Stafford hosts weekend martial arts competition

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

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, 10505 Cash Road, Saturday and Sunday during the U.S. National Martial Arts Tournament. The event will include competition and instruction to perfect the ancient art, he said.

The tournament is sanctioned by the USA Wushu-Kungfu Federation and will have about 60 judges, Cheng said. Contestants come from throughout the country, as well as Japan, Canada, Mexico and China.

“This will be the largest ever martial art event in the Houston area,” said Cheng of Missouri City.”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 volunteers. Local physicians will give on-site medical assistance, Cheng said.

The tournament, which adopts rules similar to the Olympics, 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 advanced fighters.

The Saturday opening ceremony 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 from 2-8 p.m. Friday at the conference room of Comfort Suites, 4820 Techniplex Drive in Stafford, and at The Stafford Centre from 8-10 a.m. Saturday.

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

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