Kungfu master's fight to pass on martial art

Updated 2018-04-25 13:47:02 Xinhua

He shops in vegetable markets and takes care of his grandson in his spare time, but when Huang Zhenjiang puts on his kungfu robe, he becomes a martial arts master.

Huang, 68, is a provincial inheritor of Cai Li Fo boxing, a style of martial arts. He is also head of Hongsheng Hall, a Cai Li Fo martial arts club established in 1851 in Foshan, a city in south China's Guangdong Province known for its martial arts culture.

Cai Li Fo was created by Chen Xiang. Legend has it that Chen, a resident of Guangdong, created the style by combining Cai boxing, Li boxing, and a style of boxing named in honor of the Buddha, or "Fo" in Chinese.

The kungfu system is being heavily promoted by the city government, with textbooks on the art distributed to 11 kindergartens in Foshan last week, according to the city's sports bureau.

Huang started learning Cai Li Fo when he was a teenager.

"My grandpa used to tell me all about the heroic stories of the Cai Li Fo masters," Huang said. "I decided I wanted to be like them."

With the help of his grandfather, Huang managed to meet some Cai Li Fo masters. He would practice for three hours every night. In the 1970s, life was still hard and Huang did not want to waste money on kungfu shoes. So he just practiced barefoot. Years of effort transformed him into a kungfu master.

Hongsheng Hall reopened in 1998 after decades of closure, and Huang was asked to teach Cai Li Fo boxing there. In 1999, he was elected head of the hall. That's when Huang found an opportunity to revive the glory of the traditional martial art.

In 1999, Huang began to bring Cai Li Fo boxing to students in Foshan, to pass the style on to locals when they are young.

"I teach boxing to them on Friday and Saturday nights," Huang said. Each session lasts two hours. "Sometimes we practice in schools, and sometimes they come to the hall."

To make boxing more popular, Huang has even created an exercise routine featuring fans. The "fan dance" combines Cai Li Fo boxing and gymnastics, and makes the learning process "more interesting," according to Huang.

"The exercise is good for their health," Huang said.

Huang said that his students have even performed their dance routines during the opening ceremonies of Asian kungfu competitions. ' In addition to schools, Huang also goes to communities in Foshan to teach Cai Li Fo boxing, particularly in Foshan's Chancheng District, where Hongsheng Hall is located.

The classes usually begin during the summer and winter holidays, when eager students from the community flood the hall to learn from "Master Huang," who teaches them for free.

As the hall is too small to host hundreds of students, community authorities have turned a local field into a practice venue for the students.

"They practice one to two hours a day," Huang said.

Besides his Chinese students, Huang also has some foreign apprentices who have come to Foshan out of admiration of the kungfu master.

"I have taught students from Spain, the Czech Republic, Argentina and Chile," Huang said. "Many of them came to Foshan, rented houses, and found jobs teaching English, while taking time to learn Cai Li Fo boxing here."

Huang vividly remembers a Spaniard who came to him in 2008 after having practiced Cai Li Fo boxing in Spain for nine years.

"He said he wanted to learn the original kungfu here," Huang said. "And I was happy to teach him."

There may be many admirers of Cai Li Fo boxing, but Huang only teaches those who learn the art to strengthen their bodies, rather than those who learn to fight others.

"There has been a rule at Hongsheng Hall since the very beginning: we never teach Cai Li Fo boxing to bad people," Huang said. "Morals are important."

When it comes to passing on the martial art, Huang said that the government has taken a variety of measures in recent years to support its development.

"Cai Li Fo boxing is our traditional culture," Huang said. "We must try to pass on our culture."

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