Lei Shao Long
I started martial arts at the age of 7, learning basic Tae Kwon Do and Karate. When I turned 14, I met Master Lu at Master Lu's Health Center in Salt Lake City, who then taught me Northern Shaolin Kungfu. I joined the Marine Corps at 19, and shortly became a Marine Corps Martial Art Instructor as my secondary military occupational specialty, training hundreds of Marines in deadly hand-to-hand combat they'd use in the war overseas. When I returned home, I came back to my roots to finish what I started; I then became a Master of my school's Jung Hing Northern Shaolin Kungfu style when I turned 31.
Though I was considered a Master by formality, I still felt that I lacked qualities that I saw from martial artists who studied overseas. This feeling combined with the desire to understand Taiji better than anyone else in Utah pushed me to selling my house and everything I had to travel and live in Wudangshan, China. I enrolled myself at the China Kungfu Wudang Academy, the biggest and most well-known school in Wudangshan. I arrived in Wudangshan December 2014, then for 6-8 hours a day, 6 days a week I would do nothing but practice Taiji or Kungfu, until my recent graduation from the academy in May 2015 as a certified Taiji Instructor - the first and only student to bring back this knowledge to Utah. I was given the name Lei Shao Long by instructors - Shao Long means "Young Dragon." It was a humbling experience, and to this day, I still feel I can get better as a martial artist.
It honestly felt as if I was living in an old school kungfu movie. Many people would be roaming the small town in uniform, swords sold everywhere including grocery stores, and people practiced martial arts everywhere without the slightest glare from people passing by. Locals would flock to my school every month. Even enjoying local food in town I would sit next to someone from Germany, France, Australia... all with the same passion and reason why we were at Wudangshan - to understand Taiji.
I chose Wudangshan because of its reputation for being the home to many Taiji masters in China. It is believed this is where Zhang Sanfeng, a famous Chinese Daoist priest, observed a bird fighting a snake, noticing the defensive strikes from the snake as it protected itself. From this he created the patient, supple and powerful Taijiquan - Grand Ultimate Fist. This style combined internal health under Chinese medicine theory, exercise, meditation and self-defense.
Though I specialize in traditional martial arts, in spirit of Taiji philosophy of balance, I believe our health should be balanced accordingly with fitting time to meditate, stretch, weight-lift and do cardio activities. Whether it's yoga, cross-fit, running, swimming or outdoor sports, exercise should be fun with a mix of new activities to keep your body happy.
Being a former Marine Corps Martial Art Instructor I'm still down to earth with my beliefs in self-defense and keeping it practical.
I don't believe in magical attacks and defenses, and schools that claim to do this just ruin the reputation of hard working traditional martial arts. I happily believe there is no one "perfect system" that many styles claim to advocate. I believe in learning from the best in their respective fields and incorporating them into my life.
Aside from martial arts I'm a Spartan Trifecta holder, Tough Mudder, marathon and Ragnar runner, and a former world-record breaker in endurance. Learning new sports and activities is fun, and I will always advise students to be broad in their practice of martial arts to maintain balance. I believe leaders, such as myself, need to lead the example of carrying healthy bodies, away from the horrible norm I've been noticing with traditional overweight martial art masters. I've seen overweight black belts claiming to be masters when all I could see was otherwise. No amount of skills or forms will replace a strong body when it comes to fighting.
The Sanfeng-school family throughout Wudangshan
Criticism and doubts aside of whether or not the rumors of where Taijiquan started are true, what I can say from personal experience is that Wudangshan is a living entity of Taiji. Everyone discussed and practiced Taiji to a point where it was a science, no longer a mystic art. I trained with students and masters who knew there is more to Taiji than just exercise for the elderly. It is truly the balancing energy that we often lack in our lives. We constantly give and expend energy, but we take no care to recover and replenish that energy. We're always moving, but never taking time to stop. Always actively thinking but never relaxing our minds. We expect so much out of our lives but don't give our bodies the attention it deserves. Please allow me the opportunity to show you everything that I have learned.