Carmel Valley kung fu kids selected to U.S. national wushu team

Hong Wu Kung Fu and Tai Chi Academy athletes and families at the U.S. National Wushu team trial.
(Yihui Peng)

Carmel Valley is home to a hotbed of kung fu specialists, as a group of young martial artists will represent the United States at the 13th Pan-American Wushu Championships in Brazil this July.

More than 350 athletes competed at the U.S. National Wushu team trial in Lubbock, Texas on May 27-29, in the 8-11 and 12-14 age groups. After three days of fierce competition, Carmel Valley kids earned five of the 24 spots on the national team: Yingshan Mu, Alice Zhu, Addison Lam, Aaron Cheng and Alexander He. Additionally, Albert Liu, Kevin Gu, Aaron He and Garvin Zheng also made it as backup team members.

Yingshan Mu
(Yihui Peng )

All of the athletes are students at Hong Wu Kung Fu and Tai Chi Academy in Sorrento Valley, founded in 2009 by Carmel Valley husband and wife team Willis Lam and Qin Huang. Huang is a Chinese national champion who came to the U.S. in 2005. “She’s considered a professional athlete in China,” said Lam, who has a background in various martial arts and has been practicing wushu for the last 20 years.

“This is the first time we’ve had so many students all make it together,” Lam said. “They are hard-working and passionate for the art…They improve every time they’re in class.”

Wushu, a form of martial arts also known as Kung Fu, has grown into a global competitive sport practiced by thousands of people all over the world.

“The complexities of the movements are much more holistic, it involves the whole body,” said Lam. “All martial arts focus on spirit but wushu in practice has a very special way of presenting the martial arts spirit. We go to extremes when it comes to being fast or slow or upright or crouching… and pushing the body to the limit.”

Aaron Cheng
(Yihui Peng )

Yingshan “Shanshan” Mu, a 12-year-old eighth grader at Pacific Trails Middle School, has been practicing wushu, since she was five years old. “At first it was for exercise but afterward I saw a potential in me and that I could be really competitive,” Shanshan said.

She has won dozens of gold medals at national Kung Fu competitions, including the grand champion last December in Phoenix but when learning WuShu, Shanshan said it’s about more than the medals it’s about how she is learning, developing leadership skills and making friends. Her dream has been to make the national team and it came true in May when she finished in the top six in Lubbock: “I didn’t really have any expectations, I just did my best,” she said.

With Brazil coming up, she will now focus on her training and improving her skills.

Alexander He
(Yihui Peng)

Brothers and team members Alexander and Aaron He, sixth and fifth graders at Carmel Del Mar, earlier this year won three championships each and ranked in the top six for the U.S. Wushu national team mock trial. They ranked sixth and seventh nationally in their age group in Lubbock. Aaron also achieved first rank in a segment of the competition where participants use a spear, and Alex achieved second rank in a segment of the competition where participants use a sword.

The brothers have always done whatever it takes to improve. The family has moved multiple times before settling in San Diego, and at times had to travel up to 200 miles per week to visit different masters, their father, Ping He, said.

He said he has been “excited” and “encouraged” by the progress his sons have made.

The Hong Wu Kung Fu coaches are happy about their students’ accomplishments, and also humble.

“At our school, we strive at bringing out the best in each of them as individuals,” Lam said. “The experience is not just to focus on winning but to help them see all the amazing things they can achieve by pushing themselves to their personal limits.”

Alice Zhu
(Yihui Peng )