Modern Kung Fu

  • China Needs a Hero

    The Tao of Jeet Kun Do

    Last Wednesday two men, father and son, defended their home from bandits trying to break the door down and force-evict their family. All we saw in the video that went viral over the weekend were several men lying in the foyer of a concrete shell – your typical Chinese home in the countryside – and some thugs outside of the home making calls to their boss. The person with the camera, most likely the man’s wife, also added text to the video letting viewers know the situation and calling for help.

    Later the Telegraph interviewed the man, Shen Jianzhong, who told a familiar story for Chinese in this era of relentless urbanization:

    “They called it a remodelling project, to turn our village into a town,” he said. “They wanted to tear down the whole street, and promised we would get a new house of the same size in two years, as well as rent to cover the interim. But I heard of people in a neighbouring village getting a much better deal, so we refused to sign.”

    “This mob of thugs would block the street most days. They would pick on the women, threatening to kill their kids. Then people started tossing bricks through windows and letting off fireworks at night. Some people got beaten on the street.”

    On October 29, as Mr Shen went to work and his wife popped out for a packet of instant noodles, a mob of “30 to 50 men” materialised at their front door.

    “My wife tried to close the door, but they pushed it back and she tripped over. That is how the fight started,” said Mr Shen.

    Shen then took off for Beijing with his family, only to have his son arrested by the same authorities that couldn’t protect him when thugs tried to force him and his family to leave their home. The Telegraph story ends with a cliffhanger: a supposedly sympathetic official contacting Shen and telling him to wait to get picked up by a car.

    Continue Reading

    December 1, 2012 • Modern Kung Fu • Views: 4663

  • A few thoughts on Emei Mountain Kung Fu

    Emei Kungfu

    I am busy transcribing interviews and translating them for a deeper post on Emei Mountain, but I thought I would lay down a few surface thoughts before they escaped into the ether, enjoy:

    I went to Emei Mountain last weekend and visited with some kung fu masters there. Two to be exact. One has been a high school gym coach for the past 25 years and the other teaches wu shu performance classes to small children.

    I met them at the Grand Buddha Temple, a massive, beautiful new temple built by the Emei Buddhist association to promote tourism and the Buddha. The Emei Wu Shu Alliance has a small office in the corner of the temple. Pictures of the officials responsible for the creation of the alliance line a large carpeted room where Zhang Shifu performed some tao lu for us. That was without question the first time anyone practiced any martial arts in that office.

    Continue Reading

    November 20, 2012 • Kung Fu History, Kung Fu People, Kung Fu Places, Modern Kung Fu • Views: 27273

  • Globalizing Kung Fu Part 2: Wushu and the Olympics

    One way to globalize an art is to simplify it, give it rules that anyone can understand, and then submit it for an international review to the association most likely to be interested in the art. For martial arts, this process is known as sportification: Making the art of warfare and spiritual enlightenment into a game that anyone can play.

    Sportification naturally divides the practitioners of any martial art into two opposing camps: purists who believe that simplification ruins and eventually mutates the art into something else; and pragmatists (for lack of a better word), who believe that without simplification and marketing, martial arts will die a slow, but inevitable death.

    Both Judo and Taekwondo have gone through the process and were awarded with spots in the Summer Olympics, the former in 1968 at the Tokyo Games and the latter in 1988 at the Seoul Games. Given that the 2008 Summer Olympics were in Beijing, it would have stood to reason that the heavy lobbying by the Chinese government and the International Wushu Federation would have had a similar result. But wushu was denied. As consolation, the IWUF was allowed to stage a parallell event in Beijing, and continue fostering hopes that wushu will become an official Olympic Sport in 2020 at the Macao Games.

    But the odds are slim. Seven sports are competing for one open spot in the 2020 Games, and wushu is competing against some tough customers, including the “united sport” of baseball and softball, squash, karate, and roller sports.

    Continue Reading

    November 12, 2012 • Modern Kung Fu • Views: 11422