Category Archives: Sports

Coaching styles impact athletes

By Alex Twoy

Staff Writer

Different coaching styles can affect the way athletes perform, as shown by the different approaches taken by Denali’s men’s and women’s soccer teams.

Coach Peter Ellerkamp said that he likes a committed, structured and organized team. “Discipline is my No. 1 coaching method,” he said. “I’ve told you this before, and I’ll tell it again: When motivation fails, let discipline take over. And I value a team that is structured and rigid and has a plan, and so what I like to do is make sure every player is at every single practice putting in 100 percent effort because you can’t just have players show up occasionally; you have to have commitment; you have to have discipline if you want to be the best.”

Coach Ellerkamp follows an organized style when he coaches a sports team. “I think it allows players to understand exactly what’s going to happen every single day because we have a set schedule and that level of predictability allows athletes to maximize training at every opportunity ‘cause they know exactly what is coming and exactly what they need to do to prepare,” he said.

Nico Suppiah, one of the captains of the men’s soccer team, explained Coach Ellerkamp’s coaching style. “He just wanted us to play as a team, and … just work together,” Suppiah said. “Ellerkamp’s style is a very – he follows a very important way of teamwork ‘cause when you’re playing as a team … it’s not, of course, an individual sport, it’s a team sport. Coach Ellerkamp gave us a lot of good drills … to help us work as a team.”

When talking about the men’s soccer team’s motivation, Suppiah felt like he and his teammates felt under pressure on the field. “Of course motivation has a positive impact on the team,” he said. “The problem was we couldn’t carry it out onto the field.” Coach Ellerkamp agrees with Suppiah’s statement about the motivation the team had. “I think the team had a positive culture off the field,” Coach Ellerkamp said. “We were pretty bought in during lunch meetings or right before games and so the belief that we could be a strong team was there; we just didn’t execute during games.”

One of the challenges of being a coach is that some athletes are not committed to the sport. “I think one of the things that Summit Denali struggles with from the student-athlete perspective is commitment,” Coach Ellerkamp said. “I was a college athlete; I was a state champion in high school, and showing up to practice wasn’t optional. If you missed one practice and you didn’t have a valid excuse, you’d be kicked off the team, and the level of commitment that I saw this year on the soccer team was not the level of commitment that you expect as a high-level coach on a varsity team.”

When coaches motivate their team, the athletes feel the positive impact the motivation has. Serena Munoz, captain of the women’s soccer team, explained how women’s soccer coach Justin Sewell, motivated the girls during the season. “He was just very interactive with us,” she said. “He made sure that all our work was done in order for us to be a student athlete.”

Coach Sewell’s coaching style, however, was different from Coach Ellerkamp’s style. “He’s not pressuring us or forcing us to do something we don’t want to do,” Munoz explained, “so he’s pretty laid back and lets us do what we have to do, and we know that what we have to improve on to get better.”

Munoz felt like she and her teammates grew as young women under Coach Sewell’s coaching style during the soccer season. She explained a huge takeaway from the season: “Seeing us grow from the years before and winning some games, which are pretty exciting.”

Coaching really has a huge impact on the way athletes perform. It had a positive impact for the men’s soccer team because they had a positive culture off the field. The young women on the women’s soccer team also felt motivated when Coach Sewell was interactive with the team and made sure every athlete could play by ensuring the team had no incompletes.

See below for a video about how coaching affects athletes:

 

Dance demands sacrifice

By Amanda Ahn and Keith Ng

Staff Writers

Dancers give up most of their childhood to achieve their dream of joining a world-renowned ballet company. These dancers make major sacrifices and put in their blood, sweat and tears in order to succeed in the competitive world of ballet.

Dance Theatre International is a studio that is dedicated to setting dancers on the right track to success. The directors at DTI, Maggie and Xavier Ferla, have created a curriculum that trains dancers not only in the art of ballet, but in various other styles of dance and choreography that prepare their students for the professional dance world.

“It’s more than my passion,” said Jeena Prasad, a dancer in ballet level 6. “It’s something that I really, honestly just need in life.”

Each ballerina dedicates at least 10 hours each week. During the studio’s Nutcracker, spring show and competition seasons, the dancers train and rehearse up to 20 hours a week. Because of the amount of time the ballerinas dance in the studio, they do not have much time for other hobbies or activities.

Ketrina Lam, a dancer in ballet level 7, said, “I spend a lot of my time dancing, which can take away from doing homework, or spending time with friends and family.”

Even though the long hours they spend in the studio are physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, they continue to commit to the art, supported by the strong dancing community.

“Some people who are in the arts as well are more supportive because they understand,” said Amanda Baumann, a dancer in ballet level 7. “Some people who are solely athletes don’t necessarily see ballet in the way that we do.”

The ballerinas at DTI are all extremely passionate about their dancing. Any dancer can be good at what they do, but without the love for the art their true talent for ballet will not be noticeable.

Ballet might look like an effortless and undemanding art, but many underestimate the hard work dancers put into it. Fundamentally, not only does it take excellence in technique and poise, it takes strength, passion, dedication and focus to be a dancer.

See below for a video highlighting the work of Dance Theatre International:


Sports form community

By Matthew Goncalves, Ethaniel Reyes and Jordan Singh

Staff Writers

Sports are physical activities that involve individual teams competing against each other in order to appeal to certain fans, and they are also used to entertain people. Some of these sports include soccer, basketball, baseball and football. Although these sports are used for entertainment, they are also able to create an opportunity for people to bond with others, which creates a sense of community at school, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a fan or if you’re a player. We at Summit News decided to ask people in our community our essential question: How has sports impacted society and the way people work together in society? This is a question that needed to be answered.

Milagros Morris, a Spanish teacher at Summit Shasta, is also a fan of the New York Giants and Golden State Warriors. During her interview, she said that she is an avid supporter of the New York Giants, and she said things such as “Eli Manning is the greatest quarterback ever!” and “I don’t like Tom Brady; he’s a cheater.”

Ms. Morris also said, “It helps me a lot with my students; I start a discussion with them about sports, like I have a fight with Jordan saying who is better: Curry or Durant.” Ms. Morris was also very supportive of sports, as she said that sports help her make new friends and they help her understand her students’ views on sports.

Several Summit Shasta students were also interviewed. These students were interviewed because of their involvement in sports at Summit Shasta; they are also fans of professional sports teams.

The first student who was interviewed was Shasta sophomore Vincent Chu, who plays on the Summit Shasta JV basketball team. During his interview he said, “What makes basketball exciting is to like form close relationships with teammates and the joy of winning a game.” He also said that he can watch “any NBA” game because “you can see your favorite players play and score” and that you can form relationships with your friends while playing or watching basketball.

Several freshman, such as Tyler Reyes, were interviewed. An athlete for the Shasta JV basketball team, Reyes is originally from Los Angeles; this ultimately led to a liking for the Los Angeles Lakers at a very young age. He said that, back then, he found interest in other teams as well, explaining that “some other teams played differently” and he liked watching how they played. Reyes believes that the Lakers’ franchise is “one of the best franchises in the NBA,” which is one of the factors that sticks out to him as a fan. Nowadays, he also finds the Golden State Warriors appealing to watch.

As an athlete for a basketball team, Reyes expressed how bonds naturally form within his team: “You have to practice with them every day, and you play games with them. So you build chemistry with them, and you build bonds.” He also said that he “has to make a lot of new friends” as a result of the chemistry in basketball.

Another student we decided to interview was Shasta freshman Alison Blair. Blair is an athlete on both the Shasta Varsity basketball and volleyball teams. Growing up, Blair was a big supporter of the Golden State Warriors; she said, “I really like Steph Curry and his work ethic that he had.” Although Blair is a big Warriors fan, she also mentions that she likes to watch other teams like the Celtics, explaining that “they have great up-and-coming players like Jayson Tatum but also have like players that everybody knows that is good like Kyrie Irving and stuff.”

Blair added, “Especially ‘cause we are in high school now, we’re not like playing with our same age / grade like we are playing with different age / grades and it like creates a bond between all age groups, I guess, because I’m friends with senior, juniors, and sophomores now.”

Shasta freshman Owen Laxa was also interviewed. Laxa is an athlete for the Shasta freshman and JV basketball teams. Growing up he also played baseball and watched football occasionally. Growing up, Laxa was a fan of the Lakers and Heat because they had a lot of good players on their team and they were always winning championships. Nowadays Laxa finds himself watching the Celtics and Warriors, because they are some of the best teams in the NBA. Laxa also stated that playing and watching sports also help create a “bonding experience” with others.

Lyanna Cruzat is a freshman at Summit Shasta. Cruzat doesn’t play any sports at Summit, but she enjoys playing badminton. Growing up she said she used to play soccer, volleyball and basketball. She said that she watches the 49ers and Warriors with her step-dad. She said they were exciting to watch because she said it was fun to see them “work for things as a team and as a group, and that was really something nice, and it brings my family closer together.”

Cruzat mentioned that these teams influence other people now because you can see them work hard, which inspires young people to work harder and fulfill their dreams that they have in the future. She also said, “Through sports, whenever I am going through stuff or something like that, it’s like another world I can put myself in and forget about things that are going on.”

 Dylan Hadden, another athlete for the Shasta JV basketball team, was interviewed about his experience. He said he only started playing in eighth grade, but he had been a fan of the sport for most of his life. Growing up, he watched the Golden State Warriors “until they started getting too good.” He also expressed his liking for the Portland Trail Blazers. 

Another student who was interviewed was Shasta senior Billy White. White was a former member of the Shasta freshman and JV basketball teams. Growing up, White was a 49ers fanatic and also a huge Golden State Warriors fan. When it comes to daily life, White says that it helps him live a more “healthy life and to be able to exercise helps establish a healthy lifestyle.”

Kevin Kuang is a junior at Summit Shasta. Kuang plays on the Shasta Varsity baseball team. Growing up, Kaung was a fan basketball and football and was not into baseball until sixth grade. He is a fanatic of the Golden Warriors and the 49ers because “everyone else was kinda into those teams, and it’s like being surrounded by someone with the same thinking of you.” Kuang watches the Giants and A’s now because they are Bay Area teams.

Kuang said that sports get him a lot closer to his friends, and baseball helps him get closer to freshmen on his team. He said that he had a “50/50” feeling about sports helping him strengthen his relationship with his teammates and fellow students. He said that in baseball “there’s always someone better than me, and I’m always working to achieve and become better than that person.”

Most, if not everyone who was interviewed, said that watching and playing sports allowed them to strengthen their relationships with their peers. Throughout the interviews, people also gave a variety of responses that really gave off more of an understanding of sports and how sports help others in their daily lives. They also mentioned that sports allow them to work harder, which means they put a lot of time and sacrifice into playing these sports.

See below for a video about the sports community at Summit Shasta:  

 

Basketball program builds up Summit Shasta school spirit

By Jenny Hu, Brian Bodestyne and Darren Macario

Staff Writers

Sports are an important part of the high school experience. The basketball program is particularly influential in the Summit Shasta school community. How do student basketball players contribute to the Shasta community?

According to Shasta freshman Allison Blair, sports help contribute to the Shasta community by helping bring different grade levels together. Blair explains that since “you can play on varsity as a freshman, it helps bring the community closer.”

As a prominent member of the girls basketball team, Blair inputs that “for the girls, they are actually developing it into a good program, which is great for Shasta because we’re not really known for our sports.”

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Shasta freshman Sam Zhang PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Bodestyne

Sam Zhang, a freshman player, states that the support that classmates bring to the games helps bring the community closer. “On average, [up to] 50 people come to our games at Shasta. […] Basketball is very important to this school because it helps build leadership, […] new connections, and show how teamwork is important in life.”

Shasta freshman Lucas Velasco, a varsity player, says that around 50 to 100 fans can show up to each basketball game. Velasco agrees that playing basketball has helped him become more close with friends.

Students have multiple chances to attend the weekly basketball games, with nearly 50 percent of students (out of 34 responses) in a recent sports survey sent out to Summit Shasta students saying that they attend the games at least once per month. In the same survey, around 75 percent of respondents stated that they are interested in or are already playing sports at this school.

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Many players state that sports have helped them establish bonds with friends and teammates. These players also cite sports as a source of school spirit. But what is the staff opinion of the Shasta basketball program?

Adelaide Giornelli, Shasta dean of instruction and culture, affirms that the boys and girls basketball teams at Shasta have a diverse set of grade levels that participate in the popular sport. “I think it’s really fun, and [I] look forward towards going to the games. The coaches do a really good job of making sure that the student athletes take themselves seriously “as both of those things.”

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Dean of Instruction and Culture Adelaide Giornelli PHOTO CREDIT: Jenny Hu

Ms. Giornelli later commented that she thinks that “there’s more we can do to make sure that the fans are building community [such as] taking time out of your day to support someone you know.”

In the aforementioned sports survey, many people seemed to feel that Summit Shasta generally does not seem to focus on sports or support the athletes. They say the school has not provided sufficient support to teams.

An anonymous surveyee mentioned that they noticed that teams do not have buses, which makes being an athlete hard: “Last year, soccer was so difficult because transportation was poor.”

Although sports might not be the main focus of Summit Shasta, the basketball program is still a very important part of the school culture. The athletes can overcome obstacles and can still have a good time.

See below for a video featuring the Shasta basketball players:

Denali soccer teams discuss their progress and challenges

By Ellen Hu and Alex Twoy

Staff Writers

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The women’s soccer team run with the ball.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

One Friday in December, Peter Ellerkamp, the coach of Denali’s men’s soccer team, found himself standing in a classroom instead of on the soccer field. “We had to cancel a practice because we didn’t have enough eligible players for our game that was coming up,” Coach Ellerkamp said.

Although Coach Ellerkamp is competitive when it comes to soccer, he still believes that school comes first. “It’s not athlete student; it’s student athlete. Student comes first,” he said.

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The men’s soccer team watches the ball. PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

Instead of practicing soccer outside, the team sat in Room 10 and worked to get ahead or catch up on any projects or playlists that they were behind on. It was “a very hype and fun environment,” men’s soccer team co-captain and Denali sophomore Nico Suppiah said.

Summit Denali High School has teams for running, basketball, soccer, swimming, wrestling and volleyball. The school plans to add a baseball team later in the year.

During the winter season, the men and women’s soccer teams compete against other charter schools in the area. The men’s soccer team practices four times a week, while the women’s soccer team practices three times a week.

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Raedyn McFarland stands in front of the goal.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

Many of these student athletes see the camaraderie associated with soccer as a positive addition to their lives. “Being on a team helps you be a part of something bigger than yourself,” Denali sophomore Raedyn McFarland said. “When someone else does something, you feel that same kind of accomplishment with them, and you can celebrate that accomplishment together.”

This teamwork has begun to show; the women’s soccer team has won two of their games. “It’s pretty cool to see all of us work really hard and just seeing all of the work we put in and seeing it result,” Denali junior Serena Munoz, team captain of the women’s soccer team, said.

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The women’s soccer team runs with the ball. PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

The coaches see soccer as a way to build important life skills. “You get to see a lot of students have different strengths that they don’t get to show in the classroom that they can show on the field,” Coach Ellerkamp said. Coach Justin Sewell of the women’s soccer team, agrees. He believes that coaching allows him to build skills “you don’t get to build as much in the classroom” with his student athletes, especially leadership and teamwork.

To cultivate these skills, Coach Sewell always makes sure to leave two to three minutes for the team captains to speak to the girls. “Because, ultimately, they are the ones on the field, not me,” he said. “I want them to be leaders on and off the field.”

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Serena Munoz (14) and Sierra Scarlett (10) create a wall.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

As team captain of the women’s soccer team, Munoz knows she has to hold herself to a high standard. “It’s kind of being that role model and saying, if I can do it then you can do it,” she said. Misael Aguilar, Denali junior and co-captain of the men’s soccer team, views himself responsible for the team. “I feel like everything’s put on you–it’s your team,” he said.

Suppiah sees academic success as one of the main challenges that the men’s team faces. “Making sure everyone is on track with their academics because if they’re not, they can’t play,” he said when asked about these challenges.

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Ethan Reiblein handles the ball.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

“We have academic eligibility, or lack of,” Coach Ellerkamp said. Academic eligibility is a policy that Summit Denali follows where students must be on-track in their classes before they can play their sport. One of Coach Ellerkamp’s largest challenges is that some of his best players also struggle in one or more of their courses and have to stay after school to focus on academics.

This system of academic eligibility has forced students to develop study skills. Soccer has helped Munoz build her organizational skills by planning out her week. She says that “having that energy, or setting up specific days where I can say, ‘Oh, I need to work on this on this day to stay on track’” has helped her throughout the year, not just in the soccer season.

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Misael Aguilar kicks the ball back into play.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

“To be honest, I feel like everybody has a different opinion about education,” Aguilar says. “There’s going to be some students who want good grades.” For Aguilar, focusing on one thing helps him get his work done. Listening to music acts as a catalyst to help him do this.

McFarland has found herself adapting to the time restraints from sports through organization and planning. She also holds herself more accountable in class. “If I want to goof off in class, I have to remember, ‘Hey, I have this due and I have soccer practice so I have to get this done,’” she said.

Denali’s coaches are always looking to support their athletes. Coach Sewell said that academics should be student athletes’ top priority. “Academics have always been really important to me. I think success in the classroom is an indicator for success on the field,” he said. Coach Sewell makes an effort to come in before school and help athletes in their academics when he can.

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Sierra Scarlett takes the ball.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

Coach Ellerkamp sees correlations between his athletes’ academic success and their success on the field. “The students who are on-track are the most focused in practice, and therefore perform the best in practice and in games,” he said.

Nonetheless, soccer still plays a large role in these students’ lives. “I wouldn’t say soccer is that stressful; it’s more of a stress-reliever,” Munoz said. She sees her participation on the soccer team as a way to take her mind off of the writing and reading that she does during the school day.

Participating in school sports can be a benefit in many ways. Suppiah views sports as a way to get exercise and make friends. “It can create a lot of opportunities for you in life,” he said. “If you are really taking the sport you like seriously, you could potentially get a scholarship or become a professional, but that’s very tough to do.”

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The men’s soccer team handles the ball. PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

Summit Denali High School’s women’s soccer team has eight more games this year, while the men’s soccer team has six more games. The soccer season ends at the beginning of February.

Featured Image (at the top of this post): Alexandra Sibrian-Escobar kicks the ball into play.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ellen Hu

 

The men and women’s soccer team schedule for the remainder of the year:

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Student athletes at Tahoma discover a positive impact

By Vianey Gonzaga, Nick Inman, Sam Leger and Damian Pimentel

Staff Writers

Students here at Tahoma are actively involved in sports, from volleyball to soccer. A popular discussion is how these sports affect students’ lives, both academically and socially.

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Mikaela Zavala is one of the captains of the girls’ soccer team at Tahoma. PHOTO CREDIT: Kaitlyn Kelley

Mikaela Zavala, a senior soccer player at Tahoma, spoke with us about how sports affected her. She talked about how during freshman year sports helped her academically because she needed good grades to play, but they declined after the season. In her years since, she’s had good grades year-round, which soccer helped motivate.

Zavala also felt that soccer has helped her learn how to positively lead a team. She believes that the leadership and team skills that she has gained will help her in the future.

Other students that we interviewed resonated with Zavala’s thoughts and feelings.

Jasen Pardilla, a sophomore basketball player, said that sports allowed him to meet new people, and he felt that communicating with his team made him a better leader.

Pardilla’s thoughts were similar to Zavala’s as they both felt that being involved in sports helped elevate their grades, as it made them strive to do better in order to be able to be on the team.

Another student, Anthony Matute, a senior soccer player, expressed that playing soccer has helped him socialize more and that being a captain helped him be a more vocal person.

Matute also brought up that soccer helps him get on-track and finish his projects on-time. He also felt that sports positively affected his future by teaching him leadership skills that will help him with jobs in the long-run.

Jasmine Lewis, another sophomore basketball player, told us that she also felt that sports affected her in a strongly positive way, both with her social life and academics, as well as her future.

In all of our interviews, sports were said to be synonymous with a better social life and improved academic work at school, as well as a strong future. This idea was consistent throughout all genders and sports.

See below for video featuring Tahoma student athletes:

 

 

Martial arts instructor explains what makes Wushu a unique sport

By Keith Dinh

Staff Writer

Xuanzi Zhuanti 720 (旋子转体七百二十), better known as the 720-degree-rotation Butterfly-twist, is a high level difficulty jump-kick of the martial art sport Wushu (武術). This acrobatic move is used in contemporary floor routines of Wushu and is part of the point-scoring difficulty movements that are considered of professional level. The difficulty movements, or “nandu” (难度), are similar to those of gymnastic movements and ice-skating corkscrews, axels and quads. These nandu highlight the agility of Wushu athletes and show what Wushu has evolved into today, with its gymnastic-like routines merged with traditional martial arts.

Wushu. You’d probably not know it by name, but if you’ve ever watched a Kung Fu movie or Chinese drama, you probably have an idea of what it is. Originating in China’s Shaolin Temple Monastery, Wushu is a martial art that dates back to the 17th century B.C. Nowadays, with the warring era past, China has started to modernize Wushu to preserve the culture. Wushu is seen all over the world, being taught in local academies or schools. Especially in the Bay Area, we see many Wushu and Kung Fu schools that teach this modernized art and its ancient disciplines and morals.

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Martial Arts Instructor Sifu Terry Motoko Pan

Martial Arts Instructor Sifu Terry Motoko Pan is an expert in Wushu, having practiced it for a little over a decade. A “Sifu” (師傅) in Wushu is a master of the art who can teach and take in disciples (life-long dedicated students). Traditionally, a sifu in China is like a father to the students that dedicate themselves to the art. Sifu Pan shared what she believes makes Wushu such a unique sport and martial art and explained all of the the sport’s health benefits, the culture it carries and why it is a sport worth looking into and practicing. She described her experiences in Wushu as “very uplifting and more changing.”

Sifu Pan explained a little bit of what you would typically see with today’s Wushu: “The sports aspect is much more focused upon, and so you’ll see people doing a lot of high acrobatic moves that probably would not be used in a wartime situation. I don’t think people would actually see those Chinese dramas. That’s a bit taken out of context a little bit, but it still looks really cool,” she said.

“I suppose Wushu is a way of life because what it teaches is the fact that you become one with your body, and you know it better than what you knew before. So your movements, your breathing, how you do something all encompasses in one person, one being, and how they show it,” Sifu Pan said.

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A competitor in the 2016 China Wushu Championships performs the swallow balance, a nandu, in her Changquan (長拳) form routine. SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons

Being seen as a way of life to many, there are also many health benefits that come with the sport (if practiced correctly). These benefits include better flexibility, balance, strength, speed, power and accuracy on the physical side, but also perseverance, self-control, confidence, humility and responsibility on the mental side.

“People think that Wushu is a sport; they just think that it’s good exercise, and it is, but the thing is that more than just exercise, it teaches you your body. It teaches you how to move, what your body does, the mechanics of it, how to take care of it … it teaches you to be careful and be aware of how you move and how others around you move as well … I feel that a lot of times, people when they first start, they don’t actually think or acknowledge that part of it because they think that it’s just a sport, but when you really internalize it, then you’re aware of different things,” Sifu Pan said.

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Students of a Wushu school in China practice their horse-stance (馬步; mǎ bù), a basic foundation of the sport and almost all other martial arts. SOURCE: Flickr

As the sport is progressing in publicity through time, Sifu Pan believes that the sport is still able to make much more progress in this area. Wushu has been in many films that we see nowadays and has almost made it as an Olympic sport in the past.

Sifu Pan explained why she thinks Wushu is not an Olympic sport and how it is progressing in publicity: “For one thing, it’s not part of the Olympics. Why? Because China would mop the floor with everybody! Publicity wise, I think it is at least known because of films like ‘Kung Fu Panda.’ For example now, for Wushu, I feel like it could be a little more out there, but then again, it could be very difficult to, because a lot of times, it’s not as well-known or at least publicized like Taekwondo, for example, which is in the Olympics,” Sifu Pan said.

According to Sifu Pan, Wushu has potential to become an Olympic sport, but, “The only thing, as I said before, is that if they did add it as an Olympic sport, China would win, hands down, because that’s where all the top athletes are. So I’ve seen some great athletes from over there come here, and there is really no comparison.”

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A Shaolin lay disciple of the Shaolin Monastery practices Shaolinquan (少林拳), showcasing his flexibility. SOURCE: Flickr

China has trained all of their top Wushu athletes from ages as young as 2 to 3, shaping their bodies to best fit to the sport so that all of the provinces can pit against each other in their Wushu portion of the All China Games. The sport demands high jumps and acrobatic movements in floor routines nowadays, quite similar to gymnastic routines, with moves such as aerials, butterfly-twists, aerial twists, flips, gainers and more. With so many advantages, China is the country that is most likely to win, hands down, if Wushu were added into the Olympic Games.

“So the example is that for some of the schools, let’s say in other nations, they’ll teach a lot of the right-side jump-kicks dominantly, but then you go to China, and they’re completely ambidextrous. They can use either side, no problem, and then it becomes more of a test of skill,” Sifu Pan said.

Wushu is, over all, something that someone can practice to live a better life. You can gain better awareness of your body, mind and spirit. Though the chance is that Chinese athletes would dominate this sport if it were in the Olympic Games, it is still a sport worthwhile to practice.

In Wushu, “They actually teach you how to do it differently so you won’t be exhausted as much, and, also, you will actually know how your body is, and if you know that there is something wrong, you can catch it early enough to be able to treat it right away, and that way, you won’t actually suffer any grievous injuries, especially like say, for example, soccer – you do a kick, you miss, and you wind up on the ground or hit somebody. Well, that’s not being aware of who you are or anyone else around you,” Sifu Pan said.

Besides health being such a big part that sets Wushu aside from other martial arts, it has its similarities and differences from other martial arts. Sifu Pan said, “The things is that a lot of the basic movements are the same. So let’s say you do a block, it protects yourself. Those are practically integrated into every single martial arts because it’s self-defense.”

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A junior Wushu team poses after a performance with their weapons, showcasing their flexibility and pride. SOURCE: Flickr

Other than the similarities of basic movements, there are many weapons in the martial world. Wushu has an entire branch of weapons and styles of its own, ranging from the spear (Qiang 槍), to staff (Gun 棍), to straightsword (Jian 劍) or the broadsword (Dao 刀). Alongside the weapons, there are multiple different styles that set Wushu as a unique sport which allows practitioners to adapt to almost any environment if fluent and knowledgeable in the art.

“Now, the thing is, weapons and your different styles, those are actually a little bit different. Because you think about Karate versus Chinese Kung Fu – it’s a little bit different. Karate is a bit stiffer, but by no means is it less effective. But then Chinese Wushu is actually a bit more flexible in terms of there are these things you can do,” Sifu Pan said.

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A teenager practices his butterfly kick  (旋子;xuàn zi ) at Independence High School. PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Dinh

Sifu Pan explained how Wushu allows flexibility, not only of the body, but of the mind and styles as well. In a fight, there will be certain moves a martial artist uses, and, “If something happens and this move doesn’t work, then they can switch right away, so they can switch modes, and you can easily defend yourself using another different variety and throw off your opponent. So in terms of Wushu, they actually use their whole body as a protection mechanism and a defensive mechanism and also for attack. So I feel like in that regard, that’s one of the things that offsets Wushu from other mainstream styles.”

With so much health and uniqueness to the sport, there is one of thing that Sifu Pan said makes this sport stand out: “Any age can practice. I’ve seen people as old as 60 doing it, and they’re doing full jump kicks, splits, so I feel that almost any age can really do it, from young to old. But as you get older, I feel that body-wise, you have to make sure that you still maintain your health, and you’re making sure that you’re still able to do what you really want to do. There are high jump kicks, or splits, etc,” she said.

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Wushu masters from around the world gather for a picture after a performance at Michaan’s Theater. PHOTO CREDIT: Sifu Ding Yan Qing

Wushu, a sport full of rich history of China, is slowly making its way in publicity and into the daily lives of other people. Though not known by its name, it is recognized all over the world by people who love the Chinese dramas and Kung Fu movies. With people such as Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Jet Li starring in so many of these films, and the help of martial coaches such as Sifu Terry Motoko Pan, Wushu is becoming more famous and widely known to the rest of the world. Wushu is more than just a martial art; it’s also a way of improving health and a way of life.

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