New York, like Baguazhang, never stops changing. Every new citizen’s history is painted over the last. Recently the brush came down on another amazing space: the original home of the Wu Tang Physical Culture Association.
Sitting or training in the Gym, it was impossible to see all of it, even if it was only a room or two. The place read like a history book, from the old gang symbols carved into the window ledges, to the seemingly endless layers of posters, flyers, awards, photos, drawings, book covers, and who-knows-what, coating the place like wallpaper.
There’s so much to miss about the Gym: catching the foam football with a key in it tossed down from the window. The creak of the floor. The smell of a New York that hadn’t yet been completely eviscerated of crime and grime.
For many years the residents of 7 1/2 second ave were able to fend off developers, but inevitably the money won. As this blog is being written it’s a hole in the ground. Gone, brick and mortar to be replaced with glass and the crap that looks like sterility and is eco-friendly. Yeah, it’s the same block as Mars Bar.
Right before the gym closed Mathew Zucker brought his cameras to the space, captured stills and video of the Gym including it’s primary occupant, the great Kung Fu master Frank Allen.
There’s a photo gallery below of his fantastic shots. Everything from the yin-yang painted floor, to pics of Frank’s mentor and friend, Verne “Bulldog” Williams (remember the guy that barked and busted a table in half with his head in The Last Dragon…. that was Verne).
You can see our interview with Frank, hacked down from three hours to about 20 min, on our YouTube channel. You can also click on it below and watch it in the comfort of our blog.
He’ll tell you the legends of Irish Jimmy O’Mara (boxer and Taiji teacher), Dangerous Doug (master grappler and musician), Jan Stacy (author, artists, founder of youth drug rehab center Encounter), and a pack of other characters. Anyone interested in martial arts theory should hear his explanation of internal vs external (and hard vs soft) practices. We’ve stolen from that lecture countless times.
Artist Auxiliary won’t ever forget the last great Kung Fu gym, home to a generation of artists, martial artists, and a unique breed of New Yorkers.
Frank Allen continues to teach Baguazhang, XingYiQuan, and Taijiquan at his new space in Chinatown at 217 Centre Street, Manhattan.