I had spent the last week in Taiwan busy teaching classes. A typical day would start with an 8:30am class full of kindergarteners in the town of Changhua followed by breakfast on the road to the university in Shalu. On arrival I would check my e-mail and roam the grounds meeting students and seeing how things are done there. In the afternoons I’d teach one or two classes trying to overcome obstacles like my limited Chinese vocabulary and the usual young adult rebellious nature. Later at night I’d have a small class of university graduates who would come to learn voluntarily. Three of those students became my tour guides / handlers for the rest of my trip. Weekend classes were either eight- or twelve-hour-long classes made up of students ranging from nine to early-twenties. I have to admit, it took a lot of work to keep everyone focused and training.
Needless to say, I was excited when I negotiated a day off to see some of the sites. That morning I was able to rest until 9am, which was when the kids from the university showed to pick me up. Wai-Lin, Huai-Rze, Chung-Sen and I headed via scooter to Bua Gua Zhang mountain. It has a huge six-level Buddha and a great looking temple — all only about one mile from my hotel. About an hour into my day off, Chung-Sen received a nervous call from Dr. Daniel Chen (the chairman of athletics at the university and the person who organized my visit to Taiwan) saying there was an emergency. I immediately thought there was bad news from home or some other disaster. It turned out that a martial arts organization had contacted Dr. Chen requesting his help finding a martial arts foreigner — the performer they had scheduled for an expo had to pull out at the last minute. This was to happen that day at 2pm in the southern part of Taiwan in a town named Madou near Tainan. There went my day off, as of course I agreed to fill the slot. After all, I was here for Kung Fu.
We jumped on the scooters and headed to the bus station where we were told we needed to take the train since the bus lines didn’t go to our destination. We arrived at the train station, purchased tickets, and sat down for a noodle lunch we had picked up along the way. All the food I had in Taiwan was excellent, and our quick lunch was no exception. When we got to the small town, we were greeted by a driver who was directed to speed us off to the performance. A half hour later we arrived at a huge temple grounds, and I quickly changed into my Kung Fu uniform. The thousand or so seats were pretty full, so we were escorted to some sideline seats to wait for my performance. I was tired, rushed, and my legs were sore from the long days of teaching, but I gathered my Chi and stretched as best I could with literally thousands of people watching and sat to wait my turn.
Many Kung Fu practitioners were there — mostly men my age or older along with a few younger men and a female Tai Chi group. They had Shifus from all over Asia, primarily from Taiwan and China.
Finally my name came up, and I was nervous but ready. I got up on stage and soon realized I was only being introduced along with a handful of other visitors from abroad. So I went back to sitting and waiting. Every thirty minutes or so I tried to walk a bit to stay loose, and soon enough it was time for me to perform. I jumped up on stage and powered through my performance (quite literally). When I was done, a younger man qith very good English greeted me enthusiastically saying my demonstration was fantastic and very powerful. I think all my nervous energy translated into loud strikes, punches, and heavy stomping . . . and he was being polite.
I walked back down to the performers’ seating area to wait for my next turn and watch more Kung Fu. A while later a man who looked to be in his fifties came up to me and introduced himself as a fellow Ba Ba Tang Lang Chuan teacher. Apparently he had also studied under Master Wei Hsiao Tang when Master Wei was teaching at a university. This man was one of the people who presented me with a certificate of honor after my second performance. I was also approached by a female television reporter who interviewed me.
It took us some time to negotiate our way back to Shalu, so I was unable to make it back to the university in time to teach the night class. After the long day I was happy to just relax over a bowl of soup with Wai-Lin, Huai-Rze, and Chung-Sen (though I did manage to think up a written homework assignment for them).
Dr. Chen dropped me off at my hotel in Changhua, and we worked out a day for sightseeing later in the trip. As I got ready for bed I realized that although I had initially been disappointed that my sightseeing was cut off just as it began, I ended up with a surreal day and a experience of a lifetime.