Feature: From street performer to Wushu master--the story of the Ma family

ZHENGZHOU, China, Jan. 12 -- Almost every morning at 7:30, Pang Aiqin travels half of central China's Zhengzhou City to its downtown sports park with one simple purpose -- to practice Taiji with Ma Chunxi, who is a Taiji master.

"At first, I learned Taiji Fan from online courses given by Master Ma, then I heard she teaches Taiji in the park for free, so I came here to practice," said Pang, who has practiced Taiji with Ma for two years.

"I come here everyday. It is more effective to learn directly from Ma, who is a national Taiji master," she explained.

Now, Pang can perform three types of the art: Taijiquan, Taiji Fan and Taiji Sword. She also devotes a significant amount of her time as a retiree to attend Wushu exchanges both in China and abroad with Ma.

Ma Chunxi, 78, is the fourth generation of the Ma family, which has developed a style of Wushu that is unique to the family. In 1919, her great grandfather, Ma Guitang, moved the family from Fugou County to Kaifeng, then the capital of central China's Henan Province, to perform martial arts in the streets outside of the Xiangguo Temple.

In 1953, 13-year-old Ma Chunxi was invited to participate in the first Ethnic Minority Traditional Sports Competition.

Ma Chunxi won the championship of the competition with a performance of Emei Ci, a traditional Kungfu instrument, and since then she has performed it several times for foreign leaders visiting China.

After graduating from Beijing Sports University, Ma Chunxi become a P.E. teacher in the Zhengzhou No. 11 High School. In 1978, when Henan Provincial Wushu Team was set up, Ma Chunxi became coach of the female team, then the whole team.

In 1998, at the invitation of the Wushu association of the Philippines, Ma Chunxi travelled to the southwest Asian country and became a coach for its Wushu team, which attended the 13th Asian Games held in Bangkok.

Her career took off again after her retirement. Influenced by her family, Ma Chunxi was good at formulating Wushu Routines, like the Chen-style Taiji Fan and Thirty-six Movements of Tai Chi Knife, which were widely popular online.

Seventy two years of experience in Wushu has made Ma quite famous in Wushu circles, but she still sticks to two rules: no charge, no discrimination between different students.

"Many people charge a lot, sometimes even 300,000 yuan, to teach Wushu, and some even divide students into different classes according to money they spend. I can't stand this," said Ma, who wants to keep the relationship between teacher and students pure.

"Students respect me, we are equal. I'm happy to be friends with my students, who sometimes bring homemade bread and cookies for me to taste," said Ma.

Apart from teaching, Ma Chunxi and her husband have also always taken friends to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and other countries and regions to participate in Wushu competitions.

Now, her role as a Wushu master has been taken over by her two sons, with the elder one being the vice president of Zhengzhou Children's Sports School and the younger one teaching Taiji in Vancouver, Canada.

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