CULTURE More young Chinese are getting a kick out of practicing martial arts


More young Chinese are getting a kick out of practicing martial arts

China Daily

08:58, March 22, 2023

Young people practice martial arts in Huangling village, Bo'ai county, Jiaozuo city, Henan province. (Photo: China Daily)

Lifting a spear, Li Jinqi pulled it across her shoulders and spun it quickly. Following her example, 10 peers in two rows wearing the same kung fu-style garments produced the same movements.

Li is a 24-year-old PhD student at Beihang University in Beijing, but she is more widely known on campus as a martial arts master.

Though very busy with research and coursework, the PhD student says that, over the past five years, practicing martial arts has become a daily routine.

She has studied various styles, including boxing, swordplay, and the cudgel, and won several cross-campus martial arts competitions held in the capital city.

She also led the university's martial arts club, which has grown from a team of two participants to over 30 active members.

Having performed at the graduation ceremony for three years in a row, Li says the club is now one of the most popular on campus in terms of recruitment.

"Martial arts has seen a significant uptick on campus, and I heard that my middle school and high school have both opened martial arts courses," says Li.

Gao Xiaoya, a junior student majoring in electronic information engineering at Beihang, who also joined the martial arts club, shares that she draws inner peace and strength from the sport.

Gao is among an increasing number of young people who were first attracted to martial arts as a way to keep fit, but who found their enthusiasm grew when they realized the benefits stemming from the traditional values and culture the sport embodies.

"You start to appreciate it more and realize that martial arts are full of philosophical views on how to combat challenges and be confident, while also being modest," says the 21-year-old.

On China's video-sharing platform Bilibili, short videos on topics of traditional Chinese culture, such as martial arts, hanfu (a traditional costume), Peking Opera, and calligraphy often receive legions of likes and comments.

"The fast development of the internet and social media also facilitates communication about traditional Chinese culture, enabling young people to have easier access to previously niche art forms," says Song Yu, an assistant researcher at the Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Traditional culture also has no national or ethnic boundaries. In Central China's Henan province, the birthplace of Shaolin kung fu, global exchanges and interactions have taken place for years.

About 2,000 foreigners visited the 1,500-year-old temple to learn kung fu and experience Shaolin culture every year. Marta Neskovic from Serbia says, "I stayed for two and a half years, I love kung fu so much. Practicing kung fu is good for mental and physical health."

Wang Hechen, a designer in Beijing, takes courses on traditional Chinese painting every weekend. "It's like a comfort zone for me to escape from my fast-paced work, while painting also helps improve my endurance and focus," says Wang.

For Li, martial arts also means more than fitness training. "I don't think martial arts is about fighting," she says. "Martial arts is about finding the best version of yourself."

As younger generations attach more importance to traditional culture, relevant industries and services are expected to thrive as well, says Song.

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