Toowoomba would most likely not feature on anyone’s list of places outside of the East that might be considered as having a strong enough cultural connection to China to sustain the practice of traditional Chinese Martial Arts. And yet Toowoomba is where we have located the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia’s permanent training facility. …
Quoting Wikipedia:
“Toowoomba (nicknamed ‘The Garden City’ and the ‘Queen City’) is a city in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia. It is located 125 km (78 mi) west of Queensland’s capital city Brisbane by road. The estimated urban population of Toowoomba as of June 2015 was 114,622. A university and cathedral city, that hosts the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers each September and national championship events for the sports of mountain biking and motocross. There are more than 150 public parks and gardens in Toowoomba. It has developed into a regional centre for business and government services. It is also referred to as the capital of the Darling Downs. It is the sixteenth-largest city in Australia, the sixth largest in Queensland, after Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Townsville and Cairns. Toowoomba is the most populous inland city in the country after the national capital, Canberra.” 
— Wikipedia contributors, “Toowoomba” ,Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,  (accessed October 14, 2016).

Although Toowoomba is a large inland town, its culture is very pragmatic and rural in nature. It is about as Auzzie as a large town can be. Hundreds of “truckies” driving road-trains pass through Toowoomba every day on their way to the Outback. Shiny modern cars share the road with mud-spattered farm utes sporting unnecessarily busy arrays of aerials and feral pig hunting spotlights. One of my experiences may serve to illustrate the mind-set of the locals. My wife and I were attending a rifle and firearm course run by a prominent instructor of one of the local rifle associations. He had an impromptu firing range set up in his back yard with a couple of old tree-stumps as a back-stop and some (empty) cans of 4-X as targets. His neighbours were chatting in their own back yard, which was behind the back-stop. So, before firing commenced, he shouted over the fence that they should duck if any bullets came over.

The ‘salt-of-the-earth’ pragmatism inherent to Toowoomba might cause someone to question whether traditional martial arts, often seen as merely a decorative or performance-based art, would thrive here.

The primary reason for our location in Toowoomba is due to practicality. We live here.

We are situated on a small 40 acre rural property about 10 minutes from the outskirts of Toowoomba. This has allowed us to build a training facility which can offer many of the traditional aspects of Chinese Martial Arts training that are unavailable to schools which offer courses in more conventional, hired venues. Training tools like Plum Blossom Sparring areas, Iron Dummies and sandbag training arenas are not portable enough to be on offer in a conventional hired venue. Options like camping facilities, bush walks, Chi-Gung and quiet meditation in nature are also not often part of the regular curriculum offered in conventional facilities.

These obvious advantages aside, one could still question the relevance of offering traditional Chinese Martial Arts in a place like Toowoomba. Regional areas in Australia are notoriously difficult to establish as centres for traditional martial arts training. They are often long-established centres for popular sports-based martial arts such as boxing, wrestling and MMA-based systems. The more traditional systems on offer are often modern hybrids. One should always bear in mind, however, that if a system is effective in what it claims to provide, it will comfortably grow regardless of its environment.

The Chang Hong system offers valid and effective self-defence responses to students. Because of this, the Chinese Martial Arts Centre has not struggled to establish or maintain itself in pragmatic environments like Toowoomba or South Africa, where self-defence application must function effectively.

And yet, the question remains. Why did we establish ourselves in an environment that does not easily identify itself with traditional Chinese Martial Arts? As it turns out, Toowoomba actually does have a very long-standing connection with traditional Chinese Culture. These are a few of the photos I took of Kwong Sang Walk which recognises more than a hundred years of Chinese culture in Toowoomba.
So, without answering the question of why we chose Toowoomba specifically as our home location, we are certainly not without precedent in bringing some element of traditional Chinese culture to Toowoomba. Like the very first Chinese immigrants to settle in this region, the long-standing traditional martial system of Chang Hong will thrive wherever it chooses to settle.

Written by SiXiong Lester, head of CMAHC Australia
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