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Kung Fu and the Art of Not Flinching

Heaven 'N Nell

By Nell Scovell

Last semester, varsity squash player Chris Gabrieli was struck by the strength and flexibility of the Harvard Kung Fu Club members.

"I went to the Kung Fu club's exhibition because I was thinking of joining the club in order to improve my limited flexibility and coordination on the squash court," Gabrieli said. "Besides, I figured at least I would learn how to break every bone in the body of anyone who beat me. So when Frank Merrill (the president of the club) asked for a volunteer from the audience, I gladly came forward. Merrill asked me to hold a board which he would split by the sheer force of one punch. You can imagine how difficult it was to explain to my coach the next day how I had received such a blow to my racket hand. Merrill said I flinched--I don't know what happened."


This Monday night at 8:30 p.m. the Kung Fu club will give another demonstration in the special exercise room of the IAB. And despite his earlier experience, Gabrieli said he would try to see the exhibition again because "those guys are so impressive."

Established in 1969, the Kung Fu club is the oldest Martial Arts club at Harvard. Concentrating on the physical rather than the mystical aspects of Kung Fu, the 20 members practice six hours a week in the IAB.

The exhibition will mainly consist of a sampling of Kung Fu forms--sequences of structured movements of self-defense. These forms stress the artistic, as opposed to the forceful side, of Kung Fu fighting.


"The forms stress grace and fluidity of motion," Merrill said. "They are like a powerful dance. To lift your leg up to a certain height requires control as in ballet, but if you're trying to kick someone in the face, you also need strength."

The exhibition will also include some board-breaking, featuring the club's Man of Steel, Dave Boring '79.

Boring can tense his muscles to the point where boards will break when whacked against his body. The climax of his performance, however, occurs when he breaks a board over his throat--not his neck, but his throat.

Martial arts weapons, including short sticks, butterfly knives and nunchaku will also be displayed. Nunchaku consists of two sticks tied together with a string and may be used to defend against five or more attackers.

"The nunchaku are dangerous and hard to maneuver," Merrill said. "Occasionally during a demonstration I've dropped them, but they've never flown out into the audience."

The demonstration will also have some non-contact sparring. In Kung Fu, a sparring partner is expected to be able to whip his foot up to within two inches of his opponent's face, emphasizing control, not violence.

For people who think that Kung Fu is only practiced in movie theatres, Mondays exhibition should be both impressive and entertaining. Just remember--don't flinch.

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