China's kung fu town aims to build international martial arts conglomerate

10:22, August 04, 2011      

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China's city of Dengfeng, home of the famed Shaolin Temple, is aiming to merge its kung fu schools into a martial arts conglomerate capable of providing top-rated shows and training for the overseas market, a local official said Wednesday.

Local authorities will propose mergers for smaller kung fu schools while raising registration requirements for opening new schools, said Wang Songwei, head of the martial arts administration of Dengfeng, which is located in central China's Henan Province.

Wang said the number of kung fu schools in Dengfeng will be halved to fewer than 20, but the number of students will be doubled to 100,000 by 2015.

China's kung fu schools usually enroll children from the countryside, providing them with a full education with a focus on martial arts training. Top students take the sport as a profession by competing in martial arts contests and participating in shows staged at various events, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

Graduates of the kung fu schools sometimes receive recommendations to enter the military and police forces. They also have the opportunity to join the country's booming private security companies.

After 30 years of development, kung fu has become Dengfeng's leading industry, reaping profits from martial arts training, sales of martial arts-related equipment and merchandise, shows and tourism.

According to statistics from the city's sports bureau, the city's 50,000 kung fu students, together with their families and friends, bring 350 million yuan (54.25 million U.S. dollars) in annual revenues for the city.

More than 6,000 kung fu performances are staged each year in the city, receiving audiences of 300,000 people each year and generating revenues of over 10 million yuan, according to the sports bureau's statistics.

In the 1980s, the highly profitable kung fu industry in Dengfeng attracted many people to start kung fu schools, but problems arose as a result of poor government regulation.

"Originally, several government agencies, including the Administration of Industry and Commerce, the Bureau of Public Security and the Bureau of Education, grant permits to start new kung fu schools. This resulted in mismanaged regulation," said Wang.

He said many schools were poorly run at the time, with teachers knowing virtually nothing about martial arts.

In 1990, the municipal government authorized the Bureau of Sports to manage all of the city's kung fu schools and set new registration standards. In that year, 58 kung fu schools were approved, with 12,000 students enrolled.

But these schools have started to complain of a drop in enrollment due to dwindling numbers of rural kids and easier access to standard education. Many schools are forced to offer high school courses to prepare the students for college.

Wang said the kung fu schools will increasingly focus on intellectual subjects and not only physical education. "We don't want our students to be masculine and simple-minded martial arts masters," he said.

The official did not elaborate on plans for the martial arts conglomerate, but said that developmental trends will enable kung fu shows to expand in the overseas market. No figures for investment were disclosed.

Kung fu gained popularity in the world through the successful screening of mainland and Hong Kong kung fu movies beginning in the 1970s. The global enthusiasm put the 1,500-year-old Shaolin Temple, cradle of Shaolin kung fu, on the world map.

The temple itself has developed profitable business operations such as kung fu shows, film productions and online sales under the business-minded abbot Shi Yongxin, who has been referred to as China's "CEO monk."

Source: Xinhua


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