The staccato-like sound of 100 students striking out with hands and feet is the rhythmic aural ambience whenever Liu Tianzi, tai chi instructor at a gymnasium in Liling, Hunan province, teaches the traditional Chinese martial art.
After class, Liu often totes an iPad around with her as tai chi enthusiasts halfway around the globe in the United States like to send their practice videos for her professional critique.
Known as the Tai Chi Woman of China, the forty-something Liu has been practicing the art form for more than 30 years, winning a number of titles and awards along the way, including being named a member of the China Wushu Association, National Level 1 Referee and earning top prizes at multiple international tai chi competitions.
In 2016, on invitation from a tai chi enthusiasts club in Washington, DC, Liu went to the U.S. for the first time as a cultural ambassador.
Slim and petite, Liu was easily overlooked in the crowds. "Offstage, I was not eye-catching. But when I got on the stage and flashed my moves, the audience gasped in awe."
Her first performance was such a success that she was invited to perform in other parts of the U.S. and shared her contact information with eager audiences. She earned herself the nickname "Female Bruce Lee".
Liu adopted a "touch method" when interacting with Americans in her class in order to help them better understand the key to each posture. She also suggested foreign tai chi fans study books in Chinese because the English language fails to fully express the meanings of some concepts in the ancient martial art.
An enthusiast from the U.S. state of Maryland who has practiced the art for 10 years exclaimed after a face-to-face session with Liu, "I only wish I'd met coach Liu earlier."
"I didn't expect tai chi to be so warmly embraced in the U.S.," Liu said. "As a martial arts practitioner, I should shoulder the responsibility to promote traditional Chinese martial arts overseas so that this unique national cultural treasure can be appreciated worldwide."