As you may know, last year 5 members of the Beijing Team competed at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, held every March in Columbus Ohio. The Classic is not only a body building competition, but also a fitness competition, a weightlifting competition and a martial arts competition. The martial arts competition features a $10,000 prize for the best group set. Last year the Beijing team showed up and stunned the audience, walking away with the championship.
This year they were invited not only to defend their championship, but also to do a demo at the openning of the martial arts finals and during the women's body building competition. So instead of the just 5 athletes, this time the entire Beijing team would enjoy the wonders of Ohio!
Being the Beijing Team superfan that I am, I really wanted to go and witness the spectacle with my own eyes. So Patrick, Li Jing and I finnagled ourselves some VIP tickets and took the redeye over to Ohio, met up with Tina who flew out from DC, getting there the second day of the competition. We missed the demo at the bodybuilding competition and the qualifiers for the team competition (which they easily won, naturally). When we got in touch with the team they were resting from their busy schedule the previous day, so we spent a few hours wandering around the Classic before seeing the team.
|"I did not have sexual relations with that women... Ms. Lewinsky."|
After cruising around the general fitness/bodybuilding area we found our
way to the martial arts area... let's just say I was under impressed. I
had expected a martial arts competition on the scale of the rest of this
event, but was dissappointed. Martial Arts was way in the back of this
other part of the arena, and it wasn't that big. About 4 Karate sized
rings and the main ring was... this big roped-off square with a big mat on
the floor covered with canvas. In addition to UFC figher Frank Shamrock,
Sanshou champ Cung Le, we also saw none other than Mr. Tae-Bo himself, Billy Blanks.
|My extreme telephoto underexposed shot of Mr. Billy Blanks.|
We ran into everyone's favorite Drummer, Matt Emery who had decided to compete in the forms competition, since there was a $1000 prize for first place. Despite having to completely change his entire set to fit in that ring, he managed to get first in "soft styles" and eventually went on to beat some pretty good Karate guys for the $1k prize! Not bad for a guy who only decided to compete that morning!
We hooked up with the team in the afternoon, as they were running through
their competition set for the last time. Zhang Xian Ming, the coach had
them clear the furniture back in the hotel room and they were walking
through the set. I was surprised to find that this year they changed
the line up for this group almost completely. The year before it had
been Qiu Dong Xing, Shang Yu, He Jing De, Jian Zen Jiao and Han Jing,
but due to injuries to both Shang Yu and He Jing de, they switched in
Chen Chen and Li Qiang at the last minute, also they were using Liu
Qing Hua instead of Han Jing.
Once the practicing was over the hellos could begin! Except for the 8 athletes who made it early for collegiates, this was the first time seeing the rest of the team since 1998. It was also our first chance to meet some of the new team members who didn't come with the team last year, including Zhao Lin, Wang Xuijin and Su Ming Li. It was also a special time for Li Jing, her first time seeing a lot of the team members since she retired from the team and moved to the US.
Kong Xiang Dong showed us the tape from the qualifying competition the day before, and the team looked awesome of course. Its interesting to see how the team watches tapes like this, analysing any mistakes or miscues and discussing potential problems. It all looked perfect to me!
We ate a little pizza and then just hung out, caught up on old times and watched some TV. It was fun, practicing my newly aquired Chinese skills to try to explain the dialogue of "Anaconda" to Jiang Bang Jun. The Beijing Team had to go to a dinner that evening, so we went down with them to the lobby where they were catching their vans, while we were waiting a couple really big guys walked past and were waiting by the elevator, I looked closely at one of them, and I'm like "hmm, that guy looks a lot like Ken Shamrock..." Patrick immediately came up to me and said "Isn't that Ken Shamrock????" So I worked my courage up and went up to this 6'2" 220+lb guy and asked "Are you Ken Shamrock?" He was like, "...yeah" I said "Can I take a picture with you? I'm a big fan from the UFC.... And WWF." He sort of paused, and gave this half heared/slightly annoyed "OK" He looked really tired and it looked like he wanted to demonstrate a body slam on me for bugging him, but he was nice enough to take a picture. Unfortunately, the next day, I lost the roll of film that had this picture on it! (and my picture with Kiana!) But Matt Emery tells me he has a shot clearly showing me adjacent to Ken Shamrock!
That night Pat, LJ, Tina and I went to this steakhouse next to our hotel, which was also hosting guests to the tournament (The Beijing Team's hotel had most of the VIPs, since the team were invited by Arnold). The waitress was really frazzled and apologized for the inconsistant service, explaining that they were really really busy, as the really large bodybuilding guys were eating the food faster then they could make it!
|Jian Zen Jiao doing a little three section staff -- Although you can't see it, he's going so fast. You'll have to take my word for it.|
Then they held the finals for all the multitude of fighting divisions...
point fighting, yuck! This was the first time I'd seen point fighting in a
while and was reminded why I didn't like it the first time... pretty much
two guys face off and try to land a good hit or kick, and it doesn't
matter if you get clocked, as long as you hit the other guy first. But
then again you don't really have to hit the other guy first, you just need
to hold up your hand and cheer louder and you can convince the judges that
you hit the other guy first. So you end up with two guys doing this at the
same time. It got kind of boring after a while. Several of the people
who won were from a school who's logo was a "Five Knuckle Bullet" And
they almost made Cal State Fullerton look tame when it came to raucus
cheering for their students. (to the point that a lot of people in the
audience started cheering for the other guy just so he wouldn't feel like
everyone in the audience hated him or something).
|Jian Zen Jiao takes out Qiu Dong Xing in the sparring portion of the Beijing Team's group set.|
The next team was the Hapkido team from Canada. It was 5 guys who pretty
much had a continuous free-for-all type fighting set where random guys
were attacking random guys. I've seen a good deal of hapkido from my
friends here at the UC Berkeley Hapkido Club, and these guys were about
the same skill level. Their throws were pretty well timed and what not,
but I think I've seen more impressive airfalls before. Also they made a
few mistakes and it looked like one or two guys had some painful falls.
Their final score beat out the other team, mostly 9.8s.
Finally it was time for the Beijing Team! "Chong Bee!" (zhunbei) "Kai-Sher!" (kaishi) yes, they used the same music from last year, in case you were wondering. They started out strong and stayed that way from start to finish. Everyone in the audience was cheering every jump kick and fall. I have to say, seeing the demo on a stage with a big audience is really different then just in a regular wushu ring.... plus I think the team is more pumped during the big shows.
The scores reflected the cheering of the audience when they finished, I didn't get the exact tally, but there were a couple 9.9s in there, enough to make sure that they did win. (were you worried?) After the scores were given there was a long drawn out awards ceremony on stage where everyone who's anyone who was there gave out awards. The Beijing Team got a pretty nice plaque for their efforts!
|Liu Qing Hua's signature move, the super side stretch with sword.|
Once we helped pack up the drums and other equipment we went with the team back to their hotel to pack up and then we got to go to lunch with them before they flew out that evening. And guess where we went? thats right, you guessed it, the worlds first Wendy's!
Problem is that the Beijing team had never heard of Wendy's before, so the
magical experience was somewhat lost on them. I enjoyed the "retro" section of the
restaurant which recreated the original theme of Wendy's -- you remember,
the tables with the old newspaper ads on them, and all that? The team did enjoy the
food though, comparing the fare at Wendy's to that of McDonald's... The burgers are
better, but the fries aren't as good. I got a chance to chat with my pal
Shang Yu and talk to some of the newer team members I didn't know while we were chowing down. They got a chance to pick my brain too. This was
Shan Ming's chance to find out what an American wushu person is really like, what kind
of stuff we practice, how often we train, etc. It was all good practice of my newly
acquired Chinese skills.
|Li Qiang, sad to have to leave Columbus, Ohio (not really).|
We had a few minutes to hang with the team, which pretty much was taken up by Wu Bin making fun of me and showing Liu Juan pictures of Sherpa. As the plane was boarding, we said our final goodbyes, knowing we would be seeing the team in less then a week for the Zellerbach Performance.
Shao Chang Jun
Qiu Dong Xing
Jiang Bang Jun
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