She’s young, fair, and feminine. She has long hair and a small frame. Her voice is soft, and she talks very little. In every way, Gladys appears to be a fragile girl.
But that’s as far as first impressions go. Gladys is a fierce creature. She is determined, focused and hardworking. At 18, she’s won at least seven medals in international wushu competitions in Zhen Zhou and Shanghai, China in 2010 and earlier this year, 2012. Look into her eyes and you’ll see a real champion there.
Wushu is Chinese for “martial arts”. It is a type of full-contact and exhibition sport that originated from traditional Chinese martial arts. Gladys C. Sia started with wushu in 2004, when she was only 10.
A first year Financial Management student in FEU Manila, Gladys joined her first wushu competition in the same year she started with the sport. She didn’t get any award but six years later, she was able to snatch three medals (Gold, Silver and Bronze) at an international wushu competition in Shanghai and Zhen Zhou, defeating athletes from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Malaysia and Singapore. In 2012, she won four medals: Bronze in Chang Quan (long fist routine), Gold in Jian Shu (sword routine), Bronze in Qiang Shu (spear routine), and a Silver in Xing Yi Quan (basic routine).
“Endurance is important in wushu,” Gladys says, “You shouldn’t run out of breath because you have to finish a routine in 1 minute and 25 seconds. If you go beyond that, you lose points.” Gladys trains for endurance by running and doing exercises like sit-ups. When she’s not competing, she still trains 2 to 3 times a week in Philippine Mei Cheng Shaolin Kung Fu Research Center in Manila, where she is a senior athlete and helps train the junior students.
In Mei Cheng, the students learn from the senior students like Gladys, but everybody refines their routines on their own. In the absence of a permanent wushu master, they are left to perfect their form on their own, with the help of the internet and each other. In this setup, cooperation plays a big part.
“When your team supports you, you will get better,” Gladys shares. “Our team members help each other.” In wushu, Gladys has learned to be more open minded and disciplined. She has also learned to trust herself and believe in her capabilities. “What you need is faith and trust in yourself, and of course, hard work.”
Gladys also observed that when she trained every day, she rarely got sick. But aside from the health benefits of wushu, she encourages women to take up the sport because it’s also a good way to learn self defense. She says, “At first it was easy, and then you learn to enjoy it even if it becomes more difficult when you learn the routines.”
Gladys will soon be preparing for her next international competition in Zhen Zhou, China in October this year. But in the meantime, she takes a break to climb trees and laugh with her friends.
(This article appeared in the August edition of the Sassa Activewear newsletter.)