White Crane Kung Fu Studio
Program Director - Our Sifu
Chief Instructor Sifu Lou Illar has over 40 years experience in Kung Fu studies. As a professor of Communication Arts and History, Lou Illar authored the only text on the history of Chinese in Louisiana, and assisted in a published translation of Lao Tsu's Parting ot the Way by Dr. Paul Lin. In the 1980's Lou Illar was installed as Liaison for the Chinese Traditional Arts of the Republic of China and was twice placed into Inside Kung Fu Magazine's "Hall of Fame" in 1983 and again in 1987 (see photo below). Inside Kung Fu Magazine has been one of the largest martial arts publications in the world. Over six million readers in hundreds of countries received the monthly publication and the magazine has served as an international vehicle for the promotion and preservation of traditional Kung Fu. At the time of his first induction to IKF's Hall of Fame, Lou Illar suggested that he be listed in a newly created category entitled "The Humanitarian of the Year". IKF cooperated with this suggestion and ever since that request was made, Inside Kung Fu Magazine has honored annually a Kung Fu teacher as "The Humanitarian of the Year". In doing so IKF cooperated with an image that forever altered the purpose of Kung Fu instruction in America. Thousands of kids around the world now understand Kung Fu to offer an open hand to individuals with disabilities. Having raised thousands of dollars through Kung Fu entertainment for the benefit of disabled children, in 1990 Lou Illar was asked to lobby for the American Disability Act and ardently he visited with Congressman and Senators on Capital Hill. His work with Individuals with disabilities as they studied Kung Fu led to his most renowned work, the movie Sidekicks, which he wrote in 1993.
"One of the best underdog fairy tales to emerge in years Johnathan Brandis stars as an asthmatic high school kid who day dreams himself into elaborate, Walter Mitty-esque fantasies at the side of long time hero Chuck Norris who plays himself and who superbly spoofs many of his martial action hits. The supporting cast is excellent with two past Oscar winners."(Video and DVD Guide 2003 by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter by Balantine Books)
Lou Illar has a long track record of being an entertaining martial artist; he has always managed not only to perform Kung Fu but also to preserve it within its traditional moral perspective. In this web site you may read a number of published interviews he managed with some of Kung Fu's greatest talents, as well as other interviews done by other relevant writers that are equally as important. Lou Illar has demonstrated his Kung Fu skills on national television and in Taiwan over the largest television network in the world. He has been internationally recognized for his traditional approach to the art and practice of Kung Fu by some of the premier organizations in martial arts. Through all of this, he has managed not only to develop internationally recognized champions, but also to teach famous entertainers, actors and professionals of all types, in order to serve throughout the United States his Kung Fu children with disabilities, the elderly, and an understanding of Chinese Culture.
In 2004 Lou Illar was honored with an invitation from the US Department of Health and Human Services to serve on their committee and to assist in the development of a National Initiative on Physical Fitness for Children and Youth with Disabilities. The program developed was called "If I can do it, You Can Do It" which offered older children and professional athletes an opportunity to work with individuals with disabilities. More recently the concept has been picked up by the National Football League in their effort to offer all kids 60 minutes of exercises in school.
In addition to his doctoral studies in Communication Studies at Ohio University, Mr. Illar possesses an M.A. Degree in Rhetorical Studies from West Virginia University, and M.A. Degree in Labor History from Southeastern Louisiana University. In addition to writing numerous articles for magazines, newpapers and movies, Lou researched and wrote the only history of the immigration of Chinese into Louisiana which may be found in every State Library in Louisiana, The Americanization of Chinese New Year, an intellectual study of the history of Chinese New Year in Louisiana. After teaching Communications at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and completing his latest book, Believe Me or Your Lying Eyes, which in a small way discusses the future of global Martial Arts, Lou Illar has left academia to continue his writing and maintain his Kung Fu studio and the exceptional individuals that choose to study there. This White Crane Studio has now raised over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for individuals with disabilities since he founded it in 1978.
2012 The Tale of the Dragon
Name: Lou Illar Age:66 Gender: Male Phone: (225)2723686
MIXED UP ABOUT MARTIAL ARTS?
How does a martial artist make a living?
Do Martial Artists really slide down drain pipes or spring from a swimming pool to hand some babe a can of V8?
Do they beat one another into a bloody submission?
Do they work for casinos?
SIMON VIXATHEP: A KUNGFU PRODIGY
The Martial Art world today is a confusing world particularly for a kid who has all of his needs in an I-phone. From Google to YouTube, there isn’t a skill in the world that a child cannot access with his computer or I-phone. There’s not much out there that exposes children and adults to a martial art culture that develops traditional values that offer a sense of community service or support. Yet there is one guy who still lives his life within the daily challenges that a martial art tradition and culture have preserved for centuries. In some sense his journey has carried him beyond tradition. He is not only a professional classical Kung fu artist who competes in world class competitions but also a modern paladin that has mastered automatic firearms, served his country for 8 months in Afghanistan, and now as a Federal Police Officer that quietly manages a vigilant daily effort to protect his country. Not only has his conditioning routine and physical challenges proved extraordinary beyond others but so has his martial art. Recently he competed with 1500 other competitors in a brutal and dangerous 3 mile obstacle military competition called “A Mudder’s Run”. Through water, mud, heat and under barbed wire he left the entire field of competitors behind. As a kung fu master, last year his gloved hands and feet fought their way to first place in one of America’s largest martial art events, The Battle of Atlanta. More impressively he did the same at the 2011 Legends of Kung Fu Marital Art Championship but in this event his challenge was even greater because this contest wasn’t about merely out fighting opponents, but this event offered even a more challenging obstacle than any other. Fighters fought without gloved hands or feet, but moreover they had to present their skills within the confines of their traditional style of kung fu. He chose to display in combat the most difficult style imaginable: the monkey form of combat. His focus not only reflected self-defense but he literally had to entertain the audience with his fighting techniques. He had to create a monkey that offered humor and entertainment to every bout he fought. By the time he had finished with a number of opponents he found himself being followed by a large group of fans who sought to find answers to Simon Vixathep’s mystifying skills. Months after that display his teacher received a very special invitation to place Simon in competition that would only come once every three years. It was planned to be a competition that honored only the best Kung Fu Masters from around the world. His teacher accepted and Simon entered the World Kung Fu Master’s Championship that was filmed for display on Chinese Television. Television interviewers would hover over him. Cameras would flash every nuance of his skills. Suddenly with very little awareness Simon was living a life that others only dreamt about. He moved through the octa-finals and semi-finals. He was interviewed for a global television network. He finished in the final top 10 of all those competing and agreed to enter the event three years from now. Unlike others, Simon Vixathep’s sudden achievements and popularity did not change him. His soft spoken, quiet unobtrusive manner has never changed even though his life in kung fu has become legendary. Simon’s beginnings offer few clues to explain his present ability to excite an audience.
ADAPTING TO AMERICA
In 1984, Simon’s world wasn’t quite that exciting. Yet as an eleven year old refugee, new to Baton Rouge, his life wasn’t very interesting. In Asia his family lived a nomadic tradition until a war torn Laos forced them to seek refuge in the US. After moving from the West Coast to the East Coast, they finally made Baton Rouge their home. Simon was dominated by four talkative older sisters and an older brother. He seldom talked. Someone in his family had heard about a Kung Fu teacher that was one of the first in the US to participate and produce public Kick Boxing events. Coming from Laos where Kick Boxing is a cultural must for young men, Simon felt as if he was home again. However, Simon faced a number of insurmountable challenges that he couldn’t jump over. His family spoke Laotian and not much else. They lived each hot summer day absent an air conditioner. Simon was gaunt. Eating in heat not only shrunk his appetite but any ambition as well.
FINDING AN ASIAN FIT IN AMERICA
At this point the toughest test the 12 year old boy was to take was his citizenship exam. Studying was difficult. In the heat of a Louisiana day, Simon’s family home proved to be hotter than any hot yoga academy or martial art sweat box. After his twelfth birthday, his Uncle promised to send him to a Kung Fu school. The day finally arrived on a Saturday afternoon in July when Simon’s Uncle decided to finally live up to his promise. Simon arrived with an ear to ear smile that quickly faded when he discovered that the class was being held in a garage without an air conditioner or fan. This Kung Fu garage was much hotter than his home. By the end of the class tears were falling from Simon’s eyes but those tears seemed to motivate his Uncle to bring him to class not only on time but earlier before class. After three months Simon’s kung fu teacher realized that Simon had no other activities or interests and moved Simon’s session outdoors where Simon could be introduced to some unique jumping exercises. By the age of 16 Simon distinguished himself with a feat only Bruce Lee seemed able to have accomplished. Simon’s leaping skills allowed him to surmount what has been termed as the “three leg triangle”. Three men lifted another on their shoulders. Those men holding their partner then formed a triangle. Each man sitting on top of their partner’s shoulders held a one inch thick board. Simon stepped in the middle of the triangle, jumped up and with two legs broke all three boards within one leap. When Simon performed the feat for a local TV station, that same jump made the 6 o’clock local news.
In martial art tournament circles that year Simon began to place in the top three placements in the men’s professional division which was restricted to competitors above 21. Normally he would have been disqualified from this division because of being under age but his skill quickly changed the events promoter’s minds and Simon was positioned in competition with some of the best from China. He took first place in the Disney World National Championship, the Battle of Atlanta, the New York City Classic, The New England Nationals and the Washington DC National Championship. Like the Ancient Kung Fu masters of old, what made him unique was that unlike most modern kung fu stylists he always entered weapon competitions, form competitions and fighting competitions. It wasn’t a surprise when he was one of the first to be selected for the United States International Martial Arts Team.
LOSING MAKES US STRONGER
9/11 brought a sudden stop to the Simon Vixathep’s rise as a Kung Fu phenomenon. He answered his country’s call to war but suffered an unforgettable loss of his civil life. His Kung Fu lessons, college classes, and beloved wife and children were suddenly replaced by the threatening battlefields of Afghanistan. When his military obligations finally ended in 2007, Simon assumed his role as a husband to his waiting wife and father to his 2 children but his heart kept pulling him in another direction. He had to find the Kung Fu he left behind. Unemployed, he silently returned to his teacher’s Kung Fu studio where he quietly tried to rediscover the Kung Fu values he left behind. It took time, but as he worked he found a new passion and appreciation for what he left behind. It was that maturity and discipline that moved his Kung Fu teacher to direct Simon to the US Department of Energy’s Security Office and Simon began a rigorous training that offered him a permanent career in law enforcement. Yet there was one challenge that Simon inherited and in the past could never approach. Every Chinese New Year Simon had tried to lion dance but there was something missing. It wasn’t kick boxing or any special weapon work, those came back with ease; but it was his kung fu counter balance. He couldn’t offer any type of martial art that made his children laugh or seemed to entertain anyone. Despite his teacher’s teasing he just couldn’t do a lion dance. He seemed to have an inability to animate the puppet as well as his teacher. His stepping and endurance couldn’t project the puppet’s emotions or humor. His teacher knew that as a kid, and adult Simon never laughed but only smiled. It wasn’t that Simon couldn’t project emotions from the puppet; he couldn’t find much humor in his life. His teacher and his children turned Simon’s remorse progressively into laughter and his kung fu became spectacular.
NO CHALLENGE IS TOO GREAT
Although Simon’s White Crane Kung Fu Studio here in Baton Rouge has been lion dancing for Chinese New Year Events, Weddings, and martial art tournaments for 35 years, Simon didn’t begin to feel the challenge until he saw and felt his own children’s laughter and excitement during a Lion Dance. Simon began to take lion dancing seriously but quickly found out that he lacked rhythm, footwork and the endurance to play the head of the lion. Not only was the process difficult but of all of the kicks and punches thrown at him, lion dancing offered more bruises, sprains, and thrills than all the rest. Simon now laughs when he talks about all of it but the laughter for the time being must stop. Still yet, Simon has another very large mountain to climb. In the next two months he must prepare to fill in for his teacher at the 2012 Legends of Kung Fu Marital Art Championship in Houston Texas. He will represent his teacher in the Grand Masters demonstrations at that tournament and also perform a lion dance in competition with other kung Fu Lion Dance Teams.
What makes a Kung Fu school traditional? Wu Xia!
by Lou Illar
Years ago I was asked by an editor, why is it that no other martial art school offers an effort to assist individuals with disabilities? My answer was brief. Obviously, they do not share in the same traditional knowledge or perspective of Kung Fu. Maybe their techniques are traditional however, there is more to the value of tradition and history than techniques. Without Xia, the tradition of the art of Kung Fu or Wu Shu would have never been preserved.
Long before the Chin Dynasty, the Xia movement provided a sustainable literary legacy which brought a unique purpose and integrity into the education of Kung Fu students. It nearly replaced the need for governmental involvement with the success of self-governing communities. These groups preserved the source of a rubric that posed ethical complications both real and fictional throughout Chinese literature. Many of these conflicted narratives are now acted out in American theaters before hoards of Chinese movie fans. The romantic arcs housed within these historical plot lines vividly project an emotional force that ensures the preservation of a tireless ethical depiction of human value and struggle that will continue to find relevance through generation after generation.
Perhaps one of the best examples of these narratives that may serve to change our current martial art perspective is offered through Jet Lee’s production of Fearless, a tale of one man’s realization that leadership can end injustice and change not merely a community but generations to come. Interestingly through today’s news media, echoes of global governmental failure, corruption and upheaval embed narratives that question the very need for government. The very failure of our nation building perspective once again seems to have drifted us away from a military involvement to a desired peace core effort to bring a new season for the individual economic development of democratic communities here as well as abroad.
Similarly, between 481 and 222 B.C. China found itself amerced within a sea of military conflicts that tested the bonds of Confucianism within social networks. The end result was that the Confucian model for the development of Human value and virtue was failing drastically. Despite the disciplined behaviors created by complicated rituals, the rituals in the end began to appear to lack sustainability but for exclusion of the poor to increase the wealth and power of the greedy and corrupt. The rich progressively became richer and the poor became less and less than human. Mo Ti observed the phenomena and he with 300 skilled followers attempted to correct the situation. The skill level of each follower was unique and offered separate but relevant insights to making weapons, securing and building fortresses, and sustainable logistics. Thus Moism, like the peace corps, or modern day missionaries, offered a path that aided others by roaming organizing the country side. They brought aid to those who suffered from the abuses of Confucian corruption and suppression. The success of the Xia movement brought about the unification of China and the development of the Chin Dynasty in 221 BC. As a force, the need for the Moists dissipated but their individual integrity was influential and their good deeds. They became memorialized in legendary tales and through the literary development of the Jinghu or Kung Woo Tongs their integrity became sustainable. The development of these unions or clans offered a means of organizing more than families within a civil and well organized Tong. At the center of each was a simple but thoughtful code of ethics that came from the Xia. It a livened each Tong with a deference and organized influence that preserved and extended these organizations from one generation to another.
The code of xia is composed of two main virtues. Yi (義; righteousness) and xin (信; honor). The code also emphasizes the importance of repaying benefactors after having received deeds of grace (恩) or favor from others, as well as seeking vengeance (仇) to bring villains to justice. However, the importance of vengeance was always controversial and further complicated and in the end shunned. As a number of Wu Xia narrative works stressed Buddhist ideals, which included forgiveness, compassion and a series of prohibitions like “Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you”, others began to prohibit any form of greed or human abuse. They asked of each member: 1. To promise to be loyal and dedicated to our country. 2. To be filial and obedient to their parents. 3. To be instructive to their spouse and child. 3. To be harmonious with their fathers. 5. To be harmonious with their family. 6. To help those in distress and save those in danger. 7. To sincerely advise their friends, and 8. To protect the rich and help the poor. Not surprisingly do we find in the early historical writings of western clerics who were devoted to a mission to Christianize Chinese an extraordinary and remarkable admission. They preferred to minister in China because they found the Chinese people to be better Christians than any confronted throughout America or Asia. Some commented that the Chinese poor were sinless with a devoted love for their family, neighbors. Others were astounded by their manner and etiquette which also was reflective of the Xia concern for proper behavior. The Xia developed a sense for managing impropriates by prohibiting certain behaviors. They proffered prohibitions that restricted the improper behavior that was prevalent within the corrupt application of Confucianism. These prohibitions formed 8 laws of disciplined order and civil behavior that each Xia Tong upheld. The number eight is significant. It signifies mankind’s attachment to heaven and heaven’s attachment to mankind.1. It is not permitted to skim the fat and leave the water (to take everything and leave nothing).
2. It is not permitted to turn your teacher into your servant.
3. It is not permitted to take compensation for what is truly earned.
4. It is not permitted to be inhumane and unrighteous.
5. It is not permitted to cheat people.
6. It is not permitted to cause harm or be disrespectful of any brother.
7. It is not permitted to oppress others. (This rule specified women and children)
8. It is not permitted to curse parents or teachers.
From the very beginning of the Xia, they were revered for their efforts to help the poor and heal the weak. Their organizations weren’t directed by blood lines but rather the belief that we are linked by stronger ties, a code of ethics. Loyalty and devotion to their code is usually reflected in their manner to protect and preserve their martial arts teacher or shifu (師父, sifu in Cantonese pronunciation) and school. With this shared basic structure of student and teacher come not only the keys to learning but an understanding of the principles and demands of reciprocity that guides devotion and orders the acceptance of responsibility. Thus the primary tenet of every Kung School is the often unspoken interplay between the Sifu and the Hak San (student). It is written that “A Sifu will travel a thousand miles for a good student, and a good student will travel a thousand more miles for a teacher.” A student skilled in this mindful WuXia study will become successful in all that he accepts in life as a challenge.
All instruction begins with the first lesson which assists in the development and understanding of a Kung Fu creed that expresses a desire to protect and develop our sense of compassion so that we continue helping those who are weak, and continually secure and understand the importance of our own health and the preservation and growth of our school and all those who share in its effort to make more civil the savage nature of mankind. To extend the disciplined deeds of the early Xia, later Xia organizations formulated family structures and provided a pledge for all who wished to study to become a member of a Wu Xia or Tong. These pledges were a set of formal vows that promised more mindful approaches to nearly every aspect of human relations. It remains a traditional part of the study of only traditional Kung Fu wherever and whenever it is taught. There is no relationship that is as fascinating and devoted than the relationship of a traditional Kung Fu student to his teacher.