Garside Reflections Compressed


Charles S.




Rice History Department


Stephanie Wu

Dear Reader,

Inside scoop:

A Fresh Grad’s story to

discovering herself and her


How a proposed month in China

studying Chinese architecture’s

historical story turned to an

amazing gap half-year of

learning kungfu and crazy



My name is Stephanie Wu. I am a member of Rice

University’s Class of 2013 (undergraduate). I was selected as

a recipient of the 2013 Charles S. Garside Award, an award

offered to help broaden and deepen the education of

distinguished students of the Rice History Department

through travel and reflection honoring the memory of Charles

Garside, Jr.

Unlike many other recipients of the Garside Award who

knew what they wanted to do with their lives and saw this

opportunity as a fun break or a chance to see something

they’ve learned about in class, I applied for a different reason

– I was a second semester senior who was about to

graduate with no job, no plan, and no direction in life. I

desperately needed this. When the department head notified me

about the award, I promised myself to use this amazing

opportunity to not only travel and reflect, but to also find my

direction in life. My Garside experiences transformed into life

changing explorations, allowing me to better understand who

I was and who I wanted to be. After 6+ months of amazing

experiences and stories, I sat down to compile a brief

account of my travels. And this is my story.

Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Rice Centennial Spectacle. Oct. 2012. Click here to for full


Why I Decided To Apply To The Garside In The First Place:

There was only two months until graduation

and I still haven’t figured out what to do with

my life (I was concurrently applying for the

Garside). I joined the crazy scramble during

recruiting season to grab whatever possible

office job at X-Corp. I could get. Aimless,

directionless, and desperate like the rest of

the Class of 2013 who remained unemployed

(aka. Those of us who did not possess a

From Left: Meredith, me, and Bella at Graduation.

May 11, 2013. Good Times…

computer science or engineering degree

and did not plan on attending med

school/law school), I felt anxious and

confused as I struggled to piece together a

plan for my life after college.

Yet, as I attended interview after

interview (you know, the kind where you

try to dress to impress and pretend as if

consulting or analyzing data was your

life-long passion you had wanted to

pursue since you learned what Wall street

meant), I felt a pinch of guilt, an uneasy

feeling brewing inside of me that kept

telling me…”is this what you really want

to do?” That was when I discovered the

Garside award. After speaking to many of

my amazing mentors in the Rice History

Department, I decided this is exactly

what I needed – a chance at travel and

personal growth. (Read my original

proposal attached at the end to

understand why I chose China and what

it entails.)


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

A Tweak To The Original Proposal:

Well, let’s just say my

actual trip was slightly

different from the one I

proposed in the

beginning. SO…the

question you are burning

to ask is probably… “How

did a month long China

trip to study how

architecture reflects

globalization and the

interplay of East and

West turn into a “gap

half-year” stay in Taiwan

learning kungfu,

understanding Chinese



Chinese/Taiwanese culture,

and best of all – accepting

myself by figuring out my

direction in life?” Well, I

guess my plan had a plan of

its own – and yes, a slight

detour from the norm.

Story Of Landing In Taiwan First:

As I prepared to set out on my

month long journey to the East (as

proposed in my Garside proposal), I

received a phone call from my

relatives notifying me of my

grandmother’s illness – a fastdegrading

form of Alzheimer’s. Her

memory depended on her daily

condition and mood. They said she

would wash her feet more than ten

times a day just because she forgot

she’d already done it. It was a shock

to hear that our beloved

grandmother, a woman who was

always first to remember our

birthdays, would suddenly stare at

me with a blank expression. That

was when I decided to stop by

Taiwan first before heading to China

(which made sense since they are

close by). I hopped on the plane and

made my way to Taiwan.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Alzheimer’s – The Dementia Without A Cure:

Alzheimer’s turns out to be quite a tough one to

handle. It was hard talking to my grandmother

because she couldn’t remember who I

was…imagine a stranger who kept hanging around

and talking to you all day. Yet, on certain days, she

would have moments where she would suddenly

guess my name, only to forget it in an hour. I truly

respect those who help take care of Alzheimer’s

patients, especially family. It hurts so much to see

someone you love go through this; in fact I think

the family members are the ones that suffer the

most since they see and remember everything

while the patient is usually in a daze, sometimes

forgetting where they are. It was a tricky business,

taking care of someone who sees you as a stranger

everyday and so I decided to give her some space at

times and explore Taiwan during her “bad


First Time Truly Exploring Taiwan:

Taipei 101.

R.O.C founding holiday


After arriving in Taiwan, I stayed at my

grandparent’s apartment in Taipei. Having

spent a few years of schooling in Taiwan at

an American school, I was more or less

accustomed to the culture and feel of

Taiwan. However, I realized I never really

explored past the premises of the school and

its vicinity. Moreover, most of my time was

spent studying or participating at school

extracurriculars/sports. I never truly

ventured beyond my Americanized

perspective of Taiwan. Thus, this time

coming back, I no longer had to stick to the

confines of a structured school life. It was

quite a different experience – a new type of

adventure. It was time for some solo travel

and deep reflections.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Too Much Free Time To Think = Pressure:

During my solo explorations in Taiwan, I had a

LOT of time to reflect on my life. I realized that

I felt uneasy, pressured, and worst of all, lost.

Despite not having any schoolwork, due dates,

or any obvious reasons to feel pressured at all, I

felt even more overwhelmed and anxious. Back

at school, I felt like I had a purpose – to

graduate. However, after twenty something

years of schooling, I suddenly didn’t have that

clear goal or path in front of me anymore. This,

combined with peer pressure and pressure from

my family (who kept asking me, what is your

next step? When and where are you going to

find a job? etc.) added to my sense of self pity

and confusion. It was during this first month in

Taiwan that I wrestled with these questions and

self-doubt (which I purposefully evaded for 21

years) that eventually led me to find my own

way. I forced myself to really try to figure out

what I wanted to do with my life and what I can

do to give my life meaning. That was when I

made myself answer those oh-so-impossible-toanswer

questions like “What makes me happy?” and to really think it through. I guess this is

the hardest part about growing up –understanding who you want to be and following


First Month in Taiwan:

This is an old ad in

Taipei taken at Rice…!

Soon after the first week upon arriving in Taiwan, I

knew that I had to give my time here a purpose. My

grandparents were already housing me and I knew

that if I wanted spending money, I would have to find

a job. I actively searched around and became a

private English tutor for some local Taiwanese kids.

Living in Taiwan is relatively cheap so long as you

don’t spend every night buying $10+ cocktails at

expensive bars. I definitely made a good profit since

my housing was free. Apart from tutoring, I talked to

many individuals about life and my questionable

future. Talking it out allowed me to identify and

clarify my problems and confusion. I realized that if

in order to figure out what I wanted to do, I needed to

Alisha came to visit Taiwan. Taiwan beer tons

cheaper than cocktails!

understand and learn to accept myself. So I took a good long weekend to reflect on my past to

try to better understand myself (what I enjoy and don’t enjoy).


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Reflections On My Past – BU Experience

Trekking back in time to my

two years at Boston

University, I remember I had

once considered double

majoring in biology and

business management. While

taking those nasty cut-throat

pre-med courses, I also charged

forth with classes such as

Business Management

intensive course. As a

freshman, I drank in the

excitement of teamwork and

formal presentations, which

bode well as a refreshing

getaway from the hard-routed,

memorization-heavy, cutthroat

atmosphere of the pre-med

courses. I did well and enjoyed

my time in the business

courses and interviewed for a

TA position. They offered me

the position and I began my

two semesters of TA-ing

(until I transferred to Rice).

It was during my days as a

TA that really prompted me

to rethink my approach to

life. I enjoyed my work with

the students (many of who

were the same ages as me

or a year or two older). I

helped teams work through

disagreements, time

sensitive projects, and exam

preparations; however,

there was the moneycentered,

superficial aspect

I could never quite get used

to about these business

courses. Reflecting upon that

time made me realize that

unlike many individuals in

the business world, I am not

truly motivated by money,

status, and power…the core

motivational factors that

most business people operate

and thrive on. This is not an

affront on the business field

or Boston University. It just

wasn’t for me. Oh yea, and

the pre-med classes…I knew

that I didn’t want to be a

doctor nor spend my life at

the hospital. Blood grosses

me out…but for some reason,

I really liked understanding

the human body so I

continued my study in


Yea…it was too cold…so I left.

May 19, 2013

Good times on Snow day.

But I still crashed their



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Reflections On My Past – Rice University

Well, it got too cold in

Boston and I felt like I

needed a change by the end

of my sophomore year. So I

transferred to Rice. My time

at Rice was a chance for me

to explore. I took the

opportunity to take classes

in the humanities, history,

etc. I was lucky to have

found a school with many

inspirational faculty and

individuals. Professor

Zammito used history to help

us understand the “Now”,

how it came to be, how “get

real” came to be the

definitive phrase for much of

the world today. He helped

me get a grasp of what I was

dealing with. Professor

Balibanlilar’s classes

transformed the way I

thought about history

Beer Bike 2013!

and the workings of society

especially in terms of

“charisma” and “empires”.

Professor Brinkley’s lectures

helped me understand “USA”

by reintroducing what being

“American” is and why

American culture is as special

as it is today. In many ways it

completely added a new

dimension to the way I

understood the world and

myself. And I mean it when I

say that they changed the

way I thought. It was as if I

learned to use a whole new

part of my brain. The way I

learned to analyze and see

things from multiple

perspectives. To understand

nothing in this world is as

black and white as we make it

to be…If you haven’t taken a

class with them yet, crawl out

of that miserable one-waythinking,

hubristic hole of

science, economics, etc. and

do yourself a favor by taking

one of their classes. It helped

me learn how to connect dots.

How seemingly unrelated

subjects and thoughts can be

woven together. Screw the

people who underestimate

the value of humanities and

social sciences… I say this

with a passion. These skills

are more than transferrable.

Touched and stunned, I was

forced to reevaluate life

values again, and to think

from a whole different

perspective. Yet I was still


The Suite (273)

3 Muskateers? The Sisterhood


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Understanding Myself:

Stephanie Wu

Too Cool For School.

Having gone a full circle in my life reflections, I slowly

started thinking about the things that I do…just because I

like/want to do it - the activities that I enjoy and those that

I despise. I realized that: I hate sitting still for long hours. I

love to read and understand the human body (as in how the

things we eat affect our bodies, how mind body soul works

in sync, etc.) I love to figure out a way to feel “optimal” and

“healthy.” I love walking around exploring cities as well as

dote on beautiful landscape. I don’t like to be tied down. I

like to find different ways to approach problems and to

weave unrelated ideas into something useful and coherent.

All in all, I started listening to myself by understanding

and accepting my own personality and interests, whereas

in the previous schooling environment, I placed the

majority of my focus on what I thought that other people

would want me to be. This got me thinking about how I

wanted to live my life regardless of the cultural norms.

That was when I started thinking of my “dream job.”

That Dream Job:

During a leisurely lunch at Baker dining

hall, my friends and I talked about dream

jobs. I remember I thought for a really long

time and then blurted out “Lifestyle

consultant.” Just a term I made up back then.

I explained that I wanted to help people

understand their body (mind, body, and soul

included) and to live the balanced life they

want. Thinking back to that time got me

pondering about possibly becoming a doctor

again. Then I remembered how I hate puke,

guts, blood, severed limbs, death, aging,

etc…everything most traditional Western

doctors see everyday. Not to mention, the

whole med school ordeal…where you sell your

body and labor through half a decade of

cramming and cutthroat competition. Then I

began to think about how our healthcare

system is flawed and how western medicine

is insufficient.

There just wasn’t a traditional type of job

that I was dying to do...but it got me

thinking about the areas that sparked my

interest. That was when I remembered

another option…Traditional Chinese

Medicine (TCM). But, as a product of both

east and west, I suddenly realized what I

would love doing – combining TCM and

Western medicine to figure out better

treatments for our aches and illnesses in a

“lifestyle-consultant” manner. Ok…too

complicated, but in general, I want to find a

way to bridge traditional Chinese medicine

and Western medicine to create even more

effective treatments. That was when it all

started to click. It turns out that my three

seemingly unrelated majors: biology,

history, Asian studies can finally be woven

into something coherent and meaningful.

Damn. What a revelation.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM is a “holistic approach” type of

medicine in which, rather than segmenting

the body into its separate parts with specific

roles, it focuses on how everything works

together. For example, if someone is

diagnosed with lung cancer, a TCM

practitioner would focus not only on the

lungs, but he/she would also focus on the

parts of the body that work with the lungs

to see if it was an imbalance in another area

that caused the cancer. When everything is

balanced, the body is healthy. When one

part loses its balanced composition,

illnesses and problems start to show up.

This whole body approach towards many

illnesses, particularly chronic diseases is

a reason this type of medicine appeals to

me. I was exposed to this having grown up

in California and Asia. It is a special type

of medicine that focuses on prevention. It

is a medicine that has two thousand plus

years of history and whose presence is

still dominating the Asian medicine world

(and slowly spreading).

My Opinion – A Bright Future for TCM:

I’ve done some research about TCM during my spare time. It is becoming more and more

mainstream as people start to realize its amazing potential in curing many chronic pains

and diseases that otherwise seem to have no cure using methods of its western

counterpart. It is probably caused by the difference in the approach to health in the two

cultures. For most Taiwanese and Chinese (and Koreans?), health is a conscious lifestyle

in which people seek out doctors on a daily basis to get suggestions about their current

well-being (granted the healthcare system is completely different…Taiwanese healthcare

provides extremely affordable coverage for all residents). Whereas in the US, many people

only go to doctors or seek treatment when it gets so bad that it is no longer bearable

(which, by then, is already late in the stages of many diseases). This is only my

observation from my own experience of course and I could be totally wrong. In my opinion,

if we can utilize the groundbreaking medical technologies of the West and combine it with

the lifestyle, prevention-focused, wholesome treatment style of the East, I think we can

make amazing progress in the disease prevention.

With regards to the fast-growing future of TCM in the West, more and more notable

universities (Duke, Stanford, Harvard, etc medical centers) and healthcare centers are

incorporating elements of TCM (especially acupuncture) into their main stream

treatments for special ailments. The field is growing at a fast pace and more researchers

are trying to understand TCM in Western terminology. I believe the future of TCM will be

bright. This is the global age where cultural exchange is at its height. This is the age

where West meets East (especially with the growing power of China, South Korea, etc.).

There is no better time than the Now to focus on bridging/synergizing the two. As

someone who defines herself as a product of East and West, I want to use my knowledge

and experiences to help create collaboration in important fields such as medicine. TCM

will continue to grow. I think it will be big. I want to ride this upcoming trend and help

pioneer the bridge to better medical treatments.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

TCM And the Cure For Cancer:

During my time in Taiwan, I’ve read many

articles relating to oncology; stories on

how/why Western science is losing the battle

against one of today’s greatest killers –

cancer. It’s because we don’t place enough

focus and support (financial and education)

on prevention. The treatments now such as

chemotherapy and excising cancerous cells

from the body are merely attempts to relieve

the obvious symptoms rather than targeting

the exact reasons for these cancerous

growths. By focusing only on the lungs for

lung cancer (the way of isolating each body

part in Western medicine), rather than

focusing on all the different body parts that

work in sync with the lungs (as TCM would),

it is not possible to tackle the real problem

that caused the disease in the first place. In

addition, treatments such as chemotherapy

after excising the cancerous mass, takes

such a toll on the body (balding, immune

deficiency problems, etc.) that the “lifequality”

(I made that term up to describe

how “alive, healthy, good” you feel on a daily

basis) is such that I wouldn’t even want to

be alive if I had to stare at hospital walls

feeling that weak and helpless for months

(or years). I do believe Western medicine is

progressing but with the help of Eastern

values, the results could be phenomenal.

There is a saying in Chinese medicine; “The

superior physician treats the disease before

it arises.” So that is why TCM is so

appealing to me. I want to start my career in

medicine by understanding TCM, thus

understanding and building upon the whole

body approach/philosophy (aka. the big

picture of how everything works together)

before going into the segmented, cause-andeffect

understanding of the technologically

savvy Western medicine.

Seeking Advice:

Having finally figured out the direction I wanted to head for my future, I talked to a couple

of individuals for advice.

Mary: I met her during high school varsity basketball; we

played on the same team. She was a senior when I was a

freshman. We both ended up going to Boston University

and she’s always been one of my best “mentors” since.

Every time I wanted to give up finding my true passion and

slip into the usual easy way out (aka the “I’ll just find a

whatever job so I can look like a real person,”), she was the

one to remind me that even though it’s hard to figure out

what you’re passionate about, it is truly rewarding once you

find it (or some sort of direction towards it) and are able to

dedicate all your energy towards fulfilling it. Many people

dream and talk about following their passion/dream but few

are bold enough to be able to push through the obstacles

that deter them from their dream. She found hers after

many years switching majors and jobs, eventually deciding

that becoming a doctor who travels the world helping thirdworld

country patients is what she will be happy doing.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Uncle Eric: My good uncle Eric is a family friend who used to be my dad’s coworker in his

early years. He recently retired and now lives in Taiwan. We met up for a chat when he swung

by Taipei. Before retiring, he was whom people would praise as “the successful businessman.”

He joined Taiwan’s semi-conductor boom a few decades ago as a college student, working his

way up, eventually starting a few semi-conductor related companies that had successful IPOs.

Yet, when we talked about jobs, futures, and all that good stuff, I could sense a feel of self-pity

and disappointment on his side. He explained why.

It turns out that when he was a young kid, he had always been fascinated by history and the

social sciences. He was extremely talented/passionate about those subjects and had wanted to

major in that field in college. But had been fiercely discouraged by his parents and peers. He

grew up (like my dad) in a time when Taiwan was still under martial rule and extremely

uncertain about its future. It was a time where even having enough food to feed the family was

considered a blessing.

After finishing his compulsory military service (required for Taiwanese males), he was all on his

own and had to worry where and when his next meal would be. Unless you were from a well-off,

aristocratic family, or a family with connections with the Chinese Nationalist Party back then in

Taiwan, majoring in any social science would secure you no food, wife, nor shelter. Thus, he

unwillingly majored, out of necessity, in the “best bet” for a secure future – electrical

engineering. Despite his success in that field (he describes as success fueled by desperation), he

never truly enjoyed a single hour of it. He described himself as a machine slaving away his

years, always waiting for a good moment to quit (but he was too good at what he did [despite

hating it] that he couldn’t just step down and leave

his company with no one capable enough to replace

him after a life time of hard work).

When he finally found the chance to retire (recently,

after 35 years), he immediately started on a political

science PHD program at the prestigious National

Taiwan University (the Ivy League of Taiwan if you

want to put it that way). He said he never felt so willing to spend those long nights researching

history and topics regarding social science to help him develop his thesis on Taiwan political

theories. It was a dream come true at last for him…but he says a dream that came true too late.

I asked him what that meant and he said that if he had the chance (and didn’t need to work out

of necessity to feed his family) to start over again as a young man, he would choose to pursue his

passions. Now, as a man nearing his 60s, he can only treat his social science passions as a hobby

or pastime. It will never be his “masterpiece.” He explains that he is no longer able to spend his

youthful energy, creativity, and years creating “real value” that can contribute to society with

this special talent he was born with. He gets really emotional about Taiwanese politics and how

much he wished he could have been more involved in it.

Having told his touching story, he proceeded to the grand thesis or moral (or whatever you want

to call it) – Steph, follow your passions and don’t end up like a sad old man like me. It made me

feel so sad to hear him say that but at the same time, it was profoundly encouraging. He used a

Confucian Analects saying to further prove his point - (), meaning "The accomplished

scholar is not a utensil" (or what we 21 st Century people can define as, “The accomplished

man/woman is not a machine”). Basically, do not let yourself be used nor succumb to the

pressure from others… the successful individual finds his/her own way. Inspiring, no?


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Here’s the quick rundown of Taiwan’s historical consequences and its three distinct

generations (actually perfectly described by the three generations of my family…) that

Eric and I have synthesized:

1) Grandparents – Grew up in midst of the

two World Wars and lived through both

Japanese takeover and Chinese martial

law takeover. Search up 228 Massacre.

Their psychology for the most part is:

simply surviving was the main concern

throughout most of their lives.

2) Parents – Grew up in a post-war Taiwan

that was uncertain of its future. Surviving

warfare was no longer the main issue, but finding a way to keep the food on the table

became the main concern. Their psychology composes mainly of finding a secure and

stable life. Thus, practicality over passion.



3) Us younglings – Everything is taken care of for the most part: food, shelter, and

education. However, the new challenge of our age is finding a way to succeed as our

own persons (to fulfill our own dreams now that we have the resources). However, we

are under the immense pressure from the previous two generations (who want the

best for you, but “the best” being under their terms/psychology) who, in a way, wish

for you to achieve their dreams (though they don’t say that explicitly).

My sister Shelley.

Then there’s me.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Current TCM students (in China and California):

China: I was surprised when I found out that three of my friends (around 1-4 years older than

me) are currently studying TCM. It is really an emerging field. One studies at the Shanghai

School of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I asked her about her experience and she explained

how it is really tough (she took premed/biology in California for undergrad). For the curriculum

(even though she aced her undergrad courses), she had to retake organic chemistry,

biochemistry, etc. all over again and this time in simplified Chinese (we both learned

traditional Chinese growing up). The other students, many of whom are local Chinese, are

pretty cutthroat and may judge you if you don’t score above a 90% for the tests…Thankfully,

she’s a tough cookie with good Chinese and she says she gets by. Hearing that made me rethink

taking TCM in Asia. My Chinese is only subpar and I had never taken organic chemistry or

biochemistry. If I were to learn TCM, China would probably not be the best place for me (and I

think of the smog and all that pollution…nah).

California: That was when I ran into two other friends who were also studying TCM but in

the US, California to be exact. We talked about their experience and I asked them a bunch of

questions as usual about where they see themselves in the future etc. Their reasons for looking

into TCM were much the same as mine – trying to figure out a way to combine east and west

medicine as well as focusing on prevention rather than curation. They gave me really insightful

suggestions about taking TCM in the states. They commented on how the curriculum is

probably not at rigorous (in the memorization segment compared to that of China’s where they

have to practically memorize the “TCM bible” called “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of

Medicine) and how the US programs focus more on solving and analyzing the problems through

discussions etc. They plan on coming to Asia in the future for short periods of time to get more

hands on experience and to learn with other masters/practitioners of TCM. Both expressed

really positive experiences and talked about the cooperative atmosphere they experienced

throughout the program (compared to the cutthroat competition atmosphere as described about

the China program). This helped me decide to apply to TCM schools/programs in the states.

Dr. Shi: I remember during my childhood in California there was a guy who was really good

at acupuncture and TCM but also really understood Western medicine as well. His private

clinic was always filled with people of all races especially those who had some chronic pain that

Western medicine could not fully treat. I asked my mom about his whereabouts and she said he

recently retired and moved back to Taiwan. He is a mysterious fellow but well known for his

treatments. My mom was able to get hold of his number and I phoned him one night. I told him

I wanted to learn TCM and find a way to mix Eastern and Western medicine together to find

better treatments. He said, “okay, call me back in a week.” A week later, I called and got a

response I would never have guessed in a million light years… he told me that before I go on

looking for schools that I should go learn kungfu…specifically “Wingchun”. That way I can

learn the “secrets to the human body.” I was at the same time shocked with disbelief yet

intrigued. Naturally, I asked a bunch of questions but in summary this is his reason as to why

I should learn Wingchun kungfu before any type of medicine.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Why Learn Wingchun Kungfu ()

Dr. Shi explained that a long time ago, our

ancestors, intrigued by the human body,

found a way to dissolve the force placed on

our bodies upon impact. They studied the

human body to understand the body physics

behind this amazing evolutionary creation.

Every single structure has a specific

placement and purpose. If you can

understand the physics behind the human

body then you can maximize its efficiency

and prevent injuries more readily. Thus, by

moving your body with a certain force at a

certain angle (alignment), you can maximize

your output (such as strength) without using

brute force or muscle power.

Wingchun is a type of martial art that

focuses on maximizing efficiency. Every

move is catered towards creating the biggest

impact on the opponent’s body using the

least amount of force by taking advantage of

your body’s physical structure. Everything

has to do with attacking the opponent at

their rotational axis, forcing them to either

absorb the full impact or lose their balance

(and fall) trying to shed off some of the force

from impact. You never use a move that is

not “economically efficient” and a waste of

energy. It is real science in action. If you

learn how to maneuver your body by

utilizing body physics, you can learn how to

prevent and cure many forms of chronic

pain/illnesses. Darn, should have paid more

attention in physics class…

Lastly, he told me that the way the

TCM schools are taught now is very much

the same as Western med schools. You go to

school, memorize, and regurgitate the

formulas. When dealing with patients, most

doctors nowadays base their treatments on

those formulas that they memorized rather

than looking at each individual patient’s

particular history/lifestyle to figure out the

best treatment for their ailments.

By learning Wingchun, I can at least

understand my own body physics and have

hands-on understanding of how the human

body works before I bury myself in books.

In Ayurveda (ancient medical system of

India), yoga is the physical form in which

you learn about your body. Likewise,

Wingchun kungfu is connected to TCM in

that same sense. I remember asking him,

“Why don’t I just do yoga instead of

Wingchun, isn’t that about the body as

well?” He answered that yoga is not of the

same culture and in order to learn TCM

and to understand it fully, I had better

learn Chinese martial arts, which works in

sync with the philosophy and

understanding of TCM.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Visiting Wingchun Kungfu School:

Having heard Dr. Shi’s suggestions, I was

curious to try it out so I took a leap of faith.

I’ve never heard of Wingchun before this

and didn’t know anything about anything

related to kungfu but something told me to

give it a try. I searched online for the

closest Wingchun class and it turns out that

there is some grandmaster teaching in

downtown Taipei. I proceeded to check out

the class the next day. I walked around and

got lost for half an hour before finding the

location. It was up some old apartment

building (all of which look the same) that

had no elevator. Of course it was located at

the top floor (5 th ), in an open patio area

covered by thin metal sheets that acted as

the roof. It was ghetto and that was when I

knew this was legit. Everything looked so

old and worn that it just had this authentic

feel to it. The Grandmaster otherwise

known as “sifu,” (which I will refer to from

now on) Lo Man Kam, lived in a shabby

apartment a floor below.

After visiting the Wingchun “school” (more

like ghetto patio), I called up a friend for

dinner. I told her about my new life plans

and how I wanted to learn Wingchun. She

suddenly told me, “Oh my god! I’ve always

wanted to do Wingchun kungfu but no one

would go with me.” It turns out that her

father was one of the early students of Sifu

Lo Man Kam. She had gone a few times as a

child but quit after her father accidently hit

her in the chin (and also because she said

she didn’t want to be the only kid practicing

with sweaty old men haha). We showed up to

class the next day with our tuition money

(6000NTD/month; around $200USD). And

that’s how it all started.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Wingchun Masters: Ip Man () & Disciple Bruce Lee ():

One of the most famous pupils of Wingchun kungfu

is Bruce Lee, who helped introduce Chinese kungfu

to the West. Recently many movies have been made

on Grandmaster Ip Man (Bruce’s master). I would go

on and on about these two amazing individuals but

you can wiki/google search them easily for

information. Just know that Ip Man and Bruce Lee

are two now-legendary figures of Chinese Martial

Arts who both have multiple movies made of their

lives/kungfu. They are quite The BIG DEAL(s) in

Asia (and for the most part, in the US as well).

Here’s a list of the recent movies produced featuring

Ip Man (1893-1972) and his legendary kungfu


• Ip Man (2008)

• Ip Man 2 (2010)

• The Legend is Born: Ip Man (2010)

• Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013)

• The Grandmaster (2013)

Bruce Lee (left) and Ip Man (right) practicing “chi sau” (), an unique

form of training of Wingchun. Ip Man is survived by his two sons, both of

whom still continue to teach Wingchun around the world.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

When History Comes In Handy:

I remember when I talked to Dr. Shi and a few

other individuals about where to find a good

Wingchun school, they all had the same answer:

Taiwan. Why? This is where I’m happy that I

paid attention in my Asian studies history

courses. So…basically when the Communists

took over China in 1949, the Chinese

Nationalist Party fled the country and sailed

over to the neighboring small island of Taiwan.

They brought with them, many of the highly

educated and “old talents/masters” along with

the most precious Chinese historical/cultural

artifacts (now displayed at the National Palace

Museum in Taipei). Because of this mass exodus

of highly educated and skillful masters, Taiwan

is probably the best place to learn many of the

traditional Chinese skills that relate to culture

(since after Mao took over…his Cultural

Revolution and other policies destroyed quite a

handful of whatever cultural artifacts were left

in addition to harassing the educated mass or those who dedicated their lives to cultural

practices). My sifu is one of the many who took the opportunity to leave China (although he

left later, around 1960) and teach Wingchun kungfu in Taiwan.

Sifu Lo Man Kam ()

Mao and Chiang Kaishek most

likely hated each other in real

life…the artist had humor!

Sifu Lo Man Kam () is my

Sifu (grandmaster). Check him out! He

has his own Wikipedia page. I didn’t

know how famous he was in the kungfu

world until after a month of training

when a TV station from Foshan made

the effort to fly to Taiwan and climb up

those five flights of stairs to interview

him. Previously, I just thought of him

as a cute old man (he’s like 80

something and as nimble/active as



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

It’s one thing to be as crazy good at Wingchun kungfu as

Lo Sifu but there is something else that sets him apart

from all the other Wingchun sifus; he is the nephew of Ip

Man (who was his uncle from his maternal bloodline). No

Big Deal. Just a blood-relative of the legendary Ip Man…

Darn, how lucky I was to have to chance to learn

Wingchun from him. Again, I’ll leave you to

google/Wikipedia his story but in summary, Ip man (who

Lo Sifu learned his Wingchun from) suggested him to

come to Taiwan and teach wingchun. He has been here

since. Think of it this way…If Ip Man were the Michael

Jordan of kungfu…nevermind, its not the same, but you

get my point. He is a total badass behind his deceiving

“cute grandpa” look. Here’s a picture of him doing thumb

pushups for his 80 th birthday.

Who needs to take


pushups are what real

bad-asses do for their

80 th birthday.

Deciding To Stay And Learn Kungfu:

After a month of going to wingchun 5x a week for 2+

hours a day, I decided that I wanted to stay. I realized that

kungfu is not a sport, but rather, a lifestyle. I learned so

much about patience, and better yet, how to relax. I

learned how to deal with stressful, uncomfortable,

threatening situations in a way that is not the hasty, poor

approach. On top of all that, I also learned about body

physics and how large muscles don’t mean everything

when it comes to strength. It’s about understanding how to

stay balanced, low to the ground, centered, and relaxed (a

really strange concept that I have trouble grasping still,

but they say girls understand it more quickly cause we

don’t have that much muscle and brute strength to begin


The Long Road to Kungfu:

Ass-kickin’ starts early!

I lived about an hour away, which means 2 hours of

commuting everyday.

Walk to bus stop! take bus to shipai MRT ! transfer to

blue line at Taipei main station ! get off at Sun Yat Sen

Memorial Hall MRT stop ! rent a Ubike and bike to a bike

stop near my kungfu school ! then walk to there.

I did this for about 3 months until I found that I could ride a bus

from a stop close to my house to the school (further walk but so

worth the hassle-free, transfer-free nice nap I can get on the



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Secrets to Perfecting Wingchun (Cheat Sheet Alert!):

Just kidding, there is no easy way to becoming a

Bruce Lee. However, those who are true kungfu

masters know that stretching, understanding

when to “relax”, and standing in the right horse

stance in Kungfu are the most important

fundamentals in Wingchun kungfu. Most people

don’t know the power of stretching (including me

when I first started). I used to think it was just

something we do to warm up and something older

people need to do more just to stay ache-free.

However, stretching does more than just warm

you up and keep you nimble/flexible. It helps

“open your senses” and allows you to do much

more delicate movements. It also increases your

strength and range of motion. That’s why muscle

mass doesn’t necessarily translate to amount of


In fact, those bulky weightlifters who don’t spend

much time stretching are more likely to get

injured because their tendons and ligaments are

less elastic (and cannot be stretched as much)

and may snap more easily when lots of pressure (from weights and certain movements) is

working against it. That is probably why you don’t see as many crazy bulky people in kungfu.

Being too bulky restricts your range of motion and prevents you from being able to use your

body (physics) efficiently. Just think about it…how can you be smooth with your moves if you

can’t even scratch your own back? Arnold Schwarzenegger

would not like Wingchun.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Girl, Just Relax!

Perfecting reflex rather than strength = key to mastering Wingchun: “Just Relax!” (

) That’s what I hear EVERYDAY. Believe it or not, relaxing is actually THE hardest

part of Wingchun. It drives me nuts, but it’s a skill that you can develop through practice

and persistence. Nothing comes for free in this world, especially in Kungfu. Unlike other

sports and exercises, kungfu is one in which you continually get better and better. There is

peak (unlike baseball, football, basketball etc.). You will only get better as you age. So back

to this mysterious “relax” concept…

“Just Relax!” That sounds so easy Right? Yea…just try relaxing when you have a buff guy

swing a punch straight at your face (yes…I got punched in the face multiple times…).

Learning to relax the right muscles is really important in understanding how Wingchun

works as well. For example, punching while flexing your arm muscles actually decreases the

impact of the punch because the full force doesn’t flow to the opponent’s body. Instead, some

of the force gets “trapped” by the flexing of the muscles and also creates a sort of “recoil” that

takes away the efficiency of the blow. The correct way to punch in Wingchun focuses on

being really “loose” and in a way “relaxed” when punching. You punch using the muscles

generated by your back/shoulder area from your center to the opponent’s center (rotational

axis). You only clench your fist tight at the point of impact so that the force gets fully

transferred to the opponent. That way you not only hurt less, but you also save a ton of

energy while forcing the opponent to take the full impact of the punch.

In addition, the more “relaxed” or “loose” you are, the quicker you are able to react and

generate efficient blows. Punching in Wingchun acts as a defense and offense. It is truly a

martial art built on the basis of simplicity and efficiency using core concepts of physics. The

horse stance helps you maintain balance and helps transfer the force of a punch (at you)

through your body and to the ground, decreasing the blunt of the impact upon your body.

Obviously, it takes years of practice before you can truly understand how to use your body

physics to your advantage (since everyone has a slightly

different build, it is different for each individual…the

angles and all of different positions. You have to figure it

out for yourself). During practice, the kungfu

brothers/sisters with more experience often instruct us

and give us advice but the true masters say to take their

words with a grain of salt and to ultimately decide what

is best for ourselves.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

What Kungfu Practice Is Like:

The typical morning session runs from around

10am-noon. You can go as early or as late as you

want. The patio is always open. For the beginning 3

months or so, I would go an hour early just to

stretch, calm down, and practice the first form “xiao

nian tou” (). Yes, I was an eager beaver.

However, once I started sparring or in correct terms,

“chi sau” or “sticky hands” (), I would get bruises

all over my arms and 2 hours was quite enough of a

beating, no need to make it 3 hours. Lo Sifu’s

teaching style is very unique. Everyone practices at

their own pace and he walks around once in a while

to water his plants and to correct positions.

The beginning was quite slow and was arguably the

hardest part. You either work past it or you give up

learning Wingchun. I basically spent the first month

practicing my horse stance () until he was

satisfied with it. Imagine 2 hours everyday just in

this strange looking position with your toes pointed

inwards with your back leaning slighting

Julia working

on her horse


backwards. Not to mention it was August when I started…the heat and humidity was just

torture. Nonetheless, I pushed past that test of persistence period and learned the first form.

I often see many new students come and then quit after a month of standing in that horse

stance. They must have expected to learn something cool like they showed in the movies right

away but were disappointed to find out that you actually need to learn the most unappealing

basics first before getting to the cool stuff.

Just another day at


Kungfu Brother

Yuseke at work.

Foshan News


comes to the



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

The Kungfu Family:

Practice is fun sometimes but there are also

times where I just get beat up (bruises all over

my arms). It’s part of the experience. My

favorite time of the day is right after practice

ends, around noon, Lo Sifu will say, “time to

eat!” We all rush down to a hearty home

cooked meal by his wife, “Simu” ()

meaning Sifu’s wife (not her actual name). We

go downstairs to their apartment (which is

like a mini hostel with bunkbeds to host some

foreign students) and eat together around his

ancient table (which apparently Chiang Kai

Shek and many other historical figures once

sat around when they visited Sifu). To have

awesome home cooked hot Taiwanese/Chinese food waiting for you right after getting beat

up for two hours is such a great feeling.

On the days that Simu does not cook, many of the brothers gather together and eat at a

local eatery just around the corner of the alley known for its authentic Chinese food. My

kungfu family is like a huge family in which

everyone takes care of each other. Sometimes

the kungfu brothers who are restaurant owners

treat us to a meal at their restaurant. A kungfu

brother who owns a hip burger joint once invited

us over after practice for an all you can eat party

where we got to act as DJ’s and bartenders.

Speaking of my kungfu brothers and sisters, I

was amazed by the variety of their professions.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

All Types Of People:

They say America is like a melting pot

of culture. Well, my kungfu class is like a

melting pot of professions. Here’s the list

of the variety of professions of my kungfu

brothers and sisters: Mail man, freelance

tech consultant, music producers (and

ex-singer/pop star), restaurant owners,

Tui-na (Chinese massage therapy)

masseuse, Kungfu teaching assisstants

(there are 3 of them at the morning

session), kungfu sifu (Lo Sifu’s disciples

who have opened their own dojo and

come back to train once in a while), prep

school tutor, English tutors, bun maker, floriculture transporter, unemployed, house wives,

textile importing consultant, bartender. And the list goes on…not to mention this is only the

morning class. I’ve been to the night class a few times but it’s more crowded and people are

more into sparring than practicing (too intense sometimes).

Basically, you never know who knows kungfu. They don’t all look like Bruce Lee. Never try

to disturb regular street people…you never know what type of skills they have up their

sleeves! Take Lo sifu for example…he looks and acts like a regular grandpa. Apart from

walking around correcting people’s positions, he just talks on the phone with his

grandchildren, waters the plants (he has quite an interesting array of different plants on

the patio corner), and walks around with a pondering look on his face (don’t let this fool

you…his mind is sharper than knife and he knows all that’s going on). However, if you

ever were to get in a fight with him, one chop from his arm and you will be sent home with

a blue, blistering bruise (he is known for his steel arms).


Lo Sifu at work.

Lo Sifu at heart?


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

International Community at Kungfu:

I remember that on the first day I went, there

were 2 German guys who slept in sleeping bags on

the patio (I got there early in the morning).

Apparently they sprayed bug spray every night

because of the mosquitoes in the open patio. That

was when I decided, hmmm…2 hours of commute a

day isn’t that bad… Anyways, the international

community at Lo sifu’s dojo shocked me. I can

actually get by without speaking Mandarin at all

(but of course I practiced and communicated using

Mandarin as well). Half of the students there are

international students. The older students told me

stories about how the school had only 1-2 Asians at

most when sifu first started teaching and how it

was not until the production of movies on Ip Man

that more locals started learning.

International Community Personalities:

Here are some of the international personalities I met

at kungfu:

Paul – Taiwanese guy from Belgium who now works

from home in Taipei.

Keith – New Zealand Kiwi who teaches English and

has been learning Wingchun from Lo sifu for a decade

or so. Apparently was super buff and slowly trimmed

down over the years to healthy buff to be more flexible

and able to do more delicate movements. He is married

to a Taiwanese woman and speaks pretty darn good


Tassilo – German guy who came to Taiwan for some

intern program a few years ago and now lives in

Taiwan with his Taiwanese wife and daughter. He also

speaks some Chinese.

Arjan – A mid-twenties guy from The Netherlands who

comes once a year to Taiwan for a month or two just to train kungfu. He works as a freelance

tech consultant and manages to get some work done while training in Taiwan. Loves

Taiwanese food and says he always gets fat in Taiwan.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Andre – A 19 year old German guy

who is enjoying his gap year before

he goes to college back in Germany.

He’s done Wingchun back in Lo Man

Kam’s German branch for 4 years

and wanted to come learn in Taiwan

from the sifu himself. He said he

worked at McDonalds for 3 months to

get money to pay for this trip and

that McDonalds was a horrible place

to work.





Terry – A French guy who has been

learning Wingchun from Lo Sifu for

like 14 years or so. He now runs his

own kungfu school in another part of

Taipei and comes by to practice on

certain days.

Johnny – A Taiwanese Canadian

who moved to Taiwan at least 10 years ago to pursue his dreams as a R&B singer. He used

to perform but recently switched to work as a music producer. His music can be found on

YouTube by typing in his Chinese name).

Yuseke – Japanese guy who lives for kungfu apparently, every time he makes enough

money to come to Taiwan and practice kungfu, he comes. He’s been doing this for 10+ years

as well. He LOVES Taiwanese beer because its cheap

and there are convenient stores within 5 mins of

walking everywhere in Taipei. He often misses the

morning sessions because of hangovers.

Julia and I

Fun outside of Kungfu!


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Arjan’s first moon cake!

The Fantastic Four…

Swiss guy Martin

Sifu wearing Dutch

clogs someone gave


Arjan trying out

Baguan, a type

of therapy for



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Wingchun Kungfu Swag (Gear&Essentials):



I’m legit!

T-shirt Uniform


T-shirt Uniform


Feiyue kungfu shoes. Official

shoes of Shaolin monks.

Bruises. The best


Cool Hat. Try

snapping that


Beautiful shoe models



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

My Life Beyond Kungfu:

Obviously kungfu took up most of my time

and energy during the day (you can only get

beat up so much before you need to rest, you

know?), but I still found myself with quite a bit

of free time. Here are some other activities I

pursued during my spare time:

English Tutoring:

I mentioned earlier that I found a part-time

(few times a week) private English tutoring

job. I had to make some money or else the

Garside wouldn’t last me very long, having to

pay for kungfu and other daily expenses outside of home. The students I taught were either

in college or a bit older.

One of the girls I taught just started freshman year at a college in Taipei. During our

sessions, we talked a lot about her experience in college and I shared my experiences of

college in the US with her. It was a golden cultural exchange in which I was getting paid! I

learned about the Taiwanese education system, its strengths and flaws from the student’s

perspective. She studies economics and business administration at a school that is famous

for fashion design programs. Let’s just say our college experiences are quite different.

Instead of spending the weekends playing beer pong and all the interesting things Rice/BU

kids do (Beer bike, climbing around the campus looking for hidden owls, NOD, Fondren

party, brunch at different dining halls on weekends, etc.), she spends a lot of her time home

with family and shopping around with friends. Her favorite things to do during her free

time are watching movies with friends, shopping at department stores, eating snacks, and

going to places like the Maokong Gondola or zoo. I guess it’s the difference in “campus life.”

She also told me about classes and how most of her economics classes were taught in

Chinese but the homework and textbook were in straight up economics jargon English.

English is a required subject for all Taiwanese kids but the kind of English they learn

hardly applies to real life conversations and essay writing. Most of it is memorizing

vocabulary (quite hard if you ask me…similar to SAT vocabulary) and memorizing

grammar rules. She says that even after 10+ years of English, she has trouble

communicating well especially with foreigners.

We chatted like friends and I kept the rule of English only. If she didn’t know how to say

something, she had to find a way to describe it. For homework, I came up with interesting

ways to write essays such as blog style writing (interesting topics with pictures). It was

quite an interesting experience that helped fund my extended stay here in Taiwan while

learning kungfu and it gave me a glimpse on education in Taiwan. It was great to see them

improve as I learnt to deal with different types of learners.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Dance, Dance, Baby!

Among the many interesting talents, skills,

professions of my kungfu buddies, there was a 23-

year-old guy who’s extremely good at dancing

(hiphop, house, breaking, swing, you name it). He

was an atypical Taiwanese kid. A year older than

me, he graduated a year before I did and was also

taking a gap year and trying to figure out his life

passions. I say atypical Taiwanese kid because

most Taiwanese parents usually don’t let their

kids take a year off to search for their passions and

true interests (even I had a hard time convincing

my already pretty liberal Taiwanese

parents…thank God for the Garside…more on that

later). They see it as time wasted that could be

used studying (getting a masters degree/PHD/etc.), or making money (find whatever job

and stick with it till you find a better one). Taiwanese parents have a pretty strict,

practical, no-bullshit type of attitude towards new grads…start making some money ASAP

or get a higher educational degree. Everything else, including taking time to foster skills

(seen as hobbies) such as dancing, sports, etc. is secondary or in some extreme cases,

unnecessary. But Tommy (dancing kungfu brother) had parents who were willing to

support him and his interest exploration.

After becoming friends with Tommy, my friend Julia and I asked him to teach us some

dance moves. So he held “workshops” for us. He brought along his mini boom box and we

went to places that dancers usually practice at. One of the go to places is outside the Sun

Yat Sen Memorial Hall. That’s where he taught us some moves and basics. He introduced

us to different types of dances and it was overall a really awesome experience. I learned

how to listen to music for the different instruments and beats behind the lyrics. He taught

us how dance is basically a reflection or rather an expression of those beats and

instrumental tunes using the body’s movements. It was a nice way to let loose (even

though we weren’t super good at it) and to learn how to “live in

the moment”. To repay him for his awesome workshops, I

gave him free private conversational English lessons. Now




Our First 4DX Movie!

Tommy practicing his



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Walking The Painful Health Trail ()

You walk barefoot (or with socks) on a trail made

with small round-tipped rocks. In TCM, it is said to

help stimulate your blood flow and thus help your

health by circulating your blood. It is related to foot

reflexology where certain pressure points on your foot

relate to different organs or parts of your body. Areas

that are more tender when stepping on the path

indicates areas that are possibly “less healthy” or

sore. I felt cold sweat pouring down my face when I

try to walk the whole length (around 200m).

It’s supposed to help rid some toxins in your body as

well. There is this one French guy who walks the path

everyday in front of Sun Yat Sen Memorial hall (

) around lunch time and oh boy does he walk

Oh Lord…it’s painful.

fast. I kind of just slowly trudge in pain behind him.

The understanding behind this health trail is that the

less you hurt, the better your body is (supposedly). I

hurt A LOT and I am sure most people will scream

and shout the first time around. But hey, it’s a good, free alternative to a foot massage!

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

On 10/10/14. (Inside)

Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Baguazhang ()

Many of my kungfu brothers (Julia and I

were usually the only girls, except for an

occasional few who would come and go)

have had exposure to other types of

martial arts other than Wingchun. One of

our favorite kungfu brothers, Jackey (he is

one of the teaching assistants for Lo Sifu),

explained that once you truly understand one

martial art, you can easily grasp/learn other

types. He himself knows how Baguazhang,

an even more ancient martial art than

Wingchun that is based on circular flowing

movements. I asked him to teach me a

couple of routines and so he taught me the

first 2 series of baguazhang. Here’s a clip of

a woman practicing it.

Baguazhang is also the type of martial art

that the main female character in “The

Grandmaster” uses against Tony Leung who

stars as Wingchun grandmaster Ip Man.

Zhang Ziyi performing Baguazhang in

“The Grandmaster”

National Palace Museum Visits ():

I visited the museum twice and it was a great back

flash of my good old history, Asian studies days at

Rice. I especially loved looking at the calligraphy and

Chinese porcelain (that only the emperor was allowed

to use of course). It is definitely worth the visit! Try to

go when less Mainland Chinese tourists are there if

you can…they don’t really have a concept of personal

space sometimes…one woman basically climbed on me

to look at royal furniture. A few others knocked their

heads on the glass windows by accident when trying to

get too close (please excuse my rant). But overall, a

great look at many Chinese treasures that Chiang Kai

Shek and the Nationalist Party brought over after

fleeing China.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Calligraphy ()

After visiting the National Palace Museum, I wanted to take

some calligraphy lessons and try it out for myself. I was lucky

enough to meet a friend of a friend’s mother who offered to

teach me for free! I had class once a week for 1-2 hours. They

say that Chinese calligraphy, martial arts, philosophy, TCM

are all related in some ways. Those who are tuned in to all of

these subjects are considered the equivalent of the Chinese

Renaissance man/woman. Knowing one subject helps you

deepen your understanding of the other. It helps you become

well-rounded as a mentally and physically capable individual.

Well, I haven’t written calligraphy for long enough, but at

least it’s a start! I am currently learning Zuanshu ()

style, which looks more like drawings than characters

sometimes. This got me to appreciate the beauty of Chinese

traditional characters even more.

Taijichuan aka. Taichi ()

Elderly people practicing

Taichi in the morning.

Old Taiwanese/Chinese people are usually seen

practicing Taichi early in the morning around

sunrise. They like to start their day with some good

old-fashioned Taichi. It is a great way to get your

blood and energy flowing with slow and controlled

movements. Taichi is considered one of the “soft”

martial arts meaning that it is used mainly for

health cultivation rather than fighting/hitting.

Many great TCM practitioners often have an

extensive knowledge of Taichi. It is an exercise that

helps you Cultivate “qi” (), which is the essence of

life in Chinese philosophy and TCM.

I got the chance to try a couple of Taichi classes and they were quite interesting. The

teacher was a mid-aged guy who said he used to be really into sports like basketball and

tennis. After suffering from some injuries he decided he should start a gentler type of

exercise that he can continue even when he gets old. Thus, he started Taichi. He said that

after he practiced Taichi for a couple of years, he noticed his old aches and injuries

disappearing. The few times I got to try it, the weather was rainy and cold. But after

repeating the beginning series he taught me, I started warming up and eventually

sweating…who would have thought that such slow and graceful movements could get you to

sweat on a cold rainy day…Too bad I wasn’t able to continue the classes since they were 2

hours away from my place (4 hours round-trip…too far).


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Tea Culture ()

Taiwan is extremely famous for its tea, especially its

high mountain Oolong and Sun Moon Lake black tea.

At kungfu, they always have someone brewing tea. It’s

part of the culture and custom. During my free time, I

was able to try some great tea and even get the full

experience at

certain teahouses

where they teach

you how to

properly brew the

tea with all the

different steps. I

can’t say I’m a tea

connoisseur yet,

but at least I

know some basics!

Cooking Simple Dishes:

After going to college, I realized how much I

miss home cooked Taiwanese food…so I

learned how to cook some simple dishes. Not

too bad, I think I can survive in the future.

Don’t laugh. This is pretty good for my

standards. Watch out, Gordon Ramsay, I’m

coming after you.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Training My Left Hand & Right Brain:

Jackey, my kungfu brother (his

wingchun skill is

amazing…hopefully I’ll get to that

point one day…) suggested a

really interesting exercise to help

increase both 1) fine motor skill

movement of the non-dominant

hand (which is really important in

Wingchun because you learn to

“listen” to other people’s

movements/placement of force

with your arms that are contact

with the opponent) and 2)

increasing the use of the non-dominant side of the brain. He told me to write my Chinese

name 100 times horizontally and 100 times vertically everyday. I was like…okay, why not?

His reasoning was that by writing with my left (non-dominant) hand, I could improve its fine

motor skills and thus better control my movements and force.

In order to excel in Wingchun (which relies much on practiced reflexes), you have learn to

become extremely sensitive to the movements of yourself and others so that if someone

pushes forward on your arm, you don’t counter the force; instead, you “borrow” the

opponent’s force and use it against him/her by moving with the applied force. In addition,

practicing delicate movements with my left hand helps increase activity and stimulation of

my right side brain (because your right hand corresponds to your left brain, left hand to

right brain). I have also started to train my left hand more for basketball (I play once in a

while at the parks here). Jackey says that you must be able to do what you can do with your

right, with your left and vice versa. And I definitely felt some difference after writing for a

couple of times. Now my left hand can do a lot of more delicate movements in Wingchun

than before.

Mountains & Breathtaking Sights:

I’m a nature gal. I love escaping the concrete

jungle, feeling the morning dew on my skin, and

breathing in the fresh mountain air. One of my

goals in life is to walk the trails along the Swiss

Alps (very soon). I didn’t major in ecology and

evolutionary biology for no reason. I spent a

summer at a lab trying to understand the effects of

global warming on the life cycles of insects such as

ladybugs and aphids. Thus, it was natural for me

to find some nice trails to walk around in Taiwan.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

More Mountains:

There are easy hikes around Yangmingshan

() that I do sometimes. They take

about an hour or so. I’ve met baboons there a

few times (and boy are they mean and

scary…just have to act brave and hide your

food). There are also more intense hikes that

can take up to 3-4 hours on the other side of

the mountain. I also got the chance to pick

mountain oranges while gazing at the

amazing ocean of clouds () at Bagua

mountain (), which is inhabited by the

Taiya aboriginal tribe () of Taiwan.

Taiwanese people are quite appreciative of

their natural landscape, often taking family

mountain climbing trips on weekends.

Bagua mountain () orange picking while

gazing at the ocean of clouds.

Yangming mountain



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Living History Through Grandparents:

Having spent most of my life in the states and

in school, I never really got the chance to hang

out with my grandparents and listen to their

“once upon a time” stories. It was hard talking

to my grandma due to her Alzheimer’s so I

talked to my grandpa more. Listening to him

talk was like listening to a history radio

channel. Having grown up during the period of

Japanese occupation and then through the

Chinese Nationalist takeover of Taiwan,

he’s lived through some tough

times…he’s not the biggest fan of the

Chinese Nationalist Party (read about

2/28 Massacre where the Chinese

soldiers tortured and killed many local

Taiwanese civilians into submission).

Hearing his stories, I was able to better

understand the tensions between China

and Taiwan.

She might Alzheimer’s but the one

thing she never forgets is to

button up grandpa’s jacket 24/7

! Exhibit B…

My ancestors moved to Taiwan probably

from southern China a long time ago, way before the

Nationalist party fled to Taiwan. My grandparents were

educated in Japanese because Taiwan was under Japanese

rule until the Japanese surrendered in WWII. Thus, they

speak mainly Taiwanese, Japanese, and only a tiny bit of

Mandarin. It was so interesting listening to my grandpa refer

to Mandarin as “Beijing language” (he called it ).

Listening to them talk really allowed me to understand

Taiwan’s history and its consequences from a primary source






My family



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Examining Different TCM Treatments:

I got the chance to try different TCM

treatments (herbs, acupuncture, detox,

natural-healing medicine) and took down

notes of the process and effects. Hopefully

in the future, after I’ve gone to TCM

school, I can look back at these experiences

and figure out what worked better for me.

Most TCM/Western medicine doctors have

their own specialties and different

beliefs/concepts due to differing

experiences. I hope to synthesize my own

understanding of medicine (East and West

combined) and to develop my own specialty

by experiencing and learning about all the

different possibilities/methods. With this, I

am happy to announce that I will be

touring two TCM schools in California to

see if they are a good fit for me.

Tried some detox

stuff…not my

favorite experience.

Watching Arjan get



Medicine Store

Temple ()

Some acupuncture +

electrolyte therapy?


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Leisure Reading:

Now that I finally had some spare time on my hands, I read a couple of books. I

often dropped the Dunnan Eslite Bookstore (open for 24 hours a day) after kungfu.

Here are some of the books I read (a few I was too lazy to jot down too):


Chinese Medicine: The Web That Has No Weaver – Ted J. Kaptchuk

The WingChun Compendium (Vol.1) – Wayne Belonoha

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouac

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

Wha The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast – Laura Vanderkam

Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine – Harriet Beinfield

The Tao of Travel – Paul Theroux

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

Quiet: The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain

The Economist (bi-weekly online subscription)

Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse

Wing Chun Kung Fu – Grandmaster Ip Chun and Michael Tse


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Food Pictures for the Foodies:

Just cause…


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Yes…that is what you think it

is! Krispy Kremes opened its

first store in Taipei! Julia and I

decided to go line up. 1 st person

gets 1 years worth of free

donuts (1 dozen per week). 2 nd

person gets 6 months free. 3 rd

person gets 3 months free. 4 th -

200 th gets 1 month of free

donuts and a free t-shirt. I was

#83. I got there around 5am

and waited until 12pm…it was

cold and rainy that day. Never

again! It was too intense. The

closest bathroom was about a

10-15 min. walk away from the

store and you had to sign in/out

every time you wanted to pee! They gave you

20 mins by the way… cruel cruel people.

Despite my bitching about my 6-hour wait,

the first person in line was a girl who camped

out 3 days ago. She had brought her luggage

and tent. I think the first few individuals all

got sick…not really worth it in my opinion but

maybe they really really really love donuts.

One thing to note about Taiwanese

people…they “line up” as a pastime. If “lining

up” were an Olympic sport, Taiwan would

take gold every time.

Missing The USA…Therefore:


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

The Flea Market Experience:

So my grandparents and relatives had a lot of random used clothes and other things that

they no longer needed. These things were just sitting around taking up space and collecting

dust. My cousin and I decided that it would be a good idea to go to the flea market (2 nd hand

market and sell it). We did some research online and found two good flea markets to sell our

things at over the weekend. Here’s a brief outline of the two markets:

Tianmu Second Hand Market

Cousin and I

Tianmu Second Hand Market (): Outdoors

in an open area that gets quite crowded over the weekend. Half of the

market is for creative works market (so like clothes, food, etc. not used

things) and the other half is the flea market. The general crowd here is

slightly more varied with an average younger age compared to the

other spot we hit up. More people here are seen shopping for used

fashionable clothes so we brought our “younger style” clothes and

things to sell here. The prices you can set here are usually a bit higher.

The first hour or so is what we called the “Golden Hour” where you can

basically sell all your nicer things for its highest price. Resellers often

come then and buy things off of you while you’re still setting up

(Golden Hour applies to both flea markets we sold at). We got haggled

at and darn…those old ladies…they are experts. They know how to get

you especially if you are young and inexperienced. This is business in

its most basic form. You really want to understand business? Go sell

stuff at the flea market. No need for that Business school degree…you

can learn about everything (supply/demand, pricing, shoppers

psychology, etc.) right there. It honestly takes skills to do well here

(some people do this for a living…buying and reselling).

Yongchun Flea Market (): Similar to the

Tianmu market except that it’s indoors and above a local market

downtown. The customers here are a bit more specialized. Many are

experienced flea market shoppers who come every weekend just

because it’s their pastime…they love haggling and getting good deals I

guess. The average age here is a bit higher… approximately 50-60s? I

would say mostly grandparents who come shopping for their

grandkids etc. The most interesting clothing pieces get the most

attention such as this shirt with an image of a huge cat…not that

many people here buy the more “fashionable” stuff (although fashion

could be subjective in this case depending on age). They haggle hard

here, especially the old experienced grannies…almost a little too hard.

Overall it was a very interesting experience. We made around

$10,000NT (~$330 USD) over the two weekends at the two markets

and then celebrated with some good food afterwards.

Yongchun Flea Market


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Other Pictures:

Some midnight street food for the

hungry hippos.

Amazing 101 New Years fireworks to

start off 2014.

Majong session

with some homies

Local Japanese

Yakitori place

Taking my high

school history

teacher to the park

for some Chinese


Local elders engrossed

in an intense game

Famous shaved ice at

Spanish brand name

Loewe’s classy Asia



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Just FYI: Taiwan Voted #1 For Solo Travel! (Click link)


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Visiting TCM Schools in California:

I visited two schools after arriving back in California: American College of Traditional

Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) and Five Branches University San Jose Branch (FBU).

American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine


I attended the Open House at ACTCM. It is

located in San Francisco on Potrero Hill

(right next to the fairly new Potrero Hill

Library). Let’s just cut to the chase. I loved

it! I got the chance to talk to current

students about their experiences and also

met a bunch of amazing prospective

students. The other prospective students had

a variety of people from different

backgrounds and professions. I met a couple

of business men/women who wanted a

complete career change, some fresh grads

like myself, some techies, etc. Many of them

had crazy life-changing stories either of a

loved one saved by TCM or how TCM helped

them through injuries that Western medicine

could not fully fix. I loved the energy and

how passionate everyone was…something I

felt was lacking in college at times. I think it

was just how mature everyone was and how

they knew This was what they wanted to do

(compared to college where many like myself

were jumping from subject to subject, unsure

and uncertain about our future and


Not only were the people amazing, but they

also have an herbal garden where students

learn about the different herbs used in

TCM…talk about kickass awesomeness.

There was a sort of Rice-esque feel to this

campus too. People cooperate and socialize

together. The school is also the oldest TCM

school in the US and the Masters Program

in TCM has the highest license passing

rates of all schools. In addition to all

this…there was the whole San Francisco

city. Need I say more? I would live in San

Francisco even if it weren’t for ACTCM. I

knew this was the place for me. Finally, I

actually cannot wait to go to school (don’t

get me wrong about college, but this is a

completely different feeling where it’s not

like I have to go there, but rather, I

NEED/WANT to go here). Hopefully I will

get accepted and attend school starting Fall


Courtesy of


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Five Branches University (San Jose Campus):

Well, after my great experience at the

ACTCM open house, I was prepared to just

skip FBU completely. Well, I still went to

visit it. The great thing about FBU is that

they offer classes in three languages:

Mandarin, English, and Korean. Apart from

that, nothing really stood out that much.

The school was located on the 5 th floor of

some office building and had a very officey

feel where it seemed to cultivate a “get-inget-out,

give me my license so I can start

practicing TCM asap” atmosphere. Yeah…I

decided not to apply here in the end. That

leaves me with just ACTCM. I really hope I



5 th floor of what looks like an

office building. I think I

prefer an actual campus…

Rice spoiled me!


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

The Garside Award. Life Changing Experiences:

As corny as it sounds, I don’t think I could

have gotten where I am today without the

Garside Award. The Garside helped me

understand my future and myself. As the

oldest child of my family, I was expected to

go to a good school, graduate, and find a

solid job. I was expected to set an example

for my younger sister. My parents were the

ones from either side of my extended family

to have immigrated out of Taiwan. So

technically…I’m the first generation to be

brought up in the US. My relatives and

parents are still relatively “traditional” in

the sense that they have a really straight-shot, go to school then get a job (or become a

lawyer, doctor, or professor) type of mindset. I don’t blame them for this, as I slowly

understand the psychology behind this “practicality over passion” mindset. It has to do with

history and its historical consequences (Read “Uncle Eric” section). Compared to many other

traditional parents/family, I have it quite easy, but the pressures are still there. When I told

them about not knowing what I want to do with my life and how I feel like I needed some

time to explore, they instinctively disagreed and told me to go find whatever job I could find,

may it be tutoring, office job, or what not. I understand their concern and reasoning – to rack

up my resume and get as much “real life”

experience, but it just wasn’t my style.

Steph Thinks.

Steph Does.

Throughout the years, I’ve found out that when I

am passionate about something, I truly do an

amazing job at it (willing to dedicate all my

energies towards it). However, when I am forced

to do something I absolutely hate or have no

interest in, I can…cause a riot. In general, I

HATE being told what to do. It’s just my

personality and no matter how much I am aware

of it or try to change it, it’ll always be there

(obviously ruled out secretary as a possible job).

This project or gap year has helped me

understand myself better. It’s helped me learn to

use my traits, talents, and strengths beneficially

rather than pushing against and neglecting these

tendencies. It’s analogous to Wingchun, which

focuses on using the opponent’s force to your

advantage…using their own power to defeat

them (sounds like the Daoist mindset to go with

the flow, not against it).


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

What the Garside Provided Me (Beyond the Funds):

What the Garside provided me was a chance to

explore my passions and to devote my energies to

understanding what I wanted to do and who I

wanted to be. It helped me transform myself

from the lost, confused fresh grad into a fighter

(literally…call me Kungfu Wu from now on?)

with a clear goal and a better understanding of

my passions. It’s taught me to accept myself for

who I am instead of fighting against my


With the financial support of the Garside Award

(and a few private tutor jobs), I was able to

support myself for the first time ever. I no longer

had to “live under anybody’s roof and rules.” I

was free to do whatever I wanted to. If I wanted

to learn kungfu, I could go learn kungfu. If I wanted to learn about Chinese

calligraphy and tea culture, I could go and learn it the next day. If I wanted to go to

China and study architecture and its symbolism, I could go to China (what I was

going to do but I found an even more compelling self-growth project). It was my

money, my time, and my life. It provided me to confidence try new things and pursue

new interests that traditional parents would probably deem as “a waste of time and


The Garside, in a sense, took my shackles off (the peer/family pressures and burdens

of being unemployed) and allowed me to roam free with the purpose of finding myself

(obviously through things related to history and Asian studies haha). It helped me

make sense of my three seemingly unrelated majors (EEBio, history, Asian studies).

It showed me the importance of interdisciplinary studies and a big-picture mindset.

As an individual tossed between two seemingly contradictory, wholly-different

cultures of East and

West, I was able, with

the help of the

Garside, to find a way

to bridge the two

cultures into


meaningful and

amazing while still

pursuing something

I’m passionate about.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

What the Garside Provided Me (Beyond the Funds):

Never in a hundred years would I have guessed myself to be interested in combining

TCM and Western medicine had it not been for this exploratory gap year full of

interesting stories. And Kungfu?! How do I even begin to describe how crazy all this

would have sounded to the old college me (and even now). Life is full of possibilities

and opportunities. It’s about choosing which ones to grab and which ones to give up…

in economic terms – Life is about opportunity costs. I would probably be sitting in

some miserable office cubicle (counting down the minutes till the next happy hour)

pretending to love my job of making PowerPoints, researching companies, snacking

out of boredom (cause that’s what I do when I’m stressed or bored), packing on

pounds to my seat-ridden body, and lord knows what…Don’t get me wrong, that is

the dream life for some people (Yes, a few of my friends love it), but it just isn’t for


So…seriously… Thank you so much Rice History Department and Garside Award!


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Integer metus.




Connecting Dots -

A flash back to the past:

One last story: I remember in 6 th grade,

everyone received an award on the last

day of classes in the auditorium. Many

people got awards such as future

president, best actor, perfectionist, best

scientist, etc. I somehow managed to get

the “happy-go-lucky” award. Haha. I

remember being quite angry at the

time…is this the best they got for me? I

sure as hell did not try my hardest in the

sixth grade to get straight A’s but I did

have a fun time overall… But now that I

think about it, this description as defined

in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as

“blithely unconcerned: carefree” and in the

Free Dictionary as “trusting cheerfully to

luck; happily unworried or unconcerned,”

just might be a good start to

understanding me; although I would

better describe myself as opportunistic.

I don’t like to plan my life from now till

I’m 80. I am a faithful believer in taking

life step by step, allowing change and

trying new approaches. Maybe it is a

combination of my inherent nature and

my new perspectives after learning

kungfu and my experiences during this

gap year. Thus I would like to end with a

quote from the late Steve Jobs, “Again,

you can't connect the dots looking

forward; you can only connect them

looking backwards. So you have to trust

that the dots will somehow connect in

your future. You have to trust in

something - your gut, destiny, life, karma,

whatever. This approach has never let me

down, and it has made all the difference

in my life.” I stand by his comment.


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Future Plans:

I am currently finishing up my applications for

ACTCM, hopefully starting the class in the coming

Fall or Winter quarter. That leaves me pretty free

until school starts. I would like to move my

adventures westward (Europe) and complete one

of my lifelong dreams of backpacking across the

different countries (like all American 20-

somethings) before I lock myself down for another

4+ years of school (and loans). In addition to

backpacking, I would love to understand the

workings of an organic farm (being the ecology

biology major I am) by signing up to WWOOF for a

few weeks at a European country. I will take on

this mission soon after I secure some funds and

plan. I will continue practicing Wingchun as well.

As for China, I would love to actually make it to

the mainland. However, I have decided that it

would make more sense to wait until a few

quarters into TCM school (so that I have a better

understanding of TCM) and then take a trip

(ACTCM has a ton of study TCM in China

programs, collaborations, and scholarship

opportunities) to examine the roots of this ancient



Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Kungfu For The Soul:


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Have You Heard Of That New Movie?!


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

Or This One?


Charles S. Garside Award Reflections

Stephanie Wu

My Two Cents…

Advice To

Future Grads:

Find your passions. Find yourself. Sometimes

it requires a leap of faith, but I promise you,

that when you do, it WILL be absolutely



Useful Quotes:

- Andrew Zimmern -

“Please be a traveler. Not a

tourist. Try new things. Meet new

people. And look beyond what’s

right in front of you. Those are

the keys to understanding this

amazing world we live in.”

- Aristotle -

“Educating the mind without

educating the heart is no

education at all.”

As cliché as it sounds… its worth it to take the road

less taken sometimes – to venture out of your comfort

zone and step bravely into the uncertain and

unknown…to take a leap of faith, and seriously, to

Just Do It (I love Nike but I promise this is not an

ad). Start understanding yourself and your passions

as soon as you can and I promise it will be a

rewarding and enriching lifetime experience. Start

now while you are young and able. Heed my good

uncle Eric’s words because he knows what it feels like

to feel trapped inside a concrete “jail” (he refers to his

office) for 35 years and breaking free too late. There

are so many things I wished I could have or would

have done in the last 22 years; but there was always

an excuse, a reason to not follow through. Before I

know it, I’ll probably be over 40 or something with

pets, kids, who knows?! So don’t let amazing those

opportunities slip out of your reach!

- Steve Jobs -

“The only way to do great work is

to love what you do.”


Giving Thanks:

I cannot express how thankful I am to have

been a recipient of the Garside Award. I would

love to thank all those who made my journey and

adventure possible – Rice University, Rice History

Department, my family, my mentors, my kungfu

family, my friends (who put up with my

craziness), and everyone else that encouraged me or

touched my life in anyway. This has definitely been

the adventure of a lifetime that I hope to

continue for as long as I live (I guess this saying

doesn’t work if your whole life becomes one great

big adventure).

Sincerely Yours,

[Issue] :: [Date]

Lorem Ipsum


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