2006 China Tour

by George Mattson

October 26,2006
IUKF Chairman Dr. Paul Haydu’s report on the China Tour:

Dear Fellow Uechi-ka and Friends of the IUKF,
Last weekend we returned from a trip of a lifetime. We had the honor and pleasure of spending 15 days in Hong Kong and Southern China, with 12 other long-time and dedicated martial artists. What linked us together was our interests in the origins of our Kung Fu and Uechi Karate, and to see it practiced in its home of origin. The person tying us all together was Darin Yee.As most of you know, Darin is an outstanding 7th Dan Uechi practitioner, and teacher. He had years of fighting experience, and won many tournaments. He’s had occasion to test his skills outside the ring as well, finding our art to serve him well. Darin is also a student and teacher of Kung Fu.

During this trip we spent a wonderful time with Darin’s Uechi Sensei, Bob Campbell, in Hong Kong. We also spent ten in-depth days with Darin’s Kung Fu teacher, Wong Yi Man. The result of both of these visits was a cultural immersion. Though only two weeks in length, we got a personal, up-close look at how people live, on multiple levels, in both places. In Hong Kong, Bob Campbell showed us quite a bit of the lavish life, from the Repulse Bay Hotel, many years the watering hole of the rich and famous, to Stanley, now filled with plush villas that house the wealthy expatriates who call it home.We spent an afternoon in a beautiful floating restaurant in Aberdeen, on the south side of Hong Kong Island, formerly home to floating villagers who fished and lived on sampans. We also got dressed up and spent an evening seeing some beautiful night spots. Both by 70 foot yacht, and by private bus, Bob showed us much of the best that Hong Kong has to offer!

The sophisticated, big city life of Hong Kong contrasted sharply with our ten days spent in Tai Shan prefecture of Guang Dong province. Even though most of it is countryside, the city and high-rise apartment houses are rapidly encroaching on the rice fields and fish ponds. Within the city center, there are vibrant shopping areas, where jade can be bought, either in jewelry stores, or from street-side stalls. One street had only open tailor shops lined with seamstresses at sewing machines, on the street.

It was so full of clothes-making that most traffic was on foot. Many members of our group had dresses and suits made there, for very reasonable prices. Darin looked quite elegant in four different colored brocaded silk traditional Chinese jackets. There was also a number of fascinating tea shops, where many of us bought specialty teas that couldn’t be found in the US, or even on the Internet.

One favorite was “Teet Goon Yum” meaning Iron Goddess of Mercy, which is a delicious green tea. I brought back three half-pound vacuum packs of teas, two for my wife and me, and one for a friend.

The eating experience was one of the most memorable parts of the trip, both in Hong Kong and in Tai Shan. But it was in the latter where most of us experienced “soul-satisfying” Chinese food, much of it new to most of us. Many an afternoon or evening was spent at a restaurant recommended by Wong Sifu. Each meal was a surprise, with dish after dish brought out family-style, accompanied by green tea, and then local beer or soda.

The beer was a good way to avoid drinking the water, and may have prevented GI upsets in many of us, or so I’d like to think! Two of my favorite dishes, which I had never had before, were local eggplant stuffed with ground meat, and cooked with a sweet-sour sauce. The other was Ham Ha, which is pork cooked with salted shrimp paste. If I could only get those where I live now! I’ve got a craving for them both.

Of course, the main dish of this trip was the Martial Arts. Those of us who wanted to emphasize the connection between Kung Fu and Uechi Ryu worked out daily for two and a half hours with Darin. He emphasized familiarizing ourselves with the whip-like soft side of our “half hard-half soft” style. We learned how to use our hips, waist and shoulders in each movement, whether block, kick or strike. As we started to familiarize ourselves with this concept, we saw how we could rely on shoulder-arm strength less, while achieving greater effectiveness, and giving our joints a rest in the process. Good habits for life-long practice!
The rest of our group practiced Kung Fu routines with Wong Sifu and his senior instructors, and went on excursions with him. Some of the styles practiced in his Nam Pai system include Choy Li Fut, Hung Gar, Fut Gar and Five Animals style. For the Uechi oriented members Darin taught Lean Yu Kuen, a basic but essential Choy Li Fut form that frees the waist and relaxes the arms.
Besides our farewell dinner banquet in Tai Shan, another treat was being on Tai Shan Television. Two workouts, one in the lakeside city park surrounded by bamboo and palm groves, and the other at a nearby Kung Fu village both ended up in television footage aired the night after we left. We got to see it on the Internet. For those interested in seeing it, go to http://broadcast.taishan.gd.cn/index.asp?, look for the first listing for 10-13-2006, and it’s about 16 minutes into that segment.
For more in depth stories and personal experiences, contact any of the folks who went on this trip, including Darin Yee, myself, and Harry Skeffington. Members of the trip are already planning a return next year, and Darin says that with what he learned this year, the next trip will cost less. So any of you who are thinking that this might be your kind of adventure should contact Darin for further details!
Paul Haydu

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