Chien Hong

Kung fu is a big part of why I came to Taiwan. There are plenty of places I want to see, but this was where much of the Chinese culture went during the cultural revolution in China. There is a better chance to find the old traditions and history here than in most cities in China. Taipei is very western compared to much of the island, so I hear, but I was able to find a place to practice here.

I was invited to the 35th anniversary dinner for the Chien Hong school of Kung Fu, the lineage I am a part of here. Strange to find that there is a school in downtown Atlanta as well. There are always different grades of kung fu, and the dinner started with presentations. Some from our school, some from other lineages. I have some video, but it was not well lit for my camera, even if I hadn’t dropped it before I left home.

There were a few forms I knew from the school here, and a lot I didn’t recognize. There was an oddly rigid Wing Chun set, and some Tai Chi that looked a little like Parkinson’s. It was clear that he didn’t have the disease, but at a number of times throughout the set he would make his hands tremble in a way that resembled a nerve disorder. Maybe he was supposed to be channeling energy. Most of the rest was good, but there was some true awesomeness.

Master Ke-Chih Chang needed a little help getting on stage, and moved slowly, until he began his forms. It was like he dropped thirty years when he began to move, in a way I have not seen often. Like water, but with more power. Then there was a man, small, spry, and with more personality than half the room. He presented the monkey form from the Chien Hong system, and it was amazing. I’ve only seen fragments of monkey style before, and he was really good at it. This was before he did the trick where they hold him eight feet off the ground on the pointy end of a trident.

It’s always incredible to me when the masters begin to drink. No matter how old we are, we fighters, masters, and students, still just want to compare forms and screw around. By the end of the night there was a traveling group of masters going from table to table, toasting everyone. Then began the real show, when various masters went on the stage and presented forms, bringing groups of their students with them. My class did a form I haven’t finished learning, so I just recorded everything, but there is part of me that wanted to be on that stage anyway.

From the outside, martial arts looks like violence, but that’s usually fear or the obvious bruises. Few people practice for decades because of pain. We do it because it’s fun, because we laugh and connect in a way we haven’t found anywhere else. Pride helps, vanity, competitiveness, and bravado help, but they only help the connection, they are not the connection itself.

“You never really know someone until you fight them.” The fight can be physical, verbal, or emotional, but of the three physical is the least likely to cause permanent damage. Bruises heal, but people never seem to forget the truly horrible things they say to each other, or how much damage it did inside. I’ll take a physical scar over an emotional one any day.

I wish I had the drive to do more than I do now, to practice more, learn more, but maybe that’s just school eating up my motivation right now. Two more weeks and I’m done. Every time I manage to start focusing on my Chinese and my Kung Fu, school gets in the way. I wonder what I’ll do when I can no longer use that excuse.

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