The 7th World Kungfu Championships in Emeishan, China
In Sichuan province the majestically beautiful Mount Emei has long been famous as one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China, and is today listed as a UNESCO World Natural & Cultural Heritage Site. It is also home to some of the nation's oldest traditional kungfu styles, and thus, it became a fitting stage for the 7th World Kungfu Championships (WKFC) held November
8-11, 2017. A sport-for-all event, the competition drew 3,850 participants from 53 countries, making it an action-packed and jubilant kungfu celebration embraced by young and old. For this 7th edition of the games, IWUF also organized a series of lectures and seminars with renowned kungfu masters, which were attended with much enthusiasm.
The Championships were launched on the evening of November 8 with a festive banquet hosted by the Emeishan Local Organizing Committee. It was followed by a vibrant opening ceremony that included the march in of athlete representatives from participating countries, stunning wushu and acrobatic performances highlighting Emeishan culture, and welcome speeches by Anthony Goh, Executive Vice President of the IWUF, Zhang Qiuping, President of the Chinese Wushu Association and IWUF Secretary General, and Zhang Tong, deputy secretary of CPC Leshan Municipal Government and mayor of Leshan Municipal People's government.
The next morning the mists rose off Mt. Emei to reveal thousands of participants warming up in the Sichuan International Tourism Trade Expo Center, and the two giant competition rooms were brought to life with energy and dynamic traditional kungfu performances. In one room the domestic Chinese competition brought together over a thousand longtime practitioners and youthful athletes proudly displaying their national sport with great sophistication. In the adjacent arena the carpets were host to a veritable cornucopia of styles displayed by international athletes -- ranging from Shaolin to Cha Quan, Xingyi Quan, Bagua Zhang, Taijiquan and Tongbei, as well as many rarer styles. Southern styles such as Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut, and Wing Chun were seen in abundance, and it was a wonderful opportunity for athletes of each discipline to compare notes on technique and performance. Spectators particularly thrilled to the many flashing weapons that included staff, sword and spear of various traditional styles, but also the engaging rope dart, various daggers and the flowing play of taiji ball.
The USA brought the largest team to the event, with 316 participants and 172 athletes, while large teams from Brazil, Japan, Russia, France, South Africa, Malaysia and Hong Kong added to the mix of languages and culture.
Part of the beauty of this sport for all event is the sense of community it engenders. Scores of kids came with their families and many competed for the first time - encouraged by teammates and relatives they had the formative experience of a lifetime, not only visiting China and absorbing its rich local Sichuan culture, but also making friends from many other countries. The kids also offered a great show for spectators, many of who fell in love with tiny Shaolin stylist Huaskar Pinedo from Bolivia who truly charmed the crowds with his energetic performance. Many talented older masters-age practitioners in their sixties and seventies also showed their years of experience out on the floor, inspiring younger generations and reminding us that kungfu is much more than a sport, it is also a lifestyle that one can embrace for a lifetime.
It was notable to see many of IWUF's modern wushu athlete stars competing, like decorated medalists Vladimir Maksimov and Tatiana Ivshina from Russia, Ukrainian favorites Ganna Tereshchenko and Liudmyla Temna, and elegant Romanian taijiquan athlete Sonia Grindeanu. This underscores the links between wushu's modern sport and practice as an ancient art, and demonstrates the fact that elite sport athletes from around the world are also quite keen on pursuing the foundations of traditional wushu that their sport is based on.
IWUF's Seminar Program
IWUF made a sustained effort to debut the event's first Seminar Program, gathering a diverse group of kungfu experts to present lectures and training sessions, which were enthusiastically attended.
These included lectures by:
Kwok Iam Sin (Characteristics Wing Chun Kune & Essence of Chi Sau), Sih Hing Chao (Introductory Discussion on Lingnan Hung Kune's History & Technique Origin), Anthony Goh (Introduction of the IWUF Grading System), Xiaolin Lu (The Modification of Rules for International Wushu Competition and Its Effect on Wushu's Development Worldwide), Eddie Kwong Yu Ng (Wu Style Taijiquan - Main Requirements & Technique Applications), Mingjian Huang (Popular Culture Trend - The Display of Wushu in Action Films), Fong Shih Yang (The Value & Practical of Routines Practice (Taolu) of Xingyiquan, Baguazhang & Tanglangquan), and Hing Yuen Anthony Wan (Self-defense Training Course & Taiji's Function of Preventing or Curing Illness).
Training sessions were taught by:
Zhenglei Chen (Chen Styel Taijiquan Health & Longevity Exercises - 18 Essential Methods), Zuohui Wen (Emei Quan - First Routine - Basic Techniques & Details), Sunny Tang (Fundamental Skill of Wing Chun Kune & Chi Sau), Xigui Zhang (Xingyi Quan - Rooster Four Seizes), Jiamin Gao (Sun Style Taijiquan - Basic Techniques and Methods), Man Iam Lei (Chen Style Taijiquan Basic Actions & Guidance), Yanwu Han (Cheng Style Bagua Zhang - Foundational Practice - 8 Fixed Palms), Eddie Kwong Yu Ng (Wu Style Taijiquan Basic Techniques & Details), Chong Pin Ong (Taijiquan - Cultivation Core Strength Through Silk-reeling Practice), Jiamin Gao (42 Movement Taijijian Techniques & Common Errors), Yanwu Han (Cheng Style Bagua Zhang - 8 Great Palms - 4 Selected Palms), Man Iam Lei (Chen Style Taijiquan Basic Actions & Guidance), and Chong Pin Ong (Taijiquan - A Scientific Perspective of Neijin (Internal Strength).
Reception to the seminars was overwhelmingly positive. After making the long trip to China so many foreign participants were thrilled to study taijiquan live with the likes of Chen Zheng Lei and other revered teachers. The Chinese participants themselves were no less delighted to take the opportunity to study with these famous teachers, creating a lovely synergy and space where the international and domestic martial artists had the chance to mingle. With many sessions spread out over the three days of competition, most everyone could find a topic of interest that fit their schedule and greatly enhanced their experience at the event.
Athlete Experiences in Emei
Outside of the more formal seminars, the entire championships became something of a living kungfu lab where participants could sample the wide range of traditional styles, gain exposure to different forms, talk with fellow athletes and coaches to gain knowledge, and create new friendships. The relaxed nature of the event made it as much a kungfu party or festival, and the proximity and accessibility of renowned masters in the hotels, halls and stands made for a unique wushu networking opportunity.
We asked some athletes from different countries about what sparks their passion for wushu, why they practice, and how their Championships experience was.
Stefania Gaviano, from Italy, told us, "Wushu is not only a sport, it's friendship, happiness. I meet more friends when I play wushu. Its an honor for us representing our country."
Fabricio Osaku from Brazil remarked, "Wushu is my life philosophy. I love doing wushu. It makes me healthy and happy. It's not just punching and kicking, there's a philosophy behind it, this is more important. I'm also a wushu teacher, and I love teaching my students and it makes me very proud to be here."
Turkish athlete Elif Akyuz reflected, "I think my wushu is my life. When I do wushu my soul, my body, my brain are bought together, all working together. My family came here with me, my sisters, my brother, we all joined these championships competing together. I like traditional kungfu, I like staying in China, and I want to enjoy it all."
When we ask why she practices wushu, Rutenda Ngaro of South Africa observed, "Wushu I believe is a great form of discipline, it brings out determination, and I also believe wushu is a form of healing. Certainly in South Africa that's what we use it as. As a form of team building, nation building, and definitely discipline. Wushu has helped me grow in many areas of my life. It has given me focus, given me an ability to look forward, an ability to be precise, to be flexible ...wushu helps me in my work, in my studies, in everything I do."
And Tony Chen of USA, also offered a bit of his life's wushu philosophy, noting, "Wushu means a lot to me. It's taught me a lot about discipline, appreciating other cultures. I'm Cambodian American but practicing a Chinese martial art has really opened my eyes to Chinese culture, and it's a wonderful experience. I also value the friendships and the brotherhood that also come from making friends from all over the world. People who speak different languages, from different cultures, you unite. For one common interest. I've been off and on for wushu for over a decade now, and it's been a really good journey. I learned a lot about myself, and developed myself through wushu. You express yourself through movement in the sport, and I think that carries through into building confidence in your personal character. Experiencing Emeishan has been wonderful, especially being out on the carpet and showing what I'm able to do."
Many participants - including some of the event's famous teachers also made excursions to visit the famous peak of Mt. Emei, and Wanfo Summit, taking in the view and posing for some impromptu unique action photos with IWUF official photographer W.S. Chen.
WushuTV - Live Streaming and Youtube
This was also the first time IWUF live streamed the World Kungfu Championships in China, and on delay to Youtube. In China, the event was streamed on Sina Sports to between 25,000-30,000 each day, and on Lesports to between 23,000-30,000 viewers during morning and afternoon sessions.
If you missed any action go to IWUF's Youtube channel for many wonderful performances and features recorded over the days of competition.
IWUF Leadership Attends and Reflects
Many members of IWUF's Executive Board and Technical Committees attended the event, keenly observing, and offering their thoughts on new benchmarks reached, and growing this traditional event in the future.
IWUF Executive Board member Petru Grindeanu commented, "Having been to the previous editions of these Championships I'm pleased to see improvements in technical areas and growth in participants. The level of judging here is very good - it's a very fair competition. The scores are not inflated, which is important to give these athletes a realistic sense of their performances. I also find the level of players here higher than previously, and the organization is excellent. Since the first World Kungfu Championships in 2002, the judges' rules have improved considerably, adding a greater professionalism to the event overall."
Traditional Wushu Committee Vice Chairman Luc Bendza noted, "The organization here is good, and the level of the competitors is high. It's important, I think, to promote more countries' participation in traditional kungfu, which is gaining in popularity. I think we should actively promote participation in more traditional kungfu styles especially in countries in Africa, where it is very popular and growing fast, but not as prominent yet as in Europe or South America. Particularly in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Morocco, a lot of work has been done, but we can focus efforts on boosting the level more on the entire continent, which will also provide more diversity for IWUF and wushu."
Traditional Wushu Committee member Victor On said, "This has been a wonderful event, and the Organizing Committee deserves kudos for running a tournament of this magnitude so smoothly. From one standpoint, the roots of contemporary wushu are in traditional kungfu, and these athletes feel the draw, a curiosity of where these roots come from, where it all started. We see this displayed here in Emeishan, and it's a fine thing to experience this rich history come alive with so much spirit here."
IWUF Executive Board VP Sherif Mostafa, stated, "This is my third time to this traditional event, and I see a lot of improvements. There are over 3,000 athletes, and the atmosphere among the players here is very good. This competition is important for African countries, and Africa likes traditional wushu a lot. We have 7 African countries here in Emei. Here our African athletes can also get medals - Egypt will take home 14 medals, and back in Egypt they will be seen on TV; it's good for our sport and promotion there. This is the second time Egypt participates in these Championships - after last time many asked to come. I think even more will ask to come to the next World Kungfu Championships, and I'm pleased to see that."
Chinese Wushu Association President and IWUF Secretary General Qiuping Zhang observed, "This was my first time attending this event, and it was wonderful to experience the energetic festival atmosphere, young and old people participating with such enthusiasm, and really celebrating as a wushu family. We had excellent hospitality from the LOC and Emei City, and the Chinese Wushu Association will fully support IWUF and the local organizers to host the 8th World Kungfu Championships here again in two years time."
IWUF Executive Vice President Anthony Goh remarked as the closing ceremony approached, "I think this has been an outstanding event, and I first want to thank the Emeishan LOC for investing a great deal of time and effort into these Championships. Their marketing, wonderful volunteers, and overall organization hosting thousands of people was truly impressive. This Championships is important for IWUF, and we plan to work harder on preserving and promoting the spirit, authenticity, origins and character of the of traditional kungfu styles. This is the first time we have broadcast the World Kungfu Championships in China and internationally with the help of our partners at Lagardere Sports, and undoubtedly the production will help spread and promote traditional styles more effectively around the globe. In the future we plan to make even more improvements, and while on the one hand we are pursuing wushu's entrance into the Olympic Games, on the other we are equally committed to promoting the importance of this sport for all event for our kungfu practitioners worldwide."
The 7th World Kungfu Championships came to a close on the third day of competition with the dramatic and always engaging group demonstrations capturing the room's attention, eliciting great cheers and applause. With the final prizes awarded to top competitors, the 7th World Kungfu Championships finished, and many photos were snapped and posted on various social media. As teams filed out of the Sichuan International Tourism Trade Expo Center, and the mists settled on top of the towering Mt. Emei, already many had thoughts looking ahead to the 8th WKFC in 2019.