The karate focus track at Shiukuang High School in Nantou has been called Taiwan’s Shaolin Temple. They have won countless awards, being almost undefeated in the national high school championships and winning numerous gold medals overseas as well. They win more gold medals than any other school in Taiwan, but they couldn’t have left this mark in the record books without the husband-and-wife coaching team of Huang Tai-ji and Liao De-lan.
They had been leading a full and easy life running a karate dojo in Taichung, but after the September 21 earthquake of 1999, they went to Nantou to try to locate students they had lost contact with. When they saw the extent of the destruction and large number of orphans without anyone to rely on, they began to wonder what they could do.
Chi Li-juan, the principal of Guoxing Jr. High suggested that they start a karate team at the school to help the students rebuild their goals and confidence, and also keep them off the wrong path. So, Huang and Liao put down roots and started developing a karate program.
They entered the students in many competitions in hopes that the Ministry of Education would guarantee positions for the students to continue on to high school. They continued to spread out, and in 2003 began the karate focus PE track at Shiukuang High School, where there are also track and field, archery, and tennis tracks. These provide students with more paths to enter high school, and after high school, to enter public or private colleges as competitive athletes.
Herself a gold medalist, Liao De-lan has seen many athletes rise and fall, so she understands that while focusing on their sport, students can’t neglect their academic subjects. Only a few can make the Taiwan National Team. In case they can’t do that, the students need to be planning for their future. She insists that students take regular classes during the day, and then stay after school to practice. They practice karate in the morning, swim after school, and even learn ballroom dancing! This full and schedule keeps them away from the lure of the gangs, and provides a diverse and balanced learning experience.
Every summer, Coach Huang goes to more remote schools in the mountains to recruit village children who love sports to join the karate program. He personally visits the families and encourages the children to attend Shiukuang.
To overcome the anxieties of some of these families, Huang and Liao have rented three buildings, at their own expense, to provide room and board for over 40 students from the villages. Newcomers often have trouble adjusting and cry themselves to sleep at night, but Coach Liao reminds them, “You’ve got to stick with it for a better future. You have to think about your future.”
The bigger challenge is footing the hefty bill to house and feed all these children each month. Coach Huang gets it done through extensive fundraising efforts, while Coach Liao has taken counseling courses to better guide the students through the challenges and emotional roller coaster of high school.
Without these two dedicated coaches, there’s no way Shiukuang could have built such a legacy. The investment of their skills and their very lives in these children is why Omexey is proud to partner with them in providing room and board, so that together with them and the school, we can aid the growth of more students.