or "Feel the power of the Bear Claw System!"

by Raffi, 2/20/99

[Liu Qing Hua demonstrates the power!]
Liu Qing Hua demonstrates the effective wushu of the California Golden Bear
This is another one of those things that doesn't fit into one article, but I'm going to do it anyway. This article pretty much captures my experience at the 3rd annual Collegiate Wushu Championships including pre and post tournamet activities. Also like most of my tournament reviews, I have included my opinions on the success of the tournament and things I think could be improved. Please understand that these are my opinions and views based on the information as I have understand it (which is not necessarily the whole picture).

Getting There

As faithful readers of this page will know, I took off for Irvine the day before the tournament with a couple friends in my '67 VW Bus (affectionally known as SherpaMobile2000. Many people doubted whether she would make it all the way down to Irvine, a good 400+ miles from the SF Bay area... but she proved her roadworthiness too all that day. Severely overloaded with luggage, we managed to hit the highway with 6 people, a cooler filled with Safeway Select's Mountain Breeze (Feel the Breeze!), an assortment of weapons and a collection of disco mix tapes. Our top speed was below the 70mph speed limit, but we made pretty decent time despite a lack of synchronization of all six of our bathroom pit stop schedules.

The highlight of the trip came at about the 400 mile mark when we hit the scourge of I-5... the grapevine! This part of the highway is really steep and turns many a vehicle into a molten pile of slag. But under my masterful piloting, the Sherpamobile managed to pass a few tractor trailers as we averaged upwards of 35 miles per hour up the steep inclines.

The big excitement came as we suddenly faced some road debris in our lane as we were coasting down the other side of the Tejon pass. Luckily we only ran over this big metal bar that was in our lane, without puncturing the tires. By about 10pm, we found our wonderful accommodations for the weekend, the Motel 6 in Santa Ana, and were informed by the woman behind the bullet proof glass that we needed to pay for our room upfront. Well, definitely no frills, but it was cheaper than staying in Irvine!

Ultimately our group at the Motel 6 consisted of 14 people, most of whom were competing the next day at the competition. Several more of our competitors were staying with relatives in the area and were meeting up with us the next day. We tried to hit the sack early, as we had to show up to Irvine by 8:30 AM the next morning. But we couldn't turn in before laughing to Max Weinberg's "Punch my steel hard abs baby!" skit on Conan O'Brien, remind me to reinact it next time you see me.

The Competition

[Nhan caught in flight]
Nhan Tu caught in the middle of executing a jump front kick. Check out those cool shoes man!
Well we pretty much made it there on time, only to find that we could have probably slept another hour or so and it wouldn't have mattered. They were still taping down the carpet and setting stuff up as we checked in. That didn't stop the usual "OH! I gotta warm up!" rush onto the floor. At tournaments I usually try to perfect my ability to warm up as late as possible, but this time I decided to at least stretch out a little, even though we were informed that advanced competitors weren't going to go til after lunch.

By the way, Cal Wushu brought two teams as well as several extra people competing as individuals. Cal's "Gold" Team was our surefire champ. It was stacked with Superstars Nathan Tong and Mae Hsu, of US Wushu Team fame, as well as Brandon "I own the internal divisions" Sugiyama. Also on the team were Elan Hom, Inyork Wong and Nhan Tu.

Cal's "Blue" Team was also a definite contender! The team was made up of Peter "Too tall for this sport" Pebler, Sam Hsu, Dennis Wong, David Chang, Susanna Wang and myself. Other schools in attendence included U of Oregon, UCLA, Stanford Wushu (making their Collegiates debut as a newly reformed club!), Cal State Fullerton and the hosts, UC Irvine.

The competition stared with beginner men's changquan in one ring and intermediate in the other. Yes, thats right, there was a seperation between men's changquan and women's changquan for all skill levels. This fact wasn't told to anyone beforehand (well, at least not til we asked about it after we set our teams, that is). Oh, but wait, I was going to save the issues like this for later in the article...

The divisions went well except for a few things, there was a definite disparity in set difficulty in the beginner division, on one hand you had guys doing basic straight back and forth sets, and then at the opposite extreme you had guys doing the compulsory changquan form. While they were doing it poorly, they were still executing jump insides and butterflies, making it hard for a guy who's lucky to have a two step jump front in his set. Unfortunately the judges (did I mention that the judges for this whole shindig were the Beijing Wushu Team, in sharp blue blazers?) were a bit swayed by more difficult, albeit imperfectly executed moves. Despite that set back, Nhan from Cal Wushu's Gold Team managed to get 3rd and Sam from Cal Wushu's Blue Team managed to get fourth, out of about 10-15 competitors!

[Elan busting a move!]
Elan busts out his three section!
The seriousness of the tournament was broken up by the performance of Elan "The Iron Man" Hom. Elan was competing in four intermediate divisions, as well as participating in the group set division. First up he did traditional handset, then shortly thereafter he competed in staff, and almost immediately after that he had to perform his three section staff in "other weapons." But he wasn't done there! Still winded from his two sets in the span of five minutes, Elan had to go out again and perform in whipchain in "open wushu."

This is where the funny turned absurd. Elan was so tired that he could hardly do the ground work required in his whipchain set (I was surprised he could even do a flower!) So Elan is trying to do that thing where you're sitting on the ground and bounce up and down on your butt letting the whipchain pass under you as you bouce up. (you know what I'm talking about right?) Anyhow, between his baggy silks, the carpet and him not bouncing very high, it just wasn't working!

But not to give up easily, Elan decided to try again. Opps, didn't work! One more time! (signalled to his adoring fans by the "#1" finger sign). And of course one doesn't get less tired as the set progresses, so after three failed attempts to get the move off, Elan decided to skip it and proceed to finish the set. But the funny thing was that not only did the audience really enjoy Elan's competitive drive in the face of adversity, but so did the judges and coaches watching on (see photo of many important peoples cracking up, below). After the whole thing was over, Elan was nearly exhausted, as evidenced by his emaciated appearance. Luckily he was done for a few hours and could regain his strength before needing to grace the ring again. (oh, and just to make matters worse, his number pinned to his back came off during this whole deal too!)

[He is amazing!] [Where is the Oxygen?]
From right to left, that's former Beijing Wushu Team member Zhang Hong Mei, Phillip Wong, Beijing Wushu Team coach Wu Bin, Judge and Beijing Team member Li Qiang, and some random UCI guy, all getting a good laugh out of Elan's competitive spirit! Yes, check out the blue lips on "The Iron Man" after three sets in a few minutes.

[My god, such power!]
Brandon's practice of the internal arts has reached a whole other level!
Elan's memorable feat was a fitting end to the beginner / intermediate divisions. At this point there was a brief break so the judges could eat and then it was on to the advanced! First out of the gates was Brandon "Taiji Pimp-daddy" Sugiyama. With his flaming golden hair, he made his transformation from an Oregon Duck to a Cal Bear complete. Some of you may wonder how Brandon was eligible to compete as a member of the Cal team. Actually Brandon is taking a class at Berkeley through extension, so under the rules as they presently stand, he may represent the school he is a student at. Unforuneately due to apparent abuses of this "loophole," this probably won't be allowed to continue.

Brandon's chi was in full effect as he lit up the floor during yang taiji, defeating UCLA's Rob Collins and Debbie Chen. No one could deny him his multiple golds, as he continued on his path of destruction, taking out poor Raffi debuting his Xing Yi Quan in "Other Internal." But Brandon's Bagua Zhang could not be denied. He's been practicing it a lot in the past few months. We both learned our "other internal" sets from the same instructor, Zhang Hong Mei. But Zhang Hong Mei was a champion in bagua, not xing yi... so I guess there was no way I was going to beat him! Luckily he didn't bust out any external wushu this day, so he only cost me one medal this day.

Brandon also got a first in the "other taiji" with his 42 combined form. Definitely watch for him to be a contendor for "internal man" on future US Wushu teams!

[Anne and Mae taking home the metal]
Anne and Mae Hsu after Women's Advanced Changquan
Meanwhile on the main ring Men's changquan was starting. Nathan grabbed first in Changquan then in Women's changquan it was the classic "Anne vs. Mae" battle for first and second (not just because they are so good that no one could beat them, but also because they were the only two women in the division!) I practice with both of these top notch competitors, and I know how hard they train, so it kind of sucked to watch them train really hard only to end up competing against only their sister. Also Cal State Fullerton's Phillip Chen took first in Nan Quan over Rob Collins and Wyatt of the UCLA team.

After that we went to the short weapons, there were two upsets here, first of all Debbie Chen beat out Mae Hsu who is defending Women's All-Around Champion in straightsword. Secondly Matt Emery beat Nathan in Broadsword. Broadsword wasn't the same without Erick 'I'm still the Goldensilk Pimp Daddy' Louie though, maybe he didn't come this year after the humilation of his deduction at last year's competition for making extraneous noises during his set?

After the short weapons were the long weapons, no big surprises here, Nathan took first place in staff and Mae took first in Spear, beating out Cal's Blue team members David Chang and Raffi, who had to settle for second and third respectively. Let the record show that I haven't actually practiced spear in several months, so the fact that I did the whole set without messing up (more than a little) is a significant achievement for me.

[Raffi busting a move!]
Your webmaster caught in action
After the "regular" weapons we got to the "other" weapons, my favorite division. In the division with me (doing three section staff), were Phillip Chen doing whip chain, Rob Collins doing Southern Staff and... Cindy doing Taiji straightsword? Yes, thats right, taiji straightsword. Well, it ended up that there was a miscommuncation between her and Irvine or something and she ended up missing the "other taiji" division so their solution was to put her in with the "other weapons." Ok, well I'll save the editorial part of this for my opinion section, so just remember this when I refer to it later. The results were Phillip Chen grabbed the gold, Cindy from Wang Zhen Tian's school got second, I got third (without major injury or droppage of weaponry this time!) and Rob Collins got fourth.

Last up in the regular competition was "open wushu." I don't even remember anything about this division except for the fact that Dennis Wong of the Cal Blue team got first with his drunken fist. Dennis' drunken is pretty good, he has lots of great jumps and falls in it, all performed well. The really great part came at the end when they were handing out medals and Dennis didn't respond to his name being misprounced as Dennis Wang, so he stood still in front of everyone as "Dennis Wang" was repeatedly called and everyone was staring at him. I think he said he thought there might have been a Dennis Wang and he didn't want to accept the medal for that guy by accident. Better safe then sorry I guess, right? But then again, I'm used to people misprouncing my name.

[Dennis hits the split!]
Dennis hits the split in his Drunken Fist!

[I'm not the slowest one!]
Despite what Patrick told me, I was NOT late on every move! Here's an action shot of Cal's blue team on their jumping sidekick fall.
The last and most anticipated part of the competition was the group set competition. As you probably know, every team is required to enter in this division and it counts double towards your final score. After a bit of a ruckus (see below), it was decided that the order would be UCB's Blue team (thats my team), CSUF, Stanford, Oregon, UCI, UCLA and then UCB's Gold Team. Let the record show that the results for this division are nearly inversely related to the order. Which means the team that went first got the worst score, and the team that went last got the best score, and the team that went second to last got the second best score, etc, etc. Was that the just because they were actually better? I don't think so. I really disagree with the judges on this one. Our team wasn't perfect, but neither were some of the other teams who scored much better than we did. All the teams messed up a little, some more than others, but some of the stuff was just wrong. I don't think that my team's performance was that great, but I definitely think we weren't the worst. We were kissed by the curse of going first. Unlucky you say? well if it was random order, I could say that, but since it wasn't, I can't. I'll have to explain that in my "issues" section, but lets just say that here's a little sample of the way things went down.

[Looks like a wushu explosion!]
Cal State Fullerton about to start their group set. My percieved incongruities accented with arrows.
Although I have yet to see the tape of the group competition, I understand that one of my team mates fell, also we had some definite synchronization errors, but aside from the fall, I don't believe we made any major errors. How do we compare to the other teams? Cal State Fullerton went right after us, also competing with a five man group, but they didn't march out in an orderly fashion, they all sort of walked in a random pattern to their spots on the floor and slowly fell into place, then stood there for like 2 minutes waiting for their music to start. Throughout the set their center guy was out of formation, especially on the jump kicks, one second he was at one of the group the next he was over at the other. They had synchronizing problems throughout the set. And when they finished, it wasn't an orderly march off the carpet, it was like a randomized strut in five different directions with fingers pointed to friends in the audience. I really shouldn't make a big deal out of it, but when you work pretty hard on something, it really bites to get jacked. But I guess when we're so far out of contention, it really doesn't matter, right?

[Stanford getting it on!]
Stanford Wushu's demonstration of the "Captain Kirk."
One team that stunned everyone was Stanford. This team made up of relatively new wushu competitors (some as little as a month and a half!) came on REAL strong with their first movements. Their synchronization was tight and their kicks, falls and slaps pretty good. Furthermore their set was AWESOME. When I realized that they were busting out some fighting in the middle of the set I was flipping out! The highlights included a "flip the guy over your back" and a "Captain Kirk" (the fall on your back and kick the guy over you into a roll). Mind you this was performed by all six members of their team too! There was a definite disparity between the jump kicks performed by the more advanced members and the newer members, but they were all out there doing it! Unfortunately their hardwork only got them third place in the rankings.

Oregon's group set was good, but also with several syncronization problems. UCI did a group taiji form for their set. This was really an off beat move. How do the judges compare people doing jumping kicks, falls and throws with people doing taiji? There were no hammerfists or wheeling arms in the taiji set... the things that REALLY show how together a group is. (how much easier is it to synchronize a taiji set than a changquan set?) I disagree with the judges on the scoring of this one considering the difficulty difference with the competition (kind of like with the taiji straightsword in "other weapons"), but then again, when in doubt, the judges invariable will "stick them in the middle somewhere" which is exactly what happened.

[Part of the gold team in action]
3/5 of the Cal Team caught in action. Notice the strained look on Brandon's face. Thats because he had to yell really really loud so his team mates could here to calls over the crowd noise (99% of which was from the rabid Cal fans).
UCLA's group set was another oddball set of sorts. It wasn't really a group set, as much as it was a group basics routine for performance. The six members of the team all performed a REALLY long and tiring group of kicks and jumps and combinations. My issue with this was that YES it was hard, but since it was so much longer, there were so many cases where they had synchronization problems. The differences in timing between the more and advanced and beginner team members was dramatic in a number of instances. Furthermore there were a number of errors where people did the wrong move, etc. One thing that also got to me was in a couple of occasions, they "reconfigured" their formation on the carpet, but it was like they just all stood up and walked over to the other side of the carpet and then started another combo... as if the set stopped and they walked around, and then started again. I guess my major issue is that this came across more as a "demonstration" than a "group set" at least by the definition in my mind of what a group set really needs. It was most definitely different than anything used in any group set division I've seen anywhere (previous Collegiates, Berkeley Tournament, Nationals, etc). UCLA got the Silver with this set, although personally I liked Stanford's set more (and not just because their coach is my coach).

Last up was UCB's Gold Team. I know for a fact how hard these guys practiced this set. They worked on it in class three times a week for the two weeks proceding the competition, but also held extra workouts to get more practice in. Also this team contained the best athletes present that day, so one would expect their group set to be totally high caliber.

One thing that I noticed most that set them apart from the rest was the power. They were all sharp and quick, no weak moves anywhere. Furthermore they were almost totally in-synch. One mess-up was that Mae slipped on the openning kick combination, but since it was an inside crescent into a back fall, it wasn't that noticable of a mistake. Luckily she was uninjured and was able to keep up with everyone without really missing a beat! This performance won them the well deserved gold medal... or was it just because they went last? :)

[Berkeley wins the Prize]
Cal's Blue and Gold Teams celebrate their school's victory and their love of their new coach!
With all the scores in, the final team results were:

1 - University of California Gold Team
2 - UCLA
3 - UC Irvine
4 - University of California Blue Team
5 - Cal State Fullerton
6 - University of Oregon
7 - Stanford University

I personally would give the most congrats to Stanford for being the new kid on the block and making a real strong showing, don't let the placing fool you, they were definitely a competitive team. From what I know of the team scores, the Gold team of UC Berkeley was most definitely far out in first place (I think they could have gotten last on the group set and still probably won). With four of their 6 competitors bringing home two golds for their team score, something no other team could even touch!

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed teams were all pretty close in score. Unfortunately as of this writing UCI hasn't posted any final results, so there's no way of knowing exactly how it ended up. But keep your eyes open for updates if that does become available.

After serving as our diligent judges for 8 hours, the Beijing Wushu Team was kind enough to give us a brief demo. This is especially remarkable considering that they had only flown in from Beijing the day before and were suffering from serious jet lag. The demo was about 15 minutes, incompassing some basics, jumps and a set or two from each of the athletes.

Think of it as a gentle reminder of what good wushu is SUPPOSED to look like! Highlights included Liu Qing Hua's long tassel straightsword, Shang Yu's Nan Quan, Jiang Bang Jun's Eagle Claw and the famous Chen Chen - Li Qiang sparring set. Oh and just to prove that wushu coaches don't get all out of shape and lazy, Li Jing jumped in and performed a little fanzi quan with her former team for old time's sake!

[UCB Gold defying gravity!]
Berkeley's Gold Team performs the jumping side kick. Note the height on Nathan Tong.
Photo courtesy of George Nguyen.

[I am an eagle!]
Jiang Bang Jun shows us how wushu is supposed to look.

Behold the Mount of Magick!

The night after the tournament most everyone from most of the teams went to a place called Dave and Buster's, a bar/restaurant, video arcade. Unfortunately several competitors had trouble getting in as they weren't over 21, a small technicality that the tournament organizers didn't foresee apparently. Luckily as a seven year college student, I passed my 21st birthday quite a while ago and was able to enter.

The highlight of my evening there was doing permanent nerve damage to my hand in the "electric chair" machine earning me the handsome prize of 20 tickets, worth all of 1/2 of a super ball. But as everyone was getting ready to leave, I had the opportunity to help Eric use up his credits on the video games. We were kicking so much ass on "Area 51" that it actually crashed and we needed to get an employee to reset the game!

The next day was the event that a lot of us were really looking forward to, the Magic Mountain trip! While I enjoy a good amusement park trip (see the Great America article), this trip was special because the 9 visiting Beijing Team members who served as judges were going to be accompanying us. Unfortunately the full 16+ member team wasn't in attendance because of visa problems so we had only half as many wushu superstars as originally planned. But hey, a few Beijing wushu members is certainly better than none!

Shao Chang Jun, newest member of the Beijing Team waiting in line for the Viper with Anne, Brandon and Luke.
Its only been a year since the Beijing team was here last, but I had gotten the opportunity to see them and get to know them a lot last year so I was eagerly anticipating getting the chance to hang with them. Plus last year's trip to Universal Studios with them was so much fun I figured this trip would be great too (click here to read about that). Plus since they were judging and performing all day saturday, this was really the first time I'd gotten a chance to speak to them at any length (oh, by the way, in case you didn't know, I also have been taking chinese class since september, so I can actually converse to some degree with them w/o constantly bugging people to translate for me!)

The day started out fun... for the Beijing Team at least, not so much for me. Li Qiang decided to grace everyone with an impersonation of my march out during the group set... lets just say that I wasn't doing the opposite arm opposite leg thing so great, and everyone seemed to think it was awfully funny. Well we know why the judging was the way it was for that division... the judges were too busy laughing at me to notice the rest of our group set apparently!

I also got some great constructive tips from Chen Chen too, something along the lines of "Ru Fei mei you bu!" (Which for those of you who don't understand Chinese means "Raffi has no stances." But the thing that you gotta understand is that this is the way the Beijing team is, no phony politeness. So I didn't take it too personally, I'm not going to quit wushu or anything over this.

First ride up was "The Viper" I was lucky enough to get in line next to my friend Liu Qing Hua and managed to practice a little Chinese with her. I also got the chance to talk some more with Shao Chang Jun, the new guy on the team. I felt a little sorry for him since it was his first time in the US and everyone else already knew people here but he didn't. A lot of other people made it into line with us, including most of the Berkeley team and University of Oregon. I got to ride in the coaster with Shao Chang Jun and he was flipping out as we started on the first downhill run, I'm not sure who was screaming louder, Liu Qing Hua sitting ahead of me, or him... or maybe it was Mae, who was sitting in front of me. See the photo for an idea of who the calm one on this train was. I even shelled out the exorbenent fee of $7.95 to buy the picture just so my web surfers could share in the funny experience.

[Can you say 'Cool as ice?']
That's me, Shao Chang Jun, Liu Qing Hua and Mae on the Viper.

[Time out for a snap shot]
Members of the Cal Wushu team and the Beijing Wushu team stop for a photo. From back to front, that's Kai, George, Nhan, Dennis, Shang Yu, Shao Chang Jun and Li Qing Hua.
After this one we thought a nice slow ride might be a good idea, so we hit the log flume ride... well its slow right up to the last part. We were all a little wet but it was fun. Next up was the "Riddler's Revenge." A really hard turning fast moving stand up rollercoaster. The line ended up stalling because of some sort of mechanical problems (NOT a confidence builder!) at which point LQH and Kong Xiang Dong decided to wait for us out front. But the rest of us from Cal and Oregon and Shang Yu decided to stick with it and next thing you know we were on. Ugh. Something about stand up rollercoasters really gets to me, same as the Top Gun ride at Great America, my stomach was a LITTLE upset after getting off.

We found the rest of the group hanging in front of the giant climbing wall, Liu Qing Hua was taking a power nap to overcome her jet lag while Patrick and Li Jing challenged Kong Xiang Dong to a race up the wall. Unfortunately Pat got stuck on the "hard" level path and never did make it past like 10 feet up. But KXD and Li Jing showed their gung fu in making it to the top pretty fast. I would have liked to see Shang Yu give it a try, as his Nan Quan probably gives him strong tiger claw abilities. As it was, KXD's forearms were way tired by the time he got down, apparently the taiji prince was going all external on the wall climb?

After that we stopped to eat and chat. I got the chance to ask the Beijing Team coach, Zhang Xian Ming what he thought of my Xing Yi Quan, which he was judging for the day before. He also practices Xing Yi so I thought it would be good to ask him his opinion, although I'm sure I knew the answer to my question. Basically from what I could understand of his answer (he kind of had to dumb it down for my limited Chinese abilities), I had no power and my legs were all wrong. OK, well at least he didn't candy coat it! But that's what I get for asking!

[Pat is a wimp!] [Where is Liu Qing Hua]
Li Jing is destroying Kong Xiang Dong and Patrick on the climbing wall! Wushu athletes have no fear! Jetlag catches up to even a women's wushu champion. Brandon is keeping guard to make sure her nap isn't interrupted.

[they're not really going anywhere]
Brandon and Liu Qing Hua tame the wild beasts!
After riding another ride or two, it was time to go, on our way back to the front gate we happened upon an interesting little sculpture of a bear family. For some reason Brandon decided to mount the bear cub and ride it like a horse, so Liu Qing Hua, official phreak of the team decided to try it too, although she DID have a bit of a problem getting up on there (if I ever have more time, I'll have to scan some of those pictures, they're pretty f-in' funny). Once we got back out to the gate it was another tearful goodbye, we knew we'd be seeing the team again soon, but it was so cool to see them again we didn't want to end the fun so early.

But it was a long drive back to Berkeley, even from remote Valencia, home of the Magic Mountain, so we all piled into the SherpaMobile 2000, hit the I-5 and made our way back, this time encumbered by a few more medals and a team championship trophy!

[One last picture]
Stopping for one last picture before heading out, thats the Beijing Team and Clarence Burris

Editorial Section

or Why was Raffi being such a jerk all day

OK, this is the part where I put the put in my opinion, cause everything up to this point was completely impartial an unbiased. -- That's a joke, of course this whole endeavor is nothing but my opinion from start to finish. But this section is where I want to put in my Jerry Springer Final Thought. If you disagree with my version of things or my opinion please email me and let me know. Don't get all angry, just focus the energy intotraining harder for next year's tournament! OK, lets get it on:

First of all let me start with the entire men's and women's changquan thing. As you may or may not know, in previous tournaments men's and women's CQ were divided for individual medals if there were enough men and women to make it worth doing, but still combined for team placings no matter what. This is because you can't add or subtract team divisions because it has an unfair impact on the team competition. But thus far in competition there has not been so many women participating as to guarantee a good number (like at least 4?) of competitors to warrant seperation. Unfortunately the tournament organizers decided to create a separate women's division for each skill level of CQ for individual and team competitors. Equally unfortunate was the fact that they didn't tell anyone about this til after the team reg forms were sent in. This is really unfortunate because this change in the setup has a major effect on the likelihood of a woman bringing in a medal for changquan. Had we known this fact, our team make up would most likely have been different. As it ended up almost every single woman in any changquan division automatically got a medal just for entering because there were so few. As a matter of fact, the tournament organizers changed the rule for women participating from 2 women per team to 1 woman per team because so many schools had problems with this rule in the past. Despite all these arguments, the tournament staff refused to reconsider this issue when I brought it up.

Get there at 8:30 am? Why did we have to get there at 8:30am? I can understand the need to be organized and what not, but when I was there at 8:30am, I knew for sure that we wouldn't be competing for quite a while. The judges didn't show up for another hour or so even! As a matter of fact the carpet was still being taped down. Speaking of which... what was up with that Frankenstein's Monster? The best my Sherlock Holmes skills can deduce is that that used to be the dormitory carpeting from at least 4 different rooms. There was more tape than carpet showing almost. This made sets like spear really hard since I had to be really careful I didn't snag the tape while sliding my spear tip across it. Then again, I did really appreciate it when we did the group set, I remember specifically realizing how much softer my jump sidekick felt compared to practicing it on the hardwood.

One thing that I would be absolutely negligent to not comment on is the way that the tournament was divided up by skill level. Intermediate and beginner were run simultaneously, but all the advanced divisions were saved for the afternoon. While the positive of this is that you only have to be warmed up once instead of all day long, the downside strongly outweighs the upside. If you need a good example, go back and look at the part I wrote about Elan. Luckily he had no competition in other weapons and open wushu. How could he possibly be competitive in a division if he can hardly breath to make it through the set? Is it fair to let an inferior competitor beat a better competitor just because the better one is tired from going twice in the last five minutes while the other guy hasn't? Are we testing people's ability to practice styles that are spaced out in the reg form so as not to be too close to each other or their wushu skill? I also had a similar problem, I was third in spear and went on first in other weapons within a few minutes - NOT fun! Clearly this experiment has failed.

Another thing that I had to get involved with was the fact that Matt Emery was originally in Intermediate, despite the fact that he's practiced wushu (on and off) for over 10 years (note that intermediate is supposed to be 1.5-3 years). Apparently he felt that his wushu wasn't advanced level. But after he stepped out and won first place in intermediate changquan by a margin of over 0.3 points over his nearest competitor, everyone watching in the audience was sure convinced that he didn't belong in intermediate! My team asked our coach Li Jing to complain to the officials and she asked me to discuss it with the tournament staff after head judge Wu Bin told us we needed to resolve it with them. Thankfully the tournament staff and officials agreed that his skill level and training history clearly required him to switch to advanced. And certainly his team and coach can't complain about this decision being unjustified, Matt almost tied for first in advanced changquan and did get first in advanced broadsword. I apologized for making a big deal about it to Matt, and he was cool about it, cause you can't argue with his performance.

But the thing that takes the cake is the order for the group set! All wushu competitions claim at least to randomize the order of competition. In fact the better ones let you draw straws or numbers before the division starts so you know for sure that you're getting a fair shake. The tournament staff didn't do this for the group set division. Instead they straight up told us that they were doing group set in alphabetical order by school. Which meant that the two Berkeley teams were up first, then CSUF, Oregon, Stanford, UCI, UCLA. Aren't they aware of the fact that going first is a MAJOR disadvantage? Almost every tournament I've been to I've seen the last few people get much higher scores then the first few people despite being of equal or lesser skill. Its just a fact of competition (and not just wushu). So why screw people over based on the alphabetical order of their school's name?

Well, on my second attempt to get them to rearrange the order in a random fashion, I also brought to the tournament director's attention, the fact that they weren't even correctly implementing this alphabetical order, since our school is the University of California at Berkeley, which anyone who made it into college can tell comes after Stanford and California State University at Fullerton. But alas my argument fell on deaf ears... our school is called "Cal" so we're doomed to first! I guess we would need to trick some school like Alabama or Ball State to getting a wushu team to compete to get out from behind this eight ball?

Well as luck would have it, after my third and most stubborn complaint to the tournament director, they agreed to change the order. ("If its really that important to you..." yes fair competition is important to me, not getting screwed is important to me and my team mates, who put in a lot of work for this competition, only to be doomed by the letter "C"!)

And was the rest of the competition really randomized? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. Who were the first competitors for beginner and intermediate changquan, the first events to open the tournament? First two in beginner changquan were the both of Cal's competitors in that division, and the first in intermediate changquan was from cal too. There was another cal team member who did compete later in that event, but he sent his reg form in several weeks earlier then the rest of us. So apparently the order was somehow based on when you sent your reg form in?

One reason that the tournament officials were so intransigent on everything was because of their predeliction for advanced preparation. They had the scoring sheets for the judges stapled in order of the competitors. This means that once the order was set, it was a hassle to change it. (Was that why my logical arguments were being ignored?) Of course this also means that any at-door competitors were either added to the front or the back, apparently the back as near as I can tell.

While this organization is something to be admired in many respects, when it comes at the price of fairness, its unacceptable. Its not like collegiates is such a huge endeavor as to require so much advance preparation. Speaking of over preparation. What was up with the reg fee? One of the original goals of the collegiates was to make it an AFFORDABLE tournament for college students. Apparently the tournament organizers didn't realize this when they made it $40 for preregistration, $50 for at door, no matter how few events you participate in. Well, ok, what do you get for your $40? You get lunch... which I hardly ate because I was competing shortly after it. You get some medals? -- Well that's another issue! As the organizer for the previous collegiates I can say that unless they got ripped off, those medals are not worth more than $2.00 each. Carpet? I'm afraid to ask how much that cost, hopefully it was a donation.

My point is that it was pretty damn expensive for what you got. I don't suppose its anyone's business what the budget looked like, but as a poor grad student I felt like I didn't get my money's worth and I think a lot of people felt the same. 70 competitors at $40+ each can by a lot of tournament, I don't think we got it. I'm certainly not hanging those medals up on my wall. :(

But to put my positive spin on here at the end: It happened, it worked, it was still fun and it was bigger than last year and looks like next year will be even bigger. And that's all that really matters in the long run, right?