|Member of the Month
Laura and Don Walth
Don Walth's Eagle Claw Kung Fu and Tai Chi School has performed the traditional Lion Dance for many of the Chinese Association of Iowa events as well as for local businesses and restaurants in the Des Moines area. Proceeds go to the school performances to help demonstrate the traditions passed down from many generations beginning in Asia and now expanding to the United States. It is Don's intention to be able to pass this school on to some of the students that have reached the level of Instructor in this traditional Ying Jow Pai system so that someday they too will be able to carry on this tradition. Don and Laura Walth have gained an appreciation for the Asian culture through the martial arts and the art within.
Don received his Masters Degree in Communications Design from Pratt Institute in 1977. He was a package designer for some of the major cosmetic companies in New York City before moving to Iowa. He took kung fu classes in the evenings and weekends. It became an important aspect of his life. Grandmaster Leung Shum asked Don to open a martial arts school after moving to Des Moines. Don's wife Laura Walth received her Masters Degree in Library Science from Pratt Institute in 1989. She has been a Reference Librarian for the Des Moines Public Library for over 16 years.
Don and Laura found a way to combine the martial arts with the performing arts to bring to life a story about overcoming obstacles. In doing research for a play they wrote, they discovered General Yue Fei’s life is worth sharing with every culture. Don was told by his college advisor from North Dakota not to expect to be accepted at a school like Pratt Institute. Not only was he accepted, he was asked to enroll in the graduate program and received a Fellowship to help pay for his degree. He went on to receive many awards in the commercial arts as well as fine arts. Laura had a similar experience in that her SAT scores were low and she had to prove she could handle graduate school at Pratt. She graduated with honors. To them, General Yue Fei’s life is an example of how anyone can succeed in life if they are willing to apply what it takes to become successful.
In 1999 Don and Laura wrote and produced “The Gold Edict” at the Urbandale Performing Arts Center. It was based on the Legend of the famous Chinese General Yue Fei whose martial arts style is at the base of the Eagle Claw Kung Fu system that Don teaches. In Cantonese he is known as Ngok Fei. They discovered the difference in the spelling of his name in 2002 and continued their work in progress by performing “The Legend of Yue Fei” at the Viking Theater at Grand View College.
Don and a couple of his students were asked to perform for a part in the Opera Turandot at Simpson College. Their martial arts performance was a big hit with the Opera crew. Don finds it interesting how his love for the martial arts and respect for the Chinese culture has inspired him to do many things he never would have thought possible growing up on a farm in North Dakota. He has also seen how the martial arts improved the lives of some of his students. It helps some overcome personal problems and some of society’s negative influences, improves their grades in school, improves their sports skills, and even helped one student get accepted on a college football team.
In July of 2002 Don and Laura were invited to bring students from the Eagle Claw Kung Fu School to China as goodwill ambassadors to help promote friendship and understanding between the people of China and the United States. With the help of the Metro Arts Alliance and Pioneer Hi-Bred, a group of 21 toured China for nine days. They were in Beijing, Dengfeng, and Shanghai. This is what their tour guide said in an email he sent back to them after their visit:
“It's our great honor to see such an usanized group you have. The friendship between your students, the love you paid to your students, the respect your students paid to you all leave us deep impression. The school we visited was E'PO SHAOLIN KUNGFU COLLEGE. The Grandmaster Liangyiquan is one of the top 10 masters in modern china. Hope to see you and your students in the near future at your earliest convenience.” Wangyumin
They were told by the Shoalin Grandmaster Liangyiquan that out of all the schools from the United States theirs was the only one who could learn two forms in three days. At the end of the tour their guides had a different view and respect for the martial arts and an understanding they never had before.
The Eagle Claw Kung Fu and Tai Chi school has been mentioned in the newspapers, on television and in international publications. Laura had an article published in the October 2004 issue of Inside Kung Fu about their trip to China. Don was accepted into the USA Martial Arts “Hall Of Fame”.
Sifu Don Walth