"Chinese martial arts. a discipline for all cultures"
(Reported by Xinhua - 10/14/13)
For Elizabeth Telford, participating in a martial arts event is by no means an easy task.
The teenage girl, who lived in Northern Virginia on the east coast, United States, has to take one day off and travel a distance of some 4,300 kilometers and a five-hour flight to get to Los Angeles.
Along with the tall, slender girl were 10 of her classmates at a martial arts center run by masters from Shaolin temple in Central China's Henan province.
Showing off her skills with her fellow students at a packed hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, Telford excelled with excellent and skillful strokes, kicks and gestures, drawing a loud applause from referees and onlookers.
It's hard to imagine the teenager has only practised the discipline for one and a half years.
"I really like to being able to see other people compete, and I liked to be able to learn all different versions of Shaolin kungfu together," she told Xinhua.
Improvement of focus and self-discipline were major factors which pushed the girl to learn the skills originating from China thousands of years ago.
"The masters are very patient and they are also helpful," she commented on the teachers at the local Shaolin center.
According to Telford, there are three martial arts centers run by masters sent from Shaolin temple in the United States. Aside from the two in California, there are another one in Virginia.
The event, which is the first of its kind held by Shaolin temple in North America, drew more than 2,000 competitors from the United States, Canada and Mexico, Shi Yanxu, the leading master at the Los Angeles-based center, told Xinhua.
"We originally estimated that there would be some 700 participants," he said in the interval of the matches during which he served as a general referee. "But thousands registered for the event. For fear that we would be overwhelmed in our capacity, we hastily halted the registration."
Even people from Europe have arrived at the competition, he said. The next event will be held in England, so people from that area joined their North America counterparts here in order to be better prepared for the event.
Martial practitioners, many of them donning traditional martial arts costumes in red, green, grey and colors, were very excited to be here.
"I liked it," six-year-old Liu Lele, who lives in North California, said, referring to the heated competition.
But the Chinese-American boy was unhappy, as several of his companions have garnered honors.
"He was very nervous," master Shi Yanxing told Xinhua. "But I am convinced that he will do better with more practice and competition."
Aside from those of the Chinese descent who are traditionally fond of martial arts, practitioners from other ethnic groups in America also showed up.
Dan, a Vietnamese American boy, got a medal at the match. He is a veteran of six years' experience.
"I really like kungfu," he said.
Philip Sahagun, a master who teaches martial arts in an Orange county kungfu school, served as a referee at the event.
He is no stranger to the traditional Chinese martial arts, he confessed.
"I have studied martial arts for over 20 years," he said. "We now have 300 students at the school which is headed by my father. Chinese martial arts is one of the courses we provide."
Martial arts played an major role in Sahagun's family. The family's martial arts roots dated back to his grandfather. Aside from his father, his sister also practised the discipline.
Sahagun's study began many years ago during a trip to Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province.
"I stayed at a local martial arts school for three months, and studied hard to catch up," he recalled.
The man in his mid twenties first studied other versions of martial arts, like Thai boxing. But he eventually chose China's martial arts.
Chinese martial arts is very difficult to study, which also involves bending, stretching and other bodily movements, bringing pain and other stresses.
However, it can help students better discipline themselves and constant practice makes them more healthy, Sahagun said.
As an established student from abroad, he was invited to show his skills by several Chinese television channels.
As one of the ways for further improvement, Sahagun goes almost every year to China to compare his skills with his Chinese counterparts.
"Martial arts acts as a bridge between two cultures, shortening the distance between people here and in China," he said.