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My Story as a Wushu Coach

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MY STORY AS A WUSHU COACH

By: Matthew Lee

Written May 21st, 2016

“‘…we are also the only club representing Chinese martial arts overall, period.  I think we should at least do a good job of it by encouraging a more all-around understanding of CMA, i.e. sharing more in-depth and traditional knowledge for better martial arts foundation, not just promoting the simple competitive/performance goals.’” —Quote taken directly from the write-up

Abstract: This write-up is written as a personal reflection of my journey as a Wushu coach of a collegiate Wushu club, upon recently graduating from college.  Although far from prestigious, it is has been a deeply personal journey for me, which I feel is worth writing about.  The write-up documents my past five years being involved with the UMBC Wushu Club during my time attending university.  I am sharing this with Jiayoowushu.com, hoping that those who are Wushu coaches, or will become Wushu coaches, can relate to, and maybe even learn from this.

On May 19th, 2016, I graduated from university.  To the majority of people in academia, especially in my home of the United States of America, this is considered a milestone in one’s life, and in some ways for me, it is.  But to be quite frank, I don’t care about the graduation ceremony (especially when I had to wake up early and commute to a busy and traffic-laden downtown Baltimore city just to get to the venue; this is a very similar experience to my high school graduation ceremony five years ago—the loss of a good opportunity to sleep in one last time, and in my opinion, an altogether useless formality, but I digress).  I don’t even care about the diploma itself, which should be arriving the mail sometime soon (see what I mean about the useless formality?).  However, that does not mean that I don’t value the experiences I’ve had in college.

In fact, I do value my experiences in college very much, and graduating lets me know that I’m moving on from this point in my life.  And since I’m graduating, it seems appropriate that I have an obligatory period of self-reflection on said experiences.  But, there is one particular experience in college that I would like to write about here, and those of you on this site should already know what it is (who am I kidding, you already read the title, didn’t you?): Wushu.  For the sake of clarity, when I refer to Wushu, I will mostly be talking about modern, contemporary or sport Wushu, a standardized way of teaching Chinese martial arts for sport and competition.  Modern Wushu is divided into two disciplines; Taolu (套路; tàolù, forms), the practice of forms and sequences, and Sanshou (散手; sànshǒu, free hand), the practice of freestyle sparring and scientific martial applications, also known as Sanda (散打; sàndǎ, free fighting).  However, the use of the term Wushu can and has extended to all traditional styles of Chinese martial arts in general, which will eventually be used as such by the end of this write-up.  Out of all the things in college, being involved with Wushu at university has been a singular highlight for my time at college, nay, a highlight of my whole life, I dare say.  So I would like to tell you all about how I get involved with the collegiate Wushu club that has meant so much to me these past few years, the UMBC Wushu Club, and by extension, the rest of collegiate Wushu that has left a strong impression on me and my Wushu experience as well.  This is my story as a Wushu coach.

Year 1

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My experience with the UMBC Wushu Club started in the fall of 2011, as a freshman at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (hereinafter referred to as UMBC, for obvious reasons).  At this time, I had graduated from high school and had come off of the 2011 US Wushu Team Trials, my first ever experience with the competition.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do after school, but my parents, as with most other Asian parents in the US, wanted their kid to go to college (oh yippee, more school).  Although I didn’t really plan or want to go to university, I didn’t necessarily have any resistance to the idea, so I went with it.  As far as what university I would go to, I didn’t really have a clear basis of deciding where I would go to, but wherever I would go, it would have Wushu, since I wanted to continue training, or at least continue being involved with Wushu.  Thus, as I confessed in my old write-up “Collegiate Wushu in the United States: What It Means For US Wushu”, my personal choices of universities to attend were based primarily on the availability of collegiate Wushu clubs.  UMBC was one of the few such options that satisfied the basic criteria, and considering I wasn’t really trying to apply to universities, I was lucky enough to be able to get accepted into and attend UMBC.  The UMBC Wushu Club was also founded and managed primarily by seniors of the Wushu school I used to go to, all of whom had at some point taught and coached me when I was younger, and whom I looked forward to seeing again.

However, upon arriving to UMBC for the Fall 2011 semester, I found that the club was virtually dead.  To make a long story short, I found out that because the club was not considered a sports club of the university, it could not use “weapons” (the use of which is another whole spiel that I talked about in “‘Are Wushu “Weapons” Real Weapons?’: The Role of Apparatus in Modern Wushu”, and won’t go into here), and thus would not be allowed to practice in public venues.  On top of that, all said seniors of the Wushu school I used to go, were no longer coaching for the club, and had gone their individual ways to pursue their own lives.  As a result, much of my training during this time was with three-time US Wushu Team member, World Wushu Championships silver medalist and Pan American Champion Jason Liu, one other former senior of the Wushu school we both used to go to, who on Fridays would first coach me in sparring with boxing, and was kind enough to give me a ride to then practice with TerpWushu, the collegiate Wushu club of the University of Maryland, College Park, and back to my dormitory on campus.

Then during the latter half of the semester, the UMBC Wushu Club finally got some traction, organizing practices at the RAC (Retriever Activity Center), the gym on campus, to rehearse for a performance at an event called the Martial Arts Exhibition.  This event was organized by the UMBC Federation of Martial Arts, a combination of all the officially recognized martial arts club on campus, Aikido, Jujitsu, Kendo, Tae Kwon Do, and Wushu, and was an event that allowed spectators to briefly learn about and try out the featured martial arts styles at the introductory level, followed by demonstrations by each of the clubs.  The members of the UMBC Wushu Club were not only kind enough to allow me to be a part of their demonstration, but also allowed me to participate in the creative process of choreographing much of the performance itself.  This performance in particular was very fun for me, and provided me an opportunity to prove myself, both to the club, and to myself, of my ability to both choreograph and perform on my own, and even featured Jason performing Nanquan (南拳; nánquán, Southern Fist) and nangun (南棍; nángùn, southern staff).

Unfortunately, after that, the club continued to have trouble organizing practices, especially with the absence of a coach.  At this point, the members and officers of the club at the time, asked me to be the coach.  I initially refused, because I was a freshman, and was not comfortable teaching people who were older than myself.  However, they insisted that they needed a coach with more experience than themselves.  The main reason for my conceding to this was the fact that there were no other coaches available for the club; essentially, I accepted because there was nobody else to do the job, and I felt that it was irresponsible to let a bad situation go on without at least trying to do something about it.  And so, for whatever few practices were left for the rest of the semester, I became the unofficial coach of the club, the best of a bad situation.  At the same time, the officers of the club had already started a petition to become an officially recognized sports club.

Although I had experience as a Wushu coach for the Wushu school I used to go to, this was still very new experience to me; prior to this, my only qualification was teaching kids at Chinese school, which I found to be stressful, both having to manage kids and adhering to a micromanaged way of teaching according to my coach at the time.  But in this case, being the sole coach of the club at the time allowed me to develop my own teaching style, which I wanted to be unique and special, different from the standard coaching of Wushu.  The specific curriculum I designed was based on the then-current curriculum of the Wushu school I used to go to, which I felt killed two birds with one stone—first, all the forms were compulsory (规定; guīdìng) Taolu, using the then-current set of compulsory Taolu implemented by junior level international competitions, so they were easily recognizable and easy to find the teaching and learning resources for, and second, they could be used for competition given their aforementioned purpose of design, if members chose to compete.  My teaching style however, was something I decided to call “modern with a traditional emphasis”, meaning that while I used the standard teaching material of modern Wushu, I also shared whatever knowledge I had of the traditional principles behind the original movements at the basic level, such as explanation of body mechanics, martial ideas and applications.  All this knowledge came from my training experience in both modern Wushu Taolu and Sanshou, which I gained from seniors that specialized in traditional Chen (陈; Chén) and Yang (杨; Yáng) Style Taijiquan (太极拳; tàijíquán, Grand Ultimate Fist) at the Wushu school I used to go to, as well as whatever traditional knowledge I picked up from Jason.  My reason for teaching this way was to improve on and address the criticisms and flaws of modern Wushu that it lacked martial depth and content, and to reflect my view that even though modern Wushu is not on the same level of martial arts as traditional gongfu, it should still retain at least some of the depth and martial arts content of its traditional counterpart.  During this time when I was first developing and this style of teaching, I sometimes initially felt as if I didn’t know what I was doing.  However, the more time went by as I taught, I would eventually become more confident in the way I taught, as I figured out, and validated through later training and researching knowledge, more martial applications behind movements in Taolu.

When the Spring 2012 semester came around, the club unfortunately still had no officially recognized status as a sports club.  With a new president, Christopher Seto, the club began to organize practices on a regular basis, and they continued to have me as coach.  But still, no official sports club status.  Hence, like my own status as an unofficial coach this year, all practices held by the club were also unofficial, in whatever empty lecture hall or classroom we could find on campus.  By this time, we had gained a small, but dedicated following based on members telling friends and people they knew through word-of-mouth, along with the occasional newcomer who comes and goes.  There were also a few small performances we did to help market ourselves.  Simultaneously, I was also training under two-time consecutive US Wushu Team member and Pan American Wushu Champion Michael “Mikey” Tsai, a former assistant coach of the club, and senior of the Wushu school I used to go to, who was managing his own Wushu classes at the time.  In addition, I was also getting back into training with Jason, this time learning wrestling, and sparring with kickboxing.  But what was perhaps most important highlight of this year, was the 16th Annual Collegiate Wushu Tournament.

Dubbed “Collegiates” by the collegiate Wushu community in the US, this annual competition is considered to be a proud representation of the nationwide collegiate Wushu community, and for the year 2012, was being hosted by the Virginia Wushu Club, the collegiate Wushu Club of the University of Virginia.  Prior to this, I was only peripherally aware of this competition, having watched YouTube videos of past competitions, namely those competition events of the previously mentioned seniors of the Wushu school I used to go to.  Although I myself had no plans to compete, the UMBC Wushu Club had one member that did, senior student and former officer of the club, Brandon Fong.  Of course, it was my job as a coach to coach and manage members of the club, so the implicit deal was that I coach Brandon as long as he trusted me and did what I said.  But this was a big opportunity, and also another big step in me proving myself, this time as a coach.  Although I had already coached students in general, I had never really coached one for competition, so this was a big first for me.  And although I didn’t know it at the time, I had no idea the complexity of the task ahead of me.  Firstly, Brandon specialized in Nanquan, a style of Wushu that I myself did not specialize, and secondly, he would be competing with the Group B and A Compulsory Nanquan and Nangun Taolu, also known as “Old Compulsory” Nanquan and Nangun, both forms I didn’t know and would have to learn to be able to coach him properly.  Clearly, this was not an optimal situation for both coach and competitor, given that, as I stated in my old write-up “‘Southern Fist, Northern Leg’: Picking Apart Northern and Southern Wushu”, Nanquan is a style of Wushu that I feel needs to be taught by someone who has actually specialized in and actively practiced Nanquan, and not by someone who only learned enough to teach (this includes someone like me, and professional coaches and instructors who did not actually practice Nanquan; for those that think this is perfectly fine, I implore you to read said write-up), especially in addition to the mediocre practicing conditions and environments we had at the time.

The training approach (or plan, or program, or whatever you want to call it) I developed for Brandon would be the competition training approach for the club in general, which was partially developed from my time training competitively at the Wushu school I used to go to, and partially for the club members’ personal and comfortable progression and development, to give their bodies more time to physically adjust to the changes in intensity training.  Training was a minimum of three days per week, and started two months prior to the competition, with one additional week leading up to the actual competition to prepare a mock competition (simulation for the competitor to test themselves).  Every two weeks, we would increase intensity of the training in forms (a modern Wushu Taolu form is usually made up of four separate and designated sections; our standard competition training program is as follows: for every practice, after [cardio] warm-up, stretching, and standard basics, including the successful practice of consecutive jumps in individual forms for those events requiring jumps, the first two weeks are spent training repetitions of single sections, then the next two weeks training repetitions of two sections, then the next two weeks training repetitions of three sections, then the next week training whole forms, then training two whole forms consecutively within one training session).  However, as I’ve said in previous write-ups, in Wushu competitions, it is not simply a matter of training specific movements, but how they are performed, since this is the basis of how modern Wushu Taolu forms are designed, trained and judged, for aesthetic purposes in performance and competition, especially today.  In terms of performance, I had modeled execution of the “Old Compulsory” Nanquan Taolu after World Junior Wushu Champion Kim Jiwoong, who I had the privilege of training with during my time in Korea, before the 2011 US Wushu Team Trials.

Of course, Brandon trained very hard, and his hard work paid off.  He was able to secure gold medals in both his divisions at the 16th Annual Wushu Collegiates, Intermediate Male Southern Fist and Intermediate Male Southern Staff.  Aside from being the first time I had brought someone to compete, which obviously made everyone, including the club, myself, and Brandon himself, happy.  Although this was a great way to end the first school year, we were all undoubtedly hoping things would pick up for the club.  I had growing ambitions about my participation with the club and what I could do to make it better, namely adding Sanshou practices to the club (which in part may have been helped by the Virginia Wushu Club’s Sanda demonstration during their hosting of the 16th Annual Wushu Collegiates), having hosted one trial practice as the last practice of the school year, in order to make the practice of Wushu at the club a much more complete practice of modern martial arts.  This is because like most collegiate Wushu clubs, the UMBC Wushu Club was only concerned with the practice of modern Wushu Taolu (with the exception of the Virginia Wushu Club).  After all, Zhao Changjun, my Wushu idol, said that in order to be a real Wushu expert, one should practice both Taolu and Sanshou.  But all that would have to wait until I saw how things panned out next year.

Year 2

The Fall 2012 semester would bring great news for the club; not only was the UMBC Wushu Club become a sports club, with official practice times and space at the RAC, but we also had generally strong interest in the club, given the large attendance at our practices compared to last year.  The sudden change in environment forced me to adapt and change my teaching style to become more vocal, carry and act in a “professional” image when I adopted the role of coach, and have a stricter and more formal structure, to accommodate the larger turnout of members.  I also did as I had planned, adding Sanshou practices to the club, as I had always wanted.  Like the Taolu practices, because there was nobody else to coach Sanshou practices, I decided to coach Sanshou practices, as there was nobody else to do it.  And like the Taolu practices, the specific curriculum I designed was a combination of the then-current curriculum of the Wushu school I used to go to, and what I had learned from Jason.  As I detailed in “A Look at Taijiquan: What You Need to Know”, the club also saw the addition and Chen Style Taiji practices, instructed by Mac Colestock, which added a facet of traditional Chinese martial arts to the club, and encouraged more all-around understanding of CMA.

Unfortunately for the club, my commitment to the club became minimal for the most of the first half of the semester, due to my training for the 9th Pan-American Wushu Championships.  This is because I was lucky enough to be a part of the 2011 US Wushu Team, as a C Team member in the dao/gun (刀/棍;dāo/gùn, broadsword and staff combined) event, and it meant I had a big opportunity for myself, having never gone to compete at an international level.  But this meant that I also had to be virtually absent from the club while training, which I admit made me irresponsible as a coach.  Upon my return, I also had to coach three club members for the upcoming 8th Annual University Wushu Games, Christopher Seto, William Leung, and Aaron Keys; Christopher would be competing with the Group C Compulsory Changquan (长拳; chángquán, Long Fist) Taolu, also known as 3rd Duan (段; duàn, formal rank or level) Changquan, and the Group C Compulsory Jianshu (剑术; jiànshù, straight sword event) Taolu, also known as 4th Duan Jianshu, William would be competing with the “Old Compulsory” Nanquan, and Aaron decided to compete with 5th Duan Gunshu (棍术; gùnshù, staff event).

As I said previously in “10th University Wushu Games: A Personal Account”, this competition, also abbreviated as UWG, is an annual competition founded and organized by TerpWushu.  For the UMBC Wushu Club, it gave us a local competition as an opportunity to participate in the collegiate Wushu community, and now that we were up and running as a sports club, it was our chance to come back to the competition scene renewed.  Like Collegiates, before actually attending this competition, I was only aware of it peripherally, having only watched YouTube videos of past competitions, namely those of the previously mentioned seniors of the Wushu school I used to go to.  And this would be the first time I would attend this competition in person, let alone bring anyone to compete.  However, preparation for this competition was far from ideal.  Again, because I was absent from the club for much of the first half of the semester, this also meant that I was absent for virtually all of their time training for competition, (save for mock competition I hosted the final week leading up to competition, though this nowhere near enough time to give constructive feedback or make necessary changes).  Despite this, at the 8th Annual University Wushu Games, William won a silver medal in Adult Intermediate Male Nanquan NoNandu, Aaron won a gold medal in Adult Intermediate Male Staff, and Christopher got a silver medal in Adult Beginner Male ChangquanNoNandu (although he tied with first place winner John Zhu, which leads me to wonder how much better he could have been had I actually been there to coach him) and gold medal in Adult Beginner Male Straightsword.  Despite the less than satisfactory conditions, UMBC Wushu still made a strong comeback to competition.

After competition season was over for both myself and the club, I decided to introduce “unofficial practices”, which, as the name suggests, were off the record, and like the practices held before the club became a sports club, were held in whatever empty lecture hall or classroom I could find on campus.  These were held on alternating days outside of official practice days in my free time.  The reason for my doing this was to personally make up for time lost from being away from the club, but these types of practices also carried with them many benefits that official practices could not.  First, it could be held to target those members who were unable to attend official practices due to time and schedule reasons, and those members I was unable to touch on personally due to the huge turnout of new members.  The informal setting and environment of the practices also allowed me to have a much more accommodating and flexible practice structure for those members who were not comfortable or could not keep up with the stricter and formal class-like structure of official practices, and allowed for more time to teach one-on-one, which further allowed me to give better quality instruction and to fully do the job I wanted to as coach.  In this way, the large turnout of members at practices was a double-edged swords; while the large amount of members demonstrated the success of the club, it was also difficult for me to accommodate this change in environment, as I was used to a much smaller teaching environment.  I was also much more comfortable with such an environment, as it allowed me to do teach as I see fit, rather than have to adhere to a strict teaching structure out of necessity.  Perhaps in this way, I could relate to my childhood hero Bruce Lee, who was apparently much more comfortable teaching students in a smaller class than with large ones.  The final benefit of these unofficial practices, was that they allowed me to pick out and see which individuals took the time and dedication to attend such practices, and thus who was worth investing my time in teaching.  The rest of the semester carried on in this manner.

At the same time, I wrote and created a formal mission statement for the club.  Later, had gone out of my way to write out an FAQ (frequently asked questions), and later a list of brief biographies and resumes for each of the past coaches and founders of the club, in order to honor and pay respect to their contribution to the club.  Each of these would be used for the then-current website for the club.  I had even gone as far as to create an outline of the club’s practice schedule (clearly this was an indication of how much free time and obsession I had for the club).

For the Spring 2013 semester, the situation with practices was very much the same, except I was actually present to coach.  Some additional changes were made this semester.  First, I started introducing the idea of occasional “jump workshops”, where I would specifically coach jumps, to members who were no longer beginners (partly to follow the example of my senior Mikey) at Saturday open gym sessions at Emilia’s Acrobatics & Gymnastics.  Second, I got rid of the tiered ranking system I previously had for Sanshou practices (similar to modern Wushu Taolu practices, where practitioners advance in rank, usually by way of testing/evaluation of certain skills, and learning new skills upon advancing), as I decided it was too cumbersome, and wouldn’t fully introduce everybody into the sparring environment quickly enough in a semester; this allowed me to introduce more skills and techniques into the curriculum faster, and by extension get into sparring faster by providing a basic fighting foundation sooner (especially since fight training should be about training skills and techniques that can be used and applied immediately, and not take too unnecessarily long to attain).  The club officers also introduced and organized a movie night for the club, which featured the Western release of the film Red Cliff (赤壁; Chìbì).  Again, attendances for all practices were strong in general.  In a way, the club was finally where I wanted it to be.  It had both Taolu and Sanshou practices to fully and completely represent modern Wushu, and also represented some traditional Chinese martial arts through Chen Style Taiji practices.  But there was still yet another challenge I had to face as a coach: organizing and managing performances, but more importantly, coming to terms and learning to deal with realistic expectations.

The first major performance of the school year was the Martial Arts Exhibition, which I had very much enjoyed the previous school year.  And since I was now the coach this time around, I had high expectations for this year’s performance; I gathered the current group of committed and dedicated members who were willing to perform, and had them start rehearsing as early as a month prior to the performance, as these members who had not performed Wushu before.  However, as it turns out, I am a very impatient person with a bad, and even violent temper, especially when things don’t go the way I want them to.  And when I was getting tired of having to constantly correct certain performers’ mistakes, and them letting me down, I lost it.  For the majority of the rest of rehearsals, I was very irritable, and a bit of a prick, very strict about my expectations and about getting virtually every little detail of the performance right, like a “professional” Wushu performance.  In retrospect, I realize that I was too much like my own old coach (whom I have been compared to multiple times as a coach myself, although this is not a comparison I find favorable).  Despite Brandon and even Christopher (who I was unnecessarily contentious with at the time) talking to me about my attitude, I was too stubborn to listen.  But eventually, in the last few rehearsals leading up to my performance, I understood that my expectations were unrealistic for members who were simply learning Wushu and not training at a professional level, and that losing my temper only made the situation worse.  As a result, on the day of the performance, I learned to compromise on my expectations so that performers could better meet my performance standards, and to accept mistakes that have already happened.  Unfortunately, as I said in “The Problem Facing Wushu: The Struggle of Performance Arts”, there was a poor turnout compared to last year due to poor marketing, advertising and planning (I found out recently that this may have been due to not having adequate funding from cultural like last time, as the UMBC Wushu Club was previously a culture club), and this event was dropped as a future investment, which I found regrettable, since this event was not only a great opportunity to spread awareness of and garner appeal and interest for Wushu, but also to promote better understanding through its previously established format, as it was previously, and the UMBC Federation of Martial Arts quietly became defunct.  If there anything in particular I would like anyone involved in Wushu to take away from this, it is to take this experience, as a cautionary tale.  In order to find the best kinds of performance opportunities open for the promotion, spreading of awareness, and better understanding of Wushu, we must learn to be professional about how we handle such opportunities.

The second performance followed soon after near the end of the school year, an “Asia Night” event on campus, entitled “Passport to Asia” for the year 2013.  Unlike the previous performance, I had only started rehearsals a mere two weeks prior to the performance, as most of the performers, with only a few new additions to the performance team.  We also had the addition of Mac Colestock performing Chen Style Taijiquan.  This was also much closer to the performance structure of the old Wushu school I used to go to, which featured both modern Wushu Taolu and traditional Chen and Yang Style Taijiquan, and was something I envisioned as the ideal Wushu performance.  All in all, despite certain struggles and setbacks throughout the year, the club came back stronger and with more to offer this year.  The last modern Wushu Taolu practice of the semester would end with a visit from the previously mentioned Mikey Tsai would visit with his then-fiancé and now wife, alumni of UMBC Melissa Der, which would perhaps foreshadow Mikey’s return to the club.

Year 3

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Returning to UMBC for the Fall 2013 semester, I had come back from the 2013 US Wushu Team Trials, with great news; one of the founders and coaches of the club, as well as one of my first Wushu coaches and one of the previously mentioned senior of the Wushu school I used to go to, Cameron Mozafari, who talked to me about coming back to UMBC Wushu at the 2013 US Wushu Team Trials, and the previously mentioned Mikey Tsai, who was approached by Christopher Seto, would return to coach modern Wushu Taolu practices on Mondays.  Having met and talked with them in the summer leading up to the semester, I was able to reconnect through the club, and they were very clearly going to be great assets.  Not only would they help me deal with the huge turnout of members at the beginning of the semester, but they also offered insights and feedback that I as a less experienced coach could not.  Coach Cameron and Mikey would coach intermediate and advanced members of the club, whereas I would continue to coach beginners and newcomers of the club, which was the target group that my teaching style was focused on and designed around, and was my strength.  The only downside to the semester, and also the whole year, was the declining turnout of members in Chen Style Taiji and Sanshou practices (for Sanshou practices, it is possible that I may have scared off members by making full-contact sparring a requirement, which for general people is obviously a scary prospect).

The first full month of the school year already provided the club with a challenge: a performance for a Mid-Autumn Festival event off-campus at UMB (University of Maryland, Baltimore), which was jointly hosted UMB and UMBC.  Because of the unusual situation and condition of the performance, namely a small stage, we had to make do with a smaller group and a much smaller, compressed performance (literally) compared to the performances of the previous school year.  However, we still had a quite strong performance to kick off the year, which even featured Mikey performing his jiujiebian (九节鞭; jiǔjiēbiān, nine-section whip/chain whip) and very well received by the audience that night.  But there was still yet another, greater challenge for the semester—the 9th Annual University Wushu Games.

Ever since last year’s UWG, I was waiting for the opportunity to coach members for this competition again, and while the competitors last year came back with great results, I was not happy with the preparation process last year.  Unlike last time, neither I nor the club had any obstacles preventing full preparation, and I was ready to put everything into coaching this time.  This time, I would be coaching four club members, Christopher Seto and Aaron Keys from last year, and Michael “Yoshida” Pletcher and Alexandra “Ali” Pokrywka; Christopher would be competing with the Group B Compulsory Changquan Taolu, also known as 6th Duan Changquan or “Old Compulsory” Changquan, Aaron would be competing with the “Old Compulsory” Nanquan Taolu, and Michael and Ali would both be competing with the Group C Compulsory Jianshu Taolu.  This would be the biggest team of competitors yet I would bring to competition.  It was also the first time I would be jointly coaching competitors with other coaches.

For my part as coach, I pushed the team.  Unlike performances, where I compromised on my standards to cater to a group learning Wushu for fun as opposed to professionally, I refused to budge on my standards for competition, regardless of whether or not members could meet them.  This was also the year I established certain prerequisites that should be met before members could compete, which were that, 1. They have learned and completed at least one form under their belt, given that it is a form under the club’s established curriculum, 2. They practice at least 3 times a week, and 3. They stick to the coaches’ instructions, advice and competition training plan/program.  This was due to certain problems such as competitors learning forms outside of the curriculum I was teaching, and regular attendance.  Again, the hard work paid off.  The club made a big comeback to competition at the 9th Annual University Wushu Games, with all the competitors medaling in their divisions; Christopher won a gold medal in Adult Intermediate Male Changquan (no nandu), Aaron won a gold medal in Adult Male Intermediate Nanquan (no nandu), Ali earned a bronze in Adult Female Beginner Straightsword, and Michael won gold in Adult Male Beginner Straightsword.  Looking back at the results, it was certainly not a bad way, and I’m even tempted to say it was a good way to end the semester.  To finish the semester, Jason revisited the club as a guest coach for the last Sanshou practice of the semester.

This was also around the same time I started the YouTube channel for the club, username “umbcwushu”, at the inquiry of Michael, who was an officer of the club at the time.  Since the documentation of the mock competition leading up to the 9th Annual University Wushu Games, and the competition itself, I would take every chance to record and upload virtually anything and everything of interest of the club’s practices, performances, competition clips, and social activities.  I also wanted to take every chance I could to record and upload videos that reflected my teaching style of “modern with a traditional emphasis”, by uploading videos sharing interesting Wushu knowledge and information that couldn’t be found anywhere else on YouTube, including certain instructional clips demonstrating said teaching style, and martial applications and fighting ideas of certain Wushu Taolu movements.  My goals for this channel were to first to better educate viewers about modern Wushu and Chinese martial arts in general, to again address the criticism and flaw that modern Wushu lacked martial depth and content, and to give the channel a unique appeal that other Wushu channels and videos didn’t have.  During the Spring 2014 semester, I had also taken much of the footage I had recorded for the club, and made trailers advertising the practices for the club, which I am particularly proud of, considering I am no professional filmmaker.  And so became the umbcwushu channel on YouTube, the second YouTube channel I have operated on.

This school year also provided a unique situation for both myself and the club, because it was the first time that the club would be offering winter semester practices.  Part of this is because I would be taking one particular class (which I really hated, considering it condensed a couple month’s standard workload in a fall or spring semester into one month, since that’s how long winter semesters are).  During the Winter 2014 semester, I would be juggling the coaching of two practices a day, and classwork.  This is because the idea of winter practices was a very ambitious prospect for me, with an extremely small, but dedicated group of members attending practices.  Coach Mikey even came in one time to coach one practice focused on stretching and flexibility.  However, nearing the end of the semester, attendance died out, which gave me my doubts about continuing to invest in winter practices for the future.

The Spring 2014 semester proved to be a very interesting semester for both myself, and the club; the 19th Collegiate Wushu Tournament was coming up and to be hosted by TerpWushu.  As I have said in “10th Pan American Wushu Championships: A Personal Account”, this provided me an opportunity in my “long-term vision” for my competitive career to have a “practice competition” to prepare, much like I did with the 2011 New Jersey International Wushu-Kungfu Tournament to prepare for the 2011 US Wushu Team Trials, but this time for the 10th Pan American Wushu Championships later in the year, which I had qualified to compete at.  This is because I was lucky enough to be a part of the 2013 US Wushu Team as a C Team member again.  I also felt that it was important to show that I was just as much a practitioner capable of practicing and demonstrating what I coach and teach (personally, I never truly believed in the “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy of teaching, unless for some reason a teacher or coach has the skill and knowledge of something, but cannot demonstrate said thing, such as an injury), so competing for and representing the club, which was also a first for me, was a great way to prove myself to the club members.  Bruce Lee himself is quoted as saying in the book Jeet Kune Do: Bruce Lee’s Commentaries on the Martial Way, “An instructor should exemplify the things he seeks to teach.”  Unfortunately, Coach Cameron and Mikey would only be able to make it the first practice of the semester, with Coach Mikey only able to make it sparingly, which took away most of their coaching resources for both the club and myself.

My decision to compete at the 18th Collegiate Wushu Tournament was a big step for myself both as a competitor, and as a member of the club.  There was also one other member, Matthew Setiawan, who would also be competing at the 18th Collegiate Wushu Tournament with the previous Group A Compulsory Changquan Taolu (from the 2nd Set of International Compulsory Routines), also then known as “New Compulsory” Changquan, “2000 Compulsory” or “2nd International Compulsory” Changquan during the time of its implementation in international competitions (before being replaced by the introduction and implementation of the 3rd Set of International Compulsory Routines).  Not only would I be following the standard competition training program I designed for the club, but I would also be competing and training with more complex and difficult forms I choreographed myself, inspired by forms with old school and traditional Wushu movements, inspired by the examples of old school Wushu legends and champions Zhao Changjun and Yuan Wenqing, and the more contemporary examples of Chinese Wushu national champions Zhang Kai and Wang Xi, in order to challenge and push my limits to improve myself, considering I had been competing with comparatively “safe” forms that didn’t stand out or weren’t until the 2013 US Wushu Team Trials.  Also, as the only available coach for modern Wushu Taolu practices, I was constantly juggling the roles of both coach and competitor (which is not a good idea).  Thus, the majority of my training was without a coach (although I communicated to Coach Cameron, Mikey and Jason about my competitive training through online messaging and sending of video footage, of which they would give feedback whenever they could), with occasional physical meetings and coaching sessions with Jason at Emilia’s Open Gym.  It was also difficult to coach Matthew Setiawan in the previous Group A Compulsory Changquan Taolu, as this was a form I myself had difficulty and problems performing well, especially at the 2010 US Junior Wushu Team Trials.  But the most difficult thing to deal with was the fact that I was scared.  I had never trained for competition on my own, and especially in the beginning, I felt lost, that I didn’t know what I was doing.  However, I knew this was what I wanted to do, and following a period of self-reflection in realizing this, I wrote the write-up, “3 Life Lessons Competitive Wushu Teaches”, partially for Jiayoowushu.com, but mostly to come to terms with myself.

The 18th Collegiate Wushu Tournament was perhaps the definitive competition that changed my view of competitive Wushu, how I train, and how I reflect on my experiences.  Aside from considering myself lucky to have gotten the results I did in competition, as I also said in “10th Pan American Wushu Championships: A Personal Account”, I took this competition as a learning experience to evaluate my then-current strengths and weaknesses, and more specifically what mistakes and deductions I made, how to improve on them, and how to address them for the upcoming 10th Pan American Wushu Championships.  Following the competition, I wrote the write-up “Collegiate Wushu in the United States: What It Means For US Wushu” for Jiayoowushu.com, both to acknowledge the experience I had at the 18th Collegiate Wushu Tournament, and to honor the collegiate Wushu community in the US that has supported Collegiates all these years.  The following Friday, I took two friends and loyal members of the UMBC Wushu’s Sanshou practices, Edward Thang and Mark von Heeringen, to a joint training session with the Virginia Wushu Club’s Sanshou practice (which predated UMBC Wushu’s own Sanshou practices officially by a year), which was helped and arranged by former vice president of the Virginia Wushu Club and its former Sanshou head coach of Peter Le (who had contacted me multiple times to set up a physical meeting, and whom I felt bad for ducking multiple times, due to the current state of my own club’s Sanshou practices not being ready).  The Sanshou practice at the Virginia Wushu Club was a fun and humbling experience, due in no small part to Peter and then-current Sanshou coach of the Virginia Wushu Club, Faye Huynh, for being accommodating to us as guests.

After all these milestones, UMBC Wushu had to prepare again for the school year’s “Asia Night” event, this time entitled “A Taste of Asia.”  Just like last time, we also had Mac Colestock performing Chen Style Taijiquan, but also with the addition of Chen Style Taiji shuangjian (双剑; shuāngjiàn, double sword/straight sword).  Compared to last year’s performance, I felt that we were better prepared with a more experienced performance team this time around, especially considering the club had just got out of competition.  We were also received much more enthusiastically, with a much more responsive, albeit easily impressed audience.  In review, this was a great way to end the school year.

There was also the introduction of summer semester practices, which was also a first time for the club.  Like winter practices, much of this was possible because I would in fact be taking classes on campus during the Summer 2014 semester.  And although like winter practices, attendance was minimal with a small but dedicated group of members, unlike winter practices, attendance was at least consistent.  It was also during this time I would start training for the 10th Pan American Wushu Championships, and much of the latter half of that time nursing a sprained ankle.

Year 4

The Fall 2014 semester saw more change for the club.  I had come back from the 10th Pan American Wushu Championships, with more experience.  Unlike the last time I went to Pan-Ams, and the club officers agreed to wait for me to come back to officially start practices for the club, which was early enough at the start of the semester to not have a large impact on the amount of practices the club would have for the semester.  Jason would also return to the club as a regular coach, this time as Sanshou coach, where I appropriately stepped back as a student.  As a result, the format and curriculum for Sanshou practices was now completely under Coach Jason’s control.  The other major change Coach Jason made to Sanshou practices was to make sparring optional, which was smart, as it allows general members to still learn Sanshou and have fun without the fear and risk of getting hurt or punched in the face, while still making sparring a choice to pick out and see which individuals are serious and dedicated to truly practice.

Most interestingly this semester, as I also detailed in “A Look at Bajiquan: What You Need to Know”, the club was approached by a very unassuming Chinese man, Mr. Eric “Yixin” Geng (who I will simply refer to as Mr. Geng out of respect), who was curious about what we were doing, as he said he saw us wielding Chinese martial arts weapons, swords, staffs and spears, which caught his eye.  After conversing with him, I found out that he had a background in traditional gongfu, which I found out later was traced back to the Nanjing Central Guoshu Institute (南京中央国术馆;Nánjīngzhōngyāngguóshùguǎn), namely the traditional Taolu of Bajiquan (八极拳; bājíquán, Eight Extremes Fist) dajia (大架; dàjià, literally “big/large frame”), Lianbuquan (练步拳; liànbùquán, Training Stance Fist), “Ten Roads” Tan Tui (十路弹腿; shílùtántuǐ), “Fourth Road” Chaquan (四路查拳; sìlùcháquán), Erlangquan (二郎拳; Èrlángquán, Erlang Fist), Baguataijiquan (八卦太极拳; bāguàtàijíquán, Eight Trigrams Grand Ultimate Fist), and the traditional weapon Taolu of Wuhuqunyanggun (五虎擒样棍; “Five Tigers Slaughter The Sheep” Staff) and Sancaijian (三才剑; sāncáijiàn, Three Powers Sword/Straight Sword).  Me being the Chinese martial arts enthusiast that I am, I saw an opportunity, not only for myself, but for my club to be able to absorb more traditional Chinese martial arts.  I followed the views of Zhao Changjun, who also said that traditional Wushu should be valued just as much, if not more importantly than modern Wushu.  After asking Mr. Geng to demonstrate his Bajiquan dajia Taolu, I decided that it was indeed real, authentic traditional Chinese martial arts, and not what modern Wushu practitioners mistakenly call “traditional” forms that have been standardized in modern Wushu Taolu (in retrospect, I admit I may have been a bit “sneaky” in wanting to see what Mr. Geng had to offer, and to determine for myself if it was indeed traditional Wushu).  After speaking with the officers in one of their private meetings, we all came to an agreement that we wanted Mr. Geng to share his knowledge with us.  Soon after, Mr. Geng would indeed start teaching traditional Wushu practices for us, specifically Bajiquan, albeit unofficially, due to it being too late to adjust our officially designated practice schedule at the RAC.  The club also had another performance for the Mid-Autumn Festival event at UMB, this time hosted by UMB, UMBC, JHU (Johns Hopkins University), and Towson University, with a smaller performance team compared to last time.  But was perhaps most important for the club this semester was the 10th University Wushu Games.

This time, the club only had one single, solitary member that wished to compete at the 10th University Wushu Games, Matthew “Matt” Wright.  Matthew Wright would be competing with the Group C Compulsory Daoshu (刀术; dāoshù, broadsword event) Taolu, also known as 4th Duan Daoshu.  Although it was a shame to not bring a team to competition like last time, the fact that I would be coaching one-on-one again would give me the opportunity to focus all my attention on, and thus do a better job, of coaching Matthew Wright.  As usual, I had Matthew Wright follow the standard competition training program for the club.  But my coaching style for competition would be different this time.

The year 2014 not only saw a change in how I viewed and trained Wushu, but also how I coached Wushu as well.  Previously, my coaching style was very temperamental, impatient, and prone to outbursts of yelling when things didn’t go the way I wanted, which again, was influenced from my own old coach.  But my time training for the 18th Collegiate Wushu Tournament and the 10th Pan American Wushu Championships with Coach Jason, who has been extremely patient and calm, but honest in his feedback with me, showed me that one didn’t have to yell or berate students to train them hard, nor push them to get good results from training.  So, this is the first semester as a coach where I didn’t yell during my time coaching students competitively.  This is not to say that hard work or discipline are to be ignored, they certainly shouldn’t be, as they are the cornerstone to any good training.  But yelling, talking or looking down on students are unnecessary to the effectiveness of the training and learning process for students, but rather patience and understanding.  And so, this is the realization that influenced the way I coach now.

Of course, Matthew Wright still trained very hard, and once again, the hard work paid off.  He won a gold medal in his division, Adult Broadsword Male Beginner at the 10th University Wushu Games.  And Matthew Wright was of course very happy with his result.  But more importantly, it showed that my newly adjusted coaching style still got good results.

Like last year, the club also offered winter practices.  However, given what happened last year, I specified to the officers that I didn’t want to do winter practices unless there was some guarantee that members would attend.  Although they assured me that members would indeed attend, the real life case turned out to be as I expected—attendance was minimal and inconsistent, with the exception of only two members who were originally from Nepal and not academic students of UMBC, and found out about the UMBC Wushu Club through YouTube (so my efforts in marketing the club on YouTube were not COMPLETELY in vain).  The rest of the winter semester carried on in this manner, and I decided that I would never invest in coaching winter semester practices ever again.

The Spring 2015 semester started with an a performance for a campus event called “Involvement Fest”, where various of the university’s clubs and interest groups came together to advertise themselves to newcomers, which as I detailed in “The Problem Facing Wushu: The Struggle of Performance Arts”, was one of the worst performance I’ve ever had; the club handled the preparation and rehearsing of the performance very poorly, the stage was one of, if not the smallest, I had two work with, and there were very few performers, with more than half the spectators, if I can even call them that, not even paying attention to the performances on the stage.  Like the previously mentioned Martial Arts Exhibition, I would like others to take this experience as a cautionary tale.  Again, in order to find the best kinds of performance opportunities open for the promotion, spreading of awareness, and better understanding of Wushu, we must learn to be professional about how we handle such opportunities.  This was also the semester where attendance to practices overall would be the lowest it had been since I had started coaching for the club.  And so the semester started off with a mixed bag.  It would also bring with it two more changes.  Mr. Geng was now an official instructor with official traditional Wushu practices at the RAC, and returned from his home of Nanjing, China, visiting his family and his Master Ge Changlin, who shared with him new knowledge of the Bajiduijie (八极对接; bājíduìjiē, Baji two-man choreographed fight set), and various changes to the previous forms he had learned.  Coach Cameron would also return to coach modern Wushu Taolu practices on Mondays.

During the semester, I had also approached Coach Jason for advice on how to increase participation in the club, as I wanted to find ways to actively improve the problem of low involvement for the club.  One of the suggestions he made was “viewing parties”, which he had done during his time involved with TerpWushu, which were social events for the club and included the viewing of Wushu and martial arts material for “studying” and educational purposes, and which I implemented this semester.  In the end, I eventually learned to accept that I was only one person who could do so much, that not everything was under my control, and that if the club really wanted to change, the people involved would have to do it, not just me.  Coach Mikey would also return to visit on the last modern Wushu Taolu practice of the semester, finally reuniting Coach Cameron and Mikey at the same practice after over a year.

Finally, the club was truly where I wanted and envisioned it to be.  Not only did it have Taolu and Sanshou to fully represent modern Wushu, as well as traditional Chen Style Taiji, but it also had authentic, traditional Wushu to help create an overall representation of Chinese martial arts.  In this way, the club finally reflected my dream of representing Wushu completely, beyond just modern Wushu.  Although I never do this, I would like to quote myself from the club’s mission statement, which states, “…we are also the only club representing Chinese martial arts overall, period.  I think we should at least do a good job of it by encouraging a more all-around understanding of CMA, i.e. sharing more in-depth and traditional knowledge for better martial arts foundation, not just promoting the simple competitive/performance goals.”  For the Summer 2015 semester practices, Coach Jason decided to have Sanshou practices.  However, my direct involvement with Sanshou practices was limited for the majority of practices, due to training for the 2015 US Wushu Team Trials, which often overlapped with Sanshou practices when meeting with Jason.

Year 5

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You’re probably wondering why there is a “year five.”  Well, that’s because I took too long in my academic career to decide what major(s) I should have pursued (that’s what I get for being indecisive).  In any case, I was at UMBC for a fifth year, becoming what people called a “super senior.”  Unfortunately, due to my academic situation, where I had to take a required class that interfered with modern Wushu Taolu practices on Mondays, I was forced to make my involvement coaching the club part-time.  Fortunately, Coach Cameron and Mikey would return again to coach modern Wushu Taolu practices on Mondays, this time taking over practices as the primary coaches with a teaching style focused primarily on jibengong (基本功; jīběngōng, basic skills) and compound training (组合练习; zǔhéliànxí) basics combinations based on forms being taught and practiced, and I would step in to practice whenever class was cancelled.  So, this semester came with a mixed bag again.

One of the first things in the Fall 2015 semester was a performance for a Mid Autumn Festival event, this time on campus (Jason gave the suggestion to only do performances on campus, as any performances off-campus were a waste of time for a college club only concerned with promoting themselves within said college, which I agreed with), which was organized by the university’s CSA (Chinese Student Association) and VSA (Vietnamese Student Association).  Again, the performance team was small, the smallest it had ever been, due to low participation and involvement in the club, but we had the addition of Mac Colestock performing traditional Chen Style Taijijian (太极剑; tàijíjiàn, Taiji straight sword) and Mr. Geng performing a combined performance of Baguataijiquan and Bajiquan dajia.  The performance was nearly cancelled due to poor planning, such as the performance originally being outdoors, but was changed due to rain the day of.  However, we were able to host our performance in a room called the Harbor Multipurpose Room, which was perfect, since this was the room we had rehearsed in for the performance.  Although we did not have time to fully warm-up and prepare, everybody still pulled through with a decent performance.  Once again, poor organization which was out of my control got in the way, but as a coach, I greatly cared about what I was doing here, and did my best to pull through.

Another highlight of the semester was the TerpWushu Fall 2015 Joint Practice, which as the name suggests, was a joint practice between collegiate Wushu clubs.  Like Collegiates and UWG, I was only peripherally aware of this kind of event, though I thought it was a great idea, and helped to strengthen the collegiate Wushu community in the US.  Apparently, this was the first time TerpWushu would be hosting one of their own, and I felt very privileged that my club was invited and had the opportunity to participate.  But again, the biggest thing of the semester for the club was the 11th Annual University Wushu Games.

Preparation for this year’s UWG would be very interesting and unique, to say the least.  Coach Cameron and Mikey had the idea to relax my previously established prerequisites for competition training, in favor of promoting greater interest in competition and Wushu in general; in response to the idea of regular attendance, Coach Mikey in particular stated that if a given student came to practice regularly and put in the hard work and dedication, attendance shouldn’t be a factor or problem to worry about, which I agreed with, as this spoke for itself.  Although I personally had my own opinion about this new approach as a coach myself, I decided not to be stubborn, rigid or close-minded, and conceded to Coach Cameron and Mikey as my seniors, since they were older and more experienced than I, and tried things their way.  This was also the semester I as a coach actively encouraged members to compete, again to promote interest and encourage participation in competition and Wushu in general.  And this semester, we had seven club members who would compete, Irene Javier who was a newcomer to the club but had prior experience, alumni Travis Neal, Matthew Wright from last year, Kwynn Johnson, Andrew Hacklander, and newcomers Peter Duong and Thomas Zhang; Irene would be competing with the previous Group A Compulsory Changquan Taolu, Travis would be competing with the Chuji (初级; chūjí, elementary/beginner) Nandao (南刀; nándāo, southern broadsword) Taolu, Matthew Wright would be competing with Group B Compulsory Changquan Taolu, Kwynn would be competing with the Group C Compulsory Daoshu Taolu, Andrew would be competing with the Group C Compulsory Gunshu (棍术; gùnshù, staff event) Taolu, also known as 4th Duan Gunshu, and Peter and Thomas would be competing with the Group C Compulsory Changquan Taolu.  This was the biggest team I had brought to competition.

Although on competition day, the team had mixed results, with some competitors making mistakes, they still got great results.  Irene won a gold medal in Adult Intermediate Female Changquan, Matthew Wright earned a silver medal in Adult Intermediate Male Changquan, Kwynn won a gold medal in Adult Beginner Male Daoshu, Travis won a gold medal in Adult Beginner Male Nandao, and Andrew earned a silver medal in Adult Beginner Male Gunshu.  But what was more important was the goal to in participating in UWG was to encourage participation with the collegiate Wushu community.  In retrospect, it was not a bad way to end the semester.

When the Winter 2016 semester came, I had refused to coach winter practices, given my disappointment last time.  However, Mr. Geng had agreed to coach winter practices.  Of course, I would participate as a student, along with a few others.  But as expected, winter practices had low attendance.

One highlight of the Spring 2016 semester was the Sanda Weekend Seminar by Coach Ian (Yiyuan) Lee, coach of national US Wushu Sanshou Team, and hosted by Goh’s Kung Fu, the headquarters of the USAWKF (United States Wushu-Kungfu Federation, the governing organizational body of US Wushu), which some members of UMBC Wushu’s Sanshou practices, including myself and Coach Jason, participated in.  Having known Coach Lee from my previous Pan Ams experiences, it was a privilege to get to learn from him, and take away new and better way to train Sanda.  For the Spring 2016 semester, my situation was virtually the same.  Like the Fall 2015 semester, I had to take another required class (with a professor whom I absolutely detest) that interfered with modern Wushu Taolu practices, this time on Wednesdays, which again made my involvement coaching the club part-time.  This presented a problem as the 20th Annual Collegiate Wushu Tournament was coming up, this time hosted by Columbia Wushu in New York, which I was planning to compete in, and my situation made my training schedule inconsistent, though this was the best I could do.  To make matters worse, only Coach Cameron was available to coach, and only during the beginning of the semester at that, as his work schedule unexpectedly began to make him busy and unable to come to the club.

This time around, training and coaching for Collegiates was a simple situation, and dare I say even easier, to deal with, perhaps because I had dealt with the situation before and was more used to it.  The members who would competing at the 20th Annual Collegiate Wushu Tournament were all from the group that competed at the 11th Annual University Wushu Games, Irene Javier, Kwynn Johnson, and Peter Duong; again, they would be competing with the forms they competed with at the 11th Annual University Wushu Games, Irene with the previous Group A Compulsory Changquan Taolu, Kwynn with the Group C Compulsory Daoshu Taolu, and Peter with the Group C Compulsory Changquan Taolu.  As for my own training, it was a combination of practicing with the club, meeting with Coach Jason regularly at open gym sessions at Emilia’s Acrobatics & Gymnastics, and meeting with Coach Cameron, who coached TerpWushu on Fridays.  The other members would even accompany me at times, due to the difficulty aligning our schedules to train together consistently at the club practices.

Although I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, the biggest challenge I faced at the 20th Annual Collegiate Wushu Tournament was keeping my energy up throughout the day, as I was lacking full physical energy.  This is because I did not have any sleep the night before and I had already ruined my sleep-wake cycle in the days leading up to the day of competition, which was too late to fix, and was my own fault (this is what happens when you’re a college student with poor time management skills and the need to study hard for exams).  Additionally, I experienced tightness in my ankles after practicing jumps during the warm-up period for Advanced Male Broadsword (which was a chronic problem I had after my aforementioned ankle sprain and the 10th Pan American Wushu Championships), gassed out more than I ever have before in the latter of my form in said division (again, it may have to do with the fact that I didn’t get any sleep the night before), and I made stupid mistakes in my form for Advanced Male Staff, namely failing my tengkongbailian (騰空摆莲; téngkōngbǎilián, jump outside/stationary lotus kick) 540º (although this may have to do with the unusually long waiting period between the warm-up period and the my division, by which time I had already cooled down).  Despite all this, I found myself extremely lucky to have gotten the results I did, so I have mixed feelings about my performances that day.  The competition here was also notably much tougher and stiffer compared to last Collegiates, which gave us a good learning experience and motivated us to improve, in particular myself.  Irene earned a silver medal in Advanced Female Staff, Peter won a silver medal in Beginner Male Changquan, and Kwynn won a bronze medal in Beginner Male Broadsword.  Everybody competing had come back with a medal, which is something that hadn’t happened since the 9th Annual University Wushu Games in 2013, but more importantly, like last time, Collegiates was an awesome and fun experience, and it was great to be a part of it one last time.

For the Summer 2016 semester, which is where we are currently at, Coach Jason has surprisingly decided to have Sanshou practices again, although on second thought, this is not so surprisingly, considering his dedication to teaching Sanshou at the club.  As for myself, when asked by the club about coaching summer practices, I specifically stated that I did not want to do summer practices unless there was some guarantee that members would attend, which some said they would, and surprisingly have done so thus far.  At the time of this writing, I am currently preparing and training for the 11th Pan-American Wushu Championships, which will inevitably limit my participation in summer practices in general this semester.  A specific benefit about practicing at the RAC is that it allows me a space to train without having to pay money, which is a definite plus, and we will see how the rest of my experience pans out.

And this is where I am today.  To close, I would like to thank various people involved in this experience: First, out of respect and gratitude, I would like to thank Cameron Mozafari, Mikey Tsai and Jason Liu, all of whom played an integral part coaching the club in the past, and returning to coach in the present out of nothing but their own time, dedication and desire to help the club and share their knowledge, expertise and support.  I would also like to thank Mac Colestock and Mr. Geng for instructing and sharing their knowledge and expertise as well, giving our club the opportunity to learn traditional Chinese martial arts and as a result a special edge in terms of actual and legitimate martial arts, and of course their willingness to be open with and teach me, giving me an understanding of traditional Chinese martial arts that I wouldn’t otherwise have.  Finally, I would of course like to thank the UMBC Wushu Club and everybody involved in and dedicated to it, for making my college experience better, and being the sole highlight and positive experience I’ve had in college.  Not only has this whole experience been the highlight of my college experience, it has also shaped the way I teach, train and developed my Wushu to become the Wushu practitioner I am to this day.  This definitely does not mean this is the end of my experience with UMBC Wushu, however the fact that I have graduated is something that lets me know I am moving on from college, and this experience with UMBC Wushu thus far is something I feel is worth noting and writing about.  After all, Jason has said that he spent nine years being involved with TerpWushu, so I’d like to think I can have a similar experience with UMBC Wushu.  It has a been a privilege to be a part of UMBC Wushu, I will never forget and will always treasure my experience with it, and I look forward to many more years being involved with what I have now called my home for Wushu.

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Matt began practicing Wushu at the age of 7 under US Wushu Academy, and is a coach of the UMBC Wushu Club. He has held positions in national, international, and local modern Wushu competitions, and is currently training in Sanshou/Sanda and traditional Chen Style Taijiquan. He is a three-time consecutive US Wushu Team member and most recently Pan American Champion, and is continually trying to improve himself both as a competitive athlete and as a real martial artist. If you have any questions you would like to ask Matt, please email him at matthewlee@jiayoowushu.com.