Fred Thomassen first came to China nine years ago to learn traditional martial arts, but what he found drove him away from kungfu completely. We were sitting on the mats of his small gym in Beijing, the Big King, as Fred told us a short tale of disillusionment. His partners Nano Lozevski and Augusto “Guga” Miranda sat nearby listening. Nano is a burly, tobacco chewing Muay Thai coach from Norway (via Macedonia), and Guga is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
When Fred recounts his first experiences with Chinese martial arts, his face screws up like he’s describing a meth addicted trust fund kid who jilted good natured Fred out of a pile of money, and then went and snorted it all up his nose. The whole process left him feeling dirty and cheated. While Fred tells the story, Guga smiles like a guy who knows the punchline. After a litany of half-ass masters, indolent coaches, and hours wondering if there were any professionals anywhere in the building, Guga cackles and shouts out something in Brazilian that sounds like “serves you right.” Nano looks at me and snickers.
Suddenly, I start to feel dirty too.