Biography of Master Nick Gracenin
Master Nick Gracenin was born in Northwest Pennsylvania in 1958. His martial arts history reflects the progression of Asian martial arts in North America. In his childhood he studied Chinese Kenpo, Japanese Judo and Karate. During the era of Bruce Lee and the Kung Fu television series he dreamt of Kung Fu. At the first event of a long tournament career, he witnessed the spectacular performances of one of the pioneers of Chinese martial arts in North America when James Cook swept the Black belt forms, weapons, and sparring divisions with the Kung Fu he learned in Korea. The 15-year-old Gracenin knew he had to somehow learn Chinese martial arts. The dream was realized in 1977 while an undergraduate at Penn State University when Gracenin began training Long Fist and Yang style Taijiquan. Only a year later, his first teachers graduated. Through Inside Kung-Fu magazine, Nick then found Master Bow-Sim Mark in Boston and began his lifelong study of Fu style Wudang boxing with this remarkable Master, mother of now iconic superstar Donnie Yen.
During the early 1980’s, Nick met and learned from the first professional teams of China and began a relationship with the Beijing Wushu Team and historic Coach Wu Bin. Gracenin capped his competition career in Karate in 1983, winning the Black Belt Weapons at the USKA Internationals. He was promoted from 3rd to 5th degree Black Belt on the spot by the recommendation of Grandmaster Robert Trias, the Father of American Karate.
In 1984, Master Mark invited Nick to compete at the historic Wuhan International Taijiquan and Sword Invitational where he won a silver medal. At this event Nick met most of the foremost Taijiquan Masters alive, including his two Kung Fu Grandfathers: Fu Yonghui and Li Tianji. Selected to the USA Wushu Team the following year, Gracenin would become an elite athlete. He won medals for USTeams at six World Championships for his performances of Taijiquan, Taiji sword, Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, Praying Mantis, Sword, andSpear. Commenting on Nick’s demonstration of Drunken boxing, Chinese Wushu Association President Xu Cai used Gracenin to illustrate that Chinese martial arts had now truly become an international practice.”When you look at Nick Gracenin’s face, it is clear he is an American, but watching his movements, you believe he is Chinese.”
Grandmaster Wang Peisheng in 1993 gave Nick similar accolades, comparing his performance to that of the 1936 Chinese champion Shao Shangkang and praising his exhibition of Dragon shape Baguazhang.
Gracenin was the Pan-American representative and founding Executive Committee member of the International Wushu Federation executive committee from 1986 to 1999. During his term, Chinese martial arts was recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and admitted to the General Assembly of International Sports Federations. Nick was an active member of many national and International Chinese martial arts organizations through the 1980s and 1990s. He became a certified international judge and coach, and has trained over 20 members of US national teams, and athletes from every continent.
With training in Fu, Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun style Taijiquan, Fu,Sun, Sha and Cheng style Baguazhang, Fu and Sun style Xingyiquan, Fu and Huo style Bajiquan, Liuhebafaquan, Long Fist, Zhaquan, and Hao style Taiji Meihua Praying Mantis, Master Gracenin has been privileged to study with many grandmasters of traditional and contemporary Chinese martial arts. He is honored to call Bow-Sim Mark his Shifu, and is dedicated to promoting and passing on the legacy to the next generation.
In 2012, he was awarded his 10th degree Black Belt from the International Wushu Research Federation. He is recognized as one of the first non-Asian Masters of his art.Inside Kung-Fu named him in 1999 as one of the 100 people who have “made the greatest impact in martial arts in the past 100 years” and 2005 “Man of the Year.” In 2008, he moved to Washington, DC, and founded DC Tai Chi, where he continues to study and share the Chinese martial and healing arts, teaching at American University, the American Psychological Association, the National Gallery of Art, the Confucius Institute US center, and several other locations.