Europe: Studying Kung Fu opens the door to Chinese culture
Over the past few days, news of Kung Fu competitions has been coming in thick and fast as many European countries hold their own martial arts competitions. The sight of Westerners performing martial arts like Taiji with skill and poise is certainly an arresting spectacle for many.
It was not so long ago that lots of Westerners, having watched too many martial arts movies, were under the impression that all Chinese people could do Kung Fu. How different it is then now to have these same Westerners practicing Taiji and baguazhang (a form of Chinese boxing) for themselves. In doing so, not only are they furthering their knowledge of traditional Chinese culture, but they’re also providing a stark illustration of the change in attitudes towards Chinese culture that has occurred in the West.
Russian youths practicing Taiji
Europeans practice martial arts en masse
According to reports, there are nearly one million students of Chinese martial arts in Europe, of whom 50% study Taiji, 30% study qigong, and 20% study Kung Fu. There is also no lack of young people and children amongst these students.
Ms. Song, who has studied abroad in Germany, said that the elective course she took in Kung Fu at her university was incredibly popular amongst the students. At first, many of her fellow students took this class because studying Kung Fu was considered quite “cool”, but as their knowledge of the art form deepened they became increasingly fascinated with the philosophy behind it, meaning that even after the class had finished many carried on studying. According to a report by the Xinhua News Agency, there are over 100 martial arts clubs in Germany, with approximately 4,000 core members.
The Confucius Institute has played a pioneering role in the spread and popularization of Chinese martial arts. Confucius Institutes across Europe have organized such activities as: a ‘Martial Arts Open Day’ at the University of Poitiers in France; Taiji for youngsters at the University of Munich; a seminar on qigong at the Free University of Berlin; classes on the study of military strategy and martial arts in Spain; a Confucius Classroom specializing in the study of Kung Fu in Warsaw; and a ‘Martial Arts General Assembly’ at the University of Bergen in Norway. By organizing these activities and events, Confucius Institutes throughout Europe have attracted many local young people to learn more about traditional Chinese military culture through the study of martial arts.
It is now common in Europe to find many people who practice martial arts regularly. According to a report by Chinaqw.com there is a park in Athens, Greece, that holds “park Kung Fu” classes, where martial arts enthusiasts from all walks of life gather to practice Taiji and baguazhang under the guidance of their instructor Yanni.
With martial arts enjoying both official and popular support, more and more European countries have begun to organise their own martial arts festivals, competitions, examinations, as well as other activities. This year alone has already seen such events taking place in Prague, Bologna and Munich.
A park in Athens organizing ‘park Kung Fu’ sessions, Greece
Martial arts techniques embody the essence of Chinese culture
“These kids have fallen in love with Chinese culture and started to study Chinese, to learn about Tang Dynasty and Sui Dynasty history, to like Chinese food and to learn the dragon and lion dances. That’s all because of Kung Fu, and the passion of their teachers,” said a parent who regularly takes their child to attend Kung Fu class. It can be seen that martial arts have become a means by which an increasing number of Westerners and overseas Chinese come understand and appreciate the real charm of Chinese culture.
Italy holding the first “World Taiji Day”
As an important part of traditional Chinese culture, martial arts are now also being increasingly recognized and accepted by Europeans. Not only this, but it also seems like Kung Fu is providing a means by which people across the world can appreciate and understand Chinese culture. Thus through the medium of martial arts, the influence of Chinese culture on the world stage is becoming ever stronger.