PENANG state wushu coach Chong Min Fei has again turned to online coaching since physical training for all sports is banned with the re-imposition of the movement control order (MCO 2.0).
But to the 45-year-old coach, there is a world of difference between online coaching and face-to-face coaching.
“Online coaching for martial arts like wushu is not really so effective,” Chong told Buletin Mutiara during an interview at the Penang State Sports Council (PSSC) in Batu Uban.
“Different students require different training programmes. How to monitor their movements through computer is indeed very difficult.
“When they practise a distance away from the computer based on a training video programme I gave them, their image on the computer is small. As a coach, I will have difficulty in detecting their weaknesses when they send back a video of their training to me.
“Moreover, when they are at home, the students may not have the right equipment and the sufficient space to train. The floor surface in their homes may also not be suitable for the training session.”
Chong is one of the four wushu coaches hired by the Penang State Sports Council to look after a team of 20 athletes. The others are Sukma coach Qin Gan from China, and back-up squad coaches Soon Ghew Kheng, 38, and Lim Boon Hao, 26.
Chong, who hails from Gertak Sanggul in Penang, was a former Kedah coach for 10 years from 1999 to 2008 and a national coach in 2009.
Over the years, he has developed several national and international wushu athletes. Two of the students whom he has trained are Mohd Danis Aizad, the current world junior Under-15 gun shu champion, and Chua Shang Yang, the World Open xing yi quan champion.
Chong, whose father Chong Wee Yong was himself a wushu master, took up wushu under Lee Du Shen. At the age of 13, he participated in his first competition in the Penang state wushu competition and won second place. Subsequently for the next eight years from 1994 to 2001, Chong was the champion in chang quan, jiang shu and gun shu.
He won many gold medals in the national wushu competition. In 1988, he won a bronze in the gun shu at the World Chin Woo Wushu Competition.
He is also a well-known international judge, having officiated in several tournaments including the SEA Games in Bangkok in 2007 and the Asian Junior Championships in Singapore (2005) and South Korea (2007).
Chong has been working as a part-time coach for PSSC since 2012. Besides coaching the 20 students from the state team, he runs the CMF Wushu Academy which he founded in 2019 with several friends. The academy has 15 centres throughout Penang island and mainland.
They have 600 students, with each paying RM45 per month. Because of the MCO, Chong said he has been conducting virtual coaching for them free of charge. Despite that, the number of students following the training programme has dropped to 150.
Times are also hard for him and his fellow coaches as the total rental of the 15 centres comes to about RM10,000 per month.
PSSC director Harry Chai Heng Hua said he understands that predicament the coaches are facing when conducting their training online.
“In physical training, it is much easier to see the biomechanics of the athlete’s movement. If the technique is not right, the mistake can be rectified by the coach,” Chai remarked.
“Our athletes already have the fundamentals. The only thing is when the coach views their performance via online, the coach cannot accurately assess their minor movements. And these tiny movements can sometimes make a difference.
“Also, when athletes train at home, they tend to lack focus. But when they train together under the watchful eyes of the coaches, they put in 100 per cent effort.”
Chai also said the uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation has also affected the athletes psychologically, such as the few postponements of Sukma.
For instance, he said when a Sukma athlete has been training earnestly and aiming for a gold medal, the sudden postponement of the Games could dampen his morale.
He said PSSC does not want them to lose heart and has organised a motivational online talk today for all the state athletes as well as those athletes in the development programmes.
The motivational talk, themed ‘Potential Performance Through Pandemic’, was conducted by mental trainer Edward de Silva, who is also a bowling coach.
Chai added that last week, they held a brainstorming session for Penang coaches to share their experience and knowledge. About 50 of them took part.
Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Joanne Foong Chee Yin