China Trip Review, by Darin Yee:Everyone who journeyed to the “Middle Kingdom” lead by Darin Yee (who is a seasoned visitor there) are now safely home. Our group of constituent adventurers comprised of Uechi-Ryu students from Massachusetts to California. The number of travelers totalled thirteen.
Everyone started from their prospective airports and met at the San Francisco airport. There, everyone was introduced to each other by Darin Yee. From San Francisco, we flew together into Hong Kong airport. The entire trip from each prospective airport to our destination Hong Kong totaled approximately 24 (twenty-four) hours.
It was a grueling flight but we spent much time watching movies, eating and sleeping. The one enjoyable part of this flight was the fact we were a group with similar interests in martial arts. We spent much time talking to each other about our paths and growth leading to where we are now as martial artists. It amazed me to discover the amount of enthusiasm, open mindedness and the willingness to watch, listen and learn. I am not speaking about beginners in a new discipline. I am telling about learned, season martial artist and sensei with dojo and students.
I have trained in Chinese Kung Fu since 1960 in America and have travelled back to our roots in China to train for the past 25 years. There has been much I have expressed to Americans in regards to martial arts from my experiences. I attempted to nip much of our religious like concepts, and misguided information. Martial arts are a visible, physical science. To practice it as a religion, believing without experiencing and witnessing is just plain wrong. We must accept the tried and true rather then the belief of a concept because we are told “it will work“.I now have a chance to demonstrate by teaching openly because of our geographic location and by bringing this group to witness first hand centuries of martial arts as it is taught in the many villages of China. In other words, I had a captive audience.
On October 1, 2006, China’s Independence Day, we arrived in Hong Kong. We were met at the airport by our gracious and generous host, Sensei Robert Campbell. Sensei Campbell has been a resident of Hong Kong for over thirty years with knowledge far surpassing that of any travel guide. We were privileged to see much of the real Hong Kong.
Upon checking into our rooms on day one, we witnessed the spectacular Independence Day fireworks display in Hong Kong harbor from the privacy and comfort of our beautiful hotel room. We were 18 stories up and almost at the same height as the fireworks. I cannot think of a better view than from our picture windows.
After the magnificent fireworks display, we gathered and ventured into the heart of Hong Kong for a late night meal. We found a great Mongolian hot pot restaurant where no one departed hungry. We had numerous variations of vegetables and meats. I took great pains to explain the food and everyone ate at their discretion.
Day 2 was a present from Sensei Campbell. We ate a conventional breakfast and met up with Sensei Campbell at 9AM. Many of the group was already up at 6 AM to participate in the Tai Chi exercises in the nearby park. In Hong Kong and China, you need not ask permission to participate. You just jump right in.
Sensei Campbell surprised everyone with an all expense paid excursion on a beautiful 70-foot boat. This trip took us to the harbor side of Hong Kong, which we would never have seen due to lack of knowledge and resources. This was just the most pleasant way to visit a city.
As part of this cruise, we stopped at the Jumbo Floating Restaurant for lunch where Sensei Campbell reserved a table at the top dining room where we could eat in the comfort of an air-conditioned room at the highest, most advantageous viewing area of the restaurant. The food was also some of the finest in the world.After the cruise, we went back to our hotel rooms to wash and prepare to witness the nightlife of Hong Kong. Difficult to imagine some of us in jackets and ties. All things considered, it was not too much of a shocker. I might even conclude we were pretty sharp looking. Sensei Campbell escorted our group to three of the nicest and most unique places to toast a drink.
After a good night’s sleep, we met Sensei Campbell again at 9 AM. This time, it was an all expense paid bus tour, which was provided again by our gracious and generous host. This tour took us to some of the most exquisite hotels and banking institutions in the world. We also visited the world’s largest sitting Buda where we walked (hiked, climbed) to the top of the mountain where this Buda looks onto the city of Hong Kong.No visit to Hong Kong is complete without a trip to the temple and then forwards to the open street shopping. You go to the temple first to pray you do not spend your life savings when you get to the street shopping. I believe no one got through without a purchase or two. Some more than others.
When we got back to the hotel, everyone gathered his or her belongings to prepare for our 4-hour boat ride into China the next day. Hong Kong was great and we all thank Sensei Bob Campbell for being the great host that only he could be. I presented him with an IUKF trip jacket as a small token of our thanks.
The morning of October 4, we gathered all our belonging, items brought from home and newly purchased and headed to the piers. There we fought through customs and boarded our ship to the mainland. Yes, there were first time jitters and the excitement of going into the unknown. My concern was this four-hour boat ride could create a few stomach discomforts. My worries were needless as we all came through like the troopers that we are. On the other hand, some knucklehead went onto the top deck where we were not allowed and took off his clothes to sunbath. We will not mention any names but if he got thrown off, it would have be a long swim to shore ALONE.Along the way, we saw Macaw and the bridges that connect her to the mainland. We saw many of the boats that work that part of the river and the people who live in them. We saw the construction, which is now a large part of China’s growth to provide the living areas needed for its growing economy.
We arrived at Gong Yet, China late afternoon where we were greeted by Sifu Wong. After we got through customs, we were transported to our hotels by vehicles provided by Sifu Wong. The ride was a little snug but we got through it.
Our hotel was beautiful and spacious, as I had remembered it to be. The Garden Hotel was rated the best hotel in Southern China. Only the best for our guys. I also remembered this hotel to have the greatest food and service as we have learned to accept in our own country.
While in the mainland, our routine was pretty much the same. We had Uechi-Ryu workouts in the morning taught by Darin Yee. These workouts are not as you have known from any other Uechi-Ryu instructor in the States. Darin Yee’s Uechi-Ryu incorporates much of the Chinese influence, which was in Pong Gi Noon not apparent now in most of our Uechi-Ryu.
This system allows our body to help generate much of our power instead of forcing our arms solely to do all the work. This system teaches the benefits of using the soft as well as the hard. Not this macho attitude that strength is everything but the actual art form of Uechi-Ryu from Pong Gi Noon. Darin Yee also taught to our Uechi-Ryu students a beginner’s Choy Li Fut form named Lean Yill Kurn, which teaches us how to use our body to generate speed and power. It is considered the “San Chin” of Choy Li Fut. It is the easiest yet the most important of all Choy Li Fut forms. Just like San Chin kata, if practiced right, everything you need to know about the style is in that form.
Our workouts were scheduled twice a day. Once only, when we had a planned tour to martial arts villages where generations after generation practiced their arts with little to no changes from conception. We were also made aware the differences between actual kung fu and entertainment kung fu (wusu) where there were just routines and not actual forms. This was explained as part of our trip to a Chinese Government sponsored Kung Fu College.
The neatest part of this trip was our visit to the Lung Wen Kung Fu Village. Lung Wen is one of the oldest, most prominent kung fu villages in Southern China. We were their guests of honor and everything they did was in our honor. Their lion dance was directed to our group. Every kung fu form performed was for us because they bowed solely to us prior and after each performance. They served us food from their own wood powered ovens. Beer, wine, tea and soda was offered. Every junior member of the village performed (and there were a lot of them).
When asked if we would show them some of our martial art, I asked for volunteers and we did a little kicking and punching ourselves. They did not expect me to perform but when I did, the masters of the village then felt they had to perform also. This made the night a lot longer then I had anticipated. If I knew they were going to feel obligated, I would have just stood there wearing my smile.
I do not want to leave out the part where we all went to get massages. We were massaged head to toe including facials, foot, back and front for an unbearable four plus hours at a whooping, arm bending cost of 55 US dollars. How do these crooks get away with this? I was so upset at this, I had to go back the next day to and try it again. This time I had the hot rock treatment.
We might be planning a trip for next year. We may just fly from America into Gung Jhou, which we did not see this year because I could not get grown, mature people to leave Tai San until it was time to come home. Do you think they had fun there?
A few weeks ago, I was being interviewed by a national Chinese newspaper regarding martial arts. 3 hours later, the interviewer exclaimed “you must be a great master”!
I blinked a few times and replied “no! There is still so much for me to learn. If I were a master, I would have learned all there is for me to know.”
Now I’m thinking about these remarks I’ve made. When will I except these certifications I’ve reveived from China? When will I be a master? When will my thurst for martial art knowledge be satisfied?
When we learn certain moves, I do not fool myself by thinking I’ve mastered them. I know each time I practice that move, I am just a little more in tune to it. How many time must I perform that move to perfect and master it?
After 47 years of learning martial arts, there is so much to practice. As a matter of fact, while on vacation in Mexico, I’ve practice from 6:30AM to 9:30PM that night and did not get to work on every form I’ve learned. I don’t mean to just go through the moves and call it a day. I mean to really try to perfect the movements in conjunction to my body. To feel the moves flow smoothly and naturally. If anything feels out of place, I would do it again and again until it feel right. If I were to master these moves. I want to be able to perform these movements and feel just as smooth and natural each and everytime.
To date I have not been able to do this for every style I’ve learn. Not to my satisfaction. Time of course is of no consequence. I could have practice something the same way for 47 years and if it does not feel natural than I’ve been doing it wrong for 47 years.
In your mind,, what constitude a master? How do we justify this title?
From: “Darin Yee” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Gustavo Gondra
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2006 00:03:40 -0400
On August 19, 2006 I’ve attended an open tournament held and sponsored by Sensei Manny Neves. This event took place at Lantana’s located in Randolph, Ma.
Upon arrival, I was overjoyed to see many old friends whom I have not seen for longer than I realized. Friends like Peter McRae whom I’ve known and respected since 1972. Peter has come on many occasions to the old Mattson Academy on Hancock Street to work out with me. I’ve also visited Peter at his old dojo in Plymouth, in the 3rd floor above a clothing store named Bernard’s on Main Street.
As the tournament began, I was given the honor to be one of the referees in ring #1. I was partnered with Jay Salhanick and Bob Irving both exhibiting unquestionable judgment and abilities as referees. By that virtue along, our ring moved at a rapid pace.
The next day, I was invited to Sensei Manny Neves’ house to receive a plaque because I’ve departed early. No need to hang around when our ring was finished. When I arrived at Sensei Manny Neves’ house I was introduced to a gentleman I recognized at the tournament yesterday but never had the opportunity to meet. This gentleman was Gustavo Gondra.
Sensei Gustavo Gondra and I sat for over 3 hours chit chatting about nothing but martial arts and our outlook regarding the different styles and practice methods. We covered everything from how and where we felt martial arts was conceived to where we are now and where it is headed.
Actually, when it comes to a discussion on martial arts, there isn’t enough time in a day for me. The most pleasant aspect of our conversation was not one issue of politics popped it’s ugly head. I was tempted to ask a few difficult questions but I’ll leave that to Barbara Walters.
I’ve found Sensei Gustavo Gondra to be a gentleman of knowledge and respect. His English was much better than I have expected. As I was preparing to leave, Sensei Gondra asked me if I would honor him by doing a seminar in his country. As many places as I’ve traveled to give seminars, I have never thought of going to Argentina. Maybe I will add Argentina to my plans staring next year.