Mexico. What did I expect to find there. Tacos tick, burritos tick, mezcal tick, tequila tick, grasshoppers in your quesadillas (tlayuda chapulinas) NO; a traditional kung fu school where the Sifu is cool enough to make his own lion heads- definitely NOT. But thats exactly what I found in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
It was a pleasure to meet Jose Jaime Fabian of the International Chiu Chi Ling Hung Gar Kung Fu Oaxaca Branch. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Jose is an avid martial artist who has been practising Hung Gar Kung Fu for a number of years. A chance encounter with his now sifu, Chiu Chi Ling, during a demonstration in Mexico City lead to him now being Chiu Chi Ling’s disciple. With diligent practice and a passion for spreading the art, he has now been able to open his own school in Oaxaca City. And that’s just the kung fu. As part of most kung fu schools who base their roots from Hong Kong, another integral part of the school program is the lion dance and Jose’s school is no exception.
Jose the lion and dragon maker.
Oaxaca City in Mexico is not quite the usual “scene” for lion dancing and dragon dancing. Jose and his students are the only team in Oaxaca City to be actively performing and demonstrating the lion dance and dragon dance. So it has been up to them to entertain and delight the crowds for those special occasions.It’s easy to forget that for most of us living in Australia, USA, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore etc, there is a huge network of troupes and lion dancers to feed off and inspire each other. Jose has had to not only learn the lion dance and teach it to his students but also come up with the props (lions and dragons) needed for their performances. To this end, he has gone one step beyond a lot of the usual aficionados of lion dancing and has made a lion head as well as a whole dragon!!! And I think he has done an absolutely terrific job with his creations.
Myself having made a few lions, I know exactly how difficult it is to make a lion head let alone a dragon. I have been fortunate enough to borrow a few of the old lion heads that were brought over from Hong Kong in the hey day of the lion head manufacturing era so I have had a great chance to study up close and personally with at least the Luen Fat Cheung style of lion head. I’ve also had the chance to really get close to and look at the frames of mutitple other lion heads as well as the paintings and artwork that adorn them. Without those examples, it would have been extremely difficult task for me. Therefore I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for Jose to have made the dragon- head and body and all and his own lion heads without any of the other reference materials.
During my visit to his gwoon, we had a great time chatting about kung fu and lion dancing. I also got to play with two of his “global lion” lions which are heavy!!!
On a personal level, Jose is an extremely friendly guy and hospitable with meeting with me on an absolute random day. If you’re ever in Oaxaca City in Mexico and keen to check out his school he can be contacted through the school’s facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/kungfuoaxaca/?timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_education&timeline_context_item_source=100001140378553&pnref=lhc
Here are some photos of the visit.
Some of the school’s achievements
Works in progress
Close up of the dragon
More works in progress
Tlayuda with Chapulinas- thats fried grasshoppers stuffed into a tortilla