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MD 1 on 1 with Women's Forum Leader Gaoshang Xiongshou

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  • MD 1 on 1 with Women's Forum Leader Gaoshang Xiongshou

    SallyAnne Interviews Gaoshang Xiongshou,
    Leader of the MD women's forums.

    Brandon Best, aka Gaoshang Xiongshou has been the head forum leader of the women's forums since January 15, 2008.

    He's been with MD as a moderator for many months before that, and is one of our forums most valuable contributors.

    SallyAnne: Brandon, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. I know you have a lot going on right now. Let's start off with something easy: Where were you were born and how old are you?
    Brandon: I was born in Nashville, TN, and moved to Memphis when I was three-years-old. I am thirty two-years-old and was born in the year of the Hare (1975), October 6th.Contrary to what some believe, I am not Japanese, Chinese, or any Asian ethnicity.

    SallyAnne: Do you have a favorite childhood memory?
    Brandon: Easily, it would be when my grandmother took me to get one of the few dogs she has owned in my lifetime. My great-grandmother owned a barbershop, and I think it was one of her regular customers... his German Shepherd had just given birth to a new litter. She was offered one, and when my grandmother and great-grandmother went to go take a look at the puppies, they took me with them. The reason this memory is so special is because I got to pick out the puppy. The puppy I selected, which came to be named Ginger, did not scurry around like all of the other puppies trying to get our attention. I followed her to a bush that she found interesting, and decided to hide in. I was four-years-old at the time. Ginger saw the birth of many grandchildren in her years, and almost all of my cousins met her at some point, and there are quite a few of us. Sadly, Ginger left us in 1993, a victim of poisoning.

    SallyAnne: I am truly sorry for the loss of Ginger. Was it accidental, or did someone deliberately poison your grandmother's dog?
    Brandon: Thank you. Ginger, as it turns out, was actually my father's dog (I just found out over the holiday weekend). But I spent so much time around her growing up, it was almost like Ginger was mine. And of all the grandchildren, she was the most protective of me, so yes, the loss of her was rough. But the poisoning was intentional. In the neighborhood where my grandmother stayed, there was an alley that ran behind the backyard. Ginger used to bark at anyone who came too close to the fence, and there were a lot of seedy characters and dealings going on in that alley. I was away at Tennessee State University when it happened. I guess someone felt that Ginger had to die so that they could continue doing whatever they were doing in that alley.

    SallyAnne: What were you studying at Tennessee State University?
    Brandon: I was an art major. There was not anything else that I wanted to pursue, and I had not truly discovered my liking for fitness and bodybuilding yet. But I had pursued illustration as a hobby ever since I was four-years-old, and at one point, had every intention of being an illustrator, and starting my own comic publishing company. So art seemed to be the only thing that called to me there.

    SallyAnne: You have a long history of martial arts training. When did you start and what disciplines have you studied?
    Brandon: My core martial art is Shaolinquan, although I did not pick up on any wushu training until a few years into my study. I began training in the martial arts in 1985.I first began with Budo Taijutsu of the Togakure-ryu Ninjutsu in the sixth grade. A few months later, I started the study of traditional Taekwondo (no ITF or ATF or any sport variation). Soon after, the Ninjutsu instructor moved, and I stayed with Taekwondo for a few years. One year, my Quan Jah Nim returned to his home in Seoul for a year, and when he returned, he had revamped his curriculum, and made it more appealing for the American market. I think he had found that he could make a profit by marketing the fact that he taught Elvis Presley, and went commercial, and the Taekwondo was from that point on a hybrid system based on Taekwondo, with strong influences of Shotokan in the early ranks and Shaolin wushu at the later ranks. I was still pretty interested, so I stayed. In the ninth grade, I started training with another classmate... two actually... in Praying Mantis and Wing Chun. The other classmate introduced me to some weapons training from the school of Koga-ryu Ninjutsu. Once that class year was over, I lost touch with both of them as well. However, I remained with the Chinese arts, as I gravitated toward them and showed a greater strength there.

    Memphis, TN is an area for sport Karate and Taekwondo dojo/dojangs. Very few other arts have been here, and those that were, those schools closed, and the instructors moved on. There was a Hung-Gar and Shaolinquan kwoon here that I trained at once, but it closed. There was a Kenpo Karate dojo here that I had planned to train at, but they closed. The Wing Chun kwoon that the classmate trained at who initially began my instruction... I wanted to train there... it closed. And it became apparent to me that if I wanted to train in anything, I was going to have to go find it, and train for as long as I could, because people seemed to leave Memphis all of the time. Therefore, whoever I found that was teaching anything, I trained with them until things changed. In this approach, I have no direct lineage of anything, but it does make me very well rounded, because through the years, I have been able to have time to train in arts such as Shaolinquan, Baguazhang, Wu Style Taijiquan, Zuijiuquan, Xingyiquan, and Choy Li Fut, just to name a few. I studied Muay Thai for a total of four years (of which I am currently teaching). I also have trained in Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do, along with Shootfighting in preparation for the UFC, and this was in 1994-95. I never did enter, and I definitely do not regret that decision. At this point, I am not so much looking to learn anything more (this is not to say that I will not, because deep down inside, I will always learn more). I am one to study anything, or at least anything that interests me, and dissect, reconstruct, and synthesize for my use as I see fit.

    Interestingly enough, that last point, I adopted from my study of Jeet Kune Do. Rather than fit a particular mold, I prefer to be anything and nothing at the same time. Breaking down, and rebuilding what I have learned to best benefit me has been a long and painstaking process. Even with Shaolinquan being the central art of my particular way, everything influences everything. For example, my Shaolinquan techniques were good. But altering them by blending them with a Muay Thai influence, and then returning them to what looks like the original state has made them much better. I have found that my Wing Chun is somewhat influenced by my Xingyiquan, and vice versa, so much to the point that to the outside view, most techniques of the two styles look the same. My sword skills have a definite Kali influence to them. All of my staff techniques are expressly of Shaolin teaching now, even if I had the heavier bo staff used in the Japanese arts. These are just examples of how intertwined and personal the martial arts are for me. And these are the simple examples. It gets far more complicated than this.

    SallyAnne: How does your family feel about your martial arts training?
    Brandon: On my mother or father's side, there is not a big history of athletics in my family. In fact, my family is shocked at the way I have turned out, as I definitely was not an athletic child. I do not think anyone counted the martial arts as an athletic endeavor, and my brief stint as a discus thrower in the 9th grade can hardly count. My younger brother, Matthew, is a decathlete for the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is the athlete of the family. The only thing I did for him was get him involved in the martial arts. Even though he has gone on and left serious training behind, he does come to the Muay Thai training on weekends, so I am pretty happy about that.

    SallyAnne: In layman's terms (for those of us who don't know much about the different martial arts) - could you give me a break down on the differences between the different types of martial art programs you have studied?
    Brandon: Without getting entirely too detailed and analytical, different martial arts styles stress different techniques and approaches to personal combat. A couple of examples: A favorite and well trusted art of mine is Wing Chun. This is a style that exists primarily on the inside, in close range to your opponent, but still have its longer techniques from the outside ranges of punching and kicking. One of the unique qualities, perhaps what it is best known for, is that it is an art of simultaneous attack and defense. Praying Mantis (depending on the style; in my case, it was Seven Star), is a style that is quick, penetrative, and designed to breach or completely circumvent the opponent's attacks and defenses, all the while stressing light and agile footwork.

    What it boils down to is that each art teaches a certain (or several) principles to achieve an end to a confrontation.

    Sallyanne: Have you ever done any martial arts training with women?
    Brandon: I have trained alongside women, taught women, and have received training from women. I am a firm believer in women being able to protect themselves. When it comes to training women, I train them in Muay Thai, as that will deliver a level of preparedness much faster than any other more involved martial art, in my opinion.

    SallyAnne: Are there any women in martial arts that you admire?
    Brandon: I am a fan of Cynthia Rothrock and her movies. And I have always admired Kathy Long!

    SallyAnne: If you could use your training to improve the life of others or the world in general, what would you do?
    Brandon: My aim in the martial arts is to educate and/or reconnect the modern world with traditional martial arts training, values, and etiquette. I arrived at this, based on public perception of the martial arts due to mainstream media... martial arts were only portrayed in a certain way in movies and video games. You cannot even begin to imagine how many people over the years have asked me to teach them a death move like what they saw in the Mortal Kombat games... I am SO serious about this. Thanks to a few select movies, some martial arts gained some exposure, but what was shown was still only the romantic glamour of that particular art. And it bothered me that people thought they knew the truth, when clearly, they did not. Well, actually, that part did not bother me at all... but the fact that these people would go and spread their 'information' to anyone who would listen or engage them... THAT bothered me, because I do not like misinformation.

    I have taken that same stance with bodybuilding, and in particular, female bodybuilding. There is too much of the right thing to tell, but not enough of it getting out. So again, I now have another mission.

    SallyAnne: What inspired you to start bodybuilding?
    Brandon: I started working out in the gym when I was 17, maybe for the same reason that some other guys started... to get some girl's attention. It did not really work though. But it did not matter because somewhere along the way, I figured that it would help me in my martial arts, as I was not the biggest and strongest of individuals. Thinking back on when I first started training, EVERYTHING I did was wrong, but I had improper guidance. He had no clue what he was doing. And I was starting out during my first year of college, at Tennessee State University. In the weight room, I would always get in there when the football team was in there. I was comedy relief for them. Here I was, this tall, lanky kid who knew nothing, and looked like, struggling to lift 95lbs. on the bench. The football team found it hilarious. However, the strength and conditioning coach did not. I cannot remember his name now, but he was a former competitive bodybuilder, and he let the team know that what they were doing to me was not acceptable at all. They all had started somewhere at one point, just like I was. After a few choice words with them, they all went on their way, and he took over for the guy that I was training with. He could not devote too much time to me, but for about two weeks, daily, I was in the gym with him, as he showed me exercises, and took me through a few workouts. Then when he had to start dedicating his time to the team again, a few of the players (eventually all of them) took me under their wing, and helped me out when I came into the gym. I was only there for one school year, but when I left, the gym was in my blood.

    So, I have continued on, for many different reasons. But at the very root of it, is martial art. Everything I do is for my martial art. And being that I train to fight to protect myself, and to fight for those who cannot, or for whatever reason will not fight for themselves... although martial art technique is never dependent on physical strength, it helps, and it helps more than people would realize. Although I do not like physical confrontation, if I have to, I need for it to be over as quickly as possible. This will come as a shock to you, but I train with an eye toward destruction. Granted, I will never be the strongest person, but I train so that with any technique that I have to deliver, whether it be a simple vertical punch to the face, a knee to the ribs, sinking a shoulder strike into someone's chest, or picking someone up to dump them over on their head and neck, the encounter must be over soon. If it would mean that someone's life is spared if I must protect them, then so be it. If one or two techniques stings the attacker enough to make them withdraw, then I am satisfied. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to talk, or listen to reason. But pain will make a coward out of any man. You should see how bravado goes to the wayside in the face of broken bone, or several well placed, powerful punches. I have.

    In a perfect world though, there would never be a fight, and never a need for a fight. I do not understand how or why people feel there is a need for one. Interesting conflict I face... I train to ensure that if I have to, I can hurt someone. Yet, I have no desire to, and pray that I never have to. Bodybuilding is not so much to build strength, but of course, there is a definite strength gain. I do also employ Olympic lifting, some functional strength training, powerlifting, and even some strongman (although that is VERY limited, due to the fact that I no longer have competent instruction) training... all in the name of absolute muscular efficiency.

    So... melding the two...martial art, and bodybuilding/strength training... it has worked out very well. But of course you can see, for this reason, I refrain from fighting.

    SallyAnne: Do you have any plans to compete in martial arts or on bodybuilding?
    Brandon: In martial art, I never have, and I never will. As far as bodybuilding, I will, next year, hopefully. I was in prep for my first show this year, but had to pull out at four weeks out. This makes the second time I have gotten so close to hitting the stage, and had to back out. The saying goes, "Third time's a charm". So next year, I feel confident that I will be able to go all the way through. It is fine though. I need much more quad development anyway, so I can, and will use another year's time wisely.

    I always wanted to take part in a well thought out or executed project like a martial arts action movie. Wishful thinking... I do not know. Anything can happen at any given moment, especially if you put yourself in the right places for these things to happen. I guess the big dream for me would be to be in a movie with Li, Lian Jie (Jet Li).

    SallyAnne: Tell us a secret about you that we don't know.
    Brandon: A lot of people probably do not know this about me, but I am a personal trainer. I made the decision to back off of it about three years ago, as I felt I did not know what I felt I needed to know to set myself apart from everyone else, and specifically, I wanted to be more in tune with nutrition and prep for bodybuilding anyway. So joining MD worked out great for me in that department, plus I get to learn far more about women's training and issues than I ever would have on my own, from people who experience everything every day. But due to this decision, I generally do not offer any advice now. I mean... who likes to be wrong? Certainly, not me. I am better off than I am when I first joined, but for my personal satisfaction, I am still far off from where I would like to be.

    SallyAnne: Your user name is Gaoshang Xiongshou. What does it mean and how do you pronounce it?
    Brandon: Gaoshang Xiongshou translates as 'Virtuous Assassin'. It is Mandarin. Mandarin is a tonal language, quite interesting, poetic, and difficult. To say the name correctly, it is like so: Gaoshang, you should have no problem with (GOW-SHANE). For Xiongshou: Make a 'shhh' sound as if you were going to shush someone. Blend in a long 'e' sound (phonetically; do not drag out the sound, as 'Xiongshou' is two syllables, not three). Immediately follow that with 'ong', as in 'song' without the 's'. When you do this correctly, you produce a slight vibration in your throat, and your voice gets slightly deeper. This creates the proper tone for this portion of the word/name. The second syllable is simply pronounced 'SHOW' All together, you get what should sound like 'GOW-SHANE SHEEONG-SHOW'. The really interesting thing about 'Xiongshou' is that if you say it with a definite pause between the two syllables, it becomes something else entirely, and you wind up calling me 'skinny bear'.

    SallyAnne: Why do you feel this name fits you and why did you choose it for your user name?
    Brandon: When I first signed up on Yahoo back in '97, I had every intention of using a nickname my friends had given me. They called me Lei, naming me that after the Tekken character, because he and I fought in a most unorthodox style, almost identical in fact (the fact that I use Shaolin Wuxingquan - Five Animals Fist - and also can and will employ Zuijiuquan - Drunken Fist). However, Lei was in use when I tried to register. At this time, I was trying to put together a comic book, and one of my newer characters was a Xiongshou. I figured Xiongshou was not being used by anyone, so I tried it, and it was accepted. So from that point on, I was Xiongshou.

    I added Gaoshang in 2002. Gaoshang translated means 'virtue'. Pairing the two words together gets 'Virtuous Assassin'. Why Gaoshang Xiongshou? As you have come to know me, you know that I am not a man of wanton violence, quite reserved, and looking to maintain and uphold the spirit, teachings, and honor of Shaolin. Indeed, a man of virtue, and I do say this, even at the risk of sounding conceited or arrogant. However, if pushed, there is a side of me that, should it be seen, it is not pretty, and unfortunately, despite the control I do have, the outcome will be one of regret, for both parties, regardless of the severity. The name represents the personal Yin and Yang duality within me.

    SallyAnne: Has your role as's women's forum leader taught you anything new about the women's side of the fitness/fig/bb industry? About women in general?
    Brandon: I have learned so much about women's physique sports since not only being the women's forum leader, but just on this board in general. I would never have guessed how much goes into the women competing and preparation. It has definitely been an eye opening experience, and it has made me even more appreciative of all that the ladies do and go through for the sport. As far as women in general, yes, I am learning quite a bit. I never really spent much time around women (or rather they never really spent anytime around me), so this has all been, and continues to be a great learning experience for me.

    SallyAnne: is the only forum that has both forum leaders and moderators - each with different assigned tasks. Please tell me what it's like to be a Forum Leader and what your day to day tasks are.
    Brandon: It is not something I take lightly. My responsibility is to keep fresh content coming in, and activity circulating, all in the effort to help further promote and bring the world of female physique sports to the members of So I spend my time away from the board now just thinking about possible content to add here, or new things/ideas to implement. I can have inspiration at any given moment. My thought process is completely random like that. I just look to keep the Women's Forum moving...and tammyp, gymdiva, LilSho, and of course you, Sallyanne... I could not do this without you four!!

    SallyAnne: Do you think that women in bodybuilding are any different than other women? (Besides the muscles, of course.)
    Brandon: Different than other women? I would say 'no' to that. There are qualities that make them stand out, stand apart from the other women... it takes a lot of dedication, patience, and perseverance to do what competitors do. Not that the everyday woman (so to speak) does not possess these qualities, but it is not present in everyone, at least to the extent that figure/fitness/bodybuilding competitors have them. But then, it may manifest itself in other ways. This is why I say no to there being a difference.

    SallyAnne: Do you feel this new structure is beneficial to the forums, and do you think the women's forums have benefited from this change?
    Brandon: I think it has been very beneficial overall for In the past, it seemed as if there were too many chiefs, and not enough indians. Myself, I was a mod, but I basically did the same thing then that I do now, so my transitioning to a Forum Leader was a perfect fit for me, since I was already doing what a forum leader does anyway. A different set of responsibilities and liberties come with being a forum leader, and that is just fine with me. I only want to continue the growth of the Women's Forum, and have it be one of those 'IT' places on the Internet. The change in the leadership/administrative structure definitely served to benefit the Women's forum, as it has started to go in it's own definitive direction.

    SallyAnne: What are your goals for the women's sections of
    Brandon: I intend for this forum to be a place where members (competitors and no-competitors alike) will know that they are a part of something serious, and not just another message board. I think we are more than that, and have the potential for much greater. I do dream big... sometimes too big... but no imagination leads to stagnation, and me personally, I cannot deal with that.

    SallyAnne: If you could make any changes or add something new, what would it be?
    Brandon: Seriously? I would like to add the chance of sponsorship.

    MD is on record as being the existing real supporter of women's bodybuilding, and trying to bring it back into the spotlight. Unlike other magazines that only dedicate a page (maybe) to it, or insist on portraying our sisters purely as T&A, MD has several sections covering all areas of physique sports for the women, and I do not see that in any other publication.

    If I had my way, we would be the first to show even more definitively how MD supports the women by awarding two sponsorship contracts... and not to big name competitors, but to the users online here. Unfortunately, I fear it would have to be small (not something I really like, considering how much goes into this), spread over two, maybe even three years. What I had in mind though, was $15,000-$20,000. With this would go the usual contractual obligations... booth appearances, mandatory photo shoots, required number of competitions a year... that sort of thing. Not the largest take in the world, but since the support for the female side of the sport is not where it was and should be, it would be something that not too much could be put into, unless there would be a positive return. So basically, 1/4 of any given person's average yearly income (this would be my estimate only, as I have no idea of anyone's income).

    How would this be achieved? I have yet to figure that out!

    SallyAnne: Who is your all time favorite female bodybuilder? Figure competitor? Fitness?
    Brandon: Female bodybuilder, I have to go with Dayana Cadeau, and I just recently became a fan of Jennifer Cowan. For Figure, I have always been partial to Gina Aliotti. And for fitness, Stacy Simons. I was glad to have finally seen her in competition at this year's Arnold.

    SallyAnne: There has been a lot of discussion lately in regards to a 'total package' in women's bodybuilding. Do you agree women should be judged on looks and physique?
    Brandon: As a fan of the female physique sports, when I look at the pictures, I do not go directly to the face. Awesome delts and a great taper catch my eye long before her facial appearance. And as it is, this whole sport is subjective anyway. So to penalize a woman's hard work and sacrifice for what she is led to believe is JUST a bodybuilding contest is a complete smack in the face, in my opinion. So no, I cannot agree.

    SallyAnne: What would you like to do to help promote female bodybuilding on In the magazine? In the industry?
    Brandon: I would like to be able to know many of the important and influential people in this sport and industry, as well as highly favored and sought after photographers, historians, documentarians... basically, anyone who knows anyone else... so that I have a wide base of contacts available for various things. In passing and my dealings, I would hope to be able to learn of potential opportunities to get female competitors seen. Undoubtedly, their involvement as a physique competitor would be made known (aside from their bodies speaking for themselves), and hopefully, this would give the outsiders looking in an open invitation to look into our little subculture, see that it is not what they think, learn to appreciate it, come to love it (or at least like it), maybe become a fan, and continue to spread the word. In the magazine, it would be great to see a woman writing a regular column. There are more women into lifting and religious training, and this lifestyle than most realize. The print magazine has a sizable female readership as well. There would be some female representation in there every month if it were up to me.

    Last edited by sallyanne; July 7th, 2008, 07:01 PM. * *

  • #2
    Proud to be the first to post! GX rocks! Great interview SA!
    Check out my redesigned video samples page!


    • #3
      Wow...awesome interview! Bravo!


      • #4
        Truly, I had no unrealistic expectations, but I really could not have anticipated this Thank you, Sally, for this opportunity to put a few ideas and thoughts out to the universe. It seems I am never really given this chance, because to most people, I am only speaking some kind of gibberish


        • #5
          woohoo! yea brandon!
          TWO WORDS


          • #6
            great 1 on 1


            • #7
              Brandon's training log:
     * *


              • #8
                Hey , so the mainman himself is on the other side of the interviewing chair.

                Nice job as usual Sally and GX. Its cool learing what a martial arts master is all about.



                • #9
                  Ive had to read this more than once.

                  Unbelievable......... simply unbelievable. I bow to you, Sally.....

                  This is fuel for 20 conversations at least, bro. Between you and I, that is
                  "Life is about choices: tap, nap, or SNAP!" ~ Future UFC Lightweight Champion Marcus Hicks


                  • #10
                    I'll just repeat what everyone else is saying -- what a wonderful interview. Thanks to both of you for this piece.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Mr. Eddie View Post
                      Its cool learing what a martial arts master is all about.
                      I am no master. I am forever the student, even in teaching.

                      But thank you

                      Originally posted by Ninja Loco View Post
                      This is fuel for 20 conversations at least, bro. Between you and I, that is
                      Whenever you are ready...

                      Originally posted by Mercury Girl View Post
                      I'll just repeat what everyone else is saying -- what a wonderful interview. Thanks to both of you for this piece.
                      It was my pleasure. Thank YOU for reading


                      • #12
                        great interview gx and sal!
               code TAMMY


                        • #13
                          Wow! Great interview GX and Sally! And yes, I know I'm about the 10th person to say that at least!
                          SnakeBite Racing


                          • #14
                            I forgot to ask the most important question:

                            Boxers or briefs?
                   * *


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by sallyanne View Post
                              I forgot to ask the most important question:

                              Boxers or briefs?
                              Boxer briefs.