Photographers' Blog

Leading a Kung Fu life

June 29, 2012

By Jason Lee

I drove to a small town about 60 km (37 miles) from central Beijing. I couldn’t believe there was an International Kung Fu Club in such a quiet and remote place. The Lixian Fusheng International Martial Arts Club is the home of Master Chen Fusheng and 11 students currently studying and living there.

Master Chen was an orphan. He was sent to a local nursing home at 8-years-old, where he started learning moves and skills from some elderly martial arts experts. This marked the beginning of his Kung Fu life. Chen says he aims to promote “Real Chinese Kung Fu”. To Chen, a master of many types of martial arts, some Kung Fu has become a sort of performance. He believes though his students didn’t travel thousands of miles to study performance, they want to study the real thing which could help them defeat their opponents and protect themselves.

Master Chen has taught them the ethics and spirit of Chinese Kung Fu; always be patient and tolerant, know how to control strength and power, to resolve danger and not to hurt or kill people (some Kung Fu skills are lethal according to Chen).

SLIDESHOW: KUNG FU ACADEMY

Chen has taught more than 100 students from 23 countries since 2008. He said he likes his foreign students as they are very committed and hard-working, some have even exceeded his Chinese students. He also loves the straightforward minds of his foreign friends — they never hid their feelings. He can see clearly whether they like or dislike what they are learning and whether they understand or not. As a result, even though Chen isn’t a master of English, he can easily communicate with foreign students with moves and sign language.

Most of his foreign students are on tourist visas, paying $650 a month, which covers 9 hours of practice every day, simple accommodation in the club, and the only modern service – wireless Internet connection.
Chen doesn’t have wild ambitions for his martial arts club. When asked to describe his feelings on his 50 years of practicing Kung Fu, he said it was fun. He continued to learn different kinds of techniques, summarizing and evolving all the techniques he learned to invent his own martial discipline Ba Ji Zhan Dao (8 extremes battlefield style) because it was more fun.

The “Ba Ji Zhan Dao” is designed for use in both traditional fights and modern hand to hand combat scenarios, which includes knife fighting techniques, gun disarming techniques, and fighting off multiple opponents. Chen is also a martial artist with a practical mind. He said Kung Fu should not be a collection of moves that made one look good The core concept was very simple: “You think you’re good? Alright, come fight me. If you beat me, you are my Master; if it’s the other way around, then you should call me Master.” However, when asked about the highest level of Kung Fu over the dinner table, to my surprise, Master Chen answered: “Eat well, sleep well.” He explained further that through constant practice of Kung Fu, you can finally embrace the biggest bliss — a stronger body, healthier internal organs, and a better state of mind.

As a Chinese, I have never learned Kung Fu in my life, even though my father knew a little. Many of us, who live a busy life in giant cities, can hardly keep a regular jogging habit, let alone practice Kung Fu on a daily basis. But at the end of the day of my shooting, I felt like I wanted to learn at least some skills, which might keep me out of danger covering stories in hostile environments in the future. One of the disciples of Master Chen seemed to have read my mind. He offered me an authentic 15 minute massage using Qi Gong, or internal energy. I could feel the heat going around my body even after the massage. Therefore, I sincerely believed for a moment that I might be able to fight off some criminals.

Comments
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This sounds very interesting. These students go and live in Beijing to learn Kung-Fu, but for how long? This sounds like a very good way to get command of this martial art relatively quickly. I have seen this sort of learning program before, primarily with “vacations” in the Philippines for martial artists to learn Philippine Martial Arts or in Thailand to learn Muay Thai. This is the first I’ve seen of a trip to China to learn Kung-Fu though. It seems like it would be very effective and fun, albeit too expensive for many.

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