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American protege of Wudang kung fu: More than just martial arts

Source: PRNewswire | 2024-01-05 08:06:00 | Author: PRNewswire

Zhang Sanfeng, China's kung fu master of the Wudang clan would never have expected that years after his death, an American would become one of his disciples.

Jake Pinnick, an Illinois-born American in his early thirties, is now the 16th-generation disciple of the Wudang Sanfeng lineage. As a celebrity instructor at Wudang Mountain, he has tutored many martial arts enthusiasts from different countries.

Back in 2010, 20-year-old Jake made a solo trip all the way to China, became a protege of Yuan Xiugang (Taoist name Shimao) and began his studies in the international program of the Wudang Taoist Traditional Kung Fu Academy.

Jake still has a vivid memory of his first lesson at the academy. When doing post-standing and horse stances, his legs were shaking from start to finish. After the first hour of training, he was physically exhausted but mentally excited: For the first time, kung fu has evolved beyond a far-fetched dream inspired by childhood movies.

"When you stand by the water, you would think it's not that deep. When you actually immerse yourself in it, you would be surprised by how unfathomable it is." Jake is amazed by the sophistication and profoundness of Chinese kung fu. Learning quanfa (literally meaning fist methods) and jianfa (literally meaning sword methods) is only the first stage; besides practicing kung fu, Jake also read many works of Taoism. And in his conversations with others, he would quote "Zhuangzi" or "Dao De Jing" from time to time.

Not long ago, we met Jake in person during the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, where he told us all about his love for dongxiao, the vertical bamboo flute and his obsession with Chinese philosophy. That day, he was dressed in a dagua (traditional Chinese long robe), and wore a hairstyle typical for a Taoist priest — he is exactly a Wudang shifu (master).

In contrast, 13 years ago, when Jake first set foot on China's land, he was an all-American boy whose Chinese vocabulary was limited to "nihao (hello)," "xiexie (thanks)" and "Wudangshan (Wudang Mountain)." Friendly strangers he met in China showed him directions and helped him get taxis, making his journey to Wudang Mountain possible and his dream come true.

"It's impossible to separate me from Wudang. Wudang Mountain is my second hometown," Jake said.

What retained him here is not only China's kung fu, but also China's fascinating traditional culture and all the heartfelt sentiments over the years.

In China live many Americans just like Jake. Brian Linden, who has lived in China for 39 years, is settled in Dali, Yunnan, dedicating himself to the protection and restoration of local tangible cultural heritage. JongMay Urbonya, the "post-90s" girl who speaks fluent Mandarin, is passionate about traditional Chinese aesthetics, and she has been sharing her love for Chinese culture via short videos. Jake, our protagonist today, posted kung fu training videos online, and attracted numerous kung fu lovers who are willing to learn Chinese kung fu and dig deeper into traditional Chinese culture.

Jake likens himself to a "bridge". These Americans who chase their dreams in China, having experienced collisions and chemistry between the two cultures, will become a bridge in a sense — one that links the emotions of the people from the two countries and carries people's wishes for communication and exchanges.

Editor:

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