Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, April 15, 2013

Martial Arts in Contemporary China

The short article below is from The Economist. The original article may be read here. I would be interested in the opinions of our Chinese friends.

Modern martial arts

Ain’t that a kick in the head

New forms of martial arts are catching on, despite the nostalgia of filmmakers

THERE are now many ways to become a millionaire in China, and for Zhang Meixuan, the route has been through martial arts. In 2011 Mr Zhang, the son of poor farmers, was jailed for assault. On February 2nd in the grimy northern mining city of Hohhot, he became flyweight champion of China in mixed martial arts (MMA) and collected a cheque for 1m yuan ($160,000). His rise from the paddy fields of dirt-poor Guizhou province mirrors the rapid rise of more modern forms of martial arts such as muy thai and Brazilian jiujitsu and their challenge to traditional forms of Chinese kung fu.

Partly responsible for the shift is the Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation (RUFF), a China-based promoter run by Joel Resnick, a Canadian businessman (pictured, behind Mr Zhang). RUFF has been awarded the only permit to hold MMA events in China. The first, in 2011, was seen on television by perhaps 100,000 viewers. The Hohhot event was beamed to millions across China.

Traditional kung fu, incorporating different styles such as Wing Chun, Shaolin and tai chi , though still popular, has been in decline for decades, because of a one-two to the head, first from Maoism and now from commercialism. Youths with smartphones and short attention spans have no time for breathing exercises and meditation. The MMA crowd also accuses kung fu of being useless in an actual fight, and believe even Jet Li and Jackie Chan, two fighting film stars, are more like dancers than real toughs.

Into this debate has stepped Wong Kar-wai, an award-winning director from Hong Kong. His new film, “The Grandmaster”, opened the Berlin International Film Festival on February 7th. For many, Mr Wong’s film is just another kung fu epic. In China, however, the film has sparked further debate on the connections between traditional martial arts, beautifully portrayed in the film during the 1930s, and more modern forms.

A behind-the-scenes documentary, that shows Mr Wong’s largely unsuccessful search for kung fu masters of the old school to help train his actors, has been an online hit. Many Chinese people, including practitioners of MMA, still have a soft spot for the history and discipline of traditional kung fu. But, as in many areas of modern China, the new, the brash and the million-yuan cheque pack a bigger punch.



The Strongest Karate said...

"Youths with smartphones and short attention spans have no time for breathing exercises and meditation".

I wonder if the loss of these youths in martial arts is really a bad thing for the health of the art. It would seem that loosing those who may be wishy-washy in their dedication may just as easily allow for a revitalization of the arts as a whole.

Rick Matz said...

What is a shame is when talented and knowledgeable teachers can't find worthy students or vice versa.

Anonymous said...

That's too bad - I hate seeing traditional Chinese MA fade away.

Rick Matz said...

IF only from the aspect of cultural history, it is a shame when something is lost.

Paul said...

The guy got his fact wrong. Traditional Chinese martial arts (TCMA) is getting more and more popular in China. And many TCMA organizations are organizing their special-rule tournaments in addition to San-da for all schools. Many MMA (including San-da) trainers use some TCMA stuffs as part of their training tools (zhan zhuang is almost a must foundation training for China trained MMA fighters), even Anderson Silver is proficient enough to teach his student Wing Chun Dummy (check here: TCMA is now not in competition with MMA, but complementary. One final point, top professional MMA fighters envy the (financial) success of Jackie Chan or Jet Li, rather than otherwise.

Rick Matz said...


Thanks for posting! I was hoping to get some insight from someone over in China.

Compass Strategist said...

@ The Strongest Karate
"Youths with smartphones and short attention spans have no time for breathing exercises and meditation".

I know many adults who possessed short attention span and a lack of pervasive awareness. The funny part is some of them are martial art instructors or senior students of various internal martial arts schools. In summary, it tells me a lot about their instructors