1999 World Martial Arts Championship, Labor Day weekend 1999, Phoenix AZ.

by Raffi (9/9/99)

First, I want to say I had a blast. There weren't a ton of people there, but most of us had a pretty good time. I got to meet a lot of new friends and have some fun with some old ones.

There weren't that many contemporary wushu competitors, most of them were from our group, the Pacific Wushu Academy. Others included students of Li Jinheng, Kenny Perez and Joe Eagger. There two competitors from Pennsylvania, two from New Mexico, a bunch from Wang Zhen Tian's school in S.Cal and about 5 from Edward Aguirre's school in NYC.

The Men's Nanquan divisions were well represented and pretty competitive.

I didn't write down any results, mostly because I was competing in internal while a lot of the wushu was going on, but Felicia Sze got a couple of golds, Eric Yeh got a couple of golds, as did Shane from Ohio and Rolando Lee. One person I really noticed was Eddy Q. from New Mexico. He was really impressive, hopefully we'll see him at more tournaments in the future. Also Pablo from Li Jinheng's school was really impressive with his whipchain, giving Elan Hom and I a serious scare.

I ended up getting first in flexible weapons against two really good competitors.

In the traditional side, there was a strong group from the Wah Lum school, based in Florida, including of course Mimi Chan, daughter of Chan Pui, who didn't compete (she's retired from competition), but did a nice demo including a few back handsprings. But they also had a really good female competitor who pretty much swept all her divisions, despite only doing martial arts for less than two years, apparently a strong background in Hip-Hop choreography really helps.

Brandon about to strike a pose in his taiji sword form.

Internal wasn't as well represented unfortunately. Brandon 'The Taiji Pimp Daddy' Sugiyama was uncontested in most of his internal divisions (then again he's often uncontested even when there are other people in his divisions). I was also the only person who entered in Men's beginner Xing Yi, but the intermediate/advanced division actually had about 5 people in it. I made friends with Akko Nishimura, formerly out of New York who took firsts in taiji and xingyi. She was also really impressive because she entered (and medalled) in Chi Sao, pushing hands and weapon sparring the following day.

Akko Nishimura demonstrates the pi zhang in the xingyi divisions.

Speaking of weapon sparring, Eric and I decided to have some fun this tournament, so we entered in weapons sparring. We had done it about 5 years ago at a tournament, so we wanted to try it again. These weapons were different than the ones we had used before though, they were much better in design. Basically the weapons have a flexing tip, which better simulates usage and prevents injury, check out the company's web page at www.samuraisports.com (click on Chanbara and ActionFlex). Eric and I really got into it and are planning on buying set!

Eric caught in action trying out the double short swords.

The Chanbara (Japanese weapons combatative sport) guys running it were really friendly and open to let people try the equipment (since it sells itself). We all tried it and it was a lot of fun (especially Eric going at it with Rolondo's dad). They also coached us a little on some techniques and footwork. It was a little hard for me to get used to the "japanese style" these guys were doing (kia-ing and the bowing), but my Judo training came back to me pretty quickly and I got used to it. They taught me some basics (the Kendo type overhead strike) and once we started the competition I realized that simple is always the best, nothing fancy, just chopping people's heads open. I ended up getting first with short weapons and second with the long weapons (which were made like Japanese Bo-staffs, but looked like a Darth Maul double lightsaber).

The cool thing is that these guys say they can make any weapon, they also demoed some cool horsechopper type sparring weapons as well as short double swords (butterfly knive or sai swords simulations?), knifes, spears, you name it. I even asked them about the three section staff... they said they can do nunchucks, so why not? Definitely want to do this again in the future.

While Eric and I were sparring, Elan and Brandon got some tips from Kenny Perez on the use of the 'Egg of Death.'

The brave competitors in the children's horse stance division

One other cool thing that made this tournament fun was the "endurance" events, most notably the horse stance contest. A couple dozen brave souls were encouraged to try this one... if it wasn't taking place right before I needed to go up in flexible weapons, I might have even tried it myself. A guy from Wang Zhen Tian's won, with a time of almost six minutes (makes me wonder if my old pal Dennis Khoo and his 15 minute horse stance will ever want to come out of retirement)

Steven, Elan and Eric enjoying some healthy chili fries and onion rings after the tournament.

Brandon was quite tired after winning four gold medals (and yet not beating a single person).

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the judges and staff (since we always forget to do that). I know at least one of them stayed up til 3 am working on the scoring sheets. Li Jinheng will be hosting this tournament again next year, hopefully it will grow in size. It was a pretty well executed tournament (I only wish the internal ring and contemporary wushu ring could have coordinated their lunch breaks so I could have actually gotten a chance to eat lunch). The facility was really nice, the DoubleTree hotel in Scottsdale, we didn't even stay there but I did enjoy using the pool and hot tub to relax those post-competition muscle pains...

Hopefully I'll be adding some digitized videos of the weapon sparring, and maybe one of Rob Peckham's changquan.

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