Like any other Marlborough athlete, Lauren ’16 is dedicated to her sport. However, she’s not your average Mustang. In addition to playing club soccer and Varsity Soccer at Marlborough, she also practices Wushu, a Chinese performance-based martial art, which she performed at Morning Meeting at Marlborough on Nov. 19, 2014.
According to Lauren, three major types of martial arts are practiced around the world: Japanese Karate, Korean Taekwondo and Chinese Kung Fu. There are several different kinds of Kung Fu, one of which is Wushu. Various forms of southern and northern Chinese Wushu exist, both with distinct styles. According to her, over 70 million people in the world practice some form of Wushu daily.
She began training at the Shaolin Wushu Center in Los Angeles in March, 2013 after seeing the movie Warrior (2011), a drama featuring martial arts that sparked her interest in Wushu. She generally trains between one to five times a week.
“[Wushu] started out as cross-training for soccer…It’s helped me become more flexible and work up my body, but now I just love doing the forms,” she said.
Aleke Kuoh, another student at the Shaolin Center, began practicing Wushu just over 5 years ago out of fascination with old Kung Fu films. Similarly to Lauren, Kuoh practices around 5 times a week with two days off to let his body heal.
Her coach, Kevin Barile, has been practicing Wushu for almost 14 years and has been instructing full-time since 2008 at the Shaolin Wushu Center. Like Lauren and Kuoh, Barile’s interest in Wushu came from the movies.
“I wanted to know what kinds of martial arts Jackie Chan did, and once I found Wushu, I just kind of fell in love with it and I’ve been doing it ever since,” Barile said.
According to Barile, Wushu competitions are similar to those of a gymnast in that the performer executes a series of movements for a score. In contrast, Karate or Taekwondo competitions are more combative systems of fighting or hitting opponents.
Barile describes Wushu competitions as unique because the focus is on the competitor owning the carpet space. She has participated in two competitions where she performed both a weaponless hand form called “Long Fist” and a form using the long wooden staff.
In late June, shetraveled to Hangzhou, a province in China, for a two-week trip with a group from her training center. She visited the Zhe Jiong Sports College, a specialized training center and trained with one of the best Wushu teams in the world. According to Choi, the training was eye-opening.
She describes the experience she took away from her trip as motivation to embody hard work and artistry when practicing different forms.
“Exposure to a new level of physical training has inspired me to do more athletically and academically…and knowing they [the students] would go on with their lives we would come back to the U.S. was an interesting thing to wrap my head around,” she said.
According to both Kuoh and Lauren, Wushu is an fun sport, a great workout, and has a great community surrounding it.
“Wushu provides mental stability. By disciplining your body through training, you discipline your mind,” Kuoh said. She described the sport as having the perfect combination of power and finesse.
Lauren adds that she will definitely continue her practice of Wushu in the future, hopefully through college and as an adult.
“I was watching the movie Shaolin Temple and [the characters in the movie] were doing similar movements to the professionals… I love the whole idea that you could be able to be like them someday,” she said.