Well … Nationals are at last over and I must say that it was a great experience all around. I’ll give you a run down of all the stuff I did. Some of it will be relevant and some of it will be downright boring. Hopefully you’ll enjoy at least a small part of it. There will also be other articles from other competitors so check back for those.

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Thursday

We (my roommate, Judy and I) took off Thursday morning from SFO on United Airlines. A few items of note:

First off, I forgot my wushu shoes at the office and had to run back there to pick them up before finishing my laundry so that I could pack and leave. Good thing the flight was in the afternoon!
Secondly, there was this really weird guy on BART from Kansas City who was going to Delaware. That’s irrelevant, but it was funny at the time. He just wouldn’t stop talking to us.

And lastly, the movie was “City of Angels” which I’ve already seen. Here’s a hint: Dont’ pay the $4.00 charge to rent the headset. Just bring your own and plug them in. It’s a total rip-off otherwise.

Okay … so we arrived at the airport and there was David and Billy (who had taken an earlier flight) waiting with Inyork, Hansie and Raffi. Raffi was there to pick up Erick Louie who was arriving at a different terminal. Nice of him to make the trek over to welcome us to his stomping grounds.

We all crashed at Inyork and Hansie’s house and I have to say one thing before anything else gets put down:

Mr. and Mrs. Wong RULE!

Inyork and Hansie’s parents were sooooo cool. They fed us and let us hang out there and were really just a couple of the best hosts anyone could hope for. Many thanks to them and their incredible generosity.

After settling in we all watched Mae Hsu’s National Tape from last year’s competition and become steadily discouraged at the incredible level of competition that we saw … (sigh)

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Friday

We had a day to kill before the competition so we all decided to check out the Nation’s Capital and see what sort of corruption and disarray we could uncover. Unfornately for us, none. We took the Metro in to the city and our first stop was Chinatown (of course!) for some lunch. David was very wise and paid with his credit card, thereby insuring that everyone else would have to pay for the rest of his meals during his stay there.

After Chinatown we walked down toward The Mall and then to Congress where we took some pictures near the pool. Then we went to the National Air and Space Museum to cool off. I should mention this too: It was friggin HOT!!! If you decide to go to Maryland or D.C. be sure you do it between October and April.

After the museum we walked down towards the Washington Monument, took some more pictures, went to the Lincoln Memorial, took some more pictures, went to the Korean War Memorial, took some more pictures .. went .. to .. well .. you get the idea. (To see some of these pictures, check out the 1998 Nationals Gallery!) After the Vietnam War Memorial we walked up the Farragut Square and took the Metro back because our feet were killing us. That night, after a great dinner courtesey of the Wong’s, we watched some videos of the Beijing Wushu Team (for inspiration) and fell asleep.

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Saturday

Saturday was there at last! Competition had arrived! Yikes!

I was suprisingly not all that nervous. We arrived at the Towson University just in time to see the Master’s Demonstrations before the main competition. Here’s the highlights: Group Baji Quan demonstration from students of Adam Hsu’s from Taiwan. (Kaz seemed to find them rather amusing.) Then the famed Shaolin Monk demonstrated some … uh .. Martial Arts. Then Liu Xiao Ling with her straightsword, Liu Yu with her double hook swords and finally Pan Qing Fu all decked out with the gold lamay outfit doing a pudao vs. spear sparring set (check out the picture of him in my gallery. I’m definitely going to put part of THAT up in my video collection. (You’ll know why when you see it.)

After the demonstrations were over competition began. All I can say is two things: (1) The Southern California Wushu Academy (a.k.a. “Little Saigon”) Team totally kicked arse. And (2) Rory Bratter is a friggin wushu child prodigy. I should mention that many of the nations top competitors (i.e. Nathan Tong, Mae and Anne Hsu, et al) were not there to compete, but even so it was a sight to behold. Rory ended up taking first place in Broadsword, Straightsword and Staff on the first day. Not bad for a kid that only stands about as tall as my navel. Lam Nguyen did amazing stuff as well. If I could jump half as high as he can I’d be jumping about 10 times higher than I am right now. Ugh … it was brutal .. but very inspiring.

As for the other West Coasters … David competed in Straightsword and unfortunately dropped it and had to start over. That gave him a 1.0 deduction which put him out of the running. He did excellent otherwise though. He also re-injured his heel on the jumpin inside split and was hobbling around for most of the rest of the competition and was only able to compete once more. Inyork got first place in Men’s Intermediate Broadsword, Hansie placed first in her Taiji Division and Billy made a strong showing with his Broadsword in the Men’s Advanced division. Unfortunately the competition there was incredibly fierce. But I must say it’s one of the strongest sets I’ve ever seen him do. Erick Louie did a great job too … I hadn’t seen him compete in at least a year or two so I was duly impressed with all the height he gets on his jumps now. All I can say is “Cupertino 1995 Man!” I think that was the last and only time I’ll ever be able to beat him in anything. Of course, we had both been taking only 5 months at that point. Kaz also did rather well, despite the wacked-out, politically-biased judging taking place in Ring 1.

I didn’t get to compete that day since things were running late, so after Kaz finished his Traditional Northern Open Hand division we took off for Bethesda again. We chowed down at Chilli’s (where, oddly enough, I had eaten at just one week before in L.A. with Patrick, Senh and Wilson) and then crashed again at the Wong’s.

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Sunday

Before getting in to Sunday’s events I should say that Inyork’s mom was great with all the food she kept supplying us with on each day. I should also say that Judy is a wonderfully patient person to sit through all this competition, which she probably wasn’t overly excited about doing. Thanks to both. (Here’s a helpful hint: Judy likes certain kinds of sushi … even if she says she doesn’t =)

So we got there Sunday and saw that people were competing with group sets. We had discussed doing the Beijing Group Set the night before and before I knew it Inyork had talked to the judges and had us signed up for the competition. Yikes! That gave us about 5 minutes to warm up and compete! We hurriedly got ready and went out there and “performed” our group set. Good news and bad news… The Good News: We got a Silver Medal! The Bad News: There was only one other group competing (Southern Cal). It was fun anyway.

The rest of the day progressed … Inyork did his Intermediate Long Fist. A word on this event too … if / when I ever start judging these competitions I am going to make it unacceptable for people to compete with the compulsory events in the intermediate division. It’s totally unfair. It’s an ADVANCED form. That’s why it’s the international Compulsory. If you’re competing with that event then you’re competing in Advanced. No exceptions. It irks me that people learn the compulsory and compete intermediate. Okay … I could go on and on about this all day but I’ll be quiet. It’s a point that’s up for debate.

So … it was my turn. I competed in Nan Quan. There was a strong showing from Phillip, a student of Wang Jien Tien’s, who had just returned from China (as did Felicia). I didn’t place because I flubbed up lots but it was a fun experience none-the-less. The guy who got third totally shouldn’t have though. I’m not saying that I should have, but he certainly shouldn’t have. I would have given third to Shane or one of the other competitors. Oh well.

There was also women’s open hand (open, optional and compulsory, etc…) as well as men’s. Everyone did amazing .. basically all the people who rocked our butts the day before continued to do so. I won’t get in to the details here. One event that was fun to watch was the men’s open hand division. Rory did Ditan which was amazing to watch. And this other guy, who’s name I don’t know did some pretty crazy stuff too. I’ll be sure to include them on the video clips. He can do that hellicopter flare break-dance move thingee … very impressive.

After all the events were over we all said “howdy” to everyone … got our pictures taken together … it was lots of fun. After saying our goodbye’s we climbed in Inyork’s van and headed out to Bethesda where we ate dinner at Pizzeria Uno’s and then went to the theatre to watch “Snake Eyes” (Great movie … three thumbs up!).

That night I pulled an all nighter because we had to take off at 5:30 the next morning for the airport. Needless to say, I slept the whole way back.

And that, my friends, is pretty much my whole account of the weekend. I should mention that I wasn’t really paying attention to who won what division or what scores so and so got. I was just enjoying the whole experience and had fun watching the competition. If you get the chance to go next year I recommend it.