|Shang Yu performing Nan Quan, Southern Fist. His arms moving with such speed that they are but a blur!|
|Liu Qing Hua radiates an angelic glow as she holds a scale while performing Chang Quan, Long Fist.|
I was actually pretty lucky. I got to see the performance twice. The night before the big show in Culver City, the team did a full rehearsal at the National Wushu Training Center just to make sure everything was ready. I was stunned! Despite the fact that I had seen them practicing every other week for the past month, I still marvelled at their speed and power as they demonstrated their basics at the beginning of the performance. Despite the fact that they weren't even in costume, I was nearly blown out of my seat by the strength of the performance.
To create a different show from the '95 tour, they decided to focus more on group sets and sparring routines. Furthermore weapon basics were added after the empty hand basics to speed up the pace and grab the audience's attention.
Having this sneak peak to their performance the night before only made me anticipate the show even more. By the time we got back to the place we were all cramming (a big time thank you goes to Felicia Sze, Wushu Practicioner/Boarding House Proprieter), most of the rest of our group had come down to S. California. We had a total of like 25 people drive down from SF to LA to see the show, plus lots of local friends come by too.
The next day we didn't have anything Beijing Team related to do before the show, so we had to occupy ourselves with something. This mostly was comprised of eating WAY too much McDonald's food (hey, the price versus Monopoly game piece ratio on the Hash Browns make them undeniable! But maybe cashing in my instant winner ice cream for breakfast was a bad idea) and then we watched Lost in Space to kill some time. The best thing about that movie was it had a trailer for Lethal Weapon 4, featuring none other than Jet Li (my dear friend Mae and I were screaming our heads off, much to the dismay of the people in the theater).
|The Beijing Team demonstrates group Yang style tai chi. In the front row from left to right its Coach Zhang Xian Ming, Han Jing and Kong Xiang Dong.|
|The men of the Beijing Team perform a very Wong Fei Hong-esque group set. Perhaps a tribute to Beijing Team Alum Jet Li?|
The women also demonstrated a group straightsword form. The finally of the performance was the group routine that the Beijing Team used to win the team championship at Arnold Schwartzenegger's Martial Arts Festival. Click here to see a video (in Real Video format) of that performance. The routine was pretty impressive, an entire Beijing Team performance compressed into 5 minutes: group basics, horse chopper, staff, staff versus empty hand, empty hand versus spear, bagua zhang, one versus two empty hand, whip chain and then finally a group handset.
The thing I enjoyed most about this routine was the fast paced non-stop nature. As before the staff routine is done, a second person enters the stage and then they jump right into the staff vs. empty hand set, then the empty hand person defeats the staff wielder, and immediately turns to face an attack by a third person wielding a spear. Get the idea? It was pretty intense. I can't imagine their competition was anywhere close at the Schwartzenegger thing.
Speaking of sparring routines, there were plenty of these too. Some of note were the favorite sledgehammer versus big piece of wood (not just a staff this time!) Chen Chen and Li Ou did a great staff versus double sabers routine, but my favorite would be the two on one all-woman routine which pitted Liu Qing Hua wielding a 3-section staff versus Liu Jian and Wang Xiao Na wielding staff and spear. Also of note was the Li Jing and Greg Pierson (NWTC employee) versus Wu Jing, He Jingde and Jiang Bong Jun. The best thing about this one was that Li Jing kicked some major ass. Rather than the "man come to my rescue" skit from the '95 show, this one was a "woman whoops those who pick on her" type of deal.
|The lovely Han Jing performs straightsword.|
|The team lines up to salute and take bows at the conclusion of the show. This is where the crowd comes to its feet and screams wildly. The 5 members in the center wearing the red t-shirts are the athletes who just performed the Schwartzenegger competition routine.|
Some special guests were introduced at this point as well. Michael Jai-White and Shannon Lee were there (see their pictures in my Famous Wushu People Pictures Page). Also present was Mr. Paul Mitchell (hair care guy). No Sinbad though! (earlier in the day we actually saw Jingle All the Way, Sinbad's movie with Arnold Schwartzenegger. I for one was actually surprised that the movie was actually pretty funny, and NOT as lame as it looked from the comercials (blame it on bad promotion I guess).
|Patrick is all smiles after wrestling the flowers Li Jing threw to him away from some poor old lady.|
|As you can see, the Beijing Team also loves taking pictures. I could lie and tell you that they were all taking photos of me, but I won't.|
|A very special reunion between Lisa and SuperStar Qiu, just one of the special friendships forged during the '95 tour.|
Once the performance was over everything degenerated into a photo-fest. We were taking pictures of them, they were taking pictures of us. Also people from the audience were getting their $5 programs signed by the athletes.
This was also the first time those of us who hadn't come by the team's practice the day before to see the team members. There was a heartfelt reunion between Chen Chen and Felicia, who hadn't seen each other since the summer of '95. Another special reunion was that between Lisa and Qiu Dong Xing (aka 'SuperStar'). They briefly met during the '95 tour and we've been talking about it ever since.
After we helped them pack up and roll up the carpet, we headed to the post-performance dinner. Mae and I had a great time eating with the Men's Team members and the coaches. I was also passing my program around to get the autographs of all the guys I was sitting with when my pal Shang Yu decided to do me the biggest favor and went around and took my program to each of the athletes and made everyone sign it. It was really nice of him! Because that night happened to be Daylight Savings, we ended up not getting home til almost 4am. But the next day is was the best of all, Universal Studios.
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