Martial arts tourney to attract 1,000 contestants

Stafford Centre site of national championships

The Stafford Centre will overflow with chi, or vitalizing energy, this weekend as fighters from home and abroad congregate for what Master Jincai Cheng bills as a celebration of tai chi and other martial art varieties.

Cheng, founder of the USA Chen Tai Chi Federation, expects about 4,000 martial art aficionados, including some 1,000 contestants, to fill the center at 10505 Cash Road on Saturday and Sunday during the U.S. National Martial Arts Tournament.

Cheng said he expects contestants to not just compete, but also to learn from each other ways to perfect the ancient art.

The tournament is sanctioned by the USA Wushu-Kungfu Federation and will gather about 60 judges, Cheng said.

Contestants are from around the country and also overseas, including Japan, Canada, Mexico and China.

“This will be the largest ever martial art event in the Houston area,” said Cheng, a Missouri City resident. “It’ll highlight tai chi as a unique ancient Chinese martial art, and also a wide assortment of other martial art forms.

“It’s an opportunity for cultural exchange, to promote the awareness of the fitness of body and mind, and bring business opportunities to our cities.”

The event has garnered support from numerous community groups, including the Alief-based Chinese Community Center, which will provide — with other organizations — volunteers for the tournament.

Local physicians also will provide on-site medical assistance, Cheng said.

The tournament, which adopts rules similar to the Olympic games, will produce four grand champions from both the junior and adult categories with cash awards, he said.

“This is an event for everybody — participants are from age 8 to seniors 60 years old and up,” Cheng said. “Their skill levels will be judged in different categories.”

Contestants include beginners with less than two years of training, those in the intermediate level with two to four years of training, and advanced with at least four years of training.

Grand champions will be selected from the advanced fighters.

The opening ceremony on Saturday will feature a demonstration by Cheng, a Chen-style tai chi standard bearer, and masters of other traditions.

The masters also will conduct a series of seminars Friday from 2-8 p.m. in the conference room at Comfort Suites, 4820 Techniplex Drive in Stafford, and at the Stafford Centre, from 8-10 a.m. before the grand opening.

The event has been years in the making since Cheng founded the federation, based on the International Chen-style Tai Chi Development Center that Cheng has run in Alief since 1996.

A prominent form of tai chi, Chen-style tai chi was said to be developed during the late 1600s by Chen Wangting, a military commander during the Ming Dynasty.

In 1992, Cheng was recognized as a grand master of the martial art style in the lineage. But in recent years, he decided to form an organization that embraces all other Eastern martial art forms.

“Martial arts are a true celebration of ancient and yet contemporary culture,” Cheng said. “It’s not all about self-defense. It’s about the human well-being and the appreciation of our rich tradition.”