Jet Li

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From Shaolin Temple, to the series of Once Upon a Time in China, to the recent Danny the Dog and Fearless, Jet Li is a name closely connected with action movie, kung fu, and wushu (or martial arts).

Jet Li: King of the Kung-Fu Stars 

Jet Li has achieved splendid success, whether as a wushu practitioner or as an action star. His handsome appearance, fortitude, and resoluteness, as well as brilliant martial arts movements, have attracted a large audience for him. Known as the "Gene Kelly of the action film," Jet Li is part of the wave of new Asian stars taking Hollywood by storm. Jet Li has kicked and punched his way out of the cult-film underground and into global mainstream superstardom, making the world crazy for him.

The Legend of a Wushu Genius

Jet Li was born in Beijing , China on April 26, 1963. As a child, he was a quiet and meek boy who was not allowed to do any risky activities such as swimming, skating, or even riding a bicycle. It was quite a haphazard that Jet Li took up wushu training when he was eight years old. At that time he had no idea what wushu was. Yet Jet was selected out from more than 1,000 children by coach Wu Bin, who believed Jet was born with limitless talents in wushu. At the beginning, the training was like extracurricular activity; soon it became more and more rigorous. Half a year later, Jet had to attend the full time training, and wushu became everything and the only thing in his life. He even performed for VIPs including Premier Zhou Enlai at the Great Hall of the People.

Wushu training was always painstaking. In order to have a thorough mastery of basic skills, Jet Li and his fellow students had to practice the same movements day after day. When wintertime came, they had no choice but to practice outside, for there were no indoor facilities. Beijing's winters were extremely cold, and the children's hands hurt constantly. Doing hand-slaps was a no-win proposition: if one didn't slap hard enough to make a sound, he'd get scolded. If he did make a sound, it stung like mad! The tough training also taught Jet Li not to complain about injuries, which also formed a tenacious personality in him.

What Jet received was not only the traditional martial arts training; moreover, he was trained as a modern wushu athlete, so he also had to go through the strict physical training. Besides, his coach Wu Bin also encouraged him to study dancing to make his movements more exquisite.

The year 1974 saw Jet Li's perfect debut in the national wushu competition, on which he was the all-round youth champion. After winning the national championship, Jet Li was selected as a member of China Wushu Team. As part of a world tour the same year, he also had the honor of performing a two-man fight for President Nixon on the White House lawn. In all, in the following years, Jet Li would travel to more than 40 countries with the team doing demonstrations of wushu.

In the following year China staged its Third National Games. The National Games were like a domestic version of the Olympics; they included all competitive sports: swimming, gymnastics, track and field, and so on. The 1975 National Games were only the third since Liberation (the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949), and the first since the early part of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). For the government as well as the entire nation, it was an extremely important and greatly symbolic event.

Jet started to notice a shift in his training. The pressure began to increase. People had higher expectations of him because he'd just won the youth championship. Personally, he didn't think too much of it. He knew that there were plenty of other athletes who trained a lot harder than he did, especially the adults. But winning the youth championships had allowed him to "skip a grade," making him eligible to compete in the 18-and-over category. There he was, a 12-year old competing against people in their 20s and 30s.

Once again, his perfect performance caused a sensation in martial arts field in China, as afterward, Jet Li won a total of five gold medals in the national championships for five consecutive years, from 1974 to 1979. In 1979, Jet received his highest achievement in martial arts when he was crowned Gold Champion at the Chinese National Martial Arts Competition. No person has ever broken this record to this day.

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