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My Journey to Getting Certified as a Dragon and Lion Dance Coach and Judge

Updated: Mar 29

Kyle Hui is an experienced martial artist with 15 years of kung fu practice and over 10 years of dragon and lion dance experience. Recently, he became certified as a coach and judge by the Dragon & Lion Cultural Sports Association of Canada. In this story, he shares his knowledge and journey toward achieving certification.

Before dragon and lion dance, there was kung fu

My journey began at the age of six, inspired by my brother. At the time, he was taking kung fu lessons and would sometimes show me what he had learned in class. What started as a bit of show-and-tell at home turned into a lifelong passion when I joined him at eight years old.

Derek and Kyle Hui as kids performing lion dance with Chau Luen Athletics

Kung fu and Chinese lion dance are closely related because many of the moves in kung fu are the building blocks for the steps and poses in lion dance. At Chau Luen Athletics, I started lion dancing a couple years into my kung fu training, and then was introduced to dragon dancing when we collaborated with other martial arts clubs in a parade in Victoria. After that, our club grew and Si Gung (“grandmaster”) Peter Wong 黃碧海師公 was gifted a dragon, allowing our club to start performing dragon dances.

Why I chose to get certified as a lion dance and dragon dance coach

As I learned more, I felt a calling to contribute more. I was curious about the competitions, as well as the differences between the northern- and southern-style lions and how they vary in different regions. At Chau Luen Athletics, we embrace the fut san 佛山 (literally “buddha mountain”) regional variation from the south, which is also the style many kung fu schools adopt.

A northern lion, which closely resembles a Pekingese dog (left), compared to a southern lion with its distinctive single horn (right).

But becoming a certified coach and judge means more than personal motivation; it's a commitment to preserving and promoting a rich cultural heritage. I get to share my knowledge, raise our club’s standards and expertise, and contribute to the authenticity of performances.

The road to coach and judge certification

The Dragon Lion & Cultural Sports Association of Canada provides six certification levels for lion and dragon dance, covering everything from the history to detailed performance evaluation. To become a certified judge and coach, you need to complete the Level 1 course, which covers the general rules and foundations for dragon and lion dance competitions, and a few National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) courses.

Having completed these requirements, the Dragon Lion & Cultural Sports Association of Canada awarded me with coach and judge certification in November 2023.

But I won't stop there—I plan to complete the next level as soon as it's released. This level goes into more details of the movements of each type of competition, which will allow me to expand my knowledge beyond certification.

Chau Luen Athletics wins lion dance tournament at 40th Can-Am Martial Arts Championship

Putting my lion and dragon dancing knowledge into practice

Reaching high international standards has been a challenge because judges and coaches in B.C. aren't well aware of them. This leads to inconsistencies in teaching and evaluation. Certifying more coaches and judges to raise local standards to international levels will greatly help to grow the experience and raise talent levels across the province.

This is why for me, certification is more than a badge; it's a responsibility. After finishing the first level, I've added my learning to our lessons, with drills and expected standards for each technique. Guiding the students in this art feels like coming full circle, seeing the same passion that ignited my journey.

Kyle Hui teaching lion dance to a child in Vancouver

Lion dancing has different categories, each with its own criteria. In a traditional performance, I generally focus on:

  • a strong foundation,

  • stable stances that transition seamlessly, and

  • its coordination with the percussion.

As for dragon dancing, I mainly emphasize:

  • coordinated movements,

  • symmetry in the poses, and

  • maintenance of the dragon's shape during twists and turns.

In both lion and dragon dance, I would also look at variations in technique and demonstration of skills. Ultimately, the goal is a performance that tells a story, making the lion or dragon seem real without breaking the illusion.

Chau Luen Athletics dragon dance at Lunar New Year Parade 2023

The future of dragon and lion dance at Chau Luen Athletics

Certification is a start, not an end. With it, I aim to train our students to get a taste of the competition world, and dream of seeing more B.C. teams at international competitions in China. Again, it's about raising local standards in the lion and dragon dancing community.

Chau Luen Athletics Lion Dance and Dragon Dance performance at Canada Day Drumming 2023

I'm excited about the future—contributing to the evolution of this art form, inspiring the next generation of dancers, and creating performances that connect with all cultures. In sharing my story, I invite everyone to join this welcoming community of lion and dragon dancers. Whether you love to watch it, perform it, or are new to it, let’s celebrate the art that brings us together.

Here's to the beats, the roars, and the dance that knows no borders.


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