By his own reckoning around 10,000 foreigners have learned the martial arts discipline wushu from Wu Dong during the past 18 years.
As he began learning the Chinese art at age six one might assume he was destined to become a prominent instructor. After all his surname is derived from half the "one-two" punch that defines his discipline which translates as "martial arts circles".
Foreigners, including expatriates living in China, have come to Beijing Sport University from such countries as Canada, Greece, Italy, Germany, Israel and the United States to study wushu.
"Many European people like the culture of wushu," says Wu, who doesn't advertise. "It's mostly been word-of-mouth," he explains.
Students arrive to learn wushu for five days or three weeks or one to three months. "Both rich people and young people," says a laughing Wu.
Wu Dong stands a modest 152 centimeters tall but his gregarious yet humble presence has won the respect of his students. He even entertains the naive propositions of martial arts enthusiasts: "Which discipline would win in a fight? Kickboxing? Muai thai? Taekwondo? Wushu?"
He's been asked this question before. But the answer always brings the focus back to wushu as both a culture and a martial art. It's not about who wins. "Wushu is a fighting technique but it's also very, very philosophical," Wu explains.
"It's connected with Chinese medicine," Wu says. And the philosophy that being softer, more coordinated and more spiritual is far more powerful than being stronger and more aggressive than one's opponent. "Mike Tyson is very beautiful!" Wu exclaims, getting animated and excited as he acts out the "animal" of Tyson. "Western people like blood. They like the 'animal' of fighting."
Wu is a fan of the Chinese film Hero and movie star Jackie Chan but neither represents the wushu culture appropriately, he says.
It has been this emphasis on wushu culture that has helped Wu during his 18 years of teaching. It's this philosophy that has brought him so many foreign pupils. Wu has made numerous trips to Canada, Greece and Japan and this month a four-week long visit to Italy to teach.
(China Daily January 9, 2007)