Olympic Bound?
The 11th Annual UC Berkeley Chinese Martial Arts Tournament Pioneers the Way

By Gigi Oh and Gene Ching

On April 19, 2003, over 500 competitors gathered at U.C. Berkeley to beta- test what may be the prototype for Chinese martial arts tournaments to come. Cal has always been a leading pioneer in Wushu, so it came as no surprise to see them take it into the computer age with enthusiasm and panache. Of course, tournaments have used computers before, but not like this ? huge computer-driven display boards, instant print outs of the complete scoring data and mandatory pre-registration, most of it online. This was professional level computer usage, not just borrowing some student's laptop as a makeshift cash register.

According to Tournament Chair Sifu Bryant Fong, "The purpose is to get ready for the Olympics. Today, we are using a completely computerized scoring system and completely computerized database, so for any competitor we have complete control over what events they are going to be in and they can be changed right away. The computers all take care of the scoring, as well as the ties, so we don't need to actually do anything. Plus it'll automatically tabulate the All Around Champions in each event. So that's new."

Fong continued "Also, we're using net cards to give the competitors an idea exactly what is going on. The TVs we're using for the first time, to let people see, they can check to see what event, you don't have to go around and ask ?Oh, what event are you running now?' It's all posted. If this works, this will be an Olympic working model, so we are trying to see if we can do it. Of course, with the events going in the world, we're not sure whether we're going into the 2008 Olympics, but still the work has to be done."

Competitors matched skills in both traditional and modern Wushu forms, internal and external styles, and push hands. Every competitor had to pre-register, which provided them with a laminate that listed their events on the back. This allowed the tournament staff to restrict floor access to competitors and judges only. Even coaches weren't permitted on the floor. Ringside coaching was grounds for immediate disqualification. Restricting access actually improved the views since rubber-neckers didn't clutter around the rings and block those behind them. Fong explained, "This tournament, different than other tournaments in the United States, is pre-registered ONLY. You can pre-register online or before. In the future, if and when this becomes an Olympic sport, you're not going to be able to walk up to the door and say ?OK, I wanna register?'"

The tournament followed US Wushu Union competition rules, which are based on International Wushu Federation (IWuF) standards. One of the biggest gaps in American tournaments is judging. But Cal worked on improving this too. Fong elaborated, "We trained 40 judges already in IWuF rules, so they know how to apply it and how to use it. This was two weeks before the tournament. Eventually you need a pool of trained judges who do just that. You're not a coach, you're not a team leader, you're not anything else. That's all you do is judge. That will make the event run more smoothly. We're a long ways from that, but that's why we began. We have training sessions and we begin laying the germ in other people's thinking that maybe I want to be a judge. So we want to get the Chinese martial arts community ? the martial arts community ? into learning. This is the future. We need to be prepared."

While we all have our expectations, Olympic Wushu is clearly uncharted territory. Who knows what effect it might have on the Chinese martial arts community? If Berkeley's event is any indication, the effect will be positive. It could elevate our ragtag Chinatown fire-drills into a real sporting event like gymnastics or figure skating. Obviously, we have a long way to go, but with the earnest efforts of pioneers like Cal Wushu, there is hope.

    All Around Grand Champions
  • Adult Female Contemporary: Tiffany Amelia Reyes
  • Adult Male Contemporary: Edward "Eddy" M Quintana
  • Adult Male Traditional: Adam McArthur
  • Internal Male: James Israel
  • 13-17 Female: Ngan-Ha Ta
  • 13-17 Male: Chasen Mock
  • 35+ Combined Gender: Emilio Alpanseque
  • 8-12 Combined Gender: Alex Whitlow

Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 2003 .

Written by Gigi Oh and Gene Ching for KUNGFUMAGAZINE.COM

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