Wushu is one of China’s cultural jewels, with a history of over 6,000 years. It is mentioned in the Book of Medicine of the Yellow Emperor nearly 27 centuries before Christ. It was developed in response to daily conditions, originally to defend themselves from animals and later from opposing clans and nomads.
The Shaolin Temple in Hunan was prominent in gathering and recording the martial arts of China. Indeed, the monks of Shaolin became famous for their wushu prowess when they courageously defended (for over 300 years) the Northern borders of China.
China’s Changing Times
Modern wushu developed in the 1950s under the direction of Chairman Mao Ze Dong to “make the old serve the new.” Traditional wushu was revised to create a new sport that would serve the needs of a modern Chinese society. The new sport did not emphasize combat, but health, exercise, and performing art. It’s no longer necessary to punch or kick someone unconscious to practice wushu, but it’s still important to be able to demonstrate the intent and spirit of fighting.
Wushu Comes to America
The world tour by China’s National Wushu Team in 1974 had great effect on martial arts in the United States. Until then, only traditional wushu was practiced in the United States. After the tour, many Chinese Americans were inspired to learn wushu.
The San Francisco Wushu Team was born out of that interest. Sifu Anthony Chan, along with Sifu Sherwood Chuck, Sifu John Chuck (Sunnyvale Wushu Taiji Academy), and Sifu Bryant Fong founded the San Francisco Wushu Team to perform and promote the art of wushu.
Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Sifu Anthony Chan and the San Francisco Wushu Team were the focal point for the promotion of wushu in the United States.
In 1984, the San Francisco Wushu Team brought four coaches from China to train its team. Beijing Wushu Team members Li Xia, Zhou Jing Ping, Yu Shao Wen, and Dong Hong Lin stayed to train our members for a half a year. Later that year, our team won over 25 medals at the First U.S. National Wushu Championships in San Clemente, California.
Bryant Fong Takes Charge
At the end of 1984, Sifu Chan left to pursue business in China and many of the team members left to pursue other endeavors. Sifu Fong was left in charge of the San Francisco Wushu Team.
In 1985, Sifu Fong went to China to receive his coaching certificate at the International Coaches Seminar. He then took the San Francisco Wushu Team to the 2nd U.S. National Wushu Championships where he won gold medals in Chen Taiji and praying mantis. That year, Sifu Fong, Phillip Wong, and Jeff Falcon were selected to represent the U.S. at the Tianjin 2nd World Invitational Wushu Championships.
That year, Sifu Robert Lee who was trained in Malaysia joined Sifu Fong and Corey Chan to form the San Francisco Wushu Lion Dance Team. The Lion Dance Team has performed since the mid-80s for countless conventions, schools, the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and several television commercial projects. The team brings the excitement of lion dancing and wushu all over California and the U.S.
In 1989, Zhou Jing Ping and Jet Li left the Beijing Wushu Team and came to teach the San Francisco Wushu Team. In that same year, team members got a chance to be in Jet Li’s first American movie, Dragon Fight. It was also in this year that Sifu Fong returned to U.C. Berkeley to teach wushu with Sihing Keith Soohoo.
Later, China announced that it would host the first World Wushu Championships in Beijing and invited all countries to participate. There, it made clear its intention to make wushu an Olympic sport. Again, the San Francisco Wushu Team sent its members to participate. Amy Chow, David Ross, and Phillip Wong were selected to the U.S. Wushu Team, with Sifu Fong as the team coach.
Amy Chow, who dominated women’s wushu in the 90s, was women’s taiji champion and was once again selected to join the U.S. Wushu Team in 1994.
Today, coach Dale Chung teaches his Hayward Wushu Team and Corey Chan coaches Kei Lun Martial Arts in San Francisco. They both still practice with the San Francisco Wushu Team. Sifu Robert Lee, in conjunction with the Oakland Police Department, instructs the Oakland Asian Youth Services Committee (AYSC) Lion Dance Team.
As members move on, new ones take their places. The San Francisco Wushu Team has continued to change and grow, continuing its tradition of excellence with a new generation of students.