Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Todays Women of Tomorrow
“Today’s Women of Tomorrow”
By Dave Cater
Different backgrounds, different styles, different talents inexorable linked by their love of martial arts.
For most of her young life, Chris Yen has been known as either: “the younger sister of;” or “the daughter of.” Now there’s nothing wrong with begin associated with two of the world’s top martial arts names - in this case martial artist/actor extraordinaire Donnie Yen or wushu wonder Bow Sim Mark. Most stylists would give their black sash just for a chance to claim such a pedigree.
But when you live it every day of your life, the comparisons are bound to get old - and quick. Chris Yen struggled mightily to find her own identity. It wasn’t easy.
“I trained with that sort of pressure from the time I was real young,” Yen explains. “The pressure came from my mother and from my father, and from my brother who started young. The pressure was always there.”
Describing herself as “rebellious,” Yen yearned for a chance to carve her own niche in the world. That chance came two years ago when she moved to Hollywood and attended her first audition.
“I realized I loved going out to auditions. I loved going to my acting classes. I loved the fact that I can express myself in another forum other than doing martial arts.”
Her love for acting, her desire to express herself in new and different ways, is paying big dividends. Her first major project, Adventures of Johnny Tao, is due out soon and by all indications it could be the rocket that catapults Chris Yen to stardom.
Christine Bannon-Rodrigues has parlayed a tremendous career as a open circuit competitor into an equally impressive life as a school owner and spokesperson. Bannon-Rodrigues, vice president and co-owner of Don Rodrigues Karate Academy, Ltd., is also a spokesperson, product designer and product evaluator for Macho Products, Inc.
With more than 40 martial arts magazine covers to her credit and nine WAKO World titles under her belt, many consider Bannon-Rodrigues to be the best all-around female competitor in sport karate history.
Wah Lum Kung-Fu/Instructor
As long as Mimi Chan is minding the store, wah lum kung-fu will be in safe hands. The daughter of grandmaster Pui Chan, Mimi dabbled in film work a few years ago but soon returned to her family’s Orlando school to train another generation of kung-fu practitioners.
Mimi, who provided all the martial arts moves for Disney’s animated character “Mulan,” recently took eight students to Baltimore, where they captured the U.S. Kuoshu Nationals team forms champion trophy.
Tai Chi Competitor
Seems that Tiffany has been around so long she should be retired by now. The truth is, Chen has been around so long because she started so young. Daughter of the world-famous tai chi grandmaster William C.C. Chen, Tiffany is reaching her stride in the world of push hands competition.
Inside Kung-Fu’s 2004 “Competitor of the Year,” Tiffany won the award for best “Lei Tai” performance by a female athlete at the First World Competition Tournament in San Paulo, Brazil. The fighter with the model features also was among six athletes who captured gold medals for the U.S. team.
Jeanne Chinn is one of the busiest martial artist/actors in Hollywood. A longtime practitioner under the original Bruce Lee student Jerry Poteet, Chinn has graced the cover of several Unique Publications’ offerings and each time been a solid attraction.
With recent appearances on “Charmed” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” as well as an solid guest spot on “NYPD Blue,” Chinn has established herself as a solid character actor. Yet she is quick to say that none of her success would have been possible without the lessons she learned studying martial arts.
JENNIFER & CHERI HAIGHT
Wushu Stylists/Cirque Performers
To wushu or not to wushu? That was the question facing teenagers Cheri and Jennifer Haight two years ago. On one side was the chance to compete against the best in the world at their chosen avocation. On the other side were Cirque du Soleil and a chance to star in a multimillion dollar extravaganza to be staged nightly at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
In the end, the choice was obvious. The sisters now star in KA, Cirque’s newest and most-expensive martial arts and acrobatics spectacular. They are, in a word, spellbinding. Wushu weapons flash at the speed of light; spins and kicks fly by so fast your eyes have trouble measuring what’s real and what’s fantasy.
What’s real is the chance they took and the hard work they put into the show. They only fantasy is how easy they make it all look.
Lawyer/Wind Chun Stylist
Don’t look now, but the face of wing chun in American is rapidly changing. When Lucy Haro, a family law attorney by trade, wanted to learn wing chun, she skipped the middle men and went straight to the top.
A series of e-mails to grandmaster William Cheung led to training in Australia, followed by more extensive schooling in America. No one of the grandmaster’s most-trusted students, Haro is well on her way to becoming the most-important female wing chun voice in America.
KI Fighting Concepts.
When Addy became just the second Latina to appear on a cover of Inside Kung-Fu, she instantly was recognized throughout the world as one of kung-fu’s top natural beauties. The fact that she also has carved a niche as being one of the best new martial arts technicians only lends validity to her standing.
Hernandez is a rare combination of femininity and ferocity; softness outside the studio and sheer power when it counts. Her mook jong sets are a joy to behold. With videos and books spotlighting Hernandez’ talents, her stock will be climbing for years to come
This former protégé of the great Wu Bin has easily made the transition from stunt double to on-camera attraction. The hard work that led to a spot on the Bejing Wushu team has propelled Jing to a permanent spot among Hollywood’s “A” list stunt choices.
Along with being one of the country’s most sought after wushu instructors, Li Jing is making inroads in her acting career. She recently filmed a commercial for Microsoft Intel, appeared in a National Geographic documentary, and worked with Donnie Yen in a Hong Kong movie.
Wushu Stylist/Stunt Double
When “Walker, Texas Rangers” co-star Nia Peeples needed a stunt double, Ming Qiu was the only choice. After seeing Ming’s demo tape, Peeples actually flew from Texas to California just to meet the former Jiangxu wushu star. The rest, as they say, is Hollywood history.
Sing 1995, Ming Qiu has been the first - and only - choice on most stunt coordinators’ call list. In the past five years, she’s doubled for Lucy Liu in Kill bill, Charlie’s Angels 1 and 2 and Ecks vs. Sever; shadowed Kelly Hu in Cradle to the Grave, The Scorpion King and “Martial Law;” and appeared in Collateral, Austin Powers: Goldmember, Starsky & Hutch and Spiderman 2. Her television credits include “Law and Order,” “CSI: Miami,” “The Shield,” and “Charmed.”
Currently working on MI: 3, Ming teaches privately at a local park in Monterey Park, Calif., where she ahs 15 students. She also just finished training Milla Jovovich for the film, Ultraviolet.
From the time she was old enough to walk, Ka’imi Kuoha always seemed ahead of her time. A child actor in her formative years, a high school graduate in her early teens, Ka’imi was mastering her personal learning curve while the rest of her peers were just getting started.
Today, she is the designated leader of a martial arts system founded by the great William K.S. Chow in Hawaii. And she couldn’t be nicer, more unassuming or unaffected by the whirlwind surrounding her appointment. A dancer, singer and performer, Ka’imi first and foremost is a martial artist of great repute whose future will always be bright.
National Wushu Competitor
There are dedicated martial artists, and then there’s the kind of dedication exhibited by Tiffany Reyes. When Tiffany can’t make the 300-mile trip to Los Angeles to train with coach Li Jing, she’ll perform her sets in front of a computer camera. Together, the pair will discuss improvements and then Reyes will repeat the movements - over and over again.
A client services coordinator for Google, Reyes won a spot on the U.S. Wushu “C” National team in 2003. This year she hoped the four hours a day of practice will pay off with a spot on a the “A” team going to the World Wushu Games in Vietnam.
Jenny Tang is a good example of the apple not falling far from the true. A niece of famed tai chi master Wei Qi He, tang spent her formative years as a member of the Shanghai National Wushu Team before attending college in America.
Today, as co-owner of Tai Chi Wushu Resource in Southern California, she is helping produce a new generation of internal stylists. Maybe just as important is her contribution to traditional tai chi tournaments in America, where she has become a trusted judge and valued advisor.
Choy Lay Fut Stylist/Model
Ka-Yan Wong was born to be a kung-fu master. Even as a baby, her father, choy lay fut master Tat-Mau Wong, was preparing her for the world of Chinese martial arts. By the time Ka-Yan was two, she already was doing full splits and could hold her leg on in a perfect sidekick.
Today, Ka-Yan is that rare martial artists who is exceptionally gifted in all aspects of kung-fu, including hand forms, weapons, sparring and even lion dance drumming. Ka-Yan’s two gold medals in broadsword and nanchuan at the 2004 World Traditional Wushu Festival Competition in China stand out as highlights in a long and successful run of competitions.
Now a young woman with a honors degree in biochemistry to her credit, Ka-Yan also has ventured into the world of acting and modeling. She recently spent a good deal of time in China furthering her modeling and kung-fu skills. Many predict it’s only a matter of time before this child martial artist prodigy makes her mark on the big screen.
Krav Maga/Traditional Kung-Fu/Actor
Businesswoman, creator, producer, writer, actor. Every time it seems as though Grayce Wey has finally found her niche, she discovers something else to make her life complete. Although she was born in San Jose, Calif., Grayce is fluent in Mandarin. This made her a valuable property with production companies in China and America. One of her early acting roles was a guest spot on Disney’s “Lizzie McGuire.”
But Grayce is much more than an actor. Her first martial art was krav maga. Loving its simplicity and effectiveness, Wey became an instructor and developed the U.S. licensing program for the Krave Maga National Training Center. However, she returned to her cultural roots several years ago by studying traditional kung-fu with Jonathon Wang of the Beijing tai Chi and Kung-Fu Academy.
An accomplished writer, Wey began Desert Lotus Productions in 2003. One of the company’s first projects was Anna’s Eve, a horror film in which - not surprisingly - Grayce produced, directed and starred.