The one good thing about the internet, you can have friends all over the world. So this morning I am chatting with a good friend from Europe. I have been under the impression that things for traditional Chinese martial arts are a little better “over there.” But the stories I was hearing sounded all too familiar.
Sanshou / San Da died in my friend’s country because (1) they put a modern wushu coach with no experience in charge of training the team, (2) put the events in hard to reach, undesirable locations and (3) dropped full contact from the major events. Dear G’d! I said! It sounds so familiar…..
and with that, I re-post a famous article about sanshou / san da in the United States.
Because if you don’t remember, you might let it happen again.
Who is running San Shou in the US?
As many are already aware, the officially recognized IWUF organization in the United States, Anthony Goh’s USA WKF, has abandoned San Shou and handed it over to one man, Shawn Liu. The decision was made to let Shawn Liu administer all IWUF related San Shou activities; the team trials were made part of his event, he retained power to pick the final composition of the team and he continues to serve as the head coach of the national team. In addition, the USA WKF dropped San Shou from their national competition in favor of letting Shawn Liu run his own “national tournament”.
All of the coaches of the traditional “Big 6” protested. They all contacted Anthony Goh not only to protest but also with constructive suggestions. They were all given nothing more than lip service and ignored. Cordial language was exchanged and handy phrases were used, but was the decision really in the best interests of the sport? Who is Shawn Liu and why should a single man be put in charge of US San Shou?
Shawn Liu arrived in the US a complete unknown. He was shown around the country by Sifu Tai Yim, a very respected traditional teacher, as a courtesy. At that time, Shawn Liu was introduced as a WUSHU COACH. He never been able to acquire a full time position in China and thus had come to the US seeking opportunity. At no time was there ever any mention of the Shaolin temple or that Shawn Liu was a monk. Did Shawn Liu wake up one day and suddenly “remember” he had spent his entire life at the temple?
Let’s not forget history whenever we mention the Shaolin temple. It was virtually empty for most of the 20th century. In the 1980’s, after Jet Li made his famous “Shaolin Temple” film, he also did a documentary on Shaolin. At the time of that film, there were FOUR monks living in the monastery. Of course, in recent years Shaolin has become a big money making operation for the Chinese government, with details and history being played fast and loose. The Chinese government for example released a set of video tapes in the early 1990’s called “a course in Shaolin”. It is a compilation of several teachers, some not even strictly Shaolin. Thus, it does NOT represent the actual teaching in Shaolin or the teaching of one teacher. Is it mere coincidence that Shawn Liu first sold this set of tapes in the US in the early 1990’s? It also happened to be exactly what he taught when he first arrived here? Don’t you find that the least bit interesting?
Perhaps Shawn Liu’s fantastical claims about being a Shaolin monk are the reason two other Shaolin monks have BOTH punched him in the face at major events. The most recent being a normally very cool and very well liked Shi Guolin, who bloodied Liu’s nose at Jimmy Wong’s event. Shawn Liu also took a severe beating in China recently which he tried to spin in his favor and for sympathy. However, the real facts behind that incident remain obscured.
Even as a contemporary wushu coach, Shawn Liu left a lot to be desired. During a competition in Houston, students of Jeff Bolt had to speak to him because his scores were “all over the place”. Shawn Liu then performed what was supposed to be Chen Taijiquan at the masters’ demo. People who had actually practiced legitimate Chen Taijiquan report the performance was so bad it was embarrassing.
Shawn Liu first became “infamous” when he acted as Chinese Wushu Association president Xia Bahua’s translator. Xia Bahua discovered to his horror that Shawn Liu was not translating what he was saying and was in fact pushing his own agenda. Professor Xia complained through the Chinese Wushu Association. This forced USA WKF president Anthony Goh to demand Shawn Liu issue a formal apology.
On the same speaking tour, Shawn Liu demonstrated his unique ability to insult and alienate people who originally offered to work with him. Yonkers, NY based Shuai-Jiao (Chinese wrestling) teacher Peter Chema was kind enough to offer his space for FREE to Shawn Liu and Xia Bahua for their lecture. Shawn Liu returned the favor by insulting the Shuai Jiao people to their faces. Shawn Liu told them they didn’t know how to “ba” (grip) or throw correctly. Of course, since this was in English Xia Bahua did not know and only learned about it later. Professor Xia was naturally embarrassed and upset.
The same day, during the same lecture, Shawn Liu actually punched himself in the face and broke his glasses while trying to demonstrate a basic technique. For years, people have questioned Shawn Liu’s skill level. He claims to have been a fighting champion. Of course, he claims to have done those fights while at Shaolin temple and we’ve already noticed that for years he never mentioned Shaolin while here in the US? And no one can find any record, pictures, movies etc of these matches? Strange don’t you think?
A former national San Shou coach said of Shawn Liu, “he’s a nice guy from the same province as me.” but when asked about his skills and accomplishments as a fighter? The coach said he had no comment.
Shawn Liu has a habit of claiming other people’s students as his own. A number of people he never trained at all he claims as his students. His complete inability to run an effective practice has been the source of jokes among the US team for years. A former member of the national team has noted that Shawn Liu is virtually clueless working the corner at events. The real truth of course is that Shawn Liu is “US coach” in name only, Jason Yee and Cung Le have been the driving forces in the actual training, as almost all of the team members have been their students anyway.
Shawn Liu has set up an institute in the United States but his students have not made a dent in the US San Shou community. Even at his own event, the US Open, they lose consistently to other teams, even non “Big 6” people. Why is a man who has never produced a champion the US team coach?
As a promoter, Shawn Liu has consistently made promises he could not deliver on. He has promoted several events which were dismal failures, only being bailed out by the good will of people like Houston’s Jeff Bolt. Shawn Liu always promises to deliver international fighters, he has consistently failed to do so. At the US Open in 2001, Shawn Liu bragged he had fighters from “France, Iran, Egypt, and Trinidad” to one of the press people. He didn’t mention that these fighters were members of the New York Team! (France = Nizar Balghitti, Iran = Yousef Taghizadeh, Egypt = Ahmen Mohammed, Trinidad = Richard Acosta).
The recent “K Super Star” events that Shawn Liu has run have similarly been poorly advertised, poorly run and poorly attended. With each show he gets less support from the big name fighters and traditional “Big 6” teams. If Shawn Liu had not conspired with USA WKF president Anthony Goh to have the US national team trials at his most recent event, NONE of the major programs would have attended at all. This was demonstrated by the fact that so-called “national” tournament and super fights at this event received NO support from the established programs.
Why put US San Shou in the hands of an individual who has shown a complete inability to even run an event? The so-called “national” tournament was in reality local, poorly organized, and poorly attended. It had 30 competitors, less than the local tournament NYKK did in New York in their gym! It was a pathetic attempted when compared to the Arnold Classic which had over 150 competitors including representatives of all of the original “Big 6”.
On to even more important issues, is Shawn Liu dishonest? A few people think so. It is well known that the “King of San Da” pro circuit in China pays good money to each team that comes to it’s special “China vs the world” cards. Shawn Liu brought a US team, did he give the fighter’s the money? Oh, did we mention that he forgot to tell a few of the US fighters that they were fighting with knees? That one “found out” the first time he got kneed?
Have the US team trials been conducted dishonestly? Maybe. We know that a major coach had to scream at the top of his lungs at Shawn Liu when a multi time national champion was going to be over looked so Shawn could put a “favorite” who had never held a title on the team instead. This isn’t widely known, but a few do know about it.
A few people have said that Shawn Liu “suggested” the outcome of a few San Shou matches in the past. That’s when he isn’t head judge and can’t simply wave off a decision ala IWUF fascist rules. In 1997 all FIVE judges had black winning in the finals of the United World event, Shawn switched it to red. Was it a coincidence that red knew Shawn? Maybe? Maybe not.
Back to more practical matters. Has Shawn Liu ever had enough influence to help out a US Team member when the IWUF was trying to do them wrong? The answer is NO. Not when Cung Le was wrongly disqualified in Italy. Not when Ray Neves was lied to and then dropped at the last worlds. Not when Albert Pope was robbed at the World Cup. He isn’t a great trainer, hasn’t produced any national champions of his own, and has no influence with the IWUF. Thank god he’s Chinese we guess?
Has Shawn Liu gone power mad lately? It’s an interesting subject to debate. He refused to attend either the US Wushu Union or the Arnold Classic because he didn’t get “a special invitation”. He’s more special than the rest of us, remember that please. Shawn Liu arranged for the USA WKF to drop San Shou and for the team trials to be held at his event. Shawn Liu also originally scheduled his event in conflict with Cung Le’s
At this most recent event, when a coach of one of the super fight participants argued with him, Shawn Liu’s answer was to have security remove him from the building. Did we mention that the coach in question was correct, and that Shawn had acted against the terms of a contract IN WRITING. Who does Shawn Liu think he is? A tyrant?
Have we mentioned that Shawn Liu has not paid many of the coaches and athletes the money he has promised them for their participation in his events?
Finally, let us never forget that at the 2001 US Open in Atlanta, Shawn Liu told the coaches of the “Big 6” San Shou teams that the new federation was for them and that he’d only act as an “adviser”. However, he appointed himself president and CEO. Did anyone vote for him? Was there a vote? The rest of the new board suspiciously doesn’t have a single member of the US San Shou community on it either. Could be he forgot about them? Maybe.