Kung Fu Demos & Lion Dancing: It Happened in Little Five Points
On Saturday, the , there was an exciting event that you probably shouldn’t have missed! Shifu Gary Mitchell, of Chien Hong School of Kung Fu, invited us yet again to help celebrate the coming Lunar New Year of the Earth Dog in the Chinese Zodiac with them at their Wu Guan. They are an old-friend family of Hung Gar, albeit Taiwanese. Not that that’s a bad thing, they are actually one of our closest friends.
Our Demo Team practiced all year for this and…I gotta tell ya…It went off amazingly well!
How it Rocked
The day was so enjoyable that even the yearly misery-laden weather couldn’t dampen our spirits!
Students, friends, family, friends of friends, previous students, the general public…The crowd was abuzz with excitement and the performances were such that they were not disappointed.
Some of the performances and demonstrations at the event:
- Taiwanese Hung Gar
- Yang style Tai Chi
- Lion Dance
- Dragon Dance
- Tan Tui
- Chi Kung or Qigong
- Weapons Performances
- Chang Quan
- Lohan Quan
- Northern Shaolin
Our Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Demonstration
Our Demo Team had been practicing very regularly throughout the past year to learn new movements, to decide what looks good, who did what well, etc. We selected our content and thought about the choreography of the whole piece. We timed the individual components, tweaked pieces for allotted space and time. We also considered the theme.
Being that the coming new year was the year of the Dog, we initially considered doing…Yes, a Dog form. But we quickly realized, by the time we had left in the year at this point, that it would take too much time and practice to teach a student the movements and the form. But we still wanted something different.
We, somewhat cautiously, made the tenuous decision to apply a liberal layering of comedy into the demonstration. Have you ever been in a group of people, someone throws out a joke or a one-liner and…it just falls flat? Or worse – it has the opposite effect? Everyone has. Comedy can be subjective; especially when considering cultural differences.
So we thought of examples where comedy crossed cultural boundaries. The comedic stylings of Charlie Chaplin helped influence Jackie Chan. This consideration, along with some other insights, helped shape our comedic venture. So we added some physical slapstick. And during my speaking parts, I added all sorts of comedic references to various Dog-words.
Although we had many demonstrations for the Chinese New Year, we planned on only trying the comedic version during the demonstration at Sifu Gary Mitchell’s school. But we still were not sure how it would go.
In the end, it came off absolutely wonderfully! We actually had a couple of mis-steps during the demonstration, but because of the comedy layered in, it appeared as though it were all planned. So in short – YAY!
After the performances and a short meet-and-greet, we (the Demo Team) headed out into the drizzling rain and walked around the area for a bit, trying to decide on a place to eat, drink and make merry. We decided on The Vortex. Only a short wait later and we were doing burgers, beer, chattery and laughery.
Having completed a long and relaxed lunch, some folks had to bid us farewell, while a few of the remaining bunch continued revelatory shenanigans, with first a long visit to the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club. We then came back closer to home and landed in Downtown Decatur, where we visited some of our old after-class hangout spots, back when we use to have classes in the square. Places like Mac McGee’s, The Square Pub and others.
The Break between Demos
With such a crazy day & night before, we were somehow able to still have a pretty productive Sunday class on the next day.
For those students who were not able to join us for the demo., we shared the experience in detail and clapped everyone on the back in a congratulatory measure.
Our next demonstrations would not occur until the following weekend – both on Saturday and Sunday. But these would be different. These would actually be outside. And they’d be different in other areas as well. Whereas the demonstration at Sifu Mitchell’s school would be performance-based, geared towards pleasing the audience – these would be geared more towards the actual meanings behind the traditions of Chinese New Year.
We would be helping Sifu Mitchell’s school in their for-profit activities, to help various local businesses usher in the New Year with traditional activities that bring good luck, prosperity and more – into their businesses and lives. It would not necessarily be for any sort of crowd that was gathered.
This is a very unique distinction that was important to remember (and we had to remind ourselves of this several times, for various reasons).
So we used this break time to get together for four different practice sessions between the two weekends, to review any issues that came up during the previous demonstration and also how to make the adjustments from comedy to non-comedic.
Unfortunately, during this time, we also went down a man. So we now had to make this adjustment as well. But somehow we persevered and were able to get prepared for the coming weekend of demonstrations.
Kung Fu Demos & Lion Dancing: Round Two
The next weekend came round and the game was afoot!
Saturday Kung Fu
The Chien Hong folks were stellar as usual and we did okay. After we finished up, one of the employees of the establishment came out, picked up one of the wooden poles and began to perform a bit from a popular Shaolin staff form, which was enjoyable to watch. Although he could only remember a few of the opening movements, it was inspiring for all to see that the memory had stuck with him.
We had a couple of surprise requests for photos to be taken with various members of the audience and then the drizzle demanded that we headed for the cars. Overall, it seems our changes were received well and the reception was really good.
Sunday Kung Fu
This was to be the “BIG” Day for the outside street performances, as we had several, up and down the Asian Buford Highway.
As with Saturday, this day’s focus was in promoting positive energy and good fortune – best wishes for the various businesses and proprietors that we visited.
Sunday morning we arrived at Canton House, a much-loved Chinese restaurant specializing in Dim Sum. After an hour of firecrackers, lion and dragon dancing, Kung Fu demonstrations by both groups, photos and New Year wishes, our day was well warmed-up.
We had about an hour and a half break before our next demonstration, as the Chien Hong group were headed off to do a lion & dragon dance for a business, but minus Kung Fu demonstrations, so we weren’t really needed there. Instead, we made the not-so-far journey of two blocks 🙂 up the street to the Orient Center Shopping Plaza, home to such wonderful little places like Penang (serving Malaysian & Thai cuisines), Harmony Vegetarian Chinese restaurant, Pho Bac Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup restaurant, J’s Mini Hot Pot (for a really good write-up on this place, check out this post) and Viet Tofu, among other gems.
We returned to the same spot we relaxed, chatted and ate at last year during this demo-run: Yong He Zhi Jia (the sign still says “Golden BBQ Restaurant” in English – which is not what the Chinese name translates to :P), serving up delectable Chinese and Taiwanese dishes – both small & large.
After some discussion and eating of the yummies, we bumped into a friend in the Wulin (武 林, meaning Martial Forest) and were able to chat a bit.
Soon it was time for our next demo, a couple of stores down in the shopping center, for Hong Duc – Diamonds & Fine Jewelry, where the firecrackers were plentiful & loud (thanks to the Chien Hong folks for sharing some earplugs!). Lion Dancing, Dragon Dancing, Kung fu. It all went swimmingly well! 🙂
Next, we were off and down the road for our final demonstration – again for Hong Duc, but one of their alternate locations in Asian Square, which is yet another place full of delightful spots, like Ming’s BBQ, BBQ Corner II, Mamak, La Mei Zi and plenty of others.
This, our final Kung Fu demonstration of the day, turned out to be quite the experience! Here are some short highlights of happenings during this demo:
- Ran into the sister of an ex-girlfriend from long ago
- The random child in the crowd grabs Kung Fu Bench (traditional weapon) & takes it over to sit on
- Thousands of dollars in $20 bills thrown up in the air – crowd scrambles
(the bills were supposed to be put in red packets, with an announcement made that people were to “feed” them to the Lions…)
- A drunk guy kept walking out into the middle of the demonstrations, having to be picked up & carried off by his friend
- Several attempts to pour Hennessy down the dancing Lions’ mouths
- Drunk guy returns in the middle of the demo to teach us a technique or two
There were shenanigans all around – but overall in good spirits. It helped make the event memorable, full of energy and just a ball of fun. Oh and hey – even with all of this, the demos came off great!
Celebration Round Two
After we relaxed, chatted with and thanked the good folks at Chien Hong for the wonderful opportunity to join in all the fun, we met up with our Senior Student’s parents and Aunt.
We all then played follow-the-leader in a line of cars and headed over to Chinatown Mall, where Chinese New Year festivities were in full swing. Meandering through the crowd, we all made our way to the Food Court to grab some yummies.
While we waited an understandably long time (CNY @ Chinatown = Crowded), we agreed that beers were in order next. And Sifu Craig ran into an old friend from his College days as well.
Talking about where to head next, someone had found a very close-by place to grab some beers, but…It just didn’t fit the ambiance that we needed (El Caballo Dorado / Golden Saloon). After a bit of Google-ing, we decided on The King George Tavern over in the Dunwoody area of Atlanta. Follow-the-leader again, down Chamblee-Dunwoody Road to our destination.
It was quite an enjoyable affair, as it was not crowded, the ambiance was stunning. We chatted, laughed, drank and ate. For several hours. Truly a wonderful social gathering.
The entirety of our Chinese New Year experience was a great time, a success and a veritable cornucopia of memories to last a lifetime!