China bull­fight: Fighters mix kung fu in game

Financial Chronicle - - EDIT, OPED, THE WORKS - — Jiang Xi­hao & M Pol­lard/Reuters

SEV­ERAL times a week, kung fu teacher Ren Ruzhi en­ters a ring to spar with a bovine op­po­nent around five times his weight and ca­pa­ble of killing him. Ren’s mix­ing of mar­tial arts and bull­fight­ing wor­ries his mother, but the 24year-old has never been hurt. Be­sides, he says, grap­pling with a snort­ing bull is ex­cit­ing. “It sym­bol­ises the brav­ery of a man,” Ren said in Ji­ax­ing.

Un­like Spain’s more fa­mous sport, the Chi­nese vari­ant of bull­fight­ing in­volves no swords or gore but in­stead fuses the moves of wrestling with the skill and speed of kung fu to bring down beasts weigh­ing up to 400 kg (882 lb). “Span­ish bull­fight­ing is more like a per­for­mance or a show,” said Hua Yang, a 41-year-old en­thu­si­ast who watched a bull­fight dur­ing a visit to Spain. “This (the Chi­nese va­ri­ety) is truly a con­test pit­ting a hu­man’s strength against a bull. There are a lot of skills in­volved and it can be dan­ger­ous.”

The phys­i­cally de­mand­ing sport re­quires fighters to train in­ten­sively and they typ­i­cally have short ca­reers, said Han Hai­hua, a former pro wrestler who coaches bull­fight­ers at his Hai­hua Kung fu School in Ji­ax­ing. Han calls the bull­fight­ing style he teaches “the ex­plo­sive power of hard ‘qigong’”, say­ing it com­bines the skill and speed of mar­tial arts with tra­di­tional wrestling tech­niques.

Typ­i­cally, a fighter ap­proaches the bull head on, grabs its horns and twists, turn­ing its head un­til the bull top­ples over. “What do I mean by ex­plo­sive power?” Han asked. “In a flash! Pow! Con­cen­trate all your power on one point. All of a sud­den, in a flash, wres­tle it to the ground.”

If the first fighter gets tired, an­other one can step into the ring, but they have just three min­utes in which to wres­tle the bull to the ground or lose the bout. The bulls, too, are trained be­fore en­ter­ing the ring, Han said, and learn them­selves how to spread their legs or find a cor­ner to brace against be­ing taken down. “A bull can also think like a hu­man, they are smart,” Han added.

Al­though he says his bulls get bet­ter treat­ment than the an­i­mals in­volved in the Span­ish sport, an­i­mal rights ac­tivists be­lieve Chi­nese bull­fight­ing is still painful for the an­i­mals and cruel as a form of en­ter­tain­ment. “In Chi­nese bull­fight­ing, we can’t deny the bulls ex­pe­ri­ence pain,” said Layli Li of an­i­mal wel­fare group PETA. “As long as it ex­ists, that means there is suf­fer­ing.”

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