Although Robert was a big fellow, the Lt was 5kg more at 110kg. The Lt had received combat training as a member of a specialized Army unit, possibly GSG9 but he was very 'closed' about it and in the 9 months of training together never said anything specific. Robert did not press the issue. It was an interesting match up between the formal traditional hard karate against an army trained hand to hand specialist. The style of grappling and throwing that the Lt used was quite foreign to Robert but very interesting (A few year later Robert came across the art of Aikido and recognized much of what the Lt used).
Evidently the Lt did not use the full range of his training and neither did Robert do the join breaking techniques he learned. But still, the bouts were hard, very hard. The Base Medical Unit got to know them both well but as Robert was the 'Captains' Driver and in the Officers Training Group, this was not a problem. This training continued for 9 months, possibly the hardest 9 months of Roberts life. There were quite a few incidents but never anything that they both were not able to walk away from. It was good. And it was bad.
As good as his sparring and fighting came to be, this informal training caused a few problems with Robert's training back at the Karate school. In the 70's Karate was much more limited in it's techniques and very aggressive in it's attacks. The training with the Lt vastly improved Roberts Fighting skills but it also added some non-Karate 'bad habits'. Sensei Arno was not pleased. It was not the done thing to train in another style once you committed to a Master. Yet, Robert now was in the top 5 fighters in the club, all except him were Black Belts. With the Army Interruption, Robert was only a Green, not even a brown. This caused some internal 'friction'.
This was a big year in Karate. The first European Karate Championships were being held in Berlin, only 400 km from Hamburg. The whole club went and 11 fighters were entered. A Black Sash by the name of Franz won, Robert was disqualified in his 3rd bout for 'grappling'. This was still an honorable resut. Either way, Robert was now officially in the 32 person 'fighting squad!'
In 1975 Robert was promoted to Brown 2 and competed in the European Championships in Rome. This time he came second in the full contact open Black Belt division without disqualification or incident. Some 6 to 7 of the Black belt full contact competitors were sent to hospital on the day with injuries ranging from broken ribs, concussion to bent/broken fingers, dislocated arms and sever bleeding. It was a hard competition; almost as tough as England. His final competition with the club was in 1976, an exceeding tough competition with many injuries. After 6 successful elimination rounds Robert became the European full contact Champion 1976!
1976 was the first time in Roberts life where a year took on a meaning more than every other year. There would be another 4 such years for him by the end of the 20th century,
After the death of Sensei Arno the club dissolved. Robert wanted to continue training, especially as the next Karate Championships were to be held in his home town of Hamburg; but at that time, another karate club was not an option. Although he did not know it at the time, at age of 23 he was getting a bit adverse to all the black eyes, broken/bloodied noses, pain, etc. He was looking for something gentler and was considering going back to Judo and finishing his Black Belt. It was a good friend of his that asked him to come along to train the new and very little know art of Aikido. Twenty Kilometers out of town, in a local school basket ball hall, he was introduced to Sensei 2nd Dan, Christine of "The Way of the Wind" Aikido. It was a wired and frustrating style. Robert was used to using his weight, strength and attitude; Aikido did not allow any of this!
It was a challenging time with a lot of changes. From being a truck driver to being a student; from bachelor to being engaged; from hard Karate to the soft Aikido; from being a professional Semi-Truck Driver to being a full time student; from living alone to living with a partner. Quite a stressfully time which almost resulted in death.
Twice before in his life Robert had been close to dying. Once as a 7 year old crossing a street and being mown down and driven over by a Volkswagen and once in a snow drift being covered by snow for a night. This time, waking up in the middle of the night, in his smoked filled bedroom, with severe breathing difficulties. Having banked the fire for the night, Robert had not noticed a piece of red hot coal falling to the side of the stove and started slowly burning through the the wooden floor and beam. By about 4am the room was totally filled with dense smoke. Robert was sleeping by the slightly opened window and this possibly saved him.
It was a tough time coming to a new country. Although Roberts brother lived here, Robert & Dagmar were on their own. As money was tight they both were occupied in the art of survival. Dagmar studied English and worked, Robert found a Job with Telstra, they both trained as often as they could (all else cost money); their only social life was their friends at the Lion.
This was another of those intense years. Robert started teaching kung Fu for the Lion at Monash University; Robert and Dagmar bought their 1st Home; Dagmar changed over to Tai Chi training, the Golden Lion Academy changed over to Wushu training and the NMAL (National Martial Art League) burst onto the Australian Martial Art scene. It was an Australia wide, all styles, full contact tournament. Martial Art schools of any type were asked to submit 5 person teams. These teams fought team against team every three weeks for 10 rounds, accumulating individual and team points. Robert was the oldest competitor by almost 10 years and this was a challenge in itself; yet for two years he participated regularly making the selections for the State Representation in both years. He had 20 bouts in all, 19 won, one loss on points (after the first hit he just kept on running away).
It was in such a time, whilst Robert was training by himself in the Park, a small oriental gentleman stopped and watched (he may have been there before at previous training Saturdays or Sundays but unnoticed). This in itself was not unusual; what was unusual about this person was that he stayed the full 2 hours and watched. The next Sunday (which now were usually without Craig who had a new girl friend and could not train as often) the oriental gentleman was back, sitting on the same spot. Whilst Robert was practicing the Iron Wire form (a hard isometric form), the gentleman started to chuckle. Robert felt a bit annoyed at this but what to do. The quiet chuckling continued until the man shook his head, walked over and adjusted my Robert's leg and foot positioning. This was very unusual!
He introduced himself as Hushiu (phonetic spelling) who unfortunately spoke very, very little English. He was quite an animated, interesting gentleman of some 160cm, 60+ years and enormous strength. Robert himself was around 125kg at the time, and this gentleman, half his size, seemed of equal strength. Over the coming few months Master Hushiu was a regular participant and teacher at these Sunday 'arvo' sessions. The communication was mainly Master Hushiu laughing and then adjusting some aspect of Robert's techniques; at times very frustrating but there was a difference. It is in these sessions that Robert Z learned to appreciate the detail that he did not learn to appreciate before.
This informal training continued for a period of 6 months with some exceptions until one Sunday. Master Hushiu came with a small boy who introduced himself as 'the nephew'. Steven was his English name. He explained that Master Hushiu was 87 years old, was Chinese and now lived in Taiwan where he was the founder and head of over a dozen different schools although he was no longer active. The schools were run by his sons and nephews. I was not able to find out what the style was that Master Hushiu taught except that it was a combination of "Shaolin Long Fist, Chi Kung and Tai Chi/Baqua". That day, Master Hushiu came to say goodbye as he was leaving to go back home the following Monday. They would not see each other again. As a result of this encounter, Robert made it a habit to expand his knowledge and started training with other kung Fu styles. With some he stayed only for a few months with others longer, with one for 4 years.
The time from 1987 to 1991 was also a time of many Demos and Shows. The Golden Lion Academy participated and a number of Moomba parades, in between play events at the MCG, Street and Council Festivals, Chinese New Year Lion Dancing and Shopping Center promotional's. 1991 was also the year Robert was awarded the Student of the Year and the year of his second 'encounter'.
The Golden Lion Demo and Show team with which Robert & Craig were members, were performing at a street demo at the Glenhuntly Road festival. It was really a street demo by Glenhuntly RS, dodging trams whilst demonstrating in the middle of the street. At the end of the day, when all was packed up and everyone was ready to go he was approached by an oriental gentleman. Robert referred the gentleman to Master Richard, but the gentleman declined and wanted to speak to him. He identified himself in excellent English as Master Kin-nu the third son of Grand Master . . . . . of the Wind Element Tornado or Whirlwind Kung Fu style.
He said that he had observed Robert carefully, when he performed a form of Robert's own design (for the purpose of demos and competitions) based on the Northern Long Fist. Master Kin-nu observed that some of the form bore a striking resemblance to his family style. Robert mentioned that he did not know of the style but that is was based on some of the random training he was doing with various Kung Fu Masters. Master Kin-nu suggested that he and Robert might meet in a nearby park for a tea some time.
Two meetings and 3 pots of green tea later Master Kin-nu suggested to show Robert Z some aspects of his style including whirling fists, the windmill, and a few other techniques, moves and stepping. Much of what Robert saw he knew and had learned before but what Master Kin-nu showed and explained was slightly different in subtle ways. Master explained some essentials of his family style that Robert had not ever seen or even considered before. This started a process that was to be the end of Robert time with the Golden Lion.
It seems that Master Kun-nu's family left China around the 1920's taking their style, Whirling Fists of . . . ., Thunder Stepping and Undulating Palm with them. This style of Kung Fu had been in their family exclusively for many generations. Master taught his style now only to two of his family members; which was his way of continuing his training of the family style. As he was visiting Australia he basically needed a victim; and this was a good thing. We continued to meet in various parks for a further 3 months, once a week on Sunday mornings. They were tough session in which Robert was also introduced to the principles of Undulating Palms, Thunder Stepping and of course Whirlwind Style/Fist Kung Fu, Heavy Foot, Water Palm, Tornado Kick, Whipping Branch hands, the Lightning Front Kick, Ape Hand & Feet Techniques and some others (Master enjoyed 'descriptive names' for techniques); although nothing was allowed to be noted down or recorded (Robert was into Video'ing).
It was one Sunday after training Master Kin-nu invited Robert to Yum-Cha at the Gold Leaf restaurant in Glenhuntly Road. There he told him that that was their last session. He was returning home. The announcement coming out of the blue, Robert sought to thank Master Kin-nu for the training but Master Kin-nu replied that it was his honor and pleasure to do so; (which Robert had not quite understood at the time). Then slightly grinning, suggested that otherwise he would have been very bored, when the rest of his family went to Sunday worship!
The years 89 to 91 were again full of happenings. Roberts Father died; Robert graduated his 3rd Associate Diploma of Engineering; his wife Dagmar was changing from being a nurse to being a charge nurse and Robert moved from a field engineering position to an office management position. This all does not adequately explain this period in time; it was very intense. His new office was in a brand new city building, one with great Gym and Aerobic Facilities. Here Robert started teaching a few private students as a way of having training himself. Late nights and a tough work schedule made regular training at the Lion difficult.
What started with a few people one-on-one in the park at lunchtime slowly grew to a class of 6 in the evening. Using the buildings facilities, a group of executives and engineers came together on Mondays and Thursdays after 7pm to train. This was quite gratifying and gave Robert the idea to formulize a club. He did not want to be another kick and punch, McDonald martial art club and sought a name that would send the right message to the people working in the city. It was whilst reading a Chinese book of poem's that Robert and Dagmar came across the term Liang-I (Yi). It was explained as the proper name for what we now term Yin & Yang. "The two ancient, ever opposing, ever complimenting forces". The symbolism for this was the Dragon & Phoenix (sometimes depicted as a fancy rooster). Robert & Dagmar were not yet quite ancient, but definitely ever opposing and ever complimenting; this was the inspiration for the founding of Liang-I Shaolin Kung Fu on 24 June 1992.
2010, A New Decade
In 2012, The Academy will be celebrating it's 20th Birthday (24 June), 2013 and Sijo will be celebrating his 50th year in Martial Arts. No more master plans and big movements, but a continuation of the Never Ending Path. It is good that way.
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