Masters work to preserve waning art of kung fu in Hong Kong

World Today

Kung Fu was central to daily life for the people of Hong Kong for decades. But that part of culture is waning. Many kung fu schools are closed, and the ones that remain struggle to survive. Some Kung Fu masters are devoting their lives to passing on the tradition.

CGTN’s reporter Li Jiejun reports from Hong Kong.

Masters work to preserve waning art of kung fu in Hong Kong

Masters work to preserve waning art of kung fu in Hong Kong

Kung Fu was central to daily life for the people of Hong Kong for decades. But that part of culture is waning. Many kung fu schools are closed, and the ones that remain struggle to survive. Some Kung Fu masters are devoting their lives to passing on the tradition.
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Influenced by movies, kung fu fever spread like wildfire in Hong Kong in the 1970s. Today, however, kung fu practitioners are fighting for survival.

Located in a building on a bustling street is a run-down Kung Fu school.

The owner, Li Chan Wo, is the godson of Mok Gui Lan, the wife of legendary kung fu master, Wong Fei Hung. He is also the master of the “hung” fist.

Li opened the school in the year 2000, which was one of his master’s dying wishes.

“Mok Gui Lan raised me from childhood. She was like a mother. On her death bed in 1982, she held my hand, and in tears, asked me to promote Wong Fei Hung kung fu. I promised I would do so. It’s difficult. Rent is soaring, and the number of practitioners is declining,” Li said.

Master Li teaches kung fu three times a week in parks. Each lesson costs 60 Hong Kong dollars, much cheaper than other sport classes like Thai boxing and judo.

On most days, he works as a bone-setter in this 30 square meter room. On days he doesn’t have patients, he practices kung fu on the balcony.

During the latter half of the 20th century, many balconies in Hong Kong – like this one – were home to martial arts schools. But in recent years, the popularity of kung fu in Hong Kong has diminished quite considerably. It seems that for the youth today, kung fu just isn’t cool anymore.

Kung fu traces its history to ancient China, with hundreds of fighting styles having been developed over the centuries. Martial artists worry that kung fu’s future is bleak.

“Times have changed, and people are addicted to playing games on their computers and cellphones after work. Fewer are willing to learn kung fu,” Li said.

Master Li is 77 years old. He says he will devote the rest of his life promoting kung fu. Though he worries about the prospects for his chosen trade, he is satisfied to have found potential heirs. He says they will try their best to pass on the tradition to the next
generation.