Exclusive Review of the Oct/Nov '97 Issue of wushu Kungfu

Once in a while I find the need to get up on my soap box and speak out. This is one such case. I had so many problems with this issue of this magazine that I could no longer hold my tongue. I didn't speak out when they put out the great A Love of Wushu about my instructors, I didn't speak out when they did their article about the Wushu tour with Yen Wen Qing, I haven't complained too much... but this particular issue, with its "Special Section: Women in Wushu" really required a written response. This homepage is my forum, and I hope I can get my point of view across here.

Firstly, let me state that I like Wushu Kungfu Magazine. Why? Because at least its out there trying. Its the only place I see the word "Wushu" in the title of a magazine at the local stores, and to a wushu practioner fighting for some recognition of the art, that means a lot to me (even if wushu is about 10x smaller than "Kung Fu" and its sideways, its still there!) YES the magazine has some serious desktop publishing problems, but at least its there to read and look at the pictures. But what bothers me more than the graphic design of the magazine is the horrendous journalism that goes into making it (if any). This is the part that I find unexcusable. We shouldn't expect high literature out of a martial arts magazine, but at least follow the tenents of basic journalism! (I will go into detail about these accusations below) Its because I like what the magazine is trying to do that I am so critical of it. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't care, and I wouldn't take the time to write about it. I hope by writing this, the public will demand better from TC Media (the publisher):

I decided the best way to review this magazine was to go sequentially from beginning to end (the links point to the actual text of the article from TC Media's web site, where available):

The Matriarchy of Wushu - The first paragraph of the article reads, 'Four of those women form somthing of a "matriarchy of wushu"'. This article is a short feature about four women in wushu, Debbie Chen, Natalie Lu, Amy Chow, and Lu Xiaoling. Yes, they are all women in wushu, but do they form a Matriarchy? To me, a matriarchy implies a motherly connection, like the connection between a teacher and a student, but wait a minute, Natalie Lu isn't a teacher... why is she a Matriarch? OK, well the other three are, so how do these 3 teachers and the non-teacher form a matriarchy? Debbie chen and Amy Chow are former US Team competitors who now teach wushu, Lu Xiaoling is a former athlete from China who now teaches wushu. My question is, why THESE women?

If its supposed to be about former American wushu competitors who have become coaches, then Amy Chow and Debbie Chen should be included, but not Lu Xiaoling. If the article is supposed to be about women from China who are now wushu coaches, what about the rest of them? there are several women who competed professionally in China who now coach in the US. Why not include Zhang Hong Mei or Liu Yu? Liu Yu is the coach responsible most for Anne and Mae Hsu, Nathan Tong, Woody Wong and Natalie Yu, how could you possibly leave her off? (if I were counting US Wushu Team athletes, I think its safe to say that Liu Yu has produced more than Lu Xiaoling). This is a glaring error that should have been avoided by not including a 'Matriarch' from china.

So as near as I can tell, there really should only be Debbie chen and Amy Chow listed as "Matriarchs" in this article. but wait, why is that guy in the pictures too? The guy is Eric Chen of course, who is mentioned several times in the article, but why is he featured here? This is not an article about "the husband and wife team of Eric and Debbie chen", nor is it about the "Matriarchs and Patriarchs of Wushu" (I think Eric Chen would definitely qualify as a Patriarch). This is another example of why this article is inherently flawed.

7 Rising Stars - Wushu's Ones to Watch - This article is a feature about 6 female athletes who tried out for the US Wushu Team and one Canadian. OK, look at the title, it says "Seven Rising Stars", not 'Seven athletes who are trying out for the team to make it to the World Wushu Games'. The article is somehow trying to imply that these women are new, or next generation, but then reconcile that with the fact that the people they list aren't all new or 'rising', and in fact by many could be considered "old generation."

My case in point is Anne & Mae Hsu. They have both been competing in wushu for about a decade. Many stars have risen and fallen since they started competing. And its not like their careers are only peaking now. This is the third US Team that Mae Hsu has made. Anne has been competing on the wushu and NAASKA circuit for years... certainly they are not 'new' or 'next gen'.

And furthermore, they have both trained side by side with Natalie Lu nearly the entire time. Mae and Natalie were both on the '93 US Team, the only difference is that Natalie has retired from competition... so why is she considered a "Matriarch" and Mae is considered a "Rising Star?"

Another major problem that exists in this article is poor journalism! I don't want to skirt around the issue by being overly polite about this. The article is written very badly. For example, the first article states: "Ranging in age from nine to twenty-two...", so this implies that all the women in the article are between these two ages, right? But in the first line of the Patty Sun section the text reads, "Patty Sun, at 23..." and furthermore, in the Anita Lopez section, she is talking about two years ago and she says, "I was 22." (which would imply she is at least 24 now). These are the types of glaring errors that any decent editor should have seen. Was he or she asleep when this article went through their desk?

Further examples of bad journalism can be found in the Kelly Cramp section. Do you notice that they never actually have any quotes from Kelly Cramp herself? The entire thing is made up of quotes from her mother. Did they actually talk to her at all? Perhaps they should do an article called "About Kelly Cramp, According to Kelly Cramp's Mother."

To go further, I know for a fact that some of the quotes about these women are incorrect (you can call them 'misquotes' if you want, or you can call them 'made up false quotes' too). I also know for a fact that Anne and Mae Hsu were interviewed seperately, yet the text implies that they are there together having a conversation --

Recalls Anne, "...After a while, I began to like it. Then after a couple of months my sister started." Mae laughs, remembering, "My mom said I'd better take wushu too..."

In summary, I have to say that this is definitely the worst of the three "Women in Wushu" articles. It has good intentions, but their are so many errors, from the title down to the math.

Less Sugar; More Spice - This article is actually the least problematic of the three, it is a short feature about two young women who competed in the Four Star competition at Tat Mau Wong's recent tournament held in June. My only major point against this article is the title, "Less Sugar; More Spice." I don't know if this is meant to exoticize women in martial arts or demean young women in general (who apparently are made of sugar). This article, like the previous two also had its share of bad graphics, but I don't want to harp too much about that.

Washington Students Selected - in the Kungfu News section. This "news item" is a blatant advertisement for Lu Xiaoling's school, the O-Mei Wushu Kung Fu Center. It in, they boast that six of their students have been named to the US Wushu Team, and they also include a quote that says "It was remarkable that one school could produce one quarter of the national Chinese martial arts team." Notice that the six athletes that made the team made the A,B & C teams. You may or not be aware that there were only 14 women who tried out, therefore it was NOT too difficult to be a woman on the A,B, or C team (you show up, you're better than two women, you made it!). It also appears that either Lu Xiaoling is being modest, or her math is also not up to snuff, because if she ONLY counted A team members (the only ones that really count), the could have been boasting about having 3/8 of the US Team come from her school.

But let it be noted, that while other schools don't go around placing News items about it, another 3/8ths of the US Team now practices at the Pacific Wushu Academy, and were originally coached by Eric Chen and Liu Yu (still are coached by Liu Yu, as a matter of fact). Just running this adverstisement and trying to pass it off as 'news' is another problem that this magazine has!

1997 US WuShu & San Shou Team Trail Results - in the Kungfu News section. If any of the "news items" deserved to have its own article, this one does! This is a significant event that only gets passing mention (second to last in the second to last page of the magazine). I should also note that they mispelled a number of people's names wrong in this section (and the other results section), I don't know if its the tournament people's fault or the magazine's fault, but it certainly doesn't look too professional.

I hope I have gotten my point across about the severe problems I found in this magazine. If anyone has any comments, suggestions or complaints, please feel free to email me, or to post your opinions on my message board so that everyone can read.

Send feedback to raffi@beijingwushuteam.com
Last modified: 10/3/97