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.