I spoke with Sifu Antonio a couple of weeks ago, and he told me how excited his students were for the Wah Lum of Brazil Grand Opening. It was a special treat for them that Grandmaster Chan and other Wah Lum Sifus were attending. He was wondering what we would be performing at the show, and I confessed that because of Chinese New Year, we had not planned out our performance. As much as I loved performing growing up, I am actually fine if I do not perform these days. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I don’t often feel motivated to perform, but part of it is that I enjoy seeing the next generation step up. I am excited to see what the youth and newer generations put together creatively and how they execute their forms. Throughout the CNY celebrations I sometimes considered performing if we were short on help, but then I would see the kids really flourish and push themselves to the limit. (we call it CNY pride) So, I opted not to perform during CNY. I learn a lot from observing and it helps me become a better teacher.
Of course it will be an honor to perform at the Grand Opening in Brazil on behalf of the
Temple and to be a part of this great celebration. Sifu Tu will be doing his famous double edge sword, Sifu Oscar a mantis form, and I still hadn’t decided what to do. I will also begrudgingly admit that I often don’t decide what I am doing until I am on stage! Improvisation is a big part of my repertoire. Good or bad, it definitely keeps me on my toes.
Do I recommend this route? Certainly not! My method for training students is to drill and drill and drill their performance routines until it is engrained in their brain. It may seem odd that I do not want them to do as I do, just do as I say! I worry that makes me a hypocritical teacher, but then I realize I had to create my own system for performance training. Although my father was always there to guide me, I had to do the majority of my performance training on my own. I had to drill and drill and drill until I got it right. I was also fortunate that we had a lot of live shows to gain experience. I’ve spent entire summers performing kung fu shows daily at theme parks. Not many other martial artists have had this experience. Ultimately another reason I have a flare for the dramatic, is I take after my teacher, Grandmaster Pui Chan. No one performs like he does! I have seen masters through the decades from all over the world, and while many have incredible kung fu, none of them have the showmanship like my father. Even the other masters always comment on his performances. In addition, he is always performing. On the streets in Brazil, or on the cruise; he starts talking to anyone who shows interest, and immediately he is on stage. If they are lucky he does some kung fu moves for them too. Through these experiences, I learned the art of performing, and
not just the art of kung fu. They really are 2 different animals! (I never had animals growing up, except for the fish at the Temple, but they hardly count as pets right?)
My students are fortunate that I developed a system for producing entertaining shows. I don’t often compliment myself, but I do believe I can put on an exciting show. Instead of having to discover these techniques on their own, I am there to guide them and essentially give them short cuts. Some might say it isn’t good for them, and that they should discover things on their own, but then I see them perform and realize they are much better performers at this stage of their training than I was. In having to figure it out on my own, my progress was slow. My hopes for my students are for them to surpass me by trillions and gazillions! In order to do this, I combine my experiences to give them what I hope is the best system of training for their progress and growth. Although I have been doing this a long time, I am still learning. I am pleased that the crowd is always happy at our shows, and my goal is to always improve and challenge myself.
Watching the kung fu show in Rio de Janeiro that was led by Sifu Antonio was such an inspiration. I was thrilled the moment they stepped on stage. The music, the uniforms, and the performance resembled shows I have produced in the past. I was so happy to see that this has carried over all the way in Brazil! Sifu Antonio and his students captured the essence of my Wah Lum kung fu performance style, and it was excellently executed! Kudos to everyone who performed!
It is such a unique thing to realize that all over the world, Wah Lum students are doing the same classes we are doing at the Temple, and now to see them perform the same, was a special moment for me. It makes me unbelievably proud, and it was pleasure to share the stage with my Wah Lum of Brazil family. Congrats again to Sifu Antonio on a successful grand opening and for all of the hard work these past 20 years to make the school what it is today.