COURTESY EVAN KNIGHT
Martial arts of all forms -- wushu, kung fu, capoeira, hapkido, tae kwon do, karate, kendo, mauy thai -- will be featured at the Martial Arts Festival this weekend. Also expect to find food and game booths, lion dances and prize drawings that include a trip to China.
Martial arts fest eyes a hit
Hard to believe, but the reason you haven't seen a martial arts extravaganza in Honolulu before this weekend? The various martial arts "schools" in Hawaii would rather kick butt than play nice.
"Someone, I heard, tried to put on a big martial arts event some years ago, but the schools were too competitive," said promoter Evan Knight. "I don't follow any particular martial art myself, and you know, I think that's helped. I'm not beholden to any school. I'm here for everyone!"
The result is the inaugural Martial Arts Festival, occurring this weekend at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. What's your pleasure? Wushu? Kung fu? Capoeira? Hapkido? Tae kwon do? Karate? Kendo? Jujitsu? Muay thai? Lion dancing? It's all happening. Every jump, grunt and thwack, like the sound of a tuna being smacked against a Naugahyde couch; even the lion dancing, which isn't exactly a martial art, but neither is eating or shopping, and there are booths to serve those interests as well.
Mai Bandonis and Ron Kaneshige are Knight's fellow founder/promoters. Bandonis, an inventor, former hairstylist and current kung fu enthusiast, insists that the event is the "first annual" one of its kind, and she's that excited about it.
"All of the local martial arts schools are participating!" she said. "All with different styles! Plus we have masters coming from China, like (wushu master) Chen Lei, and from Korea and Hawaii, (tae kwon do master) Dae Sung Lee!"
She went on to describe the vendors, the various games and something like $1,500 in prizes, including a trip to China. But it's not all chop-socky. Bandonis says that although martial arts may be a popular craze thanks to stars like Jet Li and Jackie Chan, it's also a way or building self-discipline and confidence and physical fitness. "If we didn't believe in it, we would not have spent the last year and a half pursuing this dream," said Bandonis.
Knight spent the weekend pursuing the dream by trudging through the rain from school to school, pitching the festival. "It's the biggest event I've ever put on, and I'm just a 25-year-old guy," he said. "We've sold most of the vending areas already, and we have enough performers to change every half an hour."
The trick, he said, was not to be competitive. There will be no brawling, no winners or losers. "We wanted to focus on the art of martial arts, not put on a pit fight. Something that your kids or grandparents can go to and not be offensive or horribly violent. It seems to be working. That's why the various schools are coming on board.
"If we even break even, man, we're back next year. I'm in it for the next 20 years. Martial arts is a lifetime discipline."