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Flying with Kung Fu Weaponry

Marcia Ehinger, MD, a native Californian, is a retired pediatrician and genetic specialist. She is the California Writers Club Sacramento Branch newsletter content editor.

The Olympic Games in China reminded me of my son's participation in the first kung fu Olympics. He had studied martial arts since elementary school. When he was chosen for the event, he was mastering kung fu and the Chinese martial arts on his way to becoming a sifu — a kung fu master. His fellow team members were students and instructors from northern California.

The team designed jackets — yellow windbreakers with red lettering in Chinese and English. Plane flights were arranged to the city of Zhengzhou, which is also home to the Shaolin Temple. However, as a frequent traveler and unofficial "Team Mom," I was concerned that nobody had considered transporting their equipment.

Besides security concerns about carrying weapons through airports and onto airplanes, I also wondered about the size and weight of their tools of the trade. When I called China Airlines, I was told that their weapons needed to be checked as luggage and would probably incur charges as overweight or oversize baggage.

Some kung fu routines involve classic weapons such as swords or sabers; others use everyday objects. My son had become quite adept at the farmer's hoe form.

In this kung fu form, a farmer goes out to work in the fields with his hoe across his shoulders. He pantomimes hoeing the crop rows. Finished for the day, he slings the hoe over one shoulder and whistles as he struts home for supper.

On the way, he is confronted by a group of bandits. What can he do? The routine then changes into one man's fight against several attackers, pushing the head or handle forward and back in different directions and spinning his weapon overhead.

The American version of this implement was a Home Depot mortar hoe designed for mixing and spreading cement. It was almost six feet long with a rectangular metal head about the size of a composition book and weighed more than five pounds.


I started a search for hoe luggage. What type of carryall to use — soft-sided, hard case? After a while it began to feel like the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears": too narrow, too short, just right.

The hoe was long, so I thought about golf club carriers. I had seen both soft and hard cases, and they were long. However, they were too narrow for the hoe's head.

What was wider — snowboards? I called a snowboard supply company. They had duffle bags wide enough, but too short. Exasperated, I explained what I wanted to fit inside the bag.

She asked, "Have you thought about a hockey stick team bag?"

Being from California where it never snowed, I never thought about hockey. She recommended a hockey equipment company in San Luis Obispo.

Their team hockey stick bags were long enough with the bend in the right spot, and wide enough for the whole team's hockey sticks — also "just right" for a large hoe head. The extra space around the handle was spacious enough for other team members' straight weapons: swords, staffs, and such.

Now that the weapons could be enclosed for loading onto the plane, what about the weight and size and fees? I called the airline several times and spoke to different people and couldn't get any idea about how much those charges might be. Should I send my son to the airport with extra cash, a blank check, my credit card? My son said, "Cash is always good."

When the team got to the check-in counter at the San Francisco airport, the agent looked at the group in their team jackets and asked where they were going.

"To Zhengzhou to the international wushu tournament—the kung fu Olympics."

"Very cool," the agent replied. "Good luck!" He pointed to the large equipment bag. "What's in there?"

"Weapons," they replied in unison.

"Cool," he said, as he motioned them to lift the heavy bag onto the conveyor belt, with no mention of size, weight, or fees.

~ Marcia Ehinger




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