2017 Test Weekend
Matt, Hiep, Torsten, Oscar

The kids are all grown up!

When people ask me how long I have been teaching, and I say over 25 years, I often get a confused look.  Perhaps because I look so young! ha.  I wish!

I often think about age and experience and realize those two numbers represent entirely different things.  Just because someone is ‘older’, doesn’t make them more experienced in things they haven’t practiced.  Just because someone is ‘younger’, doesn’t mean they don’t have experience.  Reading those lines back is confusing, but basically… you know, the old saying: don’t judge a book by its cover!

I have the perfect story for this that dates back to… oh maybe 18+ years ago.  I was attending the Yee’s Hung Ga tournament in New York, and had brought my students with me.  My friend was a male Sifu from Yee’s and we went to meet an uncle of one of my students.  When we arrived, the uncle immediately ran over to my friend and shook his hand exclaiming how happy he was to meet his nephew’s Sifu.  Embarrassed, my friend said, “No, no, I’m not his Sifu, she is his Sifu.”  The uncle did a double take, because as you can imagine this was about 18 years ago, so I looked even younger (lament), and I was a she, not a he!

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2017 Test Weekend – Lady Sifus
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2008 Test Weekend – Lady Sifus

 

 

I always laugh at these situations, and don’t get too offended, because this is the stereotype I have dealt with my whole life.  I am really proud that in the Wah Lum system there are several female Sifus and a good number of female kung fu practitioners.  My father is always really proud of this fact as well. *Girl power!*

Post instructor certification weekend, I’ve been doing a lot of ‘thinking about the old days’.  Perhaps this is because I had 2 students from my earlier demo teams testing together this year. (Matthew Martin of Wah Lum of Raleigh and Hiep Dang of Wah Lum of Portland)  It was a double take for me to watch them both testing together after all these years.  This was Matt’s 3rd test and Hiep’s 1st test.  I cannot believe how quickly time goes by.  On top of it all, they were fight partners and teammates for a long time.  I never imagined they would both be testing to become a Sifu and that they would even produce students of their own one day.  As I don’t have biological children, I imagine this is what a parent feels like when their kids are all grown up!  I’ve been through so much with these guys, been to their weddings, been through hard times… and now they have decided to follow the path of becoming a Sifu.  They have chosen to propagate and share Wah Lum with others.  I am proud.

I am really proud of the growth of the entire Orlando branch of the Wah Lum tree, the students that have studied with Sifu Tu Truong and I at the Temple.  Antonio Guerrerio of Wah Lum of Brasil, who has been traveling back and forth to the Temple for the past 20 years.  Torsten Landau of Wah Lum Germany, who has been spending his summer training with us for the past 9 years. Last but certainly not least, Oscar Agramonte, my husband who has taken the word partner to another level with being not only my husband, but my partner in Wah Lum.  (not an easy task)

I look forward to watching them grow as instructors and meeting their students. I look at all the members of the Wah Lum family and am overwhelmed by the growth of this tree with so many branches.  All from the seed that my father planted.  He took the teachings of his Master and brought it to the USA to share with the world.   I like to remind my students that they are part of something so much bigger than just the classroom they are standing in.  Somewhere in the world there are others lining up to ‘bisan‘ and start their kung fu class just as they are.  How cool is that?

Torsten, Matt, Hiep, Antonio
Torsten, Matt, Hiep, Antonio

 

 

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The Rio Experience

I wanted to take a moment during my day at sea to recap the weekend that I had in Rio de Janeiro. Being in Rio was an eye opening experience. The entire trip, although only a few days, seemed like a week. Probably because we were awake over 27 hours the first day we were there, and it was nonstop as soon as we landed. Upon our arrival into Rio, we quickly met up with the rest of the Wah Lum group and went to lunch. In classic Grandmaster Chan style, he already started to gather fans at the Chinese restaurant we ate at for lunch. Before we knew it, there was a congregation of people waiting to take photos with him. He is a people magnet. After lunch, we went to the school and taught a kung fu fan seminar.   The students worked very hard, and we enjoyed teaching them since they were so full of energy and excitement. I am so happy that we now have a full time school in Rio.

img_2240I have heard rumors of the poverty, bad economy, and crime in Rio de Janeiro, but do not usually judge anything until I experience it myself. I have seen many movies that portray the favelas and criminal activity, but I used to think they were exaggerated. Although many of the locals informed us of the tough economy, everyone still seemed so happy. Perhaps it was the fact we were there to celebrate an exciting occasion, but it seemed more like it is a part of who they are. I often write about gratitude and positive attitudes in my blog, but I always find it admirable when people in far more challenging situations are happier than we are in the US. The students there are

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The beach!

grateful for having kung fu in their life, they have positive attitudes, and they try to stay optimistic. As I walked around the streets of Rio de Janeiro, I said to O that many of ‘our kids’ back home would feel uncomfortable. It’s a big crowded city, and our suburban kids would likely feel intimidated there. Since we have traveled the world, we weren’t uncomfortable, but we were cautious. Although the weekend was positive, we did witness crime while we were there. Cell phones are often snatched out of your hand in the streets if you aren’t careful; but this is a small crime compared to what occurs on a daily basis. We were extremely cautious; we stayed in groups and always had a local with us. The students were such gracious hosts, and helped keep an eye on us foreigners. We practically had bodyguards with us wherever we went. I’m always extra wary if I don’t speak the language in a foreign country. One of the positive results of submerging myself in other cultures is the feeling of appreciation for the luxuries I have back home. The first time I went to China on my own and stayed in a local village, I came home really appreciating my toilet! Ah, the ‘little’ things.

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Carnival Time!

The camaraderie over the weekend was overwhelming. I watched the students interact and help each other with every detail of the event. From helping each other prep uniforms, warming up, loading equipment to transporting us everywhere and buying us treats. Seeing them in motion was like watching a familiar dance.

(Random share: Speaking of dance…after an incredible Tipica Dinner (typical local meal) I was snatched up by a senior local and danced Samba with him. This was to the ‘old style’ samba 3-piece band. We saw many different bands that night as we walked around, but naturally I gravitated to the traditional one. Our attraction to that area was because of these seniors who obviously were maintaining and reviving the ‘old’ ways.  Check out our Forró dance here: samba (note it’s not the samba it is the Forró!)

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Carnival performer

For a moment it felt like we were back home at one of our shows. The Wah Lum way is strong, and no matter where you are, the spirit of Wah Lum always comes through. It didn’t matter that just outside the theater there were thousands of people getting ready for Carnival. We were preparing for a show, and it was a great show! I’ve already talked about how overwhelmed with pride I was with the show in my previous post, but it really made me realize that kung fu and our Wah Lum family really stretches across borders. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, Wah Lum is Wah Lum, and we are keeping the tradition alive.

PODCAST: O and I discuss our time in Rio and more in my new podcast on Culture Chat. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Pre-show performer selfie
Pre-show performer selfie

Performance Training

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

Sifu Tu with the double edge sword
Sifu Tu with the double edge sword

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 fish-pondshows 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. img_2316The 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!

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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.

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Introducing… Culture Chat

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Dramatic? Me???

Although kung fu is a creative outlet, I often miss the career path I dabbled in years ago in acting and stunt work for film.  I miss the work, and it shows through some of my past projects like Pui Chan: Kung Fu Pioneer and Journey to the West (right).

I was told by my partner in crime, O, that it was a good idea to start a blog.  O said that the life I lead is anything but typical, and that sharing the nuances of my day to day might be interesting to people.

It is my belief that if you say you are going to do something out loud to another person, it is more likely you will get it done.  So I am hoping that you will help hold me accountable to some of the projects I hope to accomplish this year.  I have received gracious feedback on Kung Fu POD, and I am hoping to film some new episodes.  

As a matter of fact we have a new one out this month, so please subscribe and check it out.  I am also hoping to launch an audio podcast, which will be a bit of a departure from my usual Wah Lum and kung fu related subjects.  I’d like to delve into different subcultures that I am passionate about and chat with experts in those areas. (comic books, film, music, food, other cultures and traditions, etc.)  Of course there will be some martial arts episodes, but I am hoping to explore new cultures and subcultures too.  The name of the podcast is Culture Chat.  Please  listen and don’t be too critical, since this is all fairly new for me.  I know so many interesting and knowledgable people, and I felt they should share their stories and wisdom with others.  The first few episodes have already been recorded, so I am hoping to post some of them soon.  When I get back from Brazil I will be working on getting it on iTunes.

During my travels in Brazil, I plan to continue to write this blog, and also work on the Culture Chat podcast.  So if you give it a chance, I think you’ll enjoy the chats.  I am also hoping you will hold me accountable to getting it done!  I am always interested in meeting new people from different cultures, so reach out and say hello and let me know if you would like to have a chat on my podcast!  Also, let me know what other subcultures you are interested in hearing about in the comment box below or on Twitter or Instagram.

SINCE THIS WAS PUBLISHED: I have an update!  I am already LIVE on iTunes and Google Play!

Please SUBSCRIBE on iTunes  my podcast and rate it!  I would love to hear feedback and thoughts on my current podcasts.  Thank you!
Listen on Google Play Music

 

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Making a list, and checking it twice.

I can’t believe my Brazil trip is already around the corner.  This is the longest trip I have taken at 27 days in total! 24 of those days will be spent on the cruise ship.  Some people think we are crazy for taking such a long cruise, but as I have mentioned before, I love being at sea.  Besides, we will be on land every couple of days as we sail from Rio de Janeiro to Florida.  Our itinerary includes many cities in Brazil, including sailing the Amazon River.  So how do I prepare for such a trip?  By making a list of course.  I may have mentioned once or several times that I like organization and planning.  I make lists for everything.  However, I don’t just make lists, I make templates.  O always tells me that I could teach an organizational course on efficiency.  I don’t know if I’m that efficient, but I thought I would take this opportunity to share a little about my process. (some may call it obsessive, but I think it’s completely normal)  Since I’m going to Brazil, I thought I would share my trip planning process for this trip.

  1. I open my the app on my iPhone that contains lists.
  2. I look at my lists and there has already been one created!

Yes, my lists magically appear because of the fairy dust that I sprinkle on my phone every night before fairygoing to sleep.  Ok, not really.  Anytime I go on a trip, I make a ‘list’.  If the trip is something that can be duplicated, I make it a  template and I reuse the list.  I started this process back before I had a computer.  I started this on notepads, then when technology was at my disposal, I used Excel.  Now, I have moved on to the iPhone App Packing Pro

Each time I go on a trip, if I forget something I make sure to add it to my template.  My travel templates include trips for weekends, 1 or 2 week cruises, or work trips.  Making the list for this trip is the first time in a while I have had to create a new list.  However, I still did not need to start from scratch.  I simply used the longest template I had and then added to it any ‘extras’ I needed.  For this trip I have made sure to include extra mosquito protection!  If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know my relationship with nature, and I am literally going to be in the jungle!  Not to worry, I have this to protect me. (left)

This process saves time, and ensures that I have everything I need for my trip.  I’m sure many of you are already expert list makers, and are even more advanced packing pros.  However, I use this same ‘system’ for everything.  Shopping, Wah Lum events or tournaments, kung fu meetings and schedules, etc. I create a master template and then when needed, I update the template.

Crab Cakes
My famous Crab Cakes

For groceries, I have recipe lists that upload into the shopping list, so I don’t forget any ingredients.  And yes, I often meal plan too, so I have all the food I need for the week.  (hey, don’t judge.  I get home after 9pm and still cook O a home cooked meal every day!)

I have to dedicate a little extra time in the beginning, but it saves me a lot of time in the long run!  I’d love to hear how you plan and prep, so always feel free to leave a comment or suggestions below.

Note: I’ve included links to some of the apps I use.  Hope they help!

Maybe we will meet these dragons at Carnival.

What’s Next?

Chinese New Year is almost over, so what is next on the Wah Lum calendar?  It turns out 2017 is quite a busy year.  I am a planner.  I like organization. I like to schedule in advance, because I get so busy throughout the year.  I’ve always been this way, even as a child.  My parents on the other hand… are very spontaneous.  My father is famous for saying, ‘OK, we go now!’.  (just ask anyone who’s been around for a day and they’ve probably seen him running around the Temple in fast forward)  Last year, I looked at the 2017 calendar and knew what to expect.

1st Quarter: CNY!

2nd Quarter: This year is the big Sifu Test, yes we Sifus also have to test! Wah Lum Sifus have to certify every 3 years to maintain the standard of the system.  More on this in the future.

3rd Quarter: This is usually tournament and training season for students.

4th Quarter: Temple anniversary events and holidays…AND I have my big trip to Antarctica planned from 3 years ago!  I’m psyched.

We also planned out events for 2018: Brazil and Germany Wah Lum Grand Openings and the next China trip.

However, late last year, my parents decided now is as good a time as any to have Brazil’s grand opening event, so we called Sifu Antonio in Rio de Janeiro and told him the ‘good news’.  Surprise! Would you like to have your grand opening in February?  Why the change? I told him that Sigung and Simu are adverse to flying now, but they found a cruise from Rio to Orlando, so you can have your event in February if you like.  Sounds good?  Sifu Antonio graciously accepted and was even excited that his grand opening was imminent, and started scrambling in fast forward.  So, the Chan family will be going on a 24 day retreat to study kung fu, vacation, and philosophize together in February.

Maybe we will meet these dragons at Carnival.
Maybe we will meet these dragons at Carnival.

This past January, my parents were discussing the European cruise they are going on in October.  They came up with the idea that since they will already be in Germany, why not have the grand opening for Germany then?  So I made a very similar phone call to Sifu Torsten that I made to Antonio.  Guess what? Surprise your grand opening might now be in October of 2017 if you agree…  Sifu Torsten graciously accepted and is now scrambling in fast forward too.

Fierce Lucy does the splits at CNY
Fierce Lucy does the splits at CNY

We sometimes call this the Wah Lum Way.  We plan, but ultimately, when my father says, “OK we go now!”  Well, we go now.  In Wah Lum, moving in fast forward is sometimes a requirement, and learning to be flexible is beyond just the physicality of doing the splits.

 

 

Who am I to complain?  I’m going to South America, Europe, and Antarctica all in one year!  2017 had a good plan, but now has an even better plan.  Being a part of the Wah Lum family means moving in fast forward and sometimes having to drop everything and  ‘go now’, but at least we know that we are going places.

Thanks to all of you who have subscribed – please subscribe below if you would like to be updated when a new post comes out!  I’d also love to know what else you would like to hear about. Scroll alllllll the way down to subscribe and leave a comment.