The 2005 Chinese Kung Fu Championship was inaugurated in Beijing today and some 190 players from 34 local clubs are fighting for titles including Tai Puqing and Qing Gele, gold medalists from this year's 10th National Games.
Compared with other sports that have been increasingly commercialized, martial arts are still rather stagnant, said Wang Xiaolin, chairman of the China Wushu Association, adding that an official championship could not only help improve the overall quality of kung fu's development in China, but also promote it to other parts of the world.
The highest-level games ever held by the association, they were co-organized with the martial arts administration center of the General Administration of Sports and CCTV's sports center.
There are seven men's events (from 65kg to over 85kg) and one women's (60kg). Qualifiers run until Sunday and the finals are slated for December 31 to January 3. The kung fu master will be decided at a grand final on January 7.
Unlike its predecessor, the 2004 Quanzhou kung fu championship, this event is using a club-based (point-accumulating) system.
According to Beijing Aowu Sports Culture Development Co. Ltd, managing the games, introducing a club and league format aims at setting up an international and vigorous brand. Also, local clubs and athletes would benefit from and boost professionalization.
Since the 1990s, China has tried to make wushu an Olympic event, particularly for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The General Administration of Sports set 19 kung fu medals at this year's 10th National Games, following only track and field and swimming in numbers.
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, announced on October 16 that it would not become an Olympic or exhibition sport at the next Games, but said there would be an international wushu competition organized by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG).
Wei Jizhong, an executive BOCOG member, said the rejection was due to a desire to reduce the Olympics' complexity and a lack of agreement on judging rules.
Kung fu and Wushu are used to refer to Chinese martial arts -- bodies of codified practices or traditions of training for unarmed and armed fighting.
Today, more than 60 million Chinese study martial arts for fitness, self-defense, mental development and competition. Popular styles include Baguazhang, Monkey kung fu, Zuijiuquan, Xingyiquan and Taijiquan.
(China.org.cn by Li Xiao, December 2, 2005)