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Commercializing Kung Fu

By Li Zhenyu (People's Daily Online)

13:14, September 18, 2012

While fight fans in the western half of the world are enjoying the thrilling mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighting, those in the eastern hemisphere are having their eyes focused on their Chinese equivalent — the Wushu Masters Association (WMA).

Filling The Void

Kung Fu, brimming with ancient wisdom, is a gem of Chinese culture.

An overview of Chinese martial arts (Voice over: Li Zhenyu)

Resembling the Ultimate Fighting, which has exploded exponentially in popularity in North America for the past several years, the Kung Fu championship pits combatants in various Wushu disciplines on Leitai, an elevated fighting arena without railings that first appeared in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The main objective of the championship is to knock off the opponent from the elevated platform under a strictly controlled set of rules.

However, unlike its western counterpart, which crudely follows the doctrine in the business bible that reads "business first and entertainment second", the Chinese martial arts championship seems to be on a mission to bring more cultural flavor to the big stage.

Kung Fu, brimming with ancient wisdom and millennia of tradition that are otherwise unavailable in other parts of the world, is a gem of Chinese culture. There is a saying that one cannot get a deeper understanding about China without comprehending Wushu.

Kung Fu has put down its roots in the culture. According to Gao Xiaojun, president of the Chinese Wushu Association, in China, there are 130 million people practicing Wushu and 121 colleges and universities with Wushu majors, along with over 10,000 private-owned Wushu schools. The total number of Wushu students reaches 500,000. The influence of Kung Fu literature and movies is profound and far-reaching. Popular Kung Fu novelists mostly turned out to be household names in China and the nation has been the one major source of Kung Fu movies on the global map.

Although the local art has a large following, Wushu has never been a mainstream sport in China, whereas western sports such as soccer, basketball and tennis have dominated the domestic market.

Some insiders concurred that the sorry state of Chinese martial arts was partly due to the industry's low level of commercialization and lack of a platform for Wushu event. For the past several decades, there had hardly ever been any professionally-managed Kung Fu league match.

The WMA was meant to fill the void in the traditional art's market, with a brand new business model and a series of modern concepts in sports business.

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