Celebrated Mount Emei was once again a magnificent backdrop for the 8th World Kungfu Championships, the world’s biggest traditional kungfu sport-for-all event that returned to the beautiful Sichuan setting for an encore after its success here two years ago in 2017. This year at Emeishan many longtime friends met once again to compete, teach, and learn in the magical atmosphere of this famous kungfu mountain. Situated in Sichuan province, Emei is famous as one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China, and is today listed as a UNESCO World Natural & Cultural Heritage Site. Home to some of China’s oldest traditional kungfu, it was also a perfect host for the 8th World Kungfu Championships (WKFC) held June 14-18, 2019.
This celebratory event drew a record number of a total 5,246 participants. 46 foreign teams, with 881 athletes, and 276 domestic Chinese teams, including 3,167 athletes, competed over three days. This year many new wushu clubs from China attended, adding extra variety and enthusiasm. The biggest foreign team was USA, with a delegation of 526 people and 254 athletes competing and topping the award charts with a whopping 293 total medals, 53 of them gold. Hong Kong ranked second, with 96 total and 25 gold, while Russia followed third, with 60 total medals and 18 gold. The rest of the top ten rankings went, respectively, to China, Ukraine, Canada, Egypt, Georgia, Chinese Taipei, and Turkey.
President Yu Zaiqing Welcomes the World To Emeishan
Anticipation ran high as the 8th WKFC officially began with a gala Welcome Banquet held on June 15, the eve of competition, at the Royal Spring Hotel in Emeishan. IWUF President Yu Zaiqing welcomed the VIPs, team leaders, government leaders, coaches and athletes. Guests included leaders from the IWUF, the Chinese Wushu Association, the Sichuan Provincial People’s government, the Sichuan Provincial Sports Bureau, Leshan City, and the Emeishan City, and the Emeishan Scenic Area.
A short ceremony commenced with President Yu awarding honorary certificates to a group of top wushu experts teaching sought-after seminars as part of the 8th WKFC Seminar Program at the Championships. These included Zhao Youbin, Gao Jiamin, Wen Zuohui, Kwong Kuen Mak, Chong Pin Ong, Chun Wah Lai, and Chian Tou Kau.
Mr. Gao Pengling, member of the Standing Committee of the Leshan CPC Committee and Party Secretary of Emeishan CPC Committee made a closing speech thanking all the guests and participants, welcoming everyone to Emeishan, and wishing all the athletes luck in their competition. Over a festive dinner featuring a delectable array of local Sichuan cuisine, wushu friends from around the globe caught up with each other, took photos and left the celebration with excitement and anticipation for the following day of competition.
WKFC Day 1
The day began with early rain, but clouds cleared for the Opening Ceremony of the 8th World Kungfu Championships in front of the towering Sichuan International Tourism Trade Expo. The steps were lined with golden warriors as Mr. Zhang Tong, Vice Party Secretary of the CPC Leshan Municipal Committee and Mayor of Leshan Municipal People’s Government, welcomed athletes, officials, VIPS and other guests, and talked about Emeishan’s illustrious wushu history. Mr. Anthony Goh, IWUF Executive Vice President, then took the podium and made a gracious speech on behalf of the IWUF, followed by inspiring words by Mr. Zhang Quiping, IWUF Secretary General and President of the Chinese Wushu Association. Mr. Yang Xingpin, Vice Governor of Sichuan Provincial Government, gave the last speech before IWUF President Yu Zaiqing rang the ceremonial gong and declared the games officially open.
Following much applause the opening ceremony show began, a splendid pageant filled with dynamic martial arts, music, and choreographed performances featuring charming children, powerful athletes, and not a few famous wushu masters.
WKFC Competition Begins
Then, with spirits high, the participants poured into the Expo Center, athletes flooding the warm-up carpets and readying for competition. With just over 4,000 athletes competing an astonishing range of talent was on display. Highly skilled taijiquan athletes with decades of experience were in one ring, and the smallest children, dressed in bright silks and brandishing weapons half their size, could be seen in another. Families cheered their members on, and teams shouted encouragement in Chinese, English, French, Ukrainian, Spanish, Turkish, and Egyptian, just to name a few.
The day’s events started things off with a tremendous surge of kungfu action for almost as far as the eye could see since the competition was spread across 8 arenas, two foreign and six domestic.
Spectators were treated to Taiji Sword, Straight Sword, Drunken Sword, Broadsword, Staff, Spear, Kwan Dao, and a fantastic range of other traditional weapons. We saw Traditional Chen Style Taijiquan, Traditional Yang Style Taijiquan, Compulsory Yang Style Taijiquan, Bagua Zhang, Shaolin Quan, Imitation Styles, Choy Lay Fut Kune, and other Southern Styles, as well as Southern Broadsword, Southern Staff/Cudgel, Shaolin Gun, Shuang Dao, Imitation Eagle Styles, Baji Quan, Cha Quan, Hua Quan, and Nine Section Whip Chain.
After each session medals were handed out to proud winners, and athletes, coaches and supporters readied themselves for the next day of competition.
WKFC Day 2
Day two of the 8th World Kungfu Championships picked up more momentum, with one display after another of riveting kungfu routines producing a new slew of champions. After just two short days many new friendships were already formed as athletes helped each other and cheered one another on. First-time medalists had a glow of new confidence, and those returning for a second, third, or even fourth time tested not only their fellow competitors but also themselves.
Northern styles dominated much of the morning, and there was plenty of taijiquan to dazzle as well. Weapons brought their own shining and jangling excitement to the competition floor. Spectators enjoyed Southern Styles, Shaolin Quan, Baji Quan, Xingyi Quan, Imitation Eagle Style, Imitation Tang Lang Styles, Other Types of Traditional Styles, Hua Quan, Cha Quan, Chen Style Taiji Jian, Yang Style Taiji Jian, 42 Posture Taiji Jian, Fan, Jian, Dao, Gun, Other Traditional Weapons, Other Traditional Double Weapons, Tongbei Quan, Ditang Quan, Double Straight Sword/ Double Long Tassel Straight Sword, Kwan Dao, Pudao, Double Broadsword, and Nine Section Whip Chain.
WKFC Day 3
Day 3 of the 8th World Kungfu Championships ended with a final thrilling day of kungfu competition at the Sichuan Expo Center as friendships forged over the past week cemented firmly, social media connections were shared, and photos of athletes posing together in friendship and camaraderie captured the moment forever.
This last day’s kungfu was a lively crowd-pleaser, with dozens of more obscure weapons finding a spotlight, and the competition ending with a series of dazzling group and sparring routines that brought down the house with roars of cheering and applause. Russia and Ukraine battled it out with two astounding group routines full of spirit, artistry, and many athletic feats; with breathtaking style the Russians edged out their competition to grab the gold.
Day 3’s events included: Chen Style Taijiquan, Traditional Yang Style Taijiquan, Yang Style Taiji Jian, Yang Style Taiji Weapon, Traditional Wu 武 (Hao) Style Taijiquan, 42 Posture Taijiquan, Xingyi Quan, Fanzi Quan, Imitation Other Styles, Imitation Eagle Style, Shaolin Quan, Cha Quan, Other Southern Styles, Choy Lay Fut Kune, Hung Gar Kune, Wing Chun Kune, Other Types of Traditional Styles, Bare Hand vs. Bare Hand Sparring Routine, Weapon vs. Weapon Sparring Routine, Bare Hand vs. Weapon Sparring Routine, Single Style Bare Hand Group Routine, Single Type Weapon Group Routine.
An Exhibition Gala show became a new star attraction this year, as champions from various nations and styles put on a stunning show of high-level kungfu in the awards hall. We saw some of the most charming, skilled, and energetic young children show off their Shaolin and Ditang, while seasoned athletes from China, France, Turkey, USA and other countries offered up a variety of styles from Xingyi to Drunken Style to double swords.
IWUF’s Seminar Program
IWUF made a sustained effort to grow and nurture the WKFC’s second Seminar Program, gathering a diverse group of renowned kungfu experts to present lectures and training sessions, which were enthusiastically attended by hundreds of participants looking to expand their knowledge and skills. Foreign and Chinese participants mingled enthusiastically, offering one of the best opportunities at the WKFC for friendship and cultural exchange. With sessions spread out over the three days of the event, everyone could find topics and sessions that suited their schedule, greatly adding to their positive experience of the championships.
Wushu experts included: Lianzhi Wu teaching Bajiquan, Jiamin Gao teaching 24-Form Simplified Taijiquan, Chong Ping Ong teaching Taijiquan, Chun Wah Lai teaching Hung Gar, Yuefeng Zheng teaching Shaolin, Lei Man Lam teaching Chen Taijiquan, Tiancai Zhu teaching Cultivation in Taiji and Taijiquan’s Silk Reeling, You Bin Zhao teaching Taijiquan, Sun Yongtian teaching Taijiquan, Zuohui Wen teaching Emeishan Wushu, Kwong Kuen Mak teaching Wing Chun, and Chien Tou Kao teaching Taiji Diagrams.
Not only did the students have an extremely meaningful experience, but the teachers also reflected on how special these WKFC seminars were to them, and some of the further-reaching implications of teaching and promoting wushu here. Youbin Zhao remarked, “My feeling is that wushu is spreading to every part of the globe, and really is serving the world as it continues to spread throughout. There are many different kinds of kungfu exchanges, each with their own purpose. In addition to the exchanges that take place during a competition, almost more important is a kind of exchange of wushu culture in Taijiquan. This time I’m giving a lecture on Taiji, and through this kind of course I hope to enrich the comprehensive philosophical and cultural concepts, as well as certainly technical elements, of taiji enthusiasts from all over.”
Tiancai Zhu told us, “I feel very moved, because people from all over the world have a great interest in wushu, and in traditional Chinese culture. Everyone knows that Taiji belongs to the world, and has made great contributions to the health of the people everywhere.”
Zuohui Wen added, “There are so many people practicing wushu globally, which has played an active role in promoting the development of traditional kungfu. I can clearly feel that my fellow wushu practitioners are very sincere, and are eager to learn. Some fellow wushu friends waited for over an hour, and many traveled from quite far away, just to attend the seminars.”
And Yongtian Sun concluded, saying that taiji is, “a kind of different adjustment to our physical and mental health, as well as being a kind of cultural communication between different people of different backgrounds. Taiji is not only a way to exercise the body, but also a way to calm the mind. A calm mind is not only good for the body, but can enable one to truly learn.”
Experiences in Emei
Beyond the more formal seminars, the entire Emei championships have become something of a living kungfu laboratory where athletes gain exposure to a wide range of traditional styles. As athletes become friends they share this experience of growth and knowledge, and this era of social media has also transformed the sheer number of global wushu connections. Friendships and information initially encountered at the WKFC can easily be cultivated, nurtured and cemented on social media, and some of these kungfu conversations may indeed continue for a lifetime.
We asked some wushu leaders and athletes from around the globe about how their Championships experience was.
Marcus Alves, President of the Brazilian Wushu Confederation, brought a team of 41 from Brazil, with 35 athletes participating. He noted, “We have a lot of traditional styles in Brazil, including Northern Shaolin, Choy Lay Fut, and Praying Mantis, from teachers who came to Brazil in the 1960s and passed down this heritage. Our youngest athlete here is Luiz Felipe Sebastiao Marins, who is 6, and our oldest, Jose Carlos Barbosa, is 61. This is his sixth participation in the World Kungfu Championships.”
Alves adds, “On our team we have many athletes having their first international experience at a competition. They are very excited with everything – the city, the competition, and especially taking their first trip to China! We came early just to visit the giant Buddha. We have five countries here from South America – Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Peru. This event is very important, because all the athletes have an opportunity to get medals, and this will really help us keep promoting wushu in our countries. We can go back and show our positive results to our governments, to our sport ministries, and this really helps us make wushu stronger in South America.”
Sebastiano Ettore Spoto, of the Italian Wushu-Kungfu Federation, commented, “This WKFC is a really great event, and it’s positive that it’s sport-for-all. You can see all the people from age 6 to 96, and really feel what wushu is in the world, and the potential of wushu growing. This event is also becoming very important for a lot of countries who can’t win many medals in other events. It can make a country really happy here, really proud to have champions. I also think this event is wonderful to promote wushu to the wider public, because it’s fun and engaging to watch – the audience loves the group events, and there’s a lot of action that’s constantly changing. I think we should use this event more and more to promote wushu worldwide, because people love it.”
He called over two Italian athletes, Enrica Fossa and Wiliam Badas, to tell us about their experience in Emeishan. Fossa began, saying, “This is my first international competition, and I’ve been doing Chen Style taijiquan for three years. I watched this competition before on YouTube and always wondered what it would be like to compete at the WKFC, and to compete with my favorite athletes. Before we were friends only on Instagram and Facebook, but here in person it was like we were old friends. They all wished me good luck, and gave me such a warm and happy feeling. Even though I didn’t get a medal this time I am so happy, I learned a lot from my mistakes, and was happy with my scores and what I achieved.”
William told us, “I competed in Shaolin staff, and I was happy to get a silver medal. I was here two years ago, and before that too – this is my third international competition. I started when I was 10. Now I’m 16. It was very emotional to come here, and great to reconnect with some friends again I met two years ago. My best experience was waiting to compete, and the competitor next to me, from Tunisia, he helped me and gave me some good advice. I was so happy when he won the gold medal because he was such a nice guy.”
Virginie Gatellier, Secretary General of the French federation FFK, also came as a taijiquan competitor. She says, “We have 18 athletes on this French team, and this championships offers a very good experience because it really bonds us together as a national team. We live in all different regions of France, and practice different styles – taiji, Xingyi, Bagua, Shaolin, but here we come together and it helps strengthen wushu in France. We really want to develop traditional wushu more in France. This event will help us do that – and also as we come here together – it’s a big adventure!”
16-year-old French athlete Casey Edober hails from Paris and has practiced Xingyi since he was ten years old. He was proudly wearing a gold medal and a silver medal he had won when he chatted with us, and said, “It’s a very big honor to be here. Since I was a little boy my dream was to come to China and participate in the championships. I also study Chinese in school, because I do wushu. I’d like to speak Chinese with my teacher who is Chinese. I want to come back in another two years, but next time I want this silver medal to be gold!”
Elizette Toledo came from Chile, where she helped found the Chilean Wushu federation in 2005, and today she acts as treasurer, as well as being an internationally certified A-level taolu judge. She has been practicing wushu since she was 11 years old. “I think this is a really great event,” she says. “I see a lot of people doing so many styles of traditional kungfu. For me, this experience is a dream of all my life.”
Turkish athlete Elif Akyuz, who is also a World Wushu Championships champion, won double gold at Emeishan. Though she is well known for her impressive double swords, Elif told us, “I love Cha Quan. It’s my favorite and when I do it I feel powerful. The level is higher here than last year, so the competition is good. It’s nice to be here with my family too, because now I live in Beijing, and we miss each other. Here we can be together and do wushu together.”
Chinese Wushu Association President and IWUF Secretary General Zhang Qiuping looked delighted at the end of the event. He said, “I really think this was the best World Kungfu Championships ever. The venue, the look of the games, the presentation, the scale, the level of the sport – all truly exceptional. Also this is the first time these games have been open to people in China entering from clubs, and I think this brings a high level of skill and experience, and also a great diversity of styles. The masters seminars offered a fine exchange of knowledge, and I hope next time we can offer more opportunity for the athletes to exchange information as well. I believe for the next WKFC, in two years, this event will grow even more. So many people are keen to come here.”
IWUF Executive Vice President Anthony Goh remarked, “I want to thank the local organizing committee whose investment of considerable resources and efforts has undeniably upgraded the level of this World Kungfu Championships. I also want to thank the Chinese Wushu Association for supplying most of the fine judges here, and helping with the vast management of this event. I’m also deeply appreciative of the members of our team at the IWUF Secretariat, who have worked extremely hard in optimizing and improving the way we run events, and in promoting and marketing the media of IWUF events to a wider audience.
This WKFC event, over its eight editions, has gained a solid reputation among international athletes and fans as the world’s premier competition for traditional wushu. The IWUF has worked hard to deliver a top-rated sport-for-all championships. I believe we have achieved our goal in providing to the many thousands of people here a pleasant and unique experience participating in an IWUF sponsored event.’’
Farewell to 8th WKFC
As the 8th World Kungfu Championships in Emeishan drew to a close, a joyful celebration took over the awards ceremony hall. Athletes and teams proudly wore their medals, exchanged national pins and gifts, and took happy photos together. This transformative experience truly made all the participants a family here at Emeishan for these 4 days, and this exuberant feeling permeated the entire scene. Friends new and old parted, now connected on their social media, with promises to meet again in another two years at the next World Kungfu Championships. We salute their skill, hard work, heart, and passion for wushu, and can’t wait to see everyone again at the 9th World Kungfu Championships!
The WKFC was streamed live in China on QQ Live and Sina Weibo. Coverage of foreign and domestic morning and afternoon sessions can be found on IWUF’s WushuTV YouTube channel. IWUF’s intrepid roving video team also captured a lot of the action of the 8th World Kungfu Championships – here’s one more video if you missed it on our social media channels and our WushuTV YouTube channel!