2008 Taiwan Tour Eventful and Successful

Originally published on 23 October 2028 on the YMAA Retreat Center website

By Nicholas Yang

The YMAA team finished the 2008 World Tai Chi Chuan Championship in Taipei, Taiwan winning medals in several events including Taijiquan, Taiji Sword, and Taiji Broadsword. Amongst the team members were 2 candidates from the Retreat Center, Jonathan Chang and Patrick Manriquez. Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming also reunited with his long lost Taijiquan master: Grandmaster Kao, Tao. At 77 years old, Grandmaster Kao had the same (if not more!) spirit, energy, and liveliness of the rest of the YMAA team. His health is an excellent example of the highly-effective benefits of diligent, dedicated Taijiquan and Qigong practice.

YMAA students from 5 different countries attended this trip and competition: U.S.A, Portugal, France, South Africa, and England. YMAA Branch School directors Pascal Plee (France), Corlius Birkill (South Africa), Olivier Pardo (England), Milan Vigil (Memphis, U.S.A.), and Nicholas Yang (Boston, U.S.A.) were amongst the attendees.

Old White Crane training grounds

It has been over 50 years since Dr. Yang first began his study of White Crane under Grandmaster Gseng, Gin-Gsao in Hsinchu. Since then, Dr. Yang has embarked on a lifelong journey of training martial arts, Qigong, and Taijiquan, towards bettering the health and lives of people by educating them about Chinese internal and external arts.

The team spent one day in Hsinchu, visiting Grandmaster Gseng’s son and family. Together they paid respects at Grandmaster Gseng’s tomb. YMAA also went to the old White Crane practice grounds and listened to many recounts of stories from Dr. Yang’s old training days.

Part of the day-long trip were stops at the General Guan temple, and Cheng Huang Temple, where there were many opportunities to experience local eats at food stops and eateries.

There are still Taiwanese natives living in Wulai  Dr. Yang also took students to Wulai Mountain, home of a Taiwanese native aborigine tribe, and to Danshui, where Dr. Yang studied Physics and first began training Long Fist under Grandmaster Li, Mao-Ching at Tamkang College. At Wulai, students watched a dance performance by the natives there and hiked the mountain paths in rainy weather. When they visited Tamkang College in Danshui, Dr. Yang took students to the classroom where he sparred with his classmate who introduced him to Grandmaster Li.

Students also paid a visit to Grandmaster Li, Mao-Ching (Dr. Yang’s Long Fist master) and met Grandmaster Kao, Tao for the first time. Grandmaster Li and Grandmaster Kao were happy to see Dr. Yang and his students. Both of them came by to watch the competition proceedings during the weekend as well.

Although now 77 years old, Grandmaster Kao was filled with very lively, humorous, and youthful energy. Able to speak in English, some French, and Chinese, he was very talkative, casual and friendly, often introducing himself as “Christopher” instead of “Master Kao”. During the sightseeing trip to Hsinchu, Grandmaster Kao even brought along his ukulele and led sing-alongs on the bus ride. On many nights, Grandmaster Kao took YMAA students out to eat and hang out in the city. Some students also had the opportunity to attend a Tai Chi class taught by him in Taipei.

Grandmaster Li, now 82 years old, is also in good health and was full of smiles when he saw Dr. Yang and the YMAA crew.

On two separate occasions, the YMAA team visited Grandmaster Li at his home, where Grandmaster Li served tea, showed his calligraphy works, told stories, and answered questions about his past. He also shared many old photos of his masters and his training days, when he was in the Chinese military, where he served for 23 years and 1 month.

Before the competition during the weekend, students also participated and helped in Dr. Yang’s seminars, which included topics in Qin-Na, Pushing Hands, and Embryonic Breathing. There was a mix of students from around the world, including participants from as far away as Germany and Argentina. Many of them, learning Qin-Na and Pushing Hands for the first time, had an enjoyable, fun, and educational experience. During the Embryonic Breathing seminar, Dr. Yang lectured in both Chinese and English on the complex topic material. Seminar participants were intrigued by the knowledge that Dr. Yang had to offer and many of them expressed much interest in inviting Dr. Yang back for future seminars.

Competitors from 32 different countries participated in this year’s World Tai Chi Chuan Championship The competition went smoothly and included competitors from 32 countries around the world. Categories included Taijiquan sequences and stationary Pushing Hands, and moving Pushing Hands. Weapons events included straight sword, saber (broadsword), and fan.

During the opening ceremony, many Taijiquan schools performed group demonstrations, some consisting of nearly 300 students performing Taijiquan at the same time. Many local groups around Taipei also participated in the demonstration events, including a Chinese Dragon Dance, a jump rope team, and a traditional drumming set. There was also a demonstration by a Taijiquan group from Beijing. Dr. Yang and Grandmaster Kao demonstrated Yang-style Taijiquan.

In addition to the foreign competitors, there were also many competitors from Taiwanese counties all over, including a team from Dr. Yang’s hometown Hsinchu. The Hsinchu team consisted of a very young team but performed exceptionally well. Some competitors were no more than 10 years old.

The YMAA team finished with several medals, including some won by Retreat Center students Jonathan Chang and Patrick Manriquez. Medals were awarded separately for each competition category and group. Jonathan finished with a gold medal in Taijiquan Form and a silver medal in Taiji Sword. He also placed 4th in Taiji Saber. Patrick finished with a bronze medal in Taijiquan Form and 5th place in Taiji Saber. Milan Vigil from YMAA Memphis also finished with a gold medal in Taijiquan Form. Corlius Birkill of YMAA South Africa won a bronze medal for Taijiquan Form and advanced to the semi-finals of the Pushing Hands competition, after a grueling 20-minute Pushing Hands match. Celso Barja of YMAA Portugal also advanced to the semi-finals of the Pushing Hands competition. Nicholas Yang of YMAA Boston won a bronze medal for Taiji Saber, 4th for Taiji Sword, and 5th for Taijiquan Form. Also placing in 4th, 5th, and 6th places in different events were Bill Buckley of YMAA Boston, Olivier Pardo of YMAA England, and Milan Vigil from YMAA Memphis.

Taiwan is a beautiful country filled with many great sights and people. YMAA was excited to be there and to be a part of the 2008 World Tai Chi Chuan Championship competition. We hope to attend many more events like this in the future.

YMAA participants who attended this tour are:

  • Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming (YMAA Retreat Center, U.S.A.)
  • Jonathan Chang (YMAA Retreat Center, U.S.A.)
  • Patrick Manriquez (YMAA Retreat Center, U.S.A.)
  • Nicholas C. Yang (YMAA Boston, U.S.A.)
  • Jeffrey Pratt (YMAA Boston, U.S.A.)
  • Mark Klein (YMAA Boston, U.S.A.)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bill Buckley (YMAA Boston, U.S.A.)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Doug Johnstone (YMAA Boston, U.S.A.)
  • Milan Vigil (YMAA Memphis, U.S.A.)
  • Mr. and Mrs. Olivier Pardo (YMAA London, United Kingdom)
  • Yatish Parmar (YMAA London, United Kingdom)
  • Celso Barja (YMAA Amadora, Portugal)
  • Corlius Birkill (YMAA Pretoria, South Africa)
  • George Mentis (YMAA Pretoria, South Africa)
  • Pascal Plee (YMAA Paris, France)
  • Frederic Talandier (YMAA Paris, France)

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