2008 Spring Festival in Austin, TX

This year’s Spring Festival, hosted as always by my teacher, Master Joe Schaefer, 6th degree black belt in Austin, TX, was possibly the most exciting and smooth-running martial arts event I’ve ever attended. Six New Orleans students, ranging in experience from white to black belt, made the trip out with me to take part in the weekend’s events.

On Friday night, J.T. Palacio, who was one of my first New Orleans students when I moved here in 2001, tested for his second degree black belt at Master Don Duncan’s Round Rock, TX school, about 20min North of Austin.  The testing committee consisted of Grandmaster Sin Kwang The’, Master Joe Schaefer, and Master Don Duncan.

J.T. is only the third New Orleans student to achieve the rank of 2nd black.  To give you some context on the magnitude of this accomplishment, the difference in training between a first and second degree black belt is approximately the same as the difference between a white belt and a first degree black belt.  J.T.’s test went very well.  He was one of the few people testing whose strikes were so hard I could hear his gi snapping from all the way across Master Duncan’s massive 8,000 sq ft gym.  Master Schaefer later approached me at the tournament and commended J.T. on his excellent test.  We celebrated the accomplishment Friday night with a feast at Austin’s most authentic Chinese restaurant.

On Saturday, the New Orleans contingent met for a picnic brunch before heading to the gymnasium at Anderson High School in Northwest Austin where the tournament was held.  Aaron Williams (white belt), Lazaro Gutierrez, Dan Leard and Brandon Bergeron (green belts), Alison Broach (brown belt), and J.T. Palacio (2nd degree black belt) not only rose to the challenge of performing kata and sparring in front of an auditorium full of strangers from across the region, but they all performed exceptionally well.  The forms all looked solid, with low stances, power, snap, and focus.  They all performed admirably in sparring, with Aaron, Brandon and Alison taking home medals in their divisions.  Brandon also placed high in the forms division.


After a quick dinner break for pho, we returned for the evening demonstrations, offering a particularly inspiring range of martial artists of all ages and skill levels.  Some of the highlights included kids doing tricks with jump ropes, families doing forms together, the always-impressive Round Rock school’s demo team combining martial arts and acrobatics, and black belts demonstrating forms from advanced systems such as Hua Mountain Fist, Drunken Fist, Shaolin Monkey, Pa Kua Chang, and Hsing-Ie.  My personal favorites were watching Master Schaefer demonstrate the hua ching (internal force explosion) techniques from Snake Pa Kua, Gary Hart, 2nd black demonstrating the power and grace of hsing-ie staff, and Sifu Sean O’Brian from San Marcos, TX holding iron chair posture (keeping his body completely straight while suspended off the ground only by his head and feet) while Master Schaefer used a sledgehammer to break 5 concrete blocks stacked on his belly (no spacers between the blocks!).  I wish I could post pictures of the demos, but I was so enthralled the whole time I forgot to take any.  I’ll see if I can locate a few from other sources.

On Sunday, we met for dim sum before parting ways, with some returning to New Orleans and J.T., Alison, Lazaro, and I staying to take Grandmaster Sin’s seminar on the 2nd Road of Golden Leopard.  The Golden Leopard form uses quick combinations of pressure point strikes.  It’s a very fun and interesting form, and Grandmaster Sin explained the locations of the different points and the reasons they were used in particular combinations.  After learning the form, Grandmaster Sin treated us to a half hour lecture on advice for greater health, longevity, and vitality.  To summarize:  do your kung fu, eat healthy food, drink lukewarm water instead of iced water, drink green tea or bitter tea (ku ding cha), and, if your kidneys are weak (lower back pain, low energy), eat “winter worm-summer grass,” a mummified caterpillar from Tibet that has been colonized by the fungus Cordyceps sinensis.

winter worm-summer grass 

Unfortunately, we had to head back to New Orleans before the black belt banquet Sunday night. On the up side, I don’t think they ate any caterpillar fungus at the banquet (a small bowlful of the stuff runs about $500); as for us, we stopped en route at a Mexican seafood restaurant on the outskirts of Houston where we ate fajitas and were serenaded by small band that wandered in from the street (by the looks of them, right off the set of a Fellini movie). Like I said, probably the best Spring Festival ever!


~ by nolashaolin on February 25, 2008.

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