Tue, Nov 10, 2015 - Page 12 News List

The force is strong with this one

A kung fu fighter and actor, Keoni Everington talks about Jedi knights, Boxers, the art of self-defense and being the baddie

By Jules Quartly

Keoni Everington believes that in every loss there is a gain, just as in every gain there is loss.

Photo: Jules Quartly

Keoni Everington’s tag on social media is the Star Wars line, “Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side.” The 43-year-old is tall, dark and supremely violent, someone who enjoys “creating mayhem and tormenting women” — in movies, that is.

Rather disappointingly the martial arts master and actor destroys the illusion a little later when he’s forced to admit, “It’s just an act, I’m a nice guy really.”

An American from the melting pot — Hawaiian, Scottish-Irish and Chinese — he has made Taipei his home for the past year. Relocating from Beijing, he did so because of the polluted air and cost of education for his two girls, but also at the behest of his Taiwanese wife, who had had enough of China.

Having made the great leap forward, he says there’s a lot to like about Taiwan: “The clean air, relaxed atmosphere, its safer for kids, a better environment, more genteel and maybe a bit more Westernized, but also with the traditional Chinese culture I like.”

He says that film work is harder to find and he doesn’t seem to be a fan of all the talk shows, though his Chinese is impeccable (as, for the record, is his Spanish) and he’s made a few guest appearances.

Like many foreign arrivals, he pretty much has to accept that the country has just three kinds of jobs — teacher, journalist or businessperson — and do what he really loves in his spare time. An adaptable and well-educated fellow, this is nothing new. In previous incarnations he has worked in translation, ESL, IT, law, advertising and publishing. He is currently an editor for a news Web site.

He’s keen to explore further the world of traditional Chinese medicine, fiddle with the Chinese flute, dip into calligraphy or Chinese painting and learn Hoklo (more commonly known as Taiwanese). But clearly kung fu is his first love and he continues to train, give lessons and compete, recently taking gold at the “Eighth China Martial Way Cup National Traditional Wushu Championships” (第八屆中華武道盃) in Taipei.

He started at age 11, urged on by his Hawaiian father, taking up the native hybrid martial art kajukenbo, which was developed for combat on what were then the criminally tough streets of Oahu. After progressing to taekwondo, his years at Miami University were a time for experimentation, moving from one style to another, including Shaolin crane, wing chun and a modified tai chi.

The next port of call on his martial arts odyssey was, naturally enough, China, where Everington found an English teaching position at Renmin University in Beijing. I think we can imagine how much this “journey to the east” meant to someone who grew up nourished by the legend of Bruce Lee (李小龍) and Shaw Brothers movies, or the 1970s TV series Kung Fu, starring David Carradine and its gnomic drops of wisdom like, “No, Grasshopper, evil cannot be conquered in the world, only resisted in oneself.”

It was in Beijing that Everington continued his martial arts education and his tai chi instructor would eventually come up with his Chinese name, Hua Wujie (华武杰), meaning “magnificent martial hero.” His fellow students, on the other hand, would call him “The Eagle,” a description of his swooping, out-of-nowhere attacks, plus the fact he’s American.

Everington’s introduction to baguazhang (八卦掌) master Sui Yunjiang (隋雲江) was the holy grail in his search for the essence of kung fu. He speaks in almost reverential terms of his “true master,” a fifth-generation inheritor of the discipline, which stretches back to the early 19th century and Dong Haichuan (董海川).

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