It was the night two ancient cultures met. Originally from the farthest corners of China, ambassadors of Kung Fu came to Chisasibi and performed in the first martial artsexhibition that town has ever seen.
The evening opened with a Lion Dance, which is said to bring luck and happiness.With a beat of the traditional Chinese Drum, two magnificent lions emerged from the”Dragon’s Head Entrance” on stage. They inched their way to a head of lettuce strungfrom the ceiling and tore it down. Then the festivities began.
For over three hours, one thousand spectators at Job’s Memorial Gardens witnessed aspectacular show of the boundless forms and styles of this 5,000-year-old Chinesetradition.
And they were joined on stage by Chisasibi’s own 52 Kung Fu students.
“Who would have thought, even a few years ago, that a Cree would be practicing thestyles of such sifus and masters as Bruce Lee,” said Christopher Napash, representingThe Cree Nation of Chisasibi.
Early in the show, 16-year-old brown-belt Amanda Sam demonstrated how a woman woulddefend herself when she knocked down Samuel Sealhunter seven times and then chased himoff stage with swinging nunchuks.
Sifu Abel Da Silva drew gasps from the crowd when he nicked his shaved head whileperforming Shaolin Chuan Monks Spade. Blood oozed down his neck. The crowd was relievedwhen he appeared later, with the Long Arm Form and the blood gone.
Master Augustin Ngu wowed the audience when in a blindfold, he blocked and punched hisstudent down to the cold hard floor.
A street fight sequence, performed in jeans, came closest to the Kung Fu we love on screen. To the beat of “Who wants to know,” the two men fought over a back pack, and the crowd went wild.
Then, a figure calmly walked out to the centre of the darkened stage. The lights came on to reveal the silver-haired 75-year old Master Rong-En Chen. He began his demonstration with slow deliberate, dance-like movements and ended in a flurry of punches and kicks drawing the loudest cheers of the evening.
The show ended late with the entire audience making its way down to the stage to shake the hands of the performers. One Sifus who works with people’s inner energy felt so much from the crowd during all the handshaking that he started weeping and had to stop.
“There’s a power in the knowledge of Kung Fu. Governments in the past have discouraged it, because the knowledge of Kung Fu is like nuclear power in India and Pakistan we see today,” said Master Ngu.
Kung Fu came to Chisasibi with Jean Lauzier when he moved there in 1992 started a Kung Fu school.
“On the local radio, they used to call me ‘Kung Fu Fighter,”‘ laughs event organizer Lauzier. “But now, the show has helped to demystify what it is we do. Kung Fu is more than just fighting. It is a whole philosophy, a whole way of being”.
One Chisasibi resident admitted that, at first, people were worried that Kung Fu might bring violence.
But according to police dispatcher Caroline Einish, “It’s the first time there was no violence in town during a performance this size. All the police got to watch the show!”
The visiting Masters, Sifus and students were treated to a taste of Cree culture during their visit. Some witnessed a walking-out ceremony, and they were hosted by Connie Bearskin in a teepee with caribou stew and bannock. “We were treated like gold,” said Sifu Lome Bernard, who helped organize the event.
“The people are so nice here,” said Master Chiu, “The faces and the hair look so much like us.”
Master Ngu added, “We really fit in here! I could open a restaurant in what they call’Chisasibi Chinatown’!”