Texas Taiji
Jimmy Wong's Taiji Legacy 2001

By Gene Ching

Taiji Legacy is tricky as a snake creeping down. It's iron wrapped in cot-ton ? rock-solid kungfu swathed by a smoke-trail veil of taijiquan. Behind its soft namesake, Taiji Legacy is a hardcore kungfu tournament and then some. This ain't just new age woo-woo fluff. It's knee-bustin', nose-bleedin' bouts, just what you expect when top fighters test each others' skills.

In four years, Jimmy Wong's Taiji Legacy in Dallas has become a premiere kungfu event bringing China's national treasure to the wild, wild West. Under the auspices Chin Woo, the land of Walker, Texas Ranger becomes an arena for champion competitors (and the occasional Kwai Chang Caine wannabe.) Some 650 competitors stood before 120 judges and over 3000 spectators - all trying to wrangle a moment of glory, and a medal or two to boot.

Wing Chun's Fastest Draw and a Shaolin Showdown
Among the events, the Wing Chun group, headed by Masters Benny Meng and Philip Ng, held the first Wing Chun Grand Champion title, with compulsory forms, fighting, chi sao and wooden dummy. Competitors often specialize on only one aspect of Wing Chun, so this new title was a remedy hoping to create more balanced practitioners. Jimmy Wong backed up this "small idea" by importing a special portable pineapple-wood dummy, straight out of Hong Kong.

This self-organized event was small, but successful. This way, each style can demonstrate the magnificent diversity of kungfu within the tournament circuit. Maybe the Choy Lay Fut Group, also showing strong at Taiji Legacy, will follow suit. Then perhaps Shaolin, Praying Mantis, and other styles can do likewise.

Speaking of Shaolin, Taiji Legacy is now the biggest Shaolin Temple dueling ground in the USA due to three Houston Shaolin monks. More orange-clad students compete in this event than any other. Plus Shaolin Houston is intensifying. Monk Shi Deshan's initial partner Shi Xinghao forged out to establish his own school, expanding Houston to be the only U.S. city with two independent Shaolin schools (while New York has several schools, they are spread out across Flushing, Manhattan and Brooklyn.) Shi Xingying, previously of San Francisco, relocated to assist Deshan.

Taiji Legacy was the first national tournament where both schools competed against each other. At first, brotherly rivalry was clear from how each school rooted only for their classmates. But by the end, both schools rooted for all strong demonstrations of Shaolin Temple kungfu, no matter which school. Is Houston big enough for three monks? Certainly, New York and Texas are hogging up the monks. And where next, Las Vegas?

Riding the Crouching Tiger, Crab BBQ & Texas Tai Chi
And as hogging goes, Texans pride themselves on their big portions, but a two-foot wide crab big enough to feed lions? Wong envisioned reenacting the old "Lion eats the Crab" routine with a modern twist. With lions and dragon all done up in fluorescent colors and glowing luminously under large black lights, Wong sweetened the pot by creating a giant day-glow radio-controlled crab. It made a fine appetizer for the following kungfu feast.

Apart from a dubious qigong demo and vaudevillian cane set, the kungfu stars were big and bright at the Master's Demo. For a change, five female masters demonstrated the five styles of Taiji: Chen, Hao, Sun, Wu and Yang, with Master Aiping Cheng ironically demonstrating Chen, despite being the most noted Sun master out of China.

Everyone's been riding the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but Master Gao Xian actually had a supporting role in that film, plus assisted Yuen Woo Ping as a fight choreographer. Beyond his film work, Gao is a certified wushu coach and a national champion. Adoring fans were snapping pictures with Gao, who was happy to oblige. < /p>

But more so, music set the tone. Masters demos switched between new age and rocking dance mixes of the Once Upon A Time In China soundtrack. But true to taiji deceptiveness, Ren Guangyi did his Chen Taiji broadsword to house beats instead of meditative melodies. And Chun Man Sit improvised a funky dance step before demonstrating his rare Six Elbows style. But the most musical sound was the percussive chops of Joe Keit's twin broadswords as they cut Li Siu Hung's spear to firewood in their high-octane sparring set. Each chop resounded a new rule imposed on traditional kungfu (as opposed to contemporary wushu) at Taiji Legacy. All traditional weapons had to support their own weight or be disqualified. Many great masters performed that Texas night, but we won't spoil it for you. Contact Chin Woo and treat yourself to the demo video.

A New Sheriff in Town and Its Name is Chin Woo
Taiji Legacy was another triumph for Wong and committee members Tu Chungking, Madame Wong Jurong, Dr. Wu Chengde, Earl Portnoy, and Philip Russell. Especially Jimmy's one-two punch: Bee Dao and Patty Sun, who ran around doing everything, plus demonstrated too. But it'll be next year when Wong is really put to the test. In 2002, Taiji Legacy hosts the 7th World Chin Woo Championships. Wong, the USA Chin Woo president, runs a Chin Woo tournament sidesaddle to Taiji Legacy. Next year, Chin Woo, the most renowned international Kungfu organization brings 30 countries to take the main stage. Together Chin Woo and Taiji Legacy will tell the world (and Texas too!) "We are not sick men."

Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 2001 .

Written by Gene Ching for KUNGFUMAGAZINE.COM

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