Evergreen's Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung-Fu Club Returns to Rose City Nationals
For the second year in a row, the Evergreen State College Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu Club made the four-hour drive to Eugene, Oregon to compete at James Butler's Rose City Nationals. Recognized as one of the most important tournaments in the Pacific Northwest, the tournament was held in the Lane Community College gymnasium, and hosted the best competitors the region had to offer.
The day began with the beginner forms (kata) divisions. Within the first hour of competition, William Baldwin had won first place in the fifteen to seventeen year-old beginner's division, Jessie Smith won second place in the beginner women's forms division, and John Zadrozny and Abi Hassen won first and second place respectively in the beginner men's division. Loa Arnoth was scheduled to compete in the intermediate women's division, but missed her division due to a mistake in the ring announcements. Too bad, the team was looking forward to a repeat of her performance last year when she won second place in the intermediate women's division even though at the time she was just a beginner.
In the men's black belt forms division, Sam Haskin, club chairman and National Team Captain, Matt Sieradski club vice president and nationally ranked gold medal semi-contact and full contact fighter, and Jesse Harter, the team's newest black belt competitor, all performed the fast, furious, and powerful forms, typical of the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw style. The judges in the division, however, were heavily biased towards Karate and Tae Kwon Do stylists and scored against the Eagle Claw Team, which was the only traditional Chinese martial arts school present at the tournament. In both the traditional and open forms divisions, Matt Sieradski took eighth place, Sam Haskin took seventh place, and Jesse Harter took sixth place despite the local bias and occasional disrespectful attitude on the part of the panel of judges.
The fighting divisions are where the team really made their mark. William Baldwin took the silver medal in the fifteen to seventeen year-old beginners sparring division. Loa Arnoth and Jessie Smith took silver and bronze respectively in a beginner/intermediate/advanced combined women's fighting division. After two difficult matches each, the only fight either of them lost was to a ranked female full-contact fighter who limped out of the ring after her final match with Loa Arnoth.
John Zadrozny, Abi Hassen, and Steve Baum all fought hard in the beginner men's fighting division while Shasta Smith and John Eastlake's fights grabbed the attention of everyone watching the intermediate division. The heavy hitting style of the Kung Fu club surprised the other fighters who were more familiar with the tap and run type of point fighting. In the end, Evergreen's beginner and intermediate fighters had earned the respect of all of their opponents.
The final event of the tournament was the men's black belt fighting division. Despite the local favoritism, Sam Haskin, Matt Sieradski, and Jesse Harter all entered the heavyweight division and fought some of the more memorable fights of the tournament. As in the earlier divisions, Evergreen's black belts surprised many of the other fighters in the division with effective and powerful techniques that are the trademark of Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw fighters around the world, who generally fight semi and full contact but tend to draw warnings and penalties in the point fighting venues. Sam Haskin led off the division by chasing one of the local favorites around the ring in a rough and close 5-4 bout that left Sam's opponent icing his bruises afterwards. Matt Sieradski fought a tough match against a seasoned point fighter who got caught by a number of his devastating sidekicks, and Jesse Harter had a hard-hitting 2-1 lead before being disqualified for excessive contact while running his opponent out of the ring.(1) It was clear to all present that Evergreen was the physically dominant presence in the ring, further earning their reputation as the Kung Fu school best known for fighting in the Washington State and Oregon area, which is relatively devoid of good Chinese Kung Fu.(2)
At the end of the day, The Evergreen State College Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu Club left the tournament with eight trophies, satisfied that they had represented their style and their school. The team would like to thank Mike Anchors and Pete Stielberg from Rec.-Sports for their support. Thanks go out as well to "Turtle" for his photographic work, and the parents and friends of the team members who came out to show their support. Finally, the team would like to sincerely thank our teachers, Grandmaster Fu Leung and Sifu Dana G. Daniels for the countless hours of teaching that prepared us and brought us to such a level of skill.
(1) Grandmaster Fu Leung personally called from his headquarters in Florida to congratulate Jesse on his rugged performance. He reminded Jesse and all other fighters that true Kung Fu is the practice of self defense in its original militaristic form and should not be taken lightly.
(2) The Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw National Fighting Team is also very well known in the state of California for its national rankings and medals in semi contact and full contact sanshou performances at Lily Lau's, Wing Lam's and many USAWKF sanctioned tournaments. A number of the Evergreen State College Team are also U.S. national team members.