The Donnie Yen Story in Beijing

1.The Donnie Yen Story in Beijing

Beijing's Physical College

His mother Bow Sim Mark introduced him to me in 1981 in Beijing. This year I entered Beijing's Physical College, Wushu section. I was the first Japanese student to enter this Wushu section. I studied many styles, such as Drunken boxing style. My coach was Mr Cheng Chuanrui. At this time, Donnie and I became Wushu friends. We studied Wushu styles together (drunken boxing with and without weapons). Donnie's martial arts was very very strong. His punches and kicks were very powerful. Getting hit by one of his punches was as painful and sharp as having a tooth extracted with no anathesia. Donnie had a lot of character. He could play the piano very well, anything from classical to American pop. Talking to him was very nice too. His jokes were always funny.

In my room I had my tapes of Japanese pops. He sometimes sang these songs. For example, he liked Hiromi Oota's song "Amadare" (It's Raining). I know Donnie is not only a Wushu artist, but also had wide range of artistic talent. He's a very clever and nice guy.

2.Saying Good-bye to Donnie... The first time

This time, I will write about the time I said good-bye to Donnie. The first time I said good-bye to him was early 1982, he was on his way to Hong Kong. He took the midnight sleeper train from Beijing heading for Hong Kong. This train would take about a day to reach Hong Kong. From the hotel to the Beijing station, it took about 30 minutes to walk. There were a few friends with us who helped us carry his bags. The road to the station was very dark. When arrived at Beijing station, there were no people, only train staff. We went to the second floor. The walls there were a plain blue color which made us feel a little out of place. It didn't feel like a train station.  The train staff checked Donnie's documents. We were very tired by the time they finished checking everything. We all helped Donnie load his bags into the train. We had some free time after that so first we chatted on the platform. There was nothing there, no vending machines or anything like that, just a roof over the platform. We talked about Wushu, then started to playfully practice it on the platform. One person played changchuan style, I played tai chi, and Donnie played tanglangchuan (mantis boxing). We were sweating a lot. Then there was an announcement saying that a train was about to leave so people were starting to board it. The announcement warning sound was very nostalgic for me. Japan used to have this kind of warning sounds, but not anymore. Donnie quickly boarded the train and waved good-bye to us. As soon as the train moved away, one person, Tsui- Yee, jumped high up and hit the platform with his three section cudgel (a three sectioned staff). The sound he made was very very loud. The sound echoed throughout the entire Beijing station. The train staff were very surprised by this sound. This sound was our way of praying for Donnie's success in Hong Kong. We all thought this was going to be the last time for us to see Donnie because he was going to Hong Kong to work. However after a few months, Donnie would return to Beijing!! When he returned, he called me telling me that he was back.

3.Saying good-bye to Donnie the second time: Sukiyaki party in the Beijing Hotel

Beijing Hotel

Near the end of the summer of 1982 Donnie, Kenny Perez (from Texas), and I went to Beijingfs Tianemman and the Emperorfs palace. We playfully practiced some Wushu there and did some site seeing. That week, Donnie and Kenny were going to Hong Kong for work so it was our last time to be together. I didnft have time to see them off this time because I had to work. At that time, the three of us didnft have much money. I treated them to sukiyaki at the Beijing Hotel. This is the best hotel in China. The Japanese restaurant there was one of highest rated Japanese restaurants in China. I didnft have much money, but I wanted to treat them to a nice dinner because I didnft know when we three would be together again. The restaurant was on the second floor of the hotel. We walked up the stairs to the second floor. The restaurant was at the end of the hall after making a right turn. The hostess working there wore a flower patterned kimono. She spoke Japanese girrashaimaseh (welcome). Donnie replied with a heavily accented gKONnichiwah. His pronunciation was very strange, probably like my English, but she could still understand what he said. We sat at a table, at the center of the restaurant, not on the tatami floor. First we ordered juice not beer. The staff asked us if we would cook our own meat or not. We told them that we would cook the meat ourselves. Kenny couldnft use chopsticks very well. We didnft have any problems at this point, but when we almost finished cooking the meat, the staff brought a raw egg. Donnie and Kenny didnft know what to do with this egg. I told them how to use it. First I broke the egg into a small dish and beat the egg. In typical Japanese fashion, I dipped my cooked beef into the egg and ate it, but Donnie and Kenny were a little disgusted with the sight of eating a raw egg. They instead poured their raw egg into the sukiyaki pot. I was against this, but they did it anyway. When we began to eat sukiyaki, I didnft think we were eating sukiyaki, but scrambled egg with beef. It wasnft as good as if we had eaten it in typical Japanese fashion, but we ate it. After dinner, we had ice cream on the main floor of the hotel. Then we returned to Donnie and Kennyfs hotel and said my good-byes to them there. Now I believe they can eat raw eggs because many people began to do so after watching the scene in Rocky

4.At the Department Store

In the summer of '82, in front of the biggest department store in Wan Fu Chin, Donnie, Kenny and I were thinking about where we could make the biggest impact with our Kung Fu performance.
We visited many different places and decided that we could make the biggest impact on a Saturday.
First in our performance, Kenny and I would fight, then Donnie would come between us to make a 3 way fight where Donnie would take on both Kenny and I.
At first I was a little embarrassed because I was quite a bit older than they, but I thought it was necessary to make it a 3 way fight.

This department store

We went to the department store to start our performance. Kenny and I started fighting. I started off with Chinese Kung Fu, Sanda.
I can't exactly remember which style Kenny used, but it was a kick boxing style.
We tried to make it look as realistic as possible.
Sometimes, Kenny jumped up high to kick me. Many people gathered to watch us fight. People lined up row after row to watch us.
At last the hero, Donnie joined the fight.
He first did a flying kick. Both Kenny and I rolled back from his kick. We quickly escaped while the crowd still gathered. We were so fast in our getaway, we could come back and see all the people still gathered around trying to find out what had happened. It was very successful.
After that we went to a Coffee Shop at the Beijing Hotel. Of course we had ice cream on the main floor of the hotel.

5.Going to the Disco with Donnie

Minzu Cultural Palace

From 1981 - 83, Donnie and I went to the disco with some friends every Saturday night. The disco was located in central Beijing west of the palace, called the Cultural Palace for Nationalities (Minzu Cultural Palace). It cost $10 (this was a special currency used by only foreigners) to enter the disco. This was very expensive in China. To give you an idea of how expensive it was to enter this disco, the average Chinese personfs salary was about $40/month. The entrance had a set of stairs made of stone. We went upstairs to see the decorated disco gate. Once we were through the gate, we walked downstairs. After paying our money, we took off our jackets and left them in the coat room. We were given one drink ticket. We could see a Mah Jong and Igo rooms on the right side. On the left side, people were playing ping pong and billiards. At the end of the hall we could see a drinking bar and a bowling alley. This bowling alley was not automatic, we had to reset the pins ourselves. Another interesting fact about this bowling alley was that the bowling balls had no finger holes in them, just a solid ball. It wasnft easy playing there because everything was different, but it was fun. We liked playing there very much. There were only 2 bowling lanes and they were always in use with many people in line waiting to use the lanes next. The disco room was the last room on the left. It wasnft a big room, but I thought it was big enough for dancing. One time Donnie and I played Mah Jong. Our playing styles were almost the same, but a little different. We played billiards too. Donniefs billiard style was very nice I think. We often played billiards together.

The disco was very basic. They used cassettes and LPs there. I sometimes brought my own cassettes to play there because often the music they had in the disco was out of date. I canft remember exactly the song titles, but one song I brought to the disco had gSupermanh in it. I also brought my Saturday Night Fever cassette there. Kenny started to join us at the disco in f82. When Donnie, Kenny and I danced, the room became very animated. Our moves consisted of many Wushu moves, often spinning in the air. Sometimes when I watch Donniefs movements in his movies, it reminds me of some of his disco dance moves in Beijing. In his first leading role movie, Drunken Tai Chi, he did a Michael Jackson style moonwalk. Donnie often practiced this movement in my room or at Shoubairou and sometimes performed this movement at the disco. For Donnie and Kenny, dancing at the disco was quite serious as they often used these same moves for their movies. We often danced at the center of the disco where people who want to try some special moves gathered. We were always the last people to leave at the end of the night. When we came back to the sports college after a night of disco, the gates were sometimes locked so we were forced to climb over the gate. There were sharp spikes at the top of the gate. I tore my clothes on these spikes several times.
After climbing the fence, I would look for a window that was lit, then toss a small stone to that person asking him to open the door for me so I could get into my room. We went to bed quite late those nights and slept in till about 9 or 10 am the following morning. As foreigners, it was difficult for us to find places to play. The disco was one of the few places where we could play.

6.Saying Good-bye to Donnie: the Third time (waiting for THAT taxi!!)

Beijing Foreign Language School

In the autumn of 1982, I met up with Donnie at his hotel in central Beijing. This was a special day because Donnie would go to the US alone. We ate lunch at the Friendship Hotel. Donnie and I had appointments at the Beijing Foreign Language School.
We went there riding in a very very small taxi. It was a very rough ride, we bounced every time the taxi hit a bump in the road. First we went to my Japanese friendfs room. I waited here while Donnie went to his appointment. He returned to my friendfs at about 9 pm. We called the taxi company for a ride. They told us they would be waiting for us outside the room after an hour for our ride. It was a short walk from my friendfs room to the taxi pick up spot. We waited outside, but the taxi didnft come. We waited for about 20 minutes outside.
We waited and waited, but no taxi came. We then called the taxi company again to complain. The taxi company told us that the taxi would soon arrive and told us to expect the taxi to arrive in about 30 minutes. We conitinued to wait, but still no taxi. We called again to which they told us that they had no taxis available and told us to wait another hour.
Donnie thought this was unbelievable because flight would leave the following morning at 8 am. We called the taxi company again and AGAIN they told us to wait ANOTHER hour. We waited on the road to see if we could get lucky and find a taxi there. It was very cold outside that day so we couldnft stay for more than 10 minutes.
We then returned to my friendfs room for some tea and to warm up a bit. At 4am, we called again. The company said a taxi would be free at 6 am and that he would sent that cab to us. This time he said it would arrive for sure. Donnie was afraid he would miss his flight. We had to have a taxi because it would take at least 30 minutes from my friendfs room to Donniefs room.
We finally arrived at Donniefs room at 6:30 am. He had nothing packed so we frantically packed everything we could as fast as we could. Donnie had no idea this was going to happen. Something must have broke in our haste as we stuffed everything we could in any fashion. His suitcase was so full, we had to jump on the case to shut it.
The taxi left his hotel at 7 am for the airport, about a 40 min drive. We rushed to the airport to catch the 8 am flight. We arrived at the airport at 8 am, just in time. The airplane took off at about 8:20.

7.Donnie's Wushu Team

In the autumn of 1982, Donnie told me that he had trained in the Beijing Wushu team.
He invited me to join the team.
In the morning, I studied at the Beijing Oral Medical School, dentistry major.
One morning, I took off one day of dentistry study to visit the Wushu team.

First I went to Donniefs hotel room. He stayed on the second floor of this hotel.
When I entered his room, he was brushing his teeth. He was a very tidy guy.
I remember he used Aquafresh toothpaste. I remember this because of the colors of this toothpaste.
He always used this toothpaste.
It was the first time for me to see this type of toothpaste because at that time this was not available in Japan.
I asked him about this toothpaste. He said it was the best toothpaste to use. He said the smell was nice and his teeth felt very fresh after using this.

After leaving his hotel, we rode a large Chinese bus. This bus had no windows so it was very noisy riding in it.
We changed buses about 3 times. His time was located near the side of the road. There were many trees there.
We walked about 100 meters to the teamfs central training building.
Donnie first asked his coach if I could join the team. I waited for the coachfs answer.
The coach (this man coached Donnie and also Jet Li) said I couldnft join the morning training session.
This team trained very seriously, and was very secretive of their training techniques.
They had never admitted a non-Chinese member before Donniefs admission so my case was special.
After waiting for Donnie to finish his training, he took me to his teamfs rest house for lunch. He shared his lunch with me.

After lunch we took a nap. Then he took me to his training building. This was a brick building.
There were several people training there. The floor was covered in a green carpet.
There were some children training. They were considered extra gifted in Wushu.
I watched Donniefs training. He felt a little shy because I watched him.
Li-xia told him to practice despite my watching him. He practiced Wushu (chian chian) using a broad sword.
I also watched Li-xia and the other girls train. After everyone finished training,
I started to joke around a bit. I practiced using a scimitar with a long hilt (this looks like a long staff with a sword on the end of it).
I had a tough time keeping a good form because the scimitar was so heavy.
When we left this building, we moved on to the weight training room.
Donnie and I did some muscle training there.

After training, we went to the Beijing Hotel for dinner, then to a coffee shop for some ice cream.
This ice cream was considered special ice, available only at this hotel.
We liked this ice cream very much. It was simple, but very delicious.
We were served one scoop of this ice cream and had a cookie stick with it.
After this, we trained some more at this hotel.
It was common for us to train there because there carpet there was similar to the carpet at the Wushu training center.

8.Ghost Story in our sports college (Beijing Physical College)

In the autumn of 1982, Donnie and I started our muscle training in my room. We trained from 10:30 pm to 11:30 pm every night. There were Chinese sports college officers who slept at 10:00 pm. We trained on the second floor, they slept on the first floor. They said that the sounds above them was like ghosts in the room. They first thought their ears were playing tricks on them. They didn't believe it was a ghost, but every night these sounds continued so they wondered what it was. This went on for about a month. The sports officers talked about the sounds all the time in Shobairou (the name of Donnie and my student apartment). They later decided to check the upper floors to see where the sounds were coming from. They carried stick weapons with them when they went to investigate. We had no idea that we were making so much noise. We used heavy iron dumbbells in our training. We used them to build our biceps and back muscles. When one of us finished our training repetitions, he would drop the dumbbell and it would roll over to the other person. The sound of the falling dumbbell was very loud to the people below us!! The officers went upstairs to check the sounds a few times, but their timing was off. Whenever they went to check, we happened to finish our training so they couldn't find us. Finally they thought about where the sounds were coming from. They concluded that the sounds must have been coming from room #207, my room (Donnie's was #210). When the officers found out it was us making the noise, they immediately told us to stop making so much noise as our sounds made it very difficult for them to sleep at night. Even to this day, this story is quite famous at the college. It's Donnie and Hiro's Ghost Story in Shobairou. Last year and 2000/07/07 when I visited China, people were still laughing about this story. During my most recent visit, I asked the physical college staff if I could make room #210 Donnie Yen's special room. I couldn't see the room this time because a student from Africa was occupying it. This was a little disappointing.

9.Shoubairou: My special place


Shoubairou is a foreign sports facility for men and women in Beijing. The building is 4 stories high.

First Floor

The first floor contained a sports college office, a small shopping center, a money exchange room, and a student service room. An office was situated left of the entrance and on the right was a restaurant. In this restaurant we sometimes had parties there and watched movies there.

Second Floor

Room 210 was Donnie's Room

On the second floor there was a room that served as our study and TV room. We had parties there in this room. For example, for Christmas, we decorated this room with many Christmas ornaments. The general Chinese public was not allowed to enter this room. The second floor was reserved for foreigners and occasionally for the elite Chinese sports teams. The restroom facility was very large on this floor. Donnie and I often practice Wushu there. There were many mirrors in there so it was good for us as we could check our Wushu motions using these mirrors. It was also convenient because after finishing our workout, the showers were nearby for us to use. Some people saw us train there and probably thought we were crazy for training there. We always trained till after midnight there.

Third/Fourth Floors

There wasnft anything special on these floors. I rarely went to these floors. These floors were mostly used by Chinese people.
There is now another building near Shoubairou that is taller. About 100 foreigners stay there and study sports.