On October 20th, 2018, in San Anselmo, Ca, the 10,000 Victories School held a Northern Shaolin Black Sash Graduation Ceremony for 9 Northern Shaolin students. Our students trained for 8 – 12 years to learn and master the Northern Shaolin system. Northern Shaolin is a classical combat-oriented system of Chinese martial arts. Northern Shaolin emphasizes high kicks, powerful striking, long, low stances, fast steps, dynamic leaps, and low broom sweeps. Northern Shaolin is from the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Chan, or Zen, Buddhism.
The names of the Northern Shaolin Black Sash graduates in order of seniority are: Jason Brenner, Connor Jensen, Fethi Yildiz, Burak Yildiz, Adam Banakus, Joseph Vigneri, Hasan Sume, Erica Bermudo, and Noah Tartarsky Omarzu. At the graduation, each student performed one empty hand routine, one weapons routine, one sparring form with a partner, and then free sparring for three rounds with different opponents. Northern Shaolin is an elite martial art. Northern Shaolin routines, like the ones demonstrated by these graduates, are long, complex, beautiful, extremely athletic, and powerful. With most of these routines being over 100 difficult moves long it takes a high level of conditioning and endurance to complete them. This is in addition to the incredible strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination required. Each student learned many routines, and studied for years, transforming themselves in the process.
It takes real effort, and a sincere, good heart to earn a Northern Shaolin Black Sash because our standards are high. The show and ceremony took 90 minutes and concluded with the sash presentation ceremony, photos, and a delicious dinner.
Jason Brenner performed Northern Shaolin #10, “The Method”, and Twin Dragons Double Swords. Brenner performed additional free sparring instead of a sparring form demonstrating both his prowess and his endurance. Jason Brenner has been teaching Northern Shaolin in Ukiah at his own school, Fierce Healing Kung Fu for several years.
Connor Jensen performed Northern Shaolin #1, “Enter the Gate”, Rising Block Spear, and the Northern Shaolin Sparring Form with Adam Banakus. Connor Jensen is Sifu Jensen’s son and is 22 years old.
Fethi Yildiz performed Northern Shaolin #5, “Martial Practice”, 8 Diagrams Saber, and the Northern Shaolin Sparring form with his son, Burak Yildiz. Fethi Yildiz was the oldest graduate at a fit 61 years old!
Burak Yildiz performed Northern Shaolin #1, “Enter the Gate”, Earth Dragon Staff, and the Northern Shaolin Sparring Form with his father, Fethi Yildiz. Burak Yildiz is 18 years old and has trained since he was 8 years old.
Adam Banakus performed Northern Shaolin #2, “Leading Steps”, Northern Shaolin Kwan Dao (or Halberd), and the Northern Shaolin sparring form with Connor Jensen. Adam Banakus had multiple black belts before learning Northern Shaolin and began learning martial arts at a young age.
Joseph Vigneri performed Northern Shaolin #3, “Riding Horse”, Plum Blossom Spear, the Northern Shaolin sparring form with Noah Tartarsky Omarzu, and the Staff versus Staff sparring form with Hasan Sume. Joseph Vigneri has been the Senior Children’s Instructor and Adults Instructor at the 10,000 Victories School for several years helping Sifu Jensen teach many children’s and adults students Northern Shaolin.
Hasan Sume performed Northern Shaolin #10, “The Method”, Northern Shaolin Ground Rolling Double Sabers, and the Staff versus Staff sparring form with Joseph Vigneri. Hasan Sume previously learned Northern Shaolin from another teacher, and ran his own school in San Anselmo. Mr. Sume has demonstrated great character, and humility, to relearn the entire art of Northern Shaolin because he was determined to deepen his skill and knowledge.
Erica Bermudo performed Northern Shaolin #9, “Connecting Links”, Dragon Phoenix Sword, the Northern Shaolin sparring form with her sister, Pauline Bermudo, and the Sword versus Sword sparring form with Simu Rachel Jensen.
Noah Tartarsky Omarzu performed Northern Shaolin #8, “Unearthing Steps”, “Ground Demon” or “Earth Dragon” Staff, and the Staff versus Staff sparring form with Joseph Vigneri. Mr. Tartarsky Omarzu has been a taught children and adults Northern Shaolin, as well as the Yijinjing, classes with Sifu Jensen for several years.
Grandmaster Wong Jackman was present and observed everyone’s performances and free sparring with an expert eye, causing everyone to work extra hard to contain their nervousness! Thankfully, months of thorough preparation, and years of dedicated study paid off handsomely. Everyone performed at the top of their game, gave their 100% best, and did an absolutely, fantastic job. Grandmaster Wong was pleased by the evening, everyone’s effort, and the friendly, family, positive feeling as everyone rejoiced over the accomplishments of their friends and relatives
After everyone’s performances and a brief intermission we resumed with graduate statements. Each graduate read a statement about how earning their Northern Shaolin Black Sash had benefited them. As our 9 graduates read their statements the audience was deeply moved by their sincerity and profound personal transformation. This helped everyone remember that the real meaning of martial arts training is about far more than merely fitness, or violence. Our real goal is to become better people, who are strong and wise enough to make moral choices in difficult circumstances, and able to live in harmony with ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Closing the ceremony, with Grandmaster Wong Jackman looking on, Sifu (Master) Jensen awarded a custom Northern Shaolin Black Sash to each student. Each graduate also received two calligraphies, mounted on scrolls, to be displayed as a couplet. One scroll says: “Northern Shaolin”, the other scroll says Jing (essence), Qi (energy), and Shen (spirit). These scrolls are designed to decorate a training hall, setting the tone for practice, by emphasizing the development of character, as well as prowess. Both scrolls also say the students name, the date and that they were presented by Sifu Jensen. These scrolls were written by a master calligrapher in Taiwan. In addition, each graduate received a certificate signed by Sifu Jensen and sealed with the official 10,000 Victories school seals.
Then everyone took photos. Grandmaster Wong showed his approval of the proceedings by posing for the group photo with Sifu Jensen and all 9 graduates.
Following all this hard work, we had a terrific dinner of banquet style dishes and fresh noodles prepared by the executive chef at Noodles Fresh. Following with treats and beverages everyone settled in for some excited socializing and many had a chance to meet Grandmaster Wong Jackman for the first time. Wong is famous for being a private person and shunning both public appearances and photos. This was a rare opportunity for everyone to meet our Grandmaster and all have dinner together.
At the end of the evening we played our own documentary “What is Tai Chi?”, and “Birth of a Dragon” a major Hollywood film retelling the secret Kung Fu match between our Grandmaster and Bruce Lee.
Although we have hosted many events over the years, testing students, awarding sashes and certificates, and giving many impressive performances, we have never done one like this before. Grandmaster Wong Jackman retired from teaching in December 2005. At this point Sifu Jensen knew he had to get busy teaching to produce a new generation to carry on the knowledge of the authentic Northern Shaolin style. The entire purpose of the 10,000 Victories School was to create a new generation of Black Sash holders and Sifu’s. Producing expert students is a different, and far more difficult game, than teaching casually for recreation and health. Producing expert students requires creating a community devoted to martial excellence, who can both challenge and support one another. We are incredibly grateful and delighted that 9 students were able to stay the course and complete their training. We are also delighted beyond words that Grandmaster Wong enjoyed and supported our event! When Grandmaster retired at the end of 2005 there was no next generation of students taught by his students. To our knowledge he had no true expert level grand students in 2005. That Grandmaster Wong Jackman was able to meet these 9, watch them, and encourage them before his untimely passing on December 26th, 2018 means that perhaps he can rest in peace knowing his legacy will last on, and the authentic arts he treasured are being preserved and shared by worthy people.