This year’s Western Regional Championships was one of the best Regionals I’ve been to so far.  It was well run, well organized, fun, and it actually ended by 6:15 pm and the cleanup was finished by 9:00 pm (granted many competitors couldn’t make it this year and consequently there were fewer people.)   I will post the standings up a little bit later but the following is my personal account of what I saw … and my observations were hardly all-encompassing:

I woke up late … how late?  REAL late.  The clock said 11:30 a.m. and I knew that I had to rush .. after a quick shower and a quick banana / donut breakfast on the BART my friend and I made it to the competition around 1:00 p.m.  Unfortunately I had missed several good performances (which fortunately David Chang’s video camera had captured and then made available for my viewing later that evening).  Namely, Inyork’s long fist which was really quite amazing, David’s long fist which didn’t make it on to David’s video, and Laura’s bagua which I had been looking forward to seeing.

Of the events I did watch a few stand out in my mind:   David’s Spear (which was one of 5 first place standings he won that day), Mike Kuo’s drunken fist which was absolutely one of the best drunken fists I had ever seen, the Cal Wushu group set in which I was unable to perform due to my ankle, but which looked amazing none-the-less, and the collegiate division which was incredibly fun to watch.

An interesting event (and one that kind of depresses me to some degree) was Brandon Sugiyama’s defeat over Luke Harrington with the first two sections of the compulsory southern fist.  Why does it depress me?  Because that was my event, darn it.  I just wish I could have competed.  Brandon ended up winning first place in Advanced Nan Quan which put him up for contention of the wushu grand championship.  David’s two first place wins in both Advanced Chang Quan and Advanced Long Weapon put him up against Brandon for the championship title and Ishmael Abdul’s win of the Advanced Short Weapon division (which I also could not compete in .. grrrrrr) made him the third grand champion competitor.

Before jumping to that competition though I should mention a few other things about the tournament which I feel are of note.

The first item is a fine performance by Wushu West’s own Brian Yu who performed the compulsory long fist in the 13-17 division and placed 2nd or 3rd (I’m not sure because I was on the other side of the gym at the time).  I should also mention Laura’s 2nd place tie/win in bagua zhang which was great because she’s presently Patti’s main bagua student.  It’s nice to see the legacy passed on.

There was a surprise visit by Nathan Tong who dropped by to see some people compete.  I didn’t speak with him myself but he seemed to be enjoying the fact that he wasn’t there as a competitor, but as a spectator.

There was a fine showing by the University of Oregon participants who all did quite well.  Several of us were speculating how they manage to have such strong basics and good form when they really don’t have a “head instructor” per se (or at least an instructor with years  and years of experience) … Luke is doing a real bang-up job with the club up there.  They always perform quite strong and are a pleasure to have at a competition like this.  I hope they all enjoyed the Shaolin Temple performance after the tournament.

The Cal group set was really quite good.  Actually it’s the best I’ve seen Cal do a group set in ages.  They did the Beijing Group Set and even included the jumping inside fall … all SIX of them doing it in unison was a real treat to watch.  The crowd went crazy and I should soon have a downloadable video of it for your viewing pleasure.  They ended up placing first.

Mike Kuo swept the Advanced Northern Traditional division with his amazing drunken fist and then went on to win Traditional Grand Champion.   The trophy was huge … a good foot taller than either of us.  He seemed pleasantly stunned.

Haruwn Wesley, a student of Bryant Fong, won the Internal Grand Championship with his amazing Chen Style Taiji Quan.  I didn’t really get to watch much of the internal or traditional divisions but from what I could tell there was some good competition this year.

The 13 – 17 Junior Grand Championship was won by Arthur Chen, a former student of Liu Bo who had some excellent three section staff moves including a butterfly twist!  The 8 – 12 Junior Grand Championship was won by Jennifer Haight, a student of Lily Lau’s.

And that brings us to the Wushu Grand Championship.  It was Brandon Sugiyama doing Nan Quan, Ishmael Abdul with Broadsword and David Chang with Spear.  First up was Brandon who performed his two sections of the compulsory nan quan form.  Unfortunately he had to immediately rush off because while he was performing he was also on-deck for his taiji quan competition!  It was the first time I had seen Brandon do southern .. it was fascinating.  Brandon scored a 8.9.

Then it was Ishmael Abdul performing his broadsword.   While he seemed rather winded throughout the whole performance he managed to finish with some impressive scores … I believe his final score was 9.0.

Unfortunately for Ishmael, however, David Chang’s spear totally rocked and he beat out Ish with a 9.05 clinching the grand championship trophy and amazing everyone with his wushu ability.  I must say .. I watch David 3 – 4 times a week practicing wushu and I still think he did a really good job.  I guess all that hard work and training has finally paid off.  David’s next stop … Disneyland.

After the competition, which ended around 6:15 p.m. several of us stayed around to help clean up .. and even then we were only there until 9:00 p.m.   It seems to me like no one really missed the master’s demonstration at all and the tournament sailed along very smoothly.  A hearty congratulations goes out to the tournament committee and to the tournament director Peter Pebler, who deserves everyone’s heartfelt appreciation for making this a tournament to remember.

After the tournament I came up with a few thoughts which I’d like to share with you:

The first though has to do with wushu instruction and the importance of cross-polinization.  David Chang is an excellent example of this.   He has studied with more teachers than I can think of .. Bryant Fong, Liu Bo, Hao Zhi Hua, coaches in Beijing … the list goes on … and I think that while it’s great to have loyalties and stay with one school and really have one teacher as your “main” teacher, David’s success really says a lot about the importance of having diverse sources of wushu instruction.  It would be nice if all students, irregardless of teacher, were able to learn skills and glean understanding from all the instructors in their area.  Each teacher adds their own particular flavor and abilities to their students and having multiple teachers to learn from can only aid the student in developing a deeper understanding of wushu.  Politics in the wushu community accepted, I really think that it’s important to let the past remain the past and move towards a future where the focus of wushu is on the student and their education and development as an athlete.  As improbable or impractical as this may seem it can only assist the development of wushu in the U.S.  Heck .. professional wushu athletes in China have several coaches … we should too.

The second thought I had is that I’ve noticed recently that many members of various “factions” or “cliques” in the wushu community have started really communicating and developing an interest in the betterment of the sport of wushu and have started to abstain from the inherent politics.  This is really nice to see.  I think that next years competitions will be incredibly well attended.  Both the collegiate competition at Cal State Fullerton and next years Regionals at Berkeley will, I think, be testaments to the newly improved communication between everyone in the wushu community.   It’s important that we remember that the sport of wushu is why we’re doing this.   That should be our common bond.

Sorry if I’m getting up on a pedestal here .. just had to express myself and this seems like a good enough place to do it.