HONOLULU (KHON2) — From a deadly pandemic to widespread protests, 2020 was a tumultuous year that saw enough major events to fill a history book of its own. COVID-19 triggered a global recession as countries went into lockdown. Deadly wildfires erupted along the West Coast, displacing hundreds of thousands of people. To top it off, the year ended with a deeply contentious election.
While most people will look back at 2020 as the worst year ever, one local group says those in the Year of the Rat were considered the lucky ones, as it was the last time they were able to perform.
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“I believe in the months following, Hawaii was undergoing a government closure to control the surging cases,” said Ken Kang. “We are in year 2022, and this will be year number two where we are unable to participate in the Chinese New Year festivities.”
Kang is the Assistant Instructor for Harlan Lee who owns Gee Yung Martial Arts Dragon & Lion Dance Sports Association, the second oldest martial arts association in Oahu.
The 48-year-old instructor has been with the school for most of his life and says majority of what they showcase on stage directly reflects what is taught in their lessons.
“As Sifu Harlan Lee would emphasize in any situation, you must be ready, whether it’s self-defense, life challenges, or performing a presentation of our lineage — we must always be prepared and ready,” he said.
As the Chinese New Year gets closer, Kang and his crew spend extra time to polish the skills and techniques so that people can see the effort that members put into their performances.
“It goes without saying that we are always proud of each and every one of our members as they are always prepared and ready,” said Kang. “The downs are obviously the cancellation of events and performances.”
During the pandemic, students have kept up with training so that they can create wonderful memories when they showcase their hard work, but Kang says such events have been limited — and the excitement for them is sorely missed.
Though CDC rules have prevented Chinese New Year celebrations, the Gee Yung crew has continued to perform at various locations at a much smaller scale.
“But, to be honest, many of our events and performances have been canceled,” said Kang. “We have had several weddings, graduations, birthdays, business openings all canceled due to this pandemic. We, too, as a small business can truly understand the situations that we are all facing due to the consequences of this pandemic.”
Despite the challenges, Kang is thankful for the members, parents and other instructors who have been instrumental to helping the school stay open.
“One of the great things that we have experienced is that, just like the Martial Arts, you find ways to adapt and build with each circumstance,” said Kang.
During past Chinese New Years, Gee Yung members visited many schools and adult daycare centers to share their cultural experiences. But since the pandemic hit, any in-person event was halted.
“So, to adapt, we used and leveraged technology. We adapted a virtual Lion Blessing for those facilities,” Kang explained. “Sure, it’s not the same, however, each school, along with their students and each adult day care, with their residents were able to experience a virtual Lion Blessing as if it happened in their classroom. So, it gave somewhat of a more personal setting as if the Lions were in their rooms.”
This year, Gee Yung hoped for a chance that events would be welcomed, but in mid-January, notices were passed off to participating groups. They will not be able to showcase their talents again. For Kang, he understands that with the surge in cases, it’s in the best interest for everyone.
“Gee Yung Sports Association would like to show our gratitude to The Chinese Chamber and to all of the decision making members and committees in regards to any Chinese New Year events,” he said. “We do know that it was a very hard decision to hold off any Lunar New Year celebrations.”
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While there’s no virtual option to see their Chinese New Year performance, people can follow Gee Yung’s Instagram page @geeyungsportsassociation for any updates on future events.