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China's 1st professional martial arts league debuts
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Ruan Wei, CEO of CCTV sports and entertainment said: "It is a professional league for the Wushu clubs. All the private teams formed the league. The club spends money on the athlete to train them until they can compete in the WMA. That is how the professional league works."

From all across China, six teams have assembled in Huang Shan...the first group of warriors in the first ever professional Wushu League.

"Actually, it was around 1999 when we first came up with the idea and tried to find out how to show the skills."

Now, a decade later it has become a reality.

"I think WMA will be welcomed by the international audiences in the future. "

IMG is synonymous with the biggest stars and biggest organizations in the world. But even Zhu acknowledges the WMA won't necessarily have an easy path to success.

"I think that if we just let the athletes use their skills. There will be stars. "

In traditional combat sports, the knockout is the king the showstopper. But in the WMA, headshots are not allowed.

The scoring is based on points using traditional Wushu moves. While the sudden drama of the KO may not be there, this allows for technique and strategy to play a greater role.

This was not just the inception of a new league,but a new sport with new rules that have to be understood and accepted by audiences. This may prove to be the biggest initial barrier to overcome.

"In order to help it become accepted by the global audiences, we thought we should extract the skills and strategies of one style of fighting. Then, we standardized it. And, we let the athletes to fight with it in the competitions and we would like the whole world share it."

Previously, Wushu was shown as a demonstration of an art as opposed to a competition. But the bruises and the injuries were all too real for those on the receiving end. This is sport, this is not performance.

The WMA is the first professional martial arts league in China. Each club pays their players and is free to seek endorsement deals with sponsors. And already, new clubs are knocking on the league's door.

Within the martial arts community WMA is already making it's presence felt. Now, the league is looking to make it's mark on all of China and eventually, if everything goes according to plan the world.

"I think, most importantly, any game needs to be liked by the audience. First, it should be liked by the Chinese audience. Ultimately, for the success, it should be liked by all the audiences globally."

The first steps have been taken the question is, will the rest of the world come along for the journey?

(CCTV July 27, 2009)

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