The 7th Annual 2004 Taiji Legacy International Martial Arts Championship

By Gene Ching

Like a whirling yin yang, Taiji Legacy reverses your expectations. For one thing, despite its internal namesake, Taiji Legacy runs one of the most exciting Sanshou Fight Nights in the country. For another, it opens with a Masters' Demonstration on Saturday morning instead of closing with it at night. If that seems backwards, it's because Master Jimmy Wong runs this tournament like a good general. He knows his troops. He knows that the success of a tournament relies on good officiating, and since many of those officials perform at the masters' demo, he doesn't want them worrying about being in the spotlight, exhausted from a full day of judging.

On July 30th to August 1st, some 800 competitors and nearly 3000 spectators gathered again at the Arlington Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, for what has become one of the nation?s leading Chinese martial arts events. Following an exciting Saturday morning Masters' Demo, Taiji Legacy upheld its traditional Opening ceremony with an allcomers- welcome group Tai Chi demonstration and an exhibition of Wong?s uncanny ability to name all the judges and dignitaries (over a hundred officials with names in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, some of whom Wong met face-to-face only minutes before). In a special tribute, the U.S.A Chin Woo Federation, China's noted kung fu organization made famous in films like Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury and Jet Li's Fist of Legend, celebrated its seventeenth year with a seventeenlion opening ceremony. It was a grand opening, a far better alternative to watching Saturday morning cartoons.

Speaking of cartoons, why are American wushu champions looking more and more like they walked out of Dragonball Z? Taiji Legacy ran thirteen rings, six internal and six external, separated by the largest ring for modern wushu in center stage. Thirteen rings made for a cluttered floor with narrow walkways, but traffic flowed when needed. The crowded hall buzzed with constant chatter and qi, punctuated with slaps and stomps, and erupting in excited applause. A large projection screen hooked up to a laptop to show ring information kept things moving at a steady clip. By the end of the day, clusters of medals gave telltale clinks as they dangled off the necks of the multiple event winners.

Saturday evening was a separate event for the Sanshou. Everyone likes to watch a good match, and the fighters put out in their duels for domination. As an added bonus, the audience voted on their favorites. Popular vote determined the most exciting and sportsmanlike fighters (not necessarily winners), who were awarded special "spectator" medals. The promoters hoped that this would encourage cleaner and more spectacular fights.

On Sunday morning, seminars and workshops were continued from Friday. They were held at the La Quinta hotel on the other side of Six Flags Amusement park, a bit too far from the tournament site, which lowered participation somewhat. In contrast, it was standing-room-only for an open meeting of the U.S. Traditional Kung-Fu Wushu Federation held at the same hotel that morning. Leading the discussion were Mike Barry, Ai ping Cheng, Lily Lau, Johnny Lee, John Leong, Henry Poo Yee, Jimmy Wong, and Steve Wong. With anticipation about the upcoming tournament, the vision of this new federation was discussed fervently. "Every two years, another system pops up ? like ants!" Poo Yee observed. "We want to go back to the kung fu of the '50s and '60s." "When I started teaching thirty years ago," added Lee, "no one knows about kung fu. We've come a long way."

Upon returning to the tournament site afterwards, they whipped through the external events, leaving only the internal, which is, by nature, slow. The push hands competitors were the final stragglers. The tournament actually ended early, an unheard of occurrence in Chinese martial arts and a testament to the Chin Woo crew?s efficiency. "It's a new record," said a relieved Wong, smiling. With the satisfaction of a battle well waged, Wong's crew rolled up their lion tails, tore up their ring tape and packed up their 72-foot day-glow dragon for next year. Long live the Taiji Legacy!

Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 2005 .

Written by Gene Ching for KUNGFUMAGAZINE.COM

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