Wushu as study major is a dream come true for some foreigners coming to China. Big cities offer this possibility and so it guided my steps (or rather railways) to Shanghai and Beijing. Here I got to see two universities: Beijing Sport University and Beijing Capital University of Physical Education. However, in Beijing I still did not join any training, so the further text is a kind of observation/description; training experience came later during my other stops of the field trip.
In the Beijing Sport University the space for wushu is huge. Actually the biggest I have seen so far. They have one building for sanda and the other one for taolu; inside there are two gyms, each holding four carpets. When I was there, there was a different lesson on each of the carpet.
I could watch a training of a group of foreigners. This group are not students of the university, working on their degree, but they pay for the wushu training, as one of my informant explained. They have practice every day, but the wushu major students practice three times a week.
Here the lesson was controlled by the coach. It was the first case of this I saw. The assistant coach explained what to do and did it too, while the main coach was standing aside and watching. Here and there she shouted some comments on the students.
I talked about it with the friendly guy who joined my research. It seems a Chinese (or Asian?) thing to stand aside and watch, while my previous experience from Europe is about much bigger control and structure from the side of the teacher. “In the teams, the level is high and so the coach watch only the small details. He pays attention to them and then tells the athlete to fix it. They don’t need to be instructed anymore”, he replied. He further noted that the positive relationship with teachers can make a big difference, such as being able to train with university team. “It is a big misconception of the foreigners that if they come and even their skills are very good, they can be in the university team. No, it depends on your relationships with those coaches. Because it is Chinese wushu. They feel it is theirs.”
Big focus was paid to the stretching and kicking, next to the other carpets where the Chinese meanwhile pulled out the swords or went through their routine. Most of those going through this training were foreigners, but also few of them were Chinese graduate students of that main coach. The atmosphere seemed to be very friendly. When going back to the dormitory, my informant said: “This is my home now.”
The Capital University offers a big hall with rolled up wushu carpets; another martial arts and sport are practiced there too. I watched a training of the bachelor degree’s course. It took one hour and basically the students did some warm up with stretch kicks and then basics and jumps.
Few of the students would finish their lines of basics with a jump or a kick, excited about the training. But most of the students were typical university students taking their mandatory course. Next to us, a sanda group was learning some wushu basics. They suffered when they had to stand in mabu, and the coach happily pushed them lower and counted until they could stand up again. Counted to ten. There was only one sanda girl, among all the sanda guys. In the wushu group, girls made groups with girls and boys with boys. They practice for one hour three times per week, as a wushu major students.
Finally, they did some sit ups and pushups. And this was the first time I saw them doing pushups, except for the Beijing wushu team who is said to have special power training.
This was my last stop for modern wushu. The next target: foreigners in Wudangshan, Shaolin and Foshan. I decided to change my previous plan and instead of going to a tai ji school in Yangshuo I will travel to Foshan and get swallowed by the familiar southern styles of kung fu.