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US Combat Team visits China

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 5:47 pm
by Mike Casto
After more than 30 hours of traveling, we arrived at our destination, the Angang Hotel in Hefei City, Anhui Province, China which is about 250 miles west and slightly north of Shanghai.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a group of young women bearing bouquets of flowers. We were each given a bouquet then escorted up to our rooms. We had an hour or so to freshen up and relax then it was off to meet with the Mayor, Vice Mayors, and other city politicians. We were sort of window dressing for an interview with the mayor then we went to dinner with the mayor and city officials. Also present was our host, Master Sheng, who runs one of the top Wushu schools in the nation with over 3000 students ranging from age 5 - 17 who live at his school and get all of their education - not just Wushu - at his school.

They served us a 15 course meal for dinner that would set the precedent for the remainder of the meals we would be served in China. We were fed many gourmet meals and delicacies - but what's considered a delicacy in one culture can sometimes be just plain disgusting to other cultures. I don't know what most of the stuff we were served was but much of it was just plain nasty - and it wasn't just my picky palate. Everyone, even my instructor who likes asian food and had no problem with what they served him in the Philippines or Indonesia, had problems eating what we were served. That was our biggest problem during our stay. Mostly, we ate McDonald's (which also was pretty nasty by our standards). But that's really pretty trivial. We were there as martial arts celebrities so I'll tell you about those parts.

We were there to give demos at the International Kung Fu and Arts Festival which was part of the 55th Anniversary Celebration of the People's Republic of China. The Premier of China was present at the festival and we all got to meet him. We had dinner one night with the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs. We were treated like superstars. We signed hundreds of autographs and posed for thousands of photos - literally. We were interviewed at a press conference and treated as guests of honor.

There were 8 of us in the group - 7 giving demos and the 8th was the American organizer. The roster was as follows:

Sifu Jeff Nares - the American organizer for the trip.

Greg Cohen - a 16 year old student of Nares who fought a couple of exhibition matches against Chinese San Da fighters.

Guru Ken Pannell and Guru Mike Casto - I'm Guru Mike, of couurse, and Guru Ken is my primary instructor who lives in Dayton, OH and is a highly respected instructor of Filipino and Indonesian martial arts. We gave demos of Filipino and Indonesian martial arts. For more information about Guru Ken visit http://asianfightingarts.com and for more information about Guru Mike visit http://impactacademy.com

Chris Wood and Troy Hirschkorn - Nationally ranked Karate and TKD competitors who gave demos of the competition style sparring that they use.

Nicko "El Greco" Kangelaris - was supposed to compete in the 2004 Olympics in both boxing and TKD for Greece (he's got dual citizenship in Greece and USA) but got screwed over by the Greek Sporting Commissions and is now involved in a law suit - him and the Greek government vs. the Greek Sporting Commissions. For more information about Nicko visit http://www.npk3.com

Ken "Flex" Wheeler - a former bodybuilder with a very impressive body of achievements in that area including a Guinness World Record. Due to some surgeries he had to have, his abdomen has some scarring that prevents him from being able to compete in bodybuilding anymore. So now he's returned to TKD and wants to become a professional TKD fighter. He also does personal appearances and personal training. He's an incredibly nice guy with a lot to offer anyone who spends time around him. He and Nicko put on a great demo. They came out and acted like they really didn't like each other. Then they did a semi-choreographed fight. It was incredibly well done, very funny in a lot of places, and they really got the crowd stirred. Flex, with his background in bodybuilding, really knows how to work a crowd. For more information about him visit http://www.teamflexwheeler.com

We had a lot of fun hanging out with these other martial artists and even had some time to work out some with them at various points. We were also approached by some of the Wushu players for pointers on how to apply what they do in their Wushu. They move extraordinarily well but don't have much in the way of application.

We also got to do a little sight seeing. We visited this amazing place that had scale models of a lot of sights from all over China. It was incredible.

Personally, I took a walk through a park near our hotel. There was a great temple there, unfortunately closed to the public, and a lot of interesting sculptures. While there, I met a girl named Han Lin who was from Shanghai. She spoke english pretty well and we started talking. She teaches Tai chi, Bagua, and Mantis in Shanghai. I told her a little about the Filipino and Indonesian arts that I study. She showed me some of her forms and I showed her some of mine. It was a very cool sharing experience and she invited me to train with her if I ever make it to Shanghai.

Also, there was a woman named Zhang Ya Qiong at the festival. She's a national Wushu champion. She spent quite a bit of time with me and Guru Ken asking us (via a translator) about applications. She was a little firecracker. Full of energy and eager to learn.

As I said previously, the food was our biggest problem and there were some incidents on the trip that were downright aggravating but, on the whole, it was a very good trip and I look forward to my next trip to China - whenever that may be :-)

Mike

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 10:55 pm
by barr
What an amazing read. You are very lucky.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 11:13 pm
by Tye Botting
Yeah, but he had to miss a great seminar in down-home Texas to go out to the boonies in China... :lol:

Seriouslly, sounds like a great experience and opportunity; well worth rearranging his schedule to make it. 'Course now he's gonna have to give us all his autograph as well. ;-)

You might consider making a L-Fest sometime, Barr. It's good fun with some serious down-to-earn MAists. They're usually in the fall and announced on a number of forums, but often here at least: http://forums.about.com/ab-martialarts/messages

Drop on by sometime if'n yer in for random semi-MA related banter. ;-)

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 11:47 pm
by Mike Casto
Yup. It was pretty cool. I wish I could have made it to Camp Lansdale - but there was no way I could *not* go to China. I mean, it's not every day I get offered an all-expenses-paid trip to China :)

Mike

PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2004 5:29 pm
by BenGarcia
:eek: Wow. That sounds like an awesome trip! (except for the food thing...) Did the master that was hosting you guys do any demos or anything? What kind of stuff does he do?

So, explain more about the food. You didn't eat at McD's all the time, did you?! I'm going to China this summer and food is very important to me. I hate McD's, too, so I guess I'm up a %#*& creek without a paddle. :?

PostPosted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 11:35 pm
by Mike Casto
BenGarcia wrote::eek: Wow. That sounds like an awesome trip! (except for the food thing...) Did the master that was hosting you guys do any demos or anything? What kind of stuff does he do?

So, explain more about the food. You didn't eat at McD's all the time, did you?! I'm going to China this summer and food is very important to me. I hate McD's, too, so I guess I'm up a %#*& creek without a paddle. :?


I've never seen Master Sheng do anything. At his school, they teach Wushu, San Da, and Tae Kwon Do but it's primarily Wushu.

As far as the food, all the meat was fatty - even at McD's. A lot of it had bones in it. At one point, one of our interpreters ordered "plain, basic chicken" at one of the restaurants. What they brought out was a cold chicken - I'd assume they just defrosted it - that had been cut up on a plate. That was it. The head and feet were still attached - in fact, it was laid out on the plate as if it were still alive except that it was chopped at the neck, the legs, and a couple of cuts through the breast. It had been plucked and there were no wings. About the only foods I tried that I actually liked or could tolerate were soups. Of course, I think the water in the soup may have been what made me sick on the last day - I spent much of the following week on the toilet and popping Immodium AD like candy to no avail. It wasn't until the wife of a friend of mine - she's a nurse - gave me some anti-bacterial pills she had. They tasted like - well, like what I was trying to get rid of - but they worked. After just three doses, I felt 100% better.

Of course, it probably depends on where you're going in China as to what you'll be served. China's a big country and, from what I understand, it has a pretty diverse culinary culture. So the food where you go may be very different.

I hate McD's, too. But, trust me, after a few days there, McD's was like heaven in a box. There was KFC, too, but I never tried anything from there. On our last day there, we found a Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut is one of my least favorite pizza places here in the States and, by American standards, the Pizza Hut there was garbage - but it was, beyond a doubt, the best pizza I've ever had.

Mike

PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2004 12:45 am
by Tye Botting
Food must have changed a lot... When I was in China, I liked all the food we had, but then again we were doing the family tourism thingy. We did eat at a lot of 'local' looking places and had some good stuff. And I don't usually like chinese food even. We did get to see some old temples and stuff, as well as roam the Great Wall. This was like 23 years ago though. ;-)

PostPosted: Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:45 am
by Mike Casto
Tye Botting wrote:Food must have changed a lot... When I was in China, I liked all the food we had, but then again we were doing the family tourism thingy. We did eat at a lot of 'local' looking places and had some good stuff. And I don't usually like chinese food even. We did get to see some old temples and stuff, as well as roam the Great Wall. This was like 23 years ago though. ;-)


I doubt the food's changed. From the sounds of it you were in a different region than we were and, as I'm sure you're aware, the food preferences differ from region to region. We might have liked the food just fine in other regions :)

Mike