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Martial Arts! Mooncakes! Shaolin Masters Visit William & Mary

  •  Students enjoy the delicious moon cakes, a traditional Chinese treat marking the celebration of Mid-Autumn festival.  
  •  MC Mr. Sherman Tse prepares the crowd for the exciting Eight Section Brocade demonstration  
  •  Shaolin Masters engage in intense kungfu combat.  
  •  Crystal Yi demonstrates her fearsome fan kungfu style to the audience .  
  •  Williamsburg resident Stan Rockwell demonstrates Yang Style, the second oldest Taiji family style.  
  •  West Point Taiji practitioner Bill Hansell performs the Taiji Fan form.  
  •  Shaolin Masters performing Needle Through Glass, a unique qigong technique.  
  • WM students and faculty pose with the Shaolin Masters and other performers.JPG
     WM students and faculty pose with the Shaolin Masters and other performers.  
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On Thursday, September 11th, 2014, the Confucius Institute sponsored an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for William & Mary students and community members. A contingent of four kungfu masters trained at the famous Shaolin Temple was invited to perform a martial arts demonstration at the Phi Beta Kappa Theater. Because the event took place in the same week as the Mid-Autumn Festival, mooncakes were provided at a reception before the show. Six different flavors of the traditional holiday pastry were offered, providing a first taste of mooncake to many of the guests who attended the event. In addition, the reception room contained exhibits of different aspects of Chinese culture, including paper-cutting and other traditional crafts. While guests mingled, nibbling on mooncakes and browsing the displays, two talented members of the WMCI staff serenaded the room with the gentle sounds of the pipa.

At 7:30 pm, guests took their seats and the curtains rose. Dr. Yanfang Tang, Director of the WMCI, gave a brief speech on the history of Shaolin Temple and its significance not only as the birthplace of Chinese martial arts, but as a major influence of the famous martial arts styles of other Asian countries as well. Then the announcer introduced the four masters: Master Yanguang, Master Yanxu, Master Henghui, and Master Sun Gaoyang. Each master is highly accomplished, having trained since the age of six and given performances all over the world.

They began the show with a dynamic demonstration of the eight "soft qigong" formations. These moves would not look out of place at a normal taiji session, though I have to admit that the masters carried them out with a bit more finesse than the average person is capable of. After that, they moved into much more inimitable routines, in which they channeled the movements of an unpredictable drunkard, a swift leopard, a fierce tiger, and an agile monkey. Finally, they used their unbelievable control over their minds, energy, and bodies to perform several feats that should not be humanly possible: a handstand on two fingers, breaking steel bars with one's head, bending a wooden pole with one's throat, and throwing a needle through glass to pop a balloon on the other side.

As the masters recouped between acts, three guest performers demonstrated their own martial arts prowess, including two local community members and one William & Mary student. Stan Rockwell, a counseling psychologist who incorporates qigong and taiji into his treatments, demonstrated the Sun Style and the Yang Style taiji. Bill Hansell, who has studied taiji for over forty years and teaches classes on it in the West Point, VA area, demonstrated the Wudang taiji forms as well as taiji fan formations. Crystal Yi, a William & Mary senior, performed a graceful fan routine to the cheers of the audience. She then repeated it in slow-motion, explaining how each dance-like move could actually be used as a parry or attack in combat.

 The event was hugely successful, drawing an audience of over six hundred, including William & Mary students, faculty and staff as well as many community members, to share in this exciting aspect of Chinese culture.

  {{youtube:medium|-f--K3V_ogQ, Kung Fu Masters performed at William and Mary on September 11th as part of WMCI's Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations}}