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US National Wushu Sanda Team Coach to Host Sanda Seminar for Taolu Coaches

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On November 8th, 2019, Coach Ian (Yiyuan) Lee, coach of the national US Wushu Sanda Team, will host a seminar titled “Coaching Sanda Basics and Training Techniques for Taolu Coaches”.  This seminar is part of a “USAWKF Coaches Course Certification Series”, organized by the USAWKF (United States of America Wushu), the national governing organizational body for national level US Wushu competition, as part of a movement to, in a public announcement released by the USAWKF, to “provide coaching courses on various aspects of wushu instruction to help American wushu coaches learn more about the technical aspects of competitive wushu sports both in Sanda and Taolu.”  The seminar will be held at Arcadia High School Gymnasium in Arcadia, California, from 6:30pm to 9:30pm, and will cost a total of $369 (including a package of kicking pads per participant at a $90 value).  Such a movement by the USAWKF is unprecedented, given the previously esoteric and sometimes misunderstood nature of the historical development of the sport of modern Wushu, also known as sport or contemporary Wushu, a standardization of Chinese martial arts for sport.  For those unfamiliar with the term Sanda, the Chinese word sàndǎ (散打) literally means “free fighting”, and is most often used to refer to a practice and method of full-contact sparring and fighting, also known as Sanshou (散手; sànshǒu, free hand), and is one of two formal competition categories promoted internationally under the sport of modern Wushu, the other being Taolu (套路; tàolù, forms), the practice of forms and sequences in Chinese martial arts; in modern Wushu, Taolu refers to the practice of competition forms standardized from various traditional Chinese martial arts styles and trained for performance and exhibition purposes based on a certain set of competition rules and standards, which is the most well-known and popular image of Wushu.

According to the public announcement released by the USAWKF, “Contemporary Wushu is divided into two disciplines; Taolu (routines) and Sanda (fighting).  But typically, the disciplines are seldom cross trained with most schools just teaching one or the other.  This course is designed to change that by giving Taolu coaches the tools they need to teach Sanda.

“Over the course of the three hour seminar, Taolu coaches will be taught Sanda training methods, how to put on gloves and hold pads, warm up and cool down athletes, striking drills, take downs, take down defenses and everything necessary to introduce Sanda into a Taolu training curriculum.  Participants who successfully complete the course will receive a USAWKF National Coaching Certificate.”  Indeed, Taolu and Sanda have long been treated separately as competition categories.  It is thus very typical in actual practice that athletes under the sport of Wushu will only specialize in one or the other for competition, where Taolu athletes train forms for exhibition and competition, and Sanda athletes train for full-contact sparring.  Even though both events are categorized under Wushu competition, it seems that Taolu and Sanda are separate sports and disciplines altogether, because the two practices seem so divorced from each other.  Exceptions to this observation are former Hebei Wushu Team member Li Yanlong, who was both an all-around Taolu champion and Sanda champion in his competitive career, Jason Yee, a former US Wushu Team member who has earned medals in both Taolu and Sanda at the World Wushu Championships, and more recently Jason Liu, who was also a US Wushu Team member and national champion in both Taolu and Sanda, and represented USA in both disciplines.  Most professional Wushu schools only specialize in Taolu instruction, and very few professional Wushu schools also offer instruction in both, and include but may not be limited to, US Wushu Academy in Virginia and Maryland, American Wushu Academy in Mesa, Arizona, Chinese Martial Arts Academy in Albany, New York, National Martial Arts Academy in Aurora, Colorado, and International Martial Arts Inc. in Laredo, Texas; collegiate Wushu clubs that have at one point offered both practices include the Virginia Wushu Club (University of Virginia), UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) Wushu and Columbia Wushu (Columbia University).  However, the fact that these examples are few and in-between does not reflect a vast majority of the practice of Wushu, and the dichotomized practitioners that result from it.

At first glance, the title of a “National Coaching Certificate” based on completing a single seminar seems fraudulent, especially in the practice of martial arts, where years of dedication is often spent to master a single discipline, as opposed to certifications in other business industries.  The idea of such a certificate seems to imply a certain of level skill and qualification needed to practice and teach such a discipline.  On clarification of the so-called “USAWKF National Coaching Certificate”, USAWKF Board Member Justin Eggert stated, “The goal of the course is obviously not to certify a pro Sanda instructor to open a Sanda school.  The certificate is for completing the course of introduction to sanda for taolu coaches…many want to start training Sanda and contemplate adding it to their curriculum.  Also as a federation we want to start encouraging taolu people to learn Sanda and become more diverse martial artists.  This obviously is not enough, but this will give the novices a sober view of what it will take to make it work…This is a first step towards potentially more robust promotions and training camps.  But for taolu people to get their feet wet and give more coaches a way to dive in, we figured they will need less of a commitment to see if they will travel down this path or not.  And of course this sort of course usually needs a certification of some kind.”  Thus, it is apparent that this seminar is meant to serve as an introduction to the practice of Sanda to Taolu coaches, who are primarily specializing in the practice of forms, as opposed to fighting or full-contact sparring.

About the instructor himself, Coach Lee was a national Taiwanese boxer before converting to Sanda competition.  He has also learned traditional Chinese martial arts as a requirement of his training in Taiwan.  In addition, he also learned Shuai Jiao (摔跤; shuāijiāo, traditional Chinese folk wrestling), specifically Baoding (保定; Bǎodìng) Kuai Jiao (快跤; kuàijiāo, fast wrestling), arguably the most well-known and widespread style of Shuai Jiao today, from Guo Shen, one of the last students of the famed and undefeated Shuai Jiao master Chang Dongsheng, dubbed the “Iron Butterfly.”  In his fight career, he has learned from many coaches of various fighting styles, including Muay Thai, having gone to Thailand twice, once before opening his own martial arts school, United Martial Arts Training Center based in Lubbock, Texas, of which he is the head coach, and again after.  His most famous accomplishment is defeating mainland Chinese Sanda athlete Zhang Lei at the 2001 Sanda King Championship in mainland China after previously retiring, having come out of retirement to answer the call to represent Taiwan at the Championship.  Coach Lee has previously held seminars at Goh’s Kung Fu, headquarters of the USAWKF in Baltimore, Maryland, and most recently a workshop for the Arizona Sanda Association.

In other news, Coach Lǚ Xiaolin will also be hosting a seminar titled “Coaching the IWUF 1st Compulsory Routines – Changquan, Jianshu & Qiangshu” on the same day at Wushu Unlimited in Monrovia, California, with two sessions from 9:00am to 12:00pm, and from 1:30pm to 4:30pm, specializing in teaching said Taolu to comply with the new competition regulations of 2019.  What is interesting is the USAWKF’s new initiative to reach out on a national level and share knowledge in order to help Wushu schools and practitioners better understand the standards of the sport.  Previously in the past the few years, the IWuF (International Wushu Federation) has held similar seminars to both better educate and certify Wushu coaches and practitioners as judges in their competition judging methods and regulations for professional Wushu competitions.  Most interesting is the “Coaching Sanda Basics and Training Techniques for Taolu Coaches”, which offers the beginning of an opportunity to make the practice of Wushu more complete and well-rounded as a legitimate martial arts system, and is something that several Wushu masters have been calling for in the past few years.  It remains to be seen how this initial kickoff will perform, the results to follow, and follow-up events and the progress of this movement in the future, if any.

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, traditional Chen Style Taijiquan and zhanzhuang. He is a former four-time consecutive US Wushu Team member, former Pan American Champion and multiple times Pan American Championships medalist, 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.