Chinese martial arts are gaining popularity in Africa

A group of African students practice martial arts in Tianjin Municipality in February 2014. Photo: IC

Chinese martial arts, or kung fu, conjures up an image of iconic movie star Bruce Lee, whose superb fighting skills have been popularized around the world.

Over the years, Africa has witnessed the creation of several Bruce Lee-wannabes with wushu, the Chinese term for martial arts, becoming popular across the continent.

Healthy lifestyle

Martial arts students believe that Chinese kung fu promotes healthy living.

“Practicing kung fu not only builds discipline and respect, but makes you feel healthy and fit,” said Emile Rukundo, vice president of the Rwandan Chinwoo Wushu Kung Fu Academy.

The academy started in 2017 and received kung fu teachers from China. About fifty people, including young people, are trained in kung fu at school.

“Kung fu has become a popular sport in Rwanda, especially among school children. They find it interesting because it keeps their bodies fit and teaches them self-defense and self-control,” said Rukundo said.

According to Rukundo, the Confucius Institute at the University of Rwanda and the Chinese Embassy in Rwanda supported the academy by organizing kung fu competitions, which motivated young Rwandans to learn kung fu.

“Chinese martial arts teach a great way of life,” said Dawit Terefe, an Ethiopian Chinese martial arts instructor, adding that the sport helps people become strong, healthy, stay fit and develop a sense of fitness. excellent focus.

Terefe added that Chinese martial arts are lifelong physical exercises and are performed with balanced movements between the legs and hands, which makes them preferable to other exercises.

Development plan

“The promotion of Chinese martial arts features prominently in the government’s 2021 sports development strategy,” said John Mapepele, senior communications officer at Tanzania’s Ministry of Culture, Arts and Sports.

According to Mapepele, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan has asked the ministry to ensure that Chinese martial arts are integrated into the country’s sports and cultural development plans.

“The Tanzanian government gives a lot of support to Chinese martial arts which attracts tens of thousands of Tanzanians, especially young people,” Mapepele told Xinhua news agency at the first Tanzanian women’s sports festival dubbed Tanzanite in September, where kung fu was introduced. by young Tanzanian girls aged 10 to 14.

“Tens of hundreds of visitors come to watch the girls show off their kung fu prowess,” said Athuman Begeja, a 31-year-old kung fu teacher at Begeja Wushu Club in Ilala district of Dar es Salaam.

Begeja said that during the three days of the festival, his club received more than 100 applications from girls wishing to join and train in kung fu.

Kung fu goes viral

The kung fu frenzy is sweeping the continent thanks to friendly relations between China and Africa, cemented by the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative, among others.

Humphrey Moshi, professor of economics at the public University of Dar es Salaam and director of the Center for Chinese Studies in Tanzania, told Xinhua in a recent interview that relations between China and Africa have grown stronger since the creation of the forum.

“We have seen tangible improvement in sectors ranging from agriculture and communications, to construction, manufacturing, culture, sports and games, and people-to-people exchanges,” Moshi said.

The number of kung fu clubs in Rwanda organized under the Rwanda Kung Fu Wushu Federation has increased in recent years, and the total stands at 31 in 2021, with over 2,000 registered members.

Also, according to a recent report by the Ethiopian Martial Arts Federation, there are more than 800 martial arts training centers in Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa.

Of these, 60 are in Addis Ababa and each appears to provide martial arts training to around 70 students each season, and a martial arts club exists in every small town in Ethiopia, the report said.

Chinese martial arts are winning the hearts and souls of Ethiopian youth, Terefe said.

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