[Episode I - The Intercollegiate Menace] [Episode II - Schwarzenegger Strikes Back] [Episode III - Return of the Zellerbach] [Episode IV - Ross - The Undiscovered Country]


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 am sorry I got caught...]
"I did not have sexual relations with that women... Ms. Lewinsky."
If you have never been to a bodybuilding tournament, let me be the first to tell you, it is SCARY! The men AND the women are HUGE. Especially since the Arnold Classic is so huge, anyone who is anyone in the bodybuilding or fitness industry is there. As a matter of fact the vendor and exhibition area is actually more interesting then any of the competitions (except for the Martial arts, of course). Every fitness company you ever heard of has a booth, all trying to promote their dietary supplement or brand of spandex clothes. A lot of the tables had famous people there to help promote, for example Balance Bars had Kiana Tom from ESPN2 signing autographs, another booth had the "Fake Bill Clinton." There was also quite an assortment of former Mr. Olympias and Ms. Fitness USAs all over the place. One big surprise was the fact that Arnold (and his entourage of handlers) pushed their way past us to the booth we were next to and we ended up being like 1 foot away from him as he was stopping to meet some famous bodybuilder guys and stopping for pictures. That was kind of cool!

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.
At this time some of the Karate kata competition was going on... let me tell you, I hadn't had the pleasure of watching sport karate in person before, but let me tell you, it IS just as horrible as everyone has ever told you. Not to say that the athletes aren't impressive, they were doing quite difficult acrobatics and jump kicks, it just wasn't at all martial arts... it was a circus act almost! Everything was choreographed to music, one guy had a few South Park clips mixed in with his music.... One guy had Usher's "You Make Me Wanna" play while he struted out to the center of the ring. If I ever hear one of these karate people say anything negative about wushu not being a "real" martial art!

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.

[What are you looking at?]
We were all captivated by the exciting qualifying competition from the day before.

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!

[Getting ready to kick ass]
The openning sequence of the Beijing Team's championship group set.
The next day we enjoyed the non-martial arts parts of the classic some more and then headed up to the auditorium where the team was going to be performing, staking out our seats early. The show started out with the Beijing Team's "infamous" Terracotta warriors routine. This was the first time any of us had seen it, and my impression was less than positive. Why? Well it was weird to see the wushu guys dressed up first of all, and second of all, it was slow and "relatively" unexciting compared to most group sets, no group jump inside falls or anything like that. But the key to remember is that its a different kind of performance... The impresion that I got from other people who saw it at Berkeley was that if you were a wushu person who had seen the team perform before, you were like "what the hell is this? Get the wushu going!" and if you weren't, you enjoyed it as a demonstration of the roots of contemporary wushu in ancient martial China.

[Can't even see 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.
Their team demo was relatively brief, only Liu Qing Hua's straightsword and a group broadsword set from what I can remember (damn lost roll of film!) After that was an interesting demo of Jeet Kun Do, which included the guy headbutting his assistant (his assistant was wearing a motorcycle helmet for protection... but he wasn't!)

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).

[You're going down man!]
Jian Zen Jiao takes out Qiu Dong Xing in the sparring portion of the Beijing Team's group set.
Finally the team competition was up! Three teams had made the finals, the Beijing Team of course, a karate team from Virginia and a Hapkido team from Manitoba. The karate team that went first was pretty interesting, it was 4 small kids and one really big guy, and they all had double chrome plated nunchucku. Their choreography was pretty creative. The big guy would do backflips while one of the kids would jump between his legs, etc. The highlight was the two "superfoot" girls who did a complex sequence of machine gun kicks in unison. My only complaint would have been that they ended up just holding the nunchucks more then actually using them through the routine. They ended up getting what I thought was a really good score, 9.7s mostly. Oh oh, I thought the Beijing Team might not be a shoe in after all!

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.

I assume that this is during the yell part of the set, otherwise Qiu Dong Xing is in pain...

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!

[The final salute]
The Beijing Team salutes the audience at the end of their group set performance.

[Because she can]
Liu Qing Hua's signature move, the super side stretch with sword.
After the awards were given out we made a mad dash to hand out as many flyers promoting our Beijing Team show in Berkeley as possible. We figured that if any of these people lived in California, they would definitely want to take up the opportunity to see a full how, not just a few minutes!

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.

[How come Matt Emery can't cary his own damn trophy?]
Li Qiang, sad to have to leave Columbus, Ohio (not really).
After Wendy's we headed out to the airport, ready to fly out an hour after the team's flight left. Interestingly enough, all the VIPs from LA invited by Arnold were also on the same flight. We saw Lou 'the Hulk' Ferigno, Don 'I am a talkative fellow - The Dragon' Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock. Unlike Ken Shamrock, Lou Ferrigno was not willing to take a picture when asked. A couple of the Beijing team members asked him and he made some excuse about having to go to the bathroom first, and he never came over to take a picture with them afterwards... I'm wondering why he would do that, its not like he's so popular these days he needs to turn away requests for pictures. (If you read this Mr. Ferrigno, please let me know your side of the story!)

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.

BONUS! - Here are some pictures on the Official Arnold Classic Web Site of the Beijing Team:
3-1 3-2 3-3 3-4 3-5 3-6 3-7 3-8 3-9 3-10 3-11 3-12 3-13 2-6

Shao Chang Jun
Qiu Dong Xing
Jiang Bang Jun

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