Chinese wrestling gains new vitality

Two athletes compete in a Chinese wrestling game held in Handan, north China's Hebei province. People's Daily Online/Hao Qunying

Shi Xue’en is a 21-year-old wrestling enthusiast working in Beijing. Born in Xilinhot of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, one of the cradles of Chinese wrestling, Shi’s love for the sport started when he was a little boy.

“Wrestling is a local culture in my hometown, and all the physical education teachers there can wrestle. We all learned it at school more or less,” Shi told People’s Daily.

Though Shi left Xilinhot for Beijing to study and work, his love for wrestling never fades. Now he is learning wrestling at a club in Beijing, attending classes once or twice every week after riding the bus for nearly two hours.

Shi joined the club five years ago. He said it’s a place where he can learn Chinese wrestling from professionals in a systematic way, as many of the trainers there used to be members or coaches of the Chinese national wrestling team.

Chinese wrestling has simple rules. The wrestlers lose points once their body parts other than their feet touch ground. “Banzi,” which literally means to trip someone, is a special term for Chinese wresting skills. The traditional Chinese sport generally has 36 major moves to throw down opponents, deriving countless trivial moves, due to different body angles and directions of strength. That’s why it is attractive for the fans.

Shi made his name in a game back in 2017, during which he “knocked off” an opponent much bigger than him with a “finishing move”. Liu Changhai, head coach of Shi’s club, explained that with the move, Shi set up his opponents to move toward a certain direction that he wanted, and then tripped the opponents in a blink of eye. “It was a trivial move, but the timing was perfect. It demonstrated the characteristic of Chinese wresting which stresses the importance of tactics in facing heavyweights. “The move astonished all the crowds in the venue, and was still a hot topic a couple of years later,” Liu said.

Chinese wrestling, seemingly simple and easy, contains profound philosophy, Liu introduced, adding that it’s not a sport that people would love at first sight, and its beauty is only revealed as they learn more about it.

Chinese wrestling combines toughness with flexibility and carries the essence of the Chinese culture. It has always been a popular entertaining activity and athletic sport. In recent years, as Chinese wrestling gradually regained vitality among the public and became an official game in national sports events, it once again embraced an opportunity for development. There are nearly 20 Chinese wrestling clubs in Beijing.

Liu’s wrestling club has established cooperation with two primary schools, and a textbook is now being compiled. “Wrestling builds the whole body, and helps improve adolescents’ flexibility and sensitivity. Besides, it also helps prevent sport injury,” Liu said, adding that he hopes Chinese wrestling can be promoted better.

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