Thursday, April 19, 2012

(Culture of China) A French passion for Chinese martial arts

Brown with blue eyes, Yves approach, sporting a T-shirt on which is printed in large Chinese character "Wu" (a term meaning "martial").

"Learning kung fu is really not easy, but it's exciting," he says.

This French 29 year old, married a Chinese, now works at the French Alliance in Beijing. There is also a PhD candidate in history at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS).

Its Chinese name, Chen Guang ("Morning Light"), was chosen by his former calligraphy teacher, because he went every morning at dawn to Luxun Park to learn taijiquan.

Located just north of downtown Shanghai's Hongkou District, the park attracts many followers Luxun morning exercise because of its atmosphere, its lake and its many parks and shady. Between autumn 2005 and spring 2006, Guang Chen was the only foreigner, and one of the youngest learners of taiji.

He then attended one year of university exchange between the university and the University of Shanghai Foreign Language.

"I had already practiced several kinds of martial arts (judo, boxing Laotian, French boxing), but I thought that being in China gave me the perfect opportunity to learn Chinese martial arts," remembers he said.

Just installed, Chen Guang immediately went to the park Luxun located near the university to observe the activities. He gradually interested in taiji. "My father had practiced taiji, Chen style. This is also a style that I prefer to Yang because it is more dynamic and martial. The Chen style is also much older than the Yang style, created in the second half of the 19th century ... ", he explains in a Chinese medium.

In the 1970s, Bruce Lee propelled the Chinese kung-fu on the front of the stage, prompting many foreigners to be interested in this mysterious art. Today, the number of followers of kung fu is growing worldwide, and a number of foreigners come to China every year specifically to study this art.

During its ten months of study spent in China in 2005-2006, Guang Chen was studying at the park every morning Luxun 6:30 to 8:00 on weekdays and until 9:00 on weekends. "I continued to practice even in the rain because my taiji teacher enraged if I failed a course, including Sundays," said the French laughing.

"But what I liked, it was precisely this need to do every day. In this way, without much force, we made steady progress and avoid getting hurt," he says, adding that this discipline requires a mental focus and muscle at all times, but is also a great source of relaxation.

He said the time and patience are two necessary conditions for practicing taiji, but that does not mean to say whether an activity reserved for the elderly. Taiji is good at any age.

For him, language is never a barrier, and everyone can achieve a good level by harnessing it with ardor.

In addition to his morning exercises, Chen Guang returned to the park in the afternoon, repeating the movements learned in the morning.

Through hard work, this novice has been cited repeatedly as an example by his professor. He even participated in demonstrations organized on the Bund in Shanghai.

But to learn taiji, this has not always been so simple: the first time that Chen Guang asked a professor to teach taiji, it refused because he was abroad.

In 2008, Guang Chen returned to China to work in Beijing. He wants to continue taiji, but fails to find a good teacher, even after three months of research in all parks near his home.

He finally opted for a kung fu school recommended by someone you meet in a park, where he learned Changquan (long fist) with children and young faculty. After his workday, he goes there every night for an hour and a half, and weekends.

"The Changquan is the basis of learning kungfu in several schools, as in Shaolin. I was lucky enough to visit the Shaolin Temple, Wudang but it's my favorite."

Unfortunately, Chen Guang moved after a year, and no longer lives near the school. It therefore stops the Changquan.

Today he is again looking for a teacher.

Now, on a sunny and Chen Guang is free, he practiced alone or taiji boxing in the Temple of Heaven Park, near his home.

"I hope still find a good teacher, because the atmosphere is not the same when you practice alone, and proper gestures are lost gradually," he said.