What I’m Researching Now: Qing Gong & Freerunning

Warning: This post may be a time suck

For my current work in progress, I was inspired by the fact that Jackie Chan and the other Seven Little Fortunes had trained in Peking Opera as well as the historical tidbit that sword dancing was a popular form of entertainment during the Tang Dynasty, the most famous reference being Du Fu’s poem, Observing the Sword Dance Performed by a Disciple of Madam Gongsun. I formed this idea of a heroine who had been similarly trained, who was wanted for some crime, and the thief-catcher hero who would have to track her down.

With that premise and the promise of Jackie Chan style action scenes, I started brainstorming my plot for working title: THE SWORD DANCER. I think my editors were very, very eager for me to put a sword into another heroine’s hands, but this is tough for me because in wuxia it’s accepted and expected for everyone to be kung-fu fighting, but I think in historical romance, you have to build a reasonable backstory and world around that. In fantasy stories like EONA you can have heroines fighting and possessing special abilities that you can attribute to mystical powers, but in historical romance, readers expect more basis in reality before suspending disbelief.

I didn’t want my efforts to come off laughable like the Three Musketeers remake with ladies doing misplaced Matrix-like action moves in ridiculous gowns.

As I started to write the book, the chase and escape scenes became integral to the plot. I started researching online and got absorbed for hours at a time watching videos.

First, a nice tribute to the Seven Little Fortunes which include Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. This highlights their acrobatic training in the Peking Opera before making the move to martial arts stunts:

In wuxia stories and Chinese action movies, depictions of qing gong, lightness kung fu, are a given. Qing gong was actually practiced as one of the basic tenets of martial arts and the principle was picked up by authors and movie-makers and displayed to fantastic extremes with depictions of characters “walking on walls and flying over eaves”. I found a two-part sub-titled documentary on Youtube that explored the historical basis and actual practice of qing gong.

And of course, got caught in a few snippets of Fight Science which tied modern day Parkour and Freerunning to the “ninja moves” of old:

And a little detour into martial arts tricking, where I learned that Taylor Lautner was actually a pretty intense competitor in the martial arts world before his break in Twilight. New respect. Put me squarely on Team Jacob!

Ok, this video of a tricking throwdown, You Got Served style, is too good to pass up. Inspiration here more than research.

And then finally I figured I was watching so many videos, why don’t I seek out someone who does Parkour/freerunning and interview them? I wanted to know how much training it took, what was going through their minds, and details about what it took to navigate an urban landscape to add to my hero and heroine’s POVs and backstories as they chased and fought over the rooftops and walls of Tang Dynasty China.

I had interviewed Luci Romberg of Team Tempest in the past for my Warrior Women series. But I wanted someone local to interview in person and hopefully see a few demonstrations. Giovani Dambros and Phillip Puzzo of Team Trickset in St. Louis graciously made themselves available. My critique partner, Amanda Berry, and I went out to Forest Park to meet with them. A short demo here (I apologize for the shaky cam):

They provided so much fascinating information, not to mention some great demos, so I feel that the interview deserves its own post which I’ll put up as soon as I get my notes and videos together. I left the interview very excited and inspired and wishing I could run up a wall and do a backflip.

Warrior Women: Interview with Luci Romberg

Blog Tour: I’m guest blogging at VauxHall Vixens about Kung Fu Heroines!

Giveaway: Chances to win Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix, Stephanie Draven’s Poisoned Kisses, or a copy of The Taming of Mei Lin. Details at the Launch Celebration page. Drawing will be held 8pm CST on September 15.


I’m pleased to welcome Luci Romberg: gymnast, stuntwoman, martial artist, competitive free runner, and NINJA WARRIOR!

Jeannie: Where do I begin? I’m such a fan….Can you tell us a bit about the experience of getting selected for Ninja Warrior and what it was like to compete over in Japan? (And my husband and I wanted to know if you get to do practice runs on the course before the actual run.)

Luci: First of all, thank you for your kind words. As far as Ninja Warrior goes, my Tempest freerunning teammate, Paul Darnell, pretty much told me we were going to make a ninja warrior submission video. I didn’t even know what ninja warrior was but I was definitely down for whatever. So we made the video, submitted it and I was voted top 3 videos so I got to go to Japan. It was my first time to Japan and it was an incredible experience. The people are amazing, there is so much to see and the course was so much fun. Unfortunately, none of the competitors are allowed on the course for practice. If we could practice just once it would be a lot easier. I was so fortunate to have had the opportunity to go not just once, but twice!!

Jeannie: Freerunning is one of the most exciting new sports I’ve seen. How long have you been doing it and is there any way to start if you’re not already a gymnast/super-athlete?

Luci: I have been freerunning for about two years. The great thing about freerunning is anyone can do it! All you need is a pair of shoes. People just need to get the courage, go outside, and start jumping around. Freerunning is about finding your own path and there are no rules. Although it is definitely not necessary, it makes it easier for individuals who have had gymnastics/martial arts experience as far as flips go. But honestly, anyone can do it.

Jeannie: You’re also a professional stuntwoman and gymnast. What’s the most memorable stunt you’ve been asked to do?
Luci: For me, the most memorable stunt I have done was for a Shiseido commercial. Another stuntwoman and I had to barrel roll underneath a jackknifed semi that was going 30mph. It was pretty gnarly!!

Jeannie: I have to ask this since I’m a petite gal too. Do you get any flack for your size in your profession? It seems like in such a physical job, you must meet some…excuse me for saying…some pretty big jock egos.
Luci: There are definitely some big egos in the industry I am in, but you have to look past that and focus on what your goals are and what you want to accomplish. You can’t let people like that bring you down. As far as my size goes, it is hard to get work because not a lot of actresses are my size and a lot of the non-descript stunts go to the guys. In order to overcome that I train hard, stay focused on my goals, and everything usually works out.

Jeannie: What are your tips for getting over those butterflies in your stomach when you’re competing or about to do a stunt?
Luci: Whenever I’m about to compete or perform I always get nervous. I did soccer and gymnastics all through college so I am used to pressure and dealing with it. I just try to relax and focus on the task at hand. I also find visualizing a great tool in maximizing my performance.

Jeannie: What drives you to be such an action gal? Are you an adrenaline junkie at heart?
Luci: I love movement! My mom and dad were both collegiate tennis players and really good athletes. Growing up I played every sport under the sun. My parents felt it was important for my brother, sister, and me to stay active so they required us to do at least two sports in high school. It made me the active, driven person I am today. I don’t consider myself an adrenaline junkie. Everything I do is well thought out and calculated. I don’t throw crazy moves that are out of my realm. I stay safe and let’s just say with freerunning and stunts they are calculated risks.

Fun Questions:
So….could a little gal actually take on a big strong guy like they show in the movies?
Luci: If she is well trained it is possible. She would need to know the right places to strike and then run like hell. If she tried to all out fight him it is very unlikely she would be able to take him on for long because he is so much bigger and stronger. Fights scenes in movies are like a dance. Every move is calculated.

Jeannie: What would you say is your favorite fight scene from any movie? How realistic is it?
I love any Jackie Chan fights. He is so creative, entertaining, and he uses his environment to the fullest. I also love Ong Bak and Tony Jaa. He is so athletic and, like Jackie Chan, he incorporates freerunning and his environment so well. Like I said before, movie fights are completely choreographed and each movement is rehearsed.

Jeannie: Who’s your favorite Warrior Woman?
If I had to choose, I would say Xena. She is tough, badass but still feminine and sexy.

Here’s Luci in action:

Luci Romberg Stuntwoman: