushu Conquers the Golden Gate
The 12th Annual UC Berkeley Chinese Martial Arts Tournament

By Gene Ching

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the richest communities for Chinese martial arts in the United States. In the nineties, this area hosted several well-established kung fu tournaments, promoted by respected traditional grandmasters like Lily Lau and Tat Mau Wong. UC Berkeley's tournament was in their shadow. Run by a dedicated but sometimes unseasoned group of Berkeley students, it began modestly as a sort of dark horse on the circuit here. Its primary focus was contemporary wushu (not nearly as popular twelve years ago as it is now), so it didn't even run sparring events and still doesn?t, except for push hands. And yet, of those events gone past, this one is the survivor.

The UC Berkeley Chinese Martial Arts Tournament is now one of the longest-running independent competitions in the Bay Area. Who would have guessed? Perhaps it's a testament to the viability of modern wushu. Traditional forms, with such diversity of schools and lineages, are combat training, not competition. This makes it tough to judge one style's form against another ? how does one compare a wing chun form to a hung gar form fairly? Who is to judge? From its inception, the basic design of modern wushu was to level the playing field and set standards for form competition. Since the closest model was gymnastics, it adopted similar constructs for forms to be judged. If Berkeley is any measure, it seems to be working. And despite the emphasis on modern wushu, Berkeley still makes room for the traditional styles too.

For Sifu Bryant Fong, the journey from a small 100 athlete gathering to an event nearly six times the size has been truly rewarding. Still the coordinating instructor for the Cal Wushu Team, Fong is enthusiastic about the future of wushu and clearly pleased to host so many mainland wushu champions, including many former Beijing Wushu Team members. This year's guest of honor was none other than Master Cui Yahui. Master Cui was the other little boy (other than Jet Li) who performed for Nixon and Kissinger in the Rose Garden in 1974. Over the past thirty years, he has risen to become one of China?s foremost wushu coaches, chief coach of the women's group of the Beijing Wushu Team, which means he was the coach of former Cal coach Li Jing.

Once again, the event only permitted pre-registered competitors, issuing each one a laminate with his or her event listed on the back. This allowed for some very exacting statistics: 596 competitors (almost a ten percent increase from last year) executed 1648 forms (almost a twenty-five percent increase). Still, the event?s eight rings ran long into the night and some noted that the laminate system has the potential to orchestrate a secondary registration time. That way, competitors with events in the afternoon wouldn't have to be there first thing in the morning.

Berkeley continues to break new ground on how to run tournaments. Take a look at their results, posted online. Most tournaments now post results on their websites, but Berkeley's postings are hyperlinked so that you can look at data for either individuals or events with just a click of the mouse. The next step would be to sort the results by school; if that could be hyperlinked directly to the school websites, this could become a powerful tool. Berkeley?s tournament remains one of the pioneers for modern wushu in America. As the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games approach, the wushu arena is getting really exciting, making Cal worth watching.

All-Around Standings:

  • Adult Contemporary: Tiffany Reyes, California Wushu Academy Tao Ye, USA O-Mei Kung Fu Academy
  • Adult Traditional: Asya Karchemskiy, Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy Michael Schaefer, San Francisco Wushu
  • Internal: Nhu Tran, Li?s Tai Chi & Kung Fu Academy Steve Polcyn, Pacific Wushu/Wushu Central
  • 13-17: Vina Lam, Wing Lam Kung Fu Chasen Mock, Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy
  • Senior Combined: Russell Holder, Sacramento Ying Jow Pai
  • 8-12 Combined: Alex Whitlow, Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy & USA O-Mei Kung Fu Academy

Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 2004 .

Written by Gene Ching for KUNGFUMAGAZINE.COM

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