A hostage to fortune

Dragoncache sent me an SMS a couple of weeks ago – would I like to be on TV? I should know better – I’ve had bad experiences of being on TV – but like a fool I still said sure, tell me more..

It turns out that CCTV (China’s State Broadcasting Agency) have set up a new English-medium channel, to be broadcast in the US (and maybe Europe?). Someone had had the idea of a programme about foreigners coming to China to study martial arts. You can see where this is going, right..?

I met the reporter, Sunny, shortly afterwards at Lush, and we chatted for a few hours. She decided they would feature me, and arranged to come to the University on Tuesday last week. Well, that got cancelled, rearranged, altered, etc, and eventually they came on Friday. We spent most of the morning in the garden where I normally train, plus some time filming me cycling around campus.

Heh. I don’t think they asked me the right questions… They filmed me going through a taiji set. Now, I was perfectly happy to tell them that it wasn’t a form taught in China, but instead was developed by a high-ranking Guomindang official who subsequently moved to Taiwan and New York… but they didn’t ask…. When it came to bagua, Sun Lao Shi’s admonition that I’m not good enough to represent him yet was still fresh in my mind, so I used the form I first learned from Zhang Sheng Li back in 2004; I’ve practised it regularly, so no problems there.

Of course, I’ve always said on this blog that I’m not very good, and that’s not false modesty. Now, who knows, you may get to see it on TV or, more likely, on YouTube… I’m not embarrassed by this, btw – I’m learning at my own pace and in my own way, and I’m happy enough; I don’t feel any need to compare myself to anyone else!

It was interesting, given that I’ve thought about trying out acting sometime; we had to do some shots many times, because the cameraman thought my expression wasn’t quite right… They interviewed me about why I’m here, and as usual, my brain turned to mush as soon as the camera went on – all of the coherent arguments and turns of phrase that worked well in rehearsal turned to blah bleh uuurgghh dribble….

It was also interesting because the cameraman asked me to repeat certain moves so that he could shoot from different angles; not see easy to know what he meant, when the translator says can you repeat the bit where you [cue waving of arms that’s apparently meant to indicate what I should do… but doesn’t…] Even when I worked out what he wanted, I found it really hard to do just a couple of moves in isolation; I needed to work up to them by repeating part or all of the form….

Later, they filmed me in class, (they needed material to show my daily life) and we had a clash of wills as the director started ordering my students around; I had to remind her that this was my class, not hers, and she should just film and stay out of the way…

In the evening, I was due to meet friends at the Drum and Bell, so as part of the ‘daily life’ bit, the camera crew tagged along. We got there early, so they filmed me strolling around the hutong to the side of the Bell Tower, and tried to get me to play badminton with the local kids… I refused – no problem filming my ‘normal life’ but I’m not going to let them make stuff up….

Oh, and that day had really bad air quality, so they say that the footage they took of me practising is “just in case”; they’ll get back to me again to shoot more when the air is clear and the sky is blue. Plus, they want footage of Dragoncache and I chilling out, chatting, practising together (which we never do), and drinking beer together (which we often do)….

Aiyoh…. I should have learned that being on TV only means trouble… now I’ll end up on YouTube being mocked by people who are actually good at bagua and taiji…. What have I done????



  1. Sounds great! 😀 Hope someone does put up your video on YouTube, so that we can get our hands on it! Mua ha ha!


  2. Hehe… I just hope they come back and film again! They told me as soon as they arrived that anything they filmed on that day was only “backup” because of the weather, so I hadn’t really warmed up, or stretched, so actually it was pretty poor stuff even by my own standards….

    Once it’s finished, I have no idea when it’s due to be broadcast. They did promise me that they would give me a copy on DVD, but my experience of the media tells me that this is extremely unlikely to happen in reality! Still, if I do get that, I’ll have to try to rip the best bits and pre-emptively YouTube them…. (not sure if it’s allowable to use YouTube as a noun, but if you can Google something, then why not…?)


  3. Ha ha… Yeah, better “tube” it yourself to make sure the better bits go up (not the worse bits!)… But of course they will broadcast the absolute worst parts (they can’t tell) of the “backup” that will invariably be used as the “master”… 😉


  4. How things look identical, being a university instructor in Beijing, or here in southern Taiwan.
    Had the same experience, local TV, they didn’t have too much on their own agenda, but they didn’t want to report on my adopted dog from the street and concerning problems. I met some interesting teachers of gongfu through them what was nice.
    How is your new contract comming?
    We (also Taiwanese) always have 2 year contracts, but with a fixed position at school after 10 years, nobody can be kicked out easily.


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