African stu­dents learn kung fu and Chi­nese in Tian­jin

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By YANG YANG yangyangs@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Last year, when Mak­ina Eu­nice Agmes grad­u­ated in in­ter­na­tional law from univer­sity in Uganda, she re­al­ized she needed to learn more to get a sat­is­fac­tory job in the field.

“There are so many law grad­u­ates in our coun­try, which is why I felt I needed to learn some­thing ex­tra to stand out,” Agmes, 22, tells China Daily in the northern Chi­nese city of Tian­jin.

Since Au­gust, she and 18 other young Africans have been learn­ing mar­tial arts and Chi­nese at the Tian­jin Huo Yuan­jia Civil and Mil­i­tary School.

Ear­lier, Agmes had en­rolled into the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute of her univer­sity where her Chi­nese stud­ies be­gan, and that even­tu­ally got her to China.

Mar­tial arts train­ing is only a part of the “one thou­sand tal­ents” pro­gram Chi­nese gov­ern­ment started in Jan­uary to help African stu­dents and of­fi­cials un­der­stand cul­tural man­age­ment bet­ter.

Be­sides mar­tial arts, the pro­gram in­cludes study­ing the man­age­ment of the­aters, the pro­tec­tion and preser­va­tion of in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage, and cre­ative de­sign.

So far, more than 300 Africans have re­ceived such train­ing in the Chi­nese cities of Chengdu, Bei­jing, Shen­zhen and Hangzhou, in ad­di­tion to Tian­jin.

In Chengdu, the train­ing fo­cuses on how to pro­tect and pre­serve in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage, with Chi­nese ex­perts shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ence with cul­tural of­fi­cials from Africa.

In Tian­jin, the on­go­ing mar­tial arts train­ing is be­ing pro­vided to the 19 stu­dents from Ethiopia, Mozam­bique, Rwanda, Tan­za­nia and Uganda.

Among the stu­dents are Dino Fan­tahun Tsegaye, 25, who ran a kung fu school in Ethiopia, and Mo­hammed Ab­dulfe­tah Abdi, 27, a film pro­ducer from the same coun­try.

Tsegaye is a top kung fu tal­ent in his coun­try, a champion of free com­bat. Be­fore he came to China, he had prac­ticed kung fu for five years.

Af­ter three months in Tian­jin, he not only per­fected his skills in south­ern-style box­ing, but also made great friends here. The south­ern-style box­ing, pop­u­lar in Guang­dong and Fu­jian prov­inces, is known for its short punches and nim­ble mo­tions.

On a lawn of the school, he shows his kung fu to an au­di­ence.

He looks con­fi­dent while do­ing tiger-style box­ing, one of the rep­re­sen­ta­tive types of south­ern-style box­ing.

“Chi­nese kung fu gave me strength of body and mind,” he says.

Tsegaye says kung fu has be­come a pop­u­lar sport in Ethiopia since it was in­tro­duced in the coun­try in 1991.

Tsegaye en­joys liv­ing in China and learn­ing about the lan­guage and cul­ture.

Mo­hammed Issa from Tan­za­nia, 28, is an­other per­son on the pro­gram in Tian­jin.

Issa, who is known in his coun­try as a kung fu prac­ti­tioner, has a train­ing cen­ter in the city of Dar es Salaam, where cur­rently 300 stu­dents learn Chi­nese mar­tial arts.

In their free time in Tian­jin, the stu­dents have vis­ited a sec­tion of the Great Wall in Tian­jin and other scenic spots.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, they join el­derly Chi­nese as they dance in pub­lic squares.

This is the fourth train­ing course at the Tian­jin Huo Yuan­jia Civil and Mil­i­tary School for African stu­dents.

In Novem­ber 2013, the school re­ceived its first batch made of 20 trainees from Zim­babwe.

The ses­sion’s sched­ule was moved to Au­gust later be­cause out­door sports ac­tiv­i­ties can be chal­leng­ing in winter in northern China, ac­cord­ing to Zhang Shikui, vice-prin­ci­pal of the school.

“We also make changes to our course ma­te­rial as we go along. This year, for ex­am­ple, the 19 trainees were more keen on study­ing Chi­nese,” says Zhang.

Some pre­vi­ous batches learned pa­per cut­ting and cal­lig­ra­phy.

Chi­nese kung fu gave me strength of body and mind.” Dino Fan­tahun Tsegaye, kung fu prac­ti­tioner in Ethiopia

YANG YANG / CHINA DAILY

A mar­tial arts train­ing pro­gram is of­fered by the Tian­jin Huo Yuan­jia Civil and Mil­i­tary School for kung fu fans from Africa.

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