Michelle Lin has always been active since childhood. But she never dreamed that one day she could jump so high and up onto the big screen and perform Chinese Martial Arts in a movie.
Released in 2007, Assassin’s Creed is a popular action-adventure video game with worldwide players and a franchise on multiple platforms and devices. It is reported on Wikipedia.org that it had sold over 100 million copies as of 2016. This video game series has also spun into a movie, comics, and novels. The movie Assassin’s Creed starring Michael Fassbender came out last Dec. It grossed $240 million dollars globally. The review of the movie was mixed but many did enjoy the action in the film.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Michelle Lin tried gymnastics, ballet, Chinese dance, soccer, tennis, and skiing. However she was not serious about any of them and considered them seasonal hobbies. Chinese Kung Fu seemed intriguing but she admitted that her low confidence prevented her from trying it until she turned 15. She first attended Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming’s YMAA School in Andover (MA) and truly loved the physical aspect of the art. She stopped learning when she went to Tufts University and majored in International Relations. She returned to the YMAA School at age 25 with “a different perspective”. Gradually, she sensed that Chinese Martial Arts is more than physical movements but a way of life. In 2013, she made a critical decision and quitted everything she was doing and headed for the west. She arrived at the beautiful and secluded mountain retreat center in Miranda, California, and enrolled in a 5-year residential program to study with Dr. Yang to expand her knowledge of the philosophy and theory of the martial arts and elevate her techniques and skills in Kung Fu, Tai Chi (Taiji), and Qigong.
At 5’3” and 115 lbs, Michelle is a little shorter than the average women’s height of 5’4” and much lighter than the average women’s weight of 166 lbs. Even though, she is good at the martial arts and won multiple medals at various martial art tournaments. But I can’t help but think how she survives from the grueling physical training and sparring and Push Hands with all her male classmates in the Center. Michelle responded that “my male classmates say they train with each other the same way they train with me and that is – they adjust according to the individual’s skill and personality, not gender.” It is rare that Michelle trains with someone weighing less than 165 lbs and she manages.
The YMAA training curriculum at the Center is vast but the emphasis is always on the quality not quantity. She has learned over 20 sequences in Shaolin Long Fist and White Crane, the Yang Style Tai Chi 108 Long Form, Qin Na and White Crane Qigong. Shaolin White Crane and Tai Chi are her favorites due to their emphasis on defense, softness and Soft-Hard Jing. Tai Chi chuan, which does not utilize brute force and applies the techniques of re-directing and yielding suits her better both physically and mentally.
Michelle believes that the training curriculum for men and women can be the same, but the expectations should be based on the individual regardless of gender. For example: adjust the duration, weight, speed, repetitions, height, distance, etc. Some drills might be quantifiable, but the majority of martial arts training is techniques and skills oriented in which the quality is difficult to measure and standardize. She listed power generation, listening Jing, neutralization, softness, etc. as important skills. She thinks that every person has unique strengths and weaknesses and should train accordingly.
Some people may consider that dance and martial arts are similar disciplines where personality and emotions are expressed through commands of the body and the soul is cultivated to its core, but to Michelle the difference is the martial aspect. Techniques, skills, strategies, sense of enemy, and spirit are trained for combat. Practitioners can be of differing builds with varying skills. Nevertheless, in her mind, the beauty of martial arts lies in the intent of the practitioner and the effectiveness of the execution, not the movement itself.
As far as how she was chosen in the movie of Assassin’s Creed, it came as a total surprise. The casting director saw her video clip on Youtube and contacted her. After the audition, she got the part and played a character named “Lin”. Even though, she did not speak during the movie, Michelle certainly communicated well via her stand, walk, glaze, facial expression, and, of course, fighting. She appeared in a few different settings and you can see her in action via the clip above.
In the movie, Lin and other assassins tried to protect the Assassin’s Creed. When asked what is the creed she abides by, Michelle replied that ‘I don’t abide by any specific creed, but I strive to be the best version of myself through studying martial arts. What martial arts means to me is to make the world a better place through improving oneself and preventing and resolving conflicts with others. In YMAA, we aim to embody the 10 Martial Moralities compiled by Dr. Yang through the influences of his teachers. Morality of Deed: Humility, Respect, Righteousness, Loyalty, Trust. Morality of Mind: Will, Endurance, Perseverance, Patience, Courage. Self-cultivation comes from combining the physical with the mental, emotional, and spiritual training. The Chinese character for “martial” (武) breaks down to two characters: 止 = “stop” and 戈 = “weapons.” In essence, the creed or principle of Chinese martial arts is to “stop weapons” or “stop war.” I see it as training to be a good person and doing good for society’.
Aside from training full-time, Michelle also helps to spread the arts by teaching once a week in Fortuna, CA, when she has her time off and teaches Kung Fu workshops with her classmate Jonathan Chang in New England between semesters.
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