Sunday, February 22, 2009

Third World Traditional Wushu Championships

My dear friend, Paula Bailey, is a fellow martial arts enthusiast. She trained extremely hard for her competition in China back in October/November 2008. Being an eloquent writer, she recorded her trip experience in the following article which appeared on the website of USA Wushu Kungfu Federation. With her permission, I am posting the entire article to share with everyone. Enjoy!

US Team Competes in China
by Paula Bailey, Silicon Valley, California

Cloaked in mysterious mists, the temples perched atop Wudang Mountain stunned us with their beauty and timeless presence. Not only was the trip to Wudang the highlight of the Third World Traditional Wushu Championships, it was what motivated many of us to travel halfway around the world to China to participate in this competition. USAWKF was represented by a team comprised of 40 members from Maryland, Southern California, and Silicon Valley, California. In individual competition, the US team took home a total of 6 gold medals, 14 silver medals, and 18 bronze medals. In the team competition, the US Silicon Valley team won the third place trophy. The competition was held in Shiyan, an automobile manufacturing city in Hubei Province, approximately an hour by bus from Wudang Mountain (Wudangshan). Over 2,000 athletes representing 69 countries came together in friendship and a common love of Wushu. The nearness of Taoism’s sacred mountain infused the competition with the Taoist culture of Wudang. We were privileged to see Wudang Wushu in both performance and competition venues. Even though we did not compete with Chinese athletes, this year we were able to watch them as they competed side-by-side with international athletes in the same auditorium. Most of us quickly became addicted to watching the Wudang Wushu Team, and found ourselves drawn to these gentle men with their hair in topknots, wearing flowing black and white robes, who were so open to interaction and cultural exchange.
Grand Opening of the Championship in Shiyan

Competition events were preceded by the arrival of all teams at the Argyle Grand International Hotel in Shiyan. This beautiful, spacious hotel had opened for business only 6 days prior to our arrival! The competition got off to a bang (literally!) with a grand opening ceremony in the Shiyan Sports Center, featuring fireworks, Chinese pop-stars, Wushu performers, and the entrance of the athletes marching behind the flags of their countries. The huge, enthusiastic crowd made it clear that this was a big night for the city of Shiyan. We found the local citizens to be friendly and eager to display their hospitality throughout the week. Many US team members were interviewed for local newspapers and TV broadcasts. The entire competition was broadcast on TV, so there was always the option of watching from the comfort of the hotel room (or even outside the Shiyan Sports Center on the huge TV screen there), but the real excitement was at the Shiyan Indoor Stadium, where teams members cheered each other on and met and mingled with other teams, as well as local residents of Shiyan. From the Chinese Wushu Association came one competition highlight which captured everyone’s attention. Dramatically demonstrating the health and longevity benefits of Wushu were two 86-year-old men who competed in weapons forms for China in extremely colorful attire, receiving very high scores of 9.01. The crowd roared its approval as they performed splits and all manner of acrobatic moves to astonish us. If you needed motivation to continue your practice, this was it! Visiting Wudang

The freeway between Shiyan and Wudang was closed to the public as our 55 bus caravan made its way to the mountain. Along the way, we were given a police escort and saluted and greeted as we passed through toll crossings. We were met in the lower-level teaching and performance facilities at Wudang by thousands of local performers who put on a many-faceted show for us. Before reaching the outdoor stage area, even before leaving our buses, we were greeted by a multitude of local performers in various ethnic costumes waving, dancing, playing music and beating drums. The most charming were the hundreds of cheering children, shouting out a warm welcome to their guests. After many “photo ops” we arrived at the outdoor stage area for a colorful concert of drums and symbols. The ensuing show featured a variety of Wudang Wushu styles performed on a huge tai chi symbol, bordered by all the country flags of the visiting teams. Smoke drifting among the thousands of performers simulated the mists which habitually shroud Wudangshan, recreating the mystique of the mountain. The spectacle was punctuated by the release of hundreds of doves and the colored smoke of daytime fireworks. As if all this weren’t enough, we then boarded our buses and began the hour-long, zigzagging climb to the top of Wudangshan. After an uphill walk through the forest, we were met by a costumed choir and orchestra when we reached the entrance to the temples. The mood was ethereal, as we listened to the beautiful music in the drifting mists. As 2000 international pilgrims, we climbed the steep steps of the temple complex, stopping along the way to observe and participate in a variety of Taoist ceremonies. Wudangshan is the seat of Taoism and is also home to a deep tradition of Wushu, dating from the 13th century hero, Zhang Sanfeng, who is said to have been the originator of Neijia, soft internal martial arts, and is associated in legend with the Wudang monasteries. The architecture of Wudang can be traced back to 7th century Taoist buildings. The organized complex of palaces and buildings dates from the Ming Dynasty (14th – 17th century). Wudang represents the highest level of Chinese architectural and artistic achievement, a demonstration of the harmony between architecture and nature. In 1994 the monasteries and buildings were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Closing Ceremony

Following the end of the championship, teams were brought back to the hotel for a closing celebration banquet and show. Hotel staff and championship staff and volunteers greeted us in front of the hotel and we walked between rows of congratulating well-wishers to enter the banquet hall. This was our chance to celebrate our victories and say good-bye to each other. During an excellent dinner, we were treated to a show featuring not only singing stars, acrobatics, and local dance troupes, but some of our own athletes, demonstrating why they are top medalists. The celebration continued after the banquet ended, when it spilled over into the hotel lobby for an impromptu dance-off which continued well into the evening, led by the exuberant team from Brazil. The winner of this “Dancing with the Wushu Stars” contest is unknown! Teams were reluctant to say good-bye to their new friends in China and from around the world. This entire experience of international goodwill and understanding will live on in our memories forever.

In Gratitude

Our special thanks go to the USAWKF and our coaches, who prepared us for this wonderful experience:

USAWKF President: Anthony Goh
Maryland: Kevin Law
Southern California: Gina Sahagun
Silicon Valley: Shu Dong Li

Medal Count:

Maryland: Silver – 2
Bronze – 5

Southern California: Gold – 3
Silver – 7
Bronze – 3

Silicon Valley, California: Gold – 3
Silver – 5
Bronze – 10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderfully interesting article Theresa. I really enjoyed reading it.