Born as a child prodigy who once worked for various agencies in the U.S. Government, Mr. Andrew Williams has taught many how to use the internal martial arts to heal and defend themselves. In a five-part series, I share part of The Qigong Boxer’s peculiar story. Part 1 was posted on Monday, Part 2 on Tuesday.
The Beginning of Essence
Young *Bobby watched amazed as attackers collapsed in crumpled white heap around the skinny black child.
Every time he saw Andrew Williams fight, the Chinese boy would go home and tell his parents how this black child fought like his dad – a Shaolin Priest.
His father thought his son was exaggerating. Still, the man decided to meet Andrew.
But even before they met, the *Shaolin Priest would witness for himself what his son saw daily at his elementary school.
The family was outside when Andrew approached. But before he could cross the street, three teenagers blocked his path.
Andrew had put their little brother in the hospital and they wanted to get even. It didn’t matter that their brother picked on Andrew or that he called Andrew’s mother racial names.
Still, Andrew warned them to leave him alone.
The teens looked at the black child, a thin shadow under a black shade of afro. This would be an easy fight.
One of the teenagers grabbed Andrew by his shirt.
“I grabbed him by his wrist and his elbow and twisted his arm, quickly taking him down with punches and kicks,” Mr. Williams said. “His two friends tried to grab and punch me. Then the next thing I know, they hit the ground as I’d redirect their attacks, twisting them like pretzels. Then they were crawling away crying, saying ‘he’s not normal, he’s not normal.’”
Standing in At Ease position, the Shaolin Priest looked at the curious child who now stood before him.
“Who taught you how to fight like that? Who taught you Temple Boxing?”
Andrew looked at him, puzzled.
“I just know how to fight,” Andrew said. “I don’t know what you mean by Temple Boxing.”
For a moment, the Shaolin Priest looked at Andrew.
“What if I want to fight you, you think you can beat me?” the man said.
“Yes, I will hurt you,” Andrew said.
“I’m much bigger than you are. I’m much stronger than you are. I’m a full grown adult. What makes you think you can beat me?”
“I can beat you because The Power within me will give me the strength to beat you. So don’t try to hurt me.”
As if understanding, the man nodded his head. Then, he told the child he wanted to test him.
Andrew quickly took a step backward when the man attempted to touch him on the shoulder.
“No, don’t try anything ‘cause I will hurt you.”
It wouldn’t be a real fight, the man told him.
“I just looked at him because I didn’t understand what he meant it not being a real fight,” Mr. Williams said. “Because that’s all I know about is fighting for real. I didn’t know anything about sparring or play fighting.”
The man held out his hand to let Andrew know he wasn’t going to try to hurt him. But he had to test him.
“And then that’s when the Voice spoke to me again, whispered in my ear, ‘Accept his challenge, but this time it’s going to be different. Do not hurt him.’”
Then, the man attacked.
“The next thing I know we was redirecting each other’s technique,” Mr. Williams recalled. “I remember he was trying to sweep me and throw me over his hips. But every time he (tried) I would move out of the way, or reposition my body. And every time he tried to hit me with his hands or push me, somehow I would redirect it or move behind his hand to come behind his push or his strike.”
Bobby’s sister stopped her work in the flower bed. His mother stood on the patio. They watched in awe as this young child sparred with the Shaolin Priest – intuitively absorbing, blocking, and redirecting his strikes; instinctively adopting to his every move.
Then Bobby broke the silence. “Wow, this is like in a Kung Fu movie.”
His father stopped, and nodded his head.
The Shaolin Priest didn’t know too many people who could keep up with him, and was impressed with the child’s peculiar abilities.
“You were born with a fighting spirit,” he said. “I never heard of this happening to somebody else in another country. But only in my own.”
Andrew didn’t know what he meant, and he didn’t ask.
“With these great martial art abilities or martial art skills we have to learn great control and I will teach you that,” the man said.
From that point on the man started teaching Andrew with his son.
“That’s when I learned how to control my martial art skills not to hurt people unless I wanted to,” Mr. Williams said. “Cause before I didn’t know how to fight without hurting people.”
The two practiced daily, always moving slowly.
“We never practiced hard, fast and powerful. Majority of the time, we practiced slow and soft. At that time, I didn’t understand it as being a specific style called Tai Chi or Bagua or Xing Yi or something like that.
“I didn’t really care about names and titles.”
They practiced using the styles in combat.
“Today when people learn Tai Chi or any other form of internal martial art, the first thing they learn is the Form. I didn’t learn that way. We actually learned how to use it in real combat.”
Soon Andrew was using more control.
“We were sparring. We practiced Push Hands because his main objective was teaching me control,” Mr. Williams said. “I don’t care how gifted a person is in the martial arts or how talented a person is in the martial arts, control is the main ingredient. Without control, you’re really nothing. You’re just like raging water, like a tidal wave; you come crashing and destroying everything that is in your way.
“You want to be like still water. You want to be calm and that’s what he was teaching me.”
But it was the man’s teenage *daughter who would help Andrew to see the essence of the martial arts.
Tall and slender with dark long hair the color of the earth and silky soft skin the color of light rain, she reminded Andrew of a beautiful China doll.
Then he saw her fight.
She was working in the flower bed when three gang members approached her. In Lawton, Okla. many of the homes sat on open lands with no barriers. Though Andrew and his friend’s dad were in the military, they did not live on the base.
Andrew started to walk towards them, wanting to protect her honor. But his friend stepped in front of Andrew, letting him know his big sister could take care of herself. The dad remained in At Ease position.
The bullies paid no attention to the males who stood back, watching.
Their gaze followed the girl as she stood silently, her movement liquid and light as grace.
Politely, she asked the teens to leave. But they refused, instead they made sexual jokes and jesters; leering and laughing at her until their leader was no longer satisfied with just looking.
Stepping closer, he reached out to touch her breast.
But before his palm could reach her chest, the girl moved soft and swift to control his arm in a silken grasp. Using what appeared to be the Crane style, she twisted and redirected his body until he cried out in pain; her every movement soft and graceful, beautiful and deadly.
The other two teens reached out to grab her. But like a rush of gentle wind, she swept them of their feet, causing them to land in a round heap. She then stepped back into the Buddhist position – the dangerous dance now complete.
“Please leave my yard,” she said.
She watched the teens as they quickly crawled away, then as if remembering they had legs, they got up and ran.
The girl turned and walked towards Andrew.
“My dad can teach you how to be strong and hard. But I can teach you how to be soft and graceful,” she said.
That’s when Andrew started to understand the true essence of the martial arts.
“It wasn’t the fact what she did or what I seen. It’s just the fact of how much control and how much grace and how fluid she was,” Mr. Williams said. “That really impressed me; that really opened up my eyes.”
And Andrew realized that’s what he wanted to learn – how to move fluid and graceful with great control.
After that incident, the dad and then the daughter would instruct Andrew.
“I didn’t understood at the time it was known as Wu Tai Chi or Wushu or Yang Tai Chi cause I didn’t kept up with any of the titles and the names. Only thing I know was I was impressed with what I was learning,” Mr. Williams said. “So on one hand, I became very skillful and dangerous with it and on the other hand I became very fluid and very controlled with it.
“So it was like having the complete package of power all wrapped up in one.”
Soon Andrew saw the difference in his fights at school as he showed more mercy, more control. And as he and Bobby grow to become best friends, they would sometimes fight together. Their friendship sealed as they learned to watch out for each other- both targets of white prejudice.
“Yeah, we got into fights. Sometimes we fight at the same time. Sometime we fought separately,” Mr. Williams said.
Then it was three of them, as another boy, Steve Tucker, became one of Andrew’s best friends.
“We was known as The Three Musketeers. It was me, him and this other child. He was a white boy. We called the white boy Cowboy ‘cause he was always dressed like a cowboy. My Chinese friend we call him The Dragon because he was good at Kung Fu. And then they called me The Street Fighter.”
Andrew used his skills to help others, teaching some to fight and protecting others from bullies.
And for at least one girl, who was constantly being teased and bullied, Andrew became her self-appointed body guard.
Her name was *Beverly. She was like a black Barbie doll. Shapely and round with long hair the color of the midnight sky, and mahogany brown skin, moist and smooth as a rose petal.
One day, a bully pushed her down on the playground as several children surrounded her. The white children laughed, the black children said nothing as the little girl sat in a small heap, scared and crying as the bullies continued to call her racial names.
Andrew’s mom had always taught him to be a perfect gentleman. The sixth-grader stepped between the girl and the other children. And in a flurry of movements, he punched, kicked and pushed two of them away. Then they all backed off.
“From this day on no one mess with her or say a thing to her because she is my friend,” Andrew told the receding crowd. Then he turned to help up the little girl, who silently smiled up at him.
After that no one touched her and when they tried, Andrew was there to protect her.
Andrew understood the power of the martial art to protect and defend. But the Shaolin Priest also showed Andrew how to use the internal art for healing.
“I remember he explained to me that because I was born very weak, it’s going to take some time for my body to develop strength and that was going to be in my late adult years,” Mr. Williams said. “And then he showed me certain techniques.”
Andrew didn’t realize it at the time but he was born with a chronic illness that could make him a cripple. When he discovered this in his late teens, his parents and his doctor warned him to give up the martial arts. But Andrew refused to listen.
*Mr. Andrew Williams could not recall the full or complete names of these individuals.
Part 4 of this series will be posted Thursday.
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