Fast as lightning
Published: Sunday, December 2, 2012
Updated: Sunday, December 2, 2012 14:12
UB’s Center For the Arts was transformed into a monastery as members of a packed audience received their black belt in Shaolin Warrior entertainment.
On Thursday night, Shaolin Warriors Production stopped in Buffalo as part of their current North American Tour and gave a dazzling performance before a nearly sold-out audience at the CFA. The disciples of the Shaolin monastery presented their fighting techniques through a series of dramatic displays of Kung Fu martial arts. The monks engaged the crowd and pulled members on stage for a night of both humorous and jaw dropping martial arts action.
Shaolin Kung Fu makes up one of the two major schools of martial arts that originated in China. Founded by an Indian Buddhist monk over 1,000 years ago, the Shaolin monastery still trains monks today in a traditional system that involves a lifetime of learning and training. Monks are trained primarily in meditation and Buddhist practice, along with intense physical regimens designed for defense against all types of opponents.
The monks have always been known to practice their fighting techniques in non-aggressive ways; their aim isto add discipline and defense to their training rather than any pursuit of conflict. In an effort to train the body more rigorously, the mind is tested through physical endurance practices and vice versa.
The performers of Shaolin Warriors are trained in China, but their performance takes eastern traditional Kung Fu and modifies it for a western audience. The show is designed to highlight the major fighting techniques of Shaolin Kung Fu while adding impressive feats of pain endurance and strength displays to stun audiences.
The performance was divided into five sections, each depicting a different series of practices or teachings from Shaolin: enlightenment, mind over body, mimic boxing and Chi Gong, mastery of weapons and graduation test. The stage was set with backdrops of the monastery and natural scenery from the base of Mount Shaoshi where the Shaolin monastery was founded.
The performance was theatrical without any dialogue, and the monks used their techniques as a choreography that told a story of two young monks and their progression toward becoming a master.
Youngsters from the audience had a chance at becoming masters, too. At one point, several of the monks left the stage and asked any young child who wanted to go on stage to stand in a large group for a training exercise.
The children came to the stage in masses and hilarity ensued. After all the crying little monks returned to their parents in the audience, the Shaolin monks proceeded to teach the group a series of Kung Fu movements. The audience was wild with laughter and the children clearly enjoyed themselves.
“It was fun, and my favorite part was doing the kicks,” said Jacob Parzych, 7, who bravely performed on stage with the group.
The monks quickly returned to serious business after the comedic relief and continued to draw “oohs” and “ahs” from the audience who showered them with applause throughout the evening.
At one point, one of the monks lay down across the blades of three large swords anda double-sided bed of nails was placed on his chest. Another monk laid his back on top of the bed and then a large slab of concrete was placed on his chest, only to be smashed into pieces with an enormous sledgehammer. Several similar feats of pain endurance were mixed in with a show that showed off the amazing flexibility and acrobatic skills of the monks.
The young boys whose story set the performance to a theatrical storyline showed off abilities that included splits, back bending and flips of all kinds.
But it wasn’t only the young ones who got to show off.
After the intermission, the monks returned to the audience to pull more members from the crowd, this time seeking out adults. Two men were asked to remove a bowl that had been suctioned to a Shaolin monk’s chest, a task that proved to be impossible.
The most crowd-pleasing moment came when two grown men were brought onto the stage and asked to perform a fighting sequence.
The audience burst with laughter as the two men struggled to complete the sequence in unison. One of the men towered over the other and clearly already knew a thing or two about hand-to-hand combat, making his opponent seem a bit unmatched.
“It was very interesting,” said Chris Taggart, a bank manager turned Shaolin monk after his on-stage debut. “I have a background in martial arts, but it’s a different style than I’m used to, so the movements and techniques were a little different. I really enjoyed it.”