The latest revolution in sport karate isn't karate at all; it's Team Evergreen, one of Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu's national competition team branches. While Kung-Fu stylists often fare poorly at open karate tournaments, Team Evergreen has been forging an unbroken chain of victories up and down the West Coast. And if you haven't heard of them, you probably didn't attend any "AAA" NBL (National Black Belt League) competitions in the Pacific Northwest in the 2000-2001 seasons or IMAC (International Martial Arts Council) tournaments in the 2001-2002 season.
Based at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. (just south of Seattle), this group of students and martial artists tackled fourteen NBL tournaments in the 2000-2001 season and eight IMAC competitions in 2002. They consistently dominated competition in both forms and fighting, and have won numerous Grand Championships, including Jessie Smith's "hat-trick" of three in one day at Jesse Palmer's 2002 Coca Cola Nationals. Team Evergreen competes in many different NBL and IMAC divisions: forms, both traditional and creative; point sparring, both regular and continuous; and at Chinese-style tournaments in semi- and full-contact divisions such as WKC (World Kickboxing Council), USAWKF (USA Wushu Kung Fu Federation) and san shou.
Their main competition venue in the 2001 season was the NBL, which is one of the largest open sport karate competition circuits and is sanctioned in 52 countries. In 2002 they competed predominantly in IMAC, which has drawn many former NBL fighters and culminates in their World Championships in Vegas. Team Evergreen takes great pride in smashing the karate stereotype of Kung-Fu competitors as pretty gymnastic performers by demonstrating hard-hitting Shaolin Eagle Claw forms on the floor and hitting them hard in the ring.
Team Evergreen is part of the larger worldwide Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw International headed by Grandmaster Fu Leung, who introduced Bak Shaolin Eagle claw to the U.S. in the 1970s. His long time disciple, Sifu Dana G. Daniels, founded the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw U.S. National Collegiate Teams in 1995 and established two collegiate clubs at the University of Wisconsin in both Madison and Oshkosh. These teams flourished in 1996, taking five of 15 national ranking medals in continuous fighting at the USAWKF National Championships.
They earned fame and notoriety while fighting excellent Chinese kung-fu teams such as Tat Mau Wong's and Wing Lam's, and completely dominated Lily Lau's Eagle Claw tournaments in San Francisco in 1996 and 1998. The team produced several top Kung-Fu people who are also successful in their own chosen fields. Noam Reininger, a forms, continuous, and san shou gold medallist in the USAWKF, was immediately hired by DELL Computer Corporation after graduation and now works at their headquarters in Austin, Texas as a team lead on the fast track to management. Sam Haskin, also a gold medallist, was hired by the British web design company, Fluent Communications in Seattle, WA, and now is the Interactive Development Team Manager.
Haskin was also the founder of the Evergreen Team. A young college student at the time, he transferred from the University at Madison (Wis.) to Evergreen State College in 1996 and organized the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu Club and Competition Team. The Team is composed of Evergreen students with an interest in genuine Kung-Fu. So while Team Evergreen is six years old, its victories come from an unbroken legacy of Kung-Fu that is vested in Grandmaster Fu Leung, his Bak Sil Lum Ying Jow lineage, its ancestors, the national coach Sifu Dana G. Daniels, and the national team.
From such memorable victories as the 1995 World Wushu Championships in Baltimore, Md., in which Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw took 32 medals in the nationals, including gold in sanshu, to the more recent victories of Team Evergreen at tournaments like Double Diamonds 2000, Jon Funk's Tiger Balm 2000, Henry Chung's Midland Martial Arts Open Championship, Al Dacascos's 12th Western U.S. Nationals, the NBL Super Grands 2000-2001, and Jesse Palmer's Coca Cola Nationals 2002, Team Evergreen has continued to impress.
The list of trophies is certainly impressive. At the Double Diamonds, Team Evergreen took 17 medals with seven competitors. At Jon Funk's Tiger Balm Internationals 2000, they took 27 medals including forms Grand Champion by Sam Haskin and third runner-up by Loa Arnoth with only 11 competitors. At the NW Martial Arts Challenge, they took 17 medals with nine competitors. At Dacascos's 12th Western Nationals they took 24 medals with seven competitors. At the NBL Super Grands 2000-01 the team took 23 top-ten World Rankings and at the Coca Cola Nationals 2002, they went home with 16 medals. No matter where they go or who the competition is, Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw leaves its mark.
The Team follows a daily training schedule that involves a variety of components. At the heart of its regiment are the traditional drills of Northern Shaolin and Northern Eagle Claw as taught by Grandmaster Fu Leung and Sifu Daniels. These drills provide a well-rounded martial arts curriculum with attention to physical strength, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, hand and footwork, stances, mental focus, and most importantly, spirit. Team Evergreen trains at least three hours a day, with marathon sessions lasting up to eight hours. They have an indomitable spirit born of paying their dues on a daily basis. So while some teams may owe their success to prodigal students or full-ride sponsorships; Team Evergreen does it the old-fashioned way working and training for success every day of the week.
Team Evergreen takes great pride in demonstrating the strengths of Chinese Kung-Fu, its tradition and warrior way on the open karate circuit. It continues to push the limits of just how much a collegiate team of fulltime students and graduate player-coaches can accomplish, an accomplishment almost of unheard of in the NBL, USWKF, IMAC or other sanctions.
Meet The Team
Name: Jesse Harter, Team Captain
Scholastic Focus: Organic Agriculture
Favorite Division: San Shou Full-Contact Fighting
Competitive Highlight: "Fighting the six-time NBL World Champion of Light/Heavyweight Continuous Sparring at the Double Diamonds 2000. I've heard from other fighters that he's still shaken by that fight. At the time, I didn't even know who he was, but it was a good fight, one that I still laugh about."
Current Pursuits: Jesse Harter Graduated Evergreen State College, took four world rankings at the 2000-2001 NBL Super Grands, knocked out two opponents in twenty minutes at the Battle of the Border 2001, recently took third world rank at IMAC 2002 Worlds, and is now a chef in Steamboat Spring's top restaurant.
Name: Sam Haskin, Regional Coach Seattle Branch, Original member of the National Team|
Scholastic Focus: Computer Science, web page development for Fluent Communications
Favorite Division: "Traditional kung-fu forms and Super heavyweight NBL Continuous Fighting." Competitive Highlight: "Taking the Grand Championship in the forms division at the Tiger Balm Internationals in Vancouver, B.C. 2000"
Current Pursuits: Driving his new Jeep Grand Cherokee and climbing the corporate ladder. Haskin is now the Interactive Development Team Manager for Fluent Communications.
Name: Loa Arnoth
Scholastic Focus: Humanities, Oriental Medicine
Favorite Division: Creative Musical Forms
Competitive Highlight: "When I knocked out this girl with a double roundhouse to her stomach and head."
Current Pursuits: "Go all the way, prepare, and win gold at the Super Grands!" (Loa took third in Women's team fighting at the Super Grands and is preparing to enter acupuncture school in Los Angeles)
Name: Shasta Smith
Scholastic Focus: Drama/Film Production "I'm gonna be an actor."
Favorite Division: Point Sparring
Competitive Highlight: "When I got my butt kicked by a chick! And, being starting defense for the Evergreen Soccer Team."
Current Pursuits: "Scoring with the Women's Soccer Team."
Shasta Smith moved to L.A. to pursue his dream of acting and teaches Kung Fu at his Manhattan Beach Kung Fu Club
Name: Jessie Smith
Scholastic Focus: Psychology
Favorite Division: Fighting
Competitive Highlight: "Fighting in four different divisions in one day (san shou, WKC, and NBL Continuous and Point Sparring) at the Tiger Balms."
Current Pursuits: "To continue teaching martial arts and fitness classes at Evergreen and eventually move to Seattle to teach." (Jessie Smith now teaches Shaolin Eagle Aerobics, Kickboxing, and traditional Kung Fu in Olympia, Washington)
Name: John Eastlake
Scholastic Focus: Celtic Studies and Literature in English
Favorite Division: WKC Semi-Contact Fighting
Competitive Highlight: "Prior to fighting black belt, taking the Brown Belt Grand Championship at the NW Martial Arts Challenge was my highlight. There was some stiff competition, but I turned up the heat and opposition just melted away."
Current Pursuits: John has just completed his Master's thesis in Ireland and runs a Kung Fu Club there
Name: Noam Reininger
Scholastic Focus: Graduated University of Wisconsin School of Business
Favorite Division: WKC Full-Contact
Competitive Highlight: "Doing the flying kick sequence of Tai Ming Jung right past James Lau Chi Kin (youngest son of Lau Fat Man) at the '98 World Eagle Cup Championships."
Current Pursuits: Team Lead in the Enterprise Software Division of Dell Computer
Name: Nate Sonnenberg
Scholastic Focus: Fine Art and Ceramics
Favorite Division: Traditional Chinese Forms
Competitive Highlight: Narrowly defeats world champion and former Beijing National Wushu Team member to take first at the IMAC World Championships 2002
Current Pursuits: Will attend Indiana University for his second Master's in Fine Arts.
Name: Owen O'Keefe
Scholastic Focus: Computer Science and Embedded Systems Programming
Favorite Division: Any fighting.
Competitive Highlight: Giving the Canadian World Champion two black eyes at the NBL Super Grands 2000.
Current Pursuits: Will be working in the Wireless and Embedded Systems field and continue coaching Team Evergreen.