YMAA in Taiwan (2016)

March 2016 – Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming brought over 30 students from around the world to visit his homeland of Taiwan. The students paid respects to Grandmaster Li, Mao-Ching (李茂清) (Shaolin Long Fist) and Grandmaster Kao, Tao (高濤) (Yang Taijiquan) before embarking on a tour around the island.

At the time, I was burnt out and craved peace and quiet, which was the opposite of traveling halfway around the world with three dozen companions. On a whim, I pulled out the camcorder and recorded random moments. Perhaps it was a subconscious strategy to be politely antisocial and it worked. I didn’t have a plan for the footage so it sat on a hard drive until now, 8 years later.

Following Grandmaster Kao’s passing in January 2024, I searched for footage of him and rediscovered the videos. Within them, I found precious memories with wonderful people and philosophical insights from our masters. Thankfully, I can relive the moments and share them with those who would’ve wished to be a part of the experience. Most people will never have the chance to meet Grandmaster Li. Many people missed the chance to meet Grandmaster Kao. Memories are all we have left.

Once I started editing, I went until my eyes strained, my neck hurt, and cliqued martial arts music was stuck in my head for days. The performance segments were tricky to edit because I had to insert different video clips using specific music clips. If a sequence had audio, such as Quentin’s whip or weapons vs weapons, you can only use the audio for that performance. Also, I had to watch the clips repeatedly to make sure there weren’t any major mistakes. Finding background music and weaving the clips together can take a while but I love those serendipitous pairings when the music and visuals fit perfectly (like Grandmaster Kao here).

Editing took more than 50 hours, 10 of which were spent trying to understand Grandmaster Li’s Shandong (山東) accent and reworking the captions. Students David (who understands the accent) and Linette (retired Mandarin teacher) deserve full translation credits. Without their aid, I would have missed the deeper meanings in Grandmaster Li’s speeches.

Linette also gets full credit for the video title. I wanted one that encompassed the main purpose of the trip and she suggested the Chinese idiom: 尊師重道 (Respecting the Teachers and Valuing the Path)

I thought this video would consist of mostly performance and traveling clips but the philosophical and cultural references didn’t end there. At 35:51, Dr. Yang sings a riddle 花非花 (A Flower in the Haze), which fittingly reminds us that all things are momentary.

The video ends with our tour guide singing 月亮代表我的心 (The Moon Represents My Heart). It’s a popular love song made famous by renowned Taiwanese singer, Teresa Teng. The song is familiar to most Chinese-speaking baby boomers and by extension, their millennial kids and I remember hearing it while growing up. Although awkward-sounding in English, the title essentially means one’s love is always there and it can extend beyond lovers to family and friends. But the love didn’t end there. I included George’s rendition of Stand By Me as a bonus clip.

We were fortunate to have Grandmaster Kao join us on the island tour and he graced us with his spontaneous ukulele performances. We all miss him dearly and remember him for his charisma, words of wisdom, and sense of humor. You can catch a glimpse of his spirit from the various clips in the video.

Home On the Range – Grandmaster Kao & Eduardo Galatzan (YMAA Chile)

Once I reviewed the footage, I had to create a compilation video for myself and the YMAA community. Sharing the profound life lessons from our masters was worth every minute of eye strain and muscle cramps. Sitting down, moving my mouse around… I wasn’t creating beautiful scrolls like Grandmaster Li but I’d like to think it was a type of self cultivation.

To everyone on the trip – While I missed getting to know some of you, hopefully we’ll have the chance to reconnect in the near future.


2 thoughts on “YMAA in Taiwan (2016)”

  1. Jeffrey Peezick

    A lovely tribute filled with all the components that make the art form timeless.
    Well done Michelle

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