Celebrated form of boxing packs new punch

By ZHU LIXIN in Hefei | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-06-03 07:35
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Children practice Niu-style boxing in Xinger village, Feidong county, Hefei, capital of Anhui province. [Photo by Ruan Xuefeng/For China Daily]

Practice sessions

The Feidong Niu-style Hong Boxing Association, whose members are mostly from the Niu family, introduced the sport to Xinger Primary School's physical education classes in 2012.

The students enjoyed it immensely, but as they needed to be taught a wide range of sports during PE classes, they had little time to practice, Niu Hehou said.

In 2013, he led a group of instructors in teaching Niu-style Hong boxing to children in the village after school.

Wang Nana, the mother of Niu Yilin, who has attended practice sessions three times a week for the past three years, said: "Rural students hardly have any choices to pursue extracurricular interests, unlike their urban counterparts. The instructors not only offer such an opportunity, but provide it for free, so their efforts are really appreciated."

Yang Haiyan, from Xinger, who lives in Hefei with her husband and 8-year-old son, said: "Even in the city, we have struggled to find a place for our boy to learn traditional martial arts." Yang added that she sends him back to the village to attend the course during weekends.

Courses for taekwondo, the martial arts form that originated in Korea, have become popular in Chinese cities, but such instruction is often expensive, Yang said.

Watching her son practicing his boxing, she said she was glad that he had insisted for 18 months on learning the skills.

Niu Shouzhu, former assistant to Niu Hehou and current president of the Feidong Niu-style Hong Boxing Association, said, "With two or three instructors, we teach about a dozen students during school semesters and more than 20 during vacations."

The students not only learn to perform martial arts with their fists, but also with implements such as wooden swords and knives. The users' names are written or carved on the implements, which have been passed on several times over the years and are made by Niu Hefa, 76, one of the instructors, who has carpentry skills and enjoys teaching the children.

"It is my responsibility to pass on this heritage. We elderly men are virtually the only people who have acquired Niu-style boxing skills. If we don't do anything, the heritage will soon be lost," said Niu Hefa, who is single.

Niu Shouzhu said, "As many of the villagers had moved to the city, some houses were left vacant, so we rented our first one as a practice venue in 2013 and moved to the second last year."

In 2011, the Children's Palace was established at Central Primary School in Changlinhe township as a venue offering more choices for students to develop their extracurricular arts and sports interests. There is no such venue at Xinger Primary School.

In 2015, when the association was founded, Zhang Jie transferred to Changlinhe Primary School and Niu-style boxing was launched at the Children's Palace. Students are offered classes twice a week.

To date, some 500 students from the school have benefited from the classes, said Zhang, now the school principal, adding that about one-seventh of the school's students are considered left-behind children.

Niu Hehou said some of the students' parents and grandparents think th

at learning martial arts can be beneficial in helping the children defend themselves in dangerous situations.

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