Conjuring magic in US martial arts center

Xinhua
To American locals, Chinese martial arts academy like the Chinese Culture Center  in Albuquerque is a window to better understand Chinese culture. 
Xinhua
HelloRF

Members of an American Wushu Academy of Chinese martial arts perform at the Asian Festival. To American locals, this kind of Chinese martial arts academy is a window to better understand Chinese culture. 

The southwestern US state of New Mexico boasts its stuccoed constructions, among which one building stands out.

Located in Albuquerque, the largest city of the state, the Chinese Culture Center is constructed of reinforced concrete, radiating grandeur.

In the main hall stand various instruments of wushu, a synonym in Chinese pronunciation of kung fu or martial arts, and a placard on the wall clearly states the philosophy, rules and etiquette of martial arts.

Billy Jack Davidson, 14, is warming up by performing a set of kung fu motions, a convention before his martial arts class.

“I’ve found it so entertaining to perform, move around and be active,” said Davidson, adding that his favorite artist is Jackie Chan, a worldwide famed Chinese kung fu movie star.

It has been 10 years since the high school student started to learn wushu at the center.

“This place is my other family pretty much. The people are very kind, considerate, and always supportive of us, so it’s just a place that I can always grow,” he said.

Davidson is among the 100 or so students now at the center. His bond with martial arts and the training school has a root in his grandmother, who was also a member of the center.

“I live in America... taking martial arts definitely has allowed me to understand different parts of Chinese culture,” said Davidson, sweating after a show of his prowess.

Every day, local kung fu fans like Davidson come to the mecca of wushu in the US state with the hope for a step further toward “the essence of martial arts,” a motto at the training center.

Founded in 1974, the center is one of the oldest martial arts schools in the US southwest. It offers ongoing classes on a variety of martial arts including qigong, a system of breathing and exercise designed to benefit both physical and mental health, tai chi boxing as well as Shaolin kung fu. Its founder, Charles Lin, a Chinese American, had practiced the arts for more than 50 years.

Master Lin used to be the only kung fu teacher in the school. During his four-decade teaching career, he had traveled to China ten times and learned from other masters in order to further improve his skills and knowledge.

“Learning martial arts is a life-long mission and you will discover more to learn once you were really into it,” said Lin, adding that it was his vision to share Chinese culture with locals through martial arts.

Lin hopes to introduce the truth of Chinese kung fu to local people. 

“Martial arts is not just sparring, on the contrary, it’s more about internal disciplines,” he said.

By word of mouth, the training center has drawn in over 3,000 kung fu fans since it was started. The majority of them have been at the center for more than 10 years. They also called in their relatives and friends, mainly due to “the magic of Chinese culture.”

It has been always the case that siblings or different generations from the same family learnt martial arts together, according to Shanti Thomas, general manager of the center, who himself is a kung fu fan and has practiced at the center for about 25 years.

To locals, the center is a window to better understand Chinese culture, and in 1988 they even voluntarily helped construct a new complex for the martial arts school.

“I don’t know that anybody really thought they could do it. Everybody just pitched in and made it happen,” said Connie Chocas, a former kung fu student at the center, who has witnessed the building’s construction from scratch.

It took them about eight months to finish the building work. The project was regarded as a “mission impossible” by some architects.

“Every weekend, 20 to 30 students came to help, each taking different roles ranging from architects, engineers, contractors, concrete workers to electricians,” said Lin, “I was greatly relieved when the new complex finally opened.”

So far, the school has organized three tours to China, helping around 200 students realize the dream of exchanging views and skills with masters from Shaolin and Wudang, the cradle of Chinese martial arts, during those pilgrimages.

Master Lin retired last year, but his spirit and passion for martial arts passed on. 

The center is currently run by local staff, all of whom are kung fu fans and former students at the center. 


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