"What comes to mind when you think of Chinese Kung Fu?" Jesper Lundqvist from Copenhagen, Denmark, asked GDToday while filming the micro-documentary series "My Guangdong Story", "People all over the world share different opinions about Kung Fu." Some foreign friends may first think of classic action movies featuring Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Scenes of sword-swallowing performances are enthusiastically described. Some think of Kung Fu as a meditative practice, rather than a fighting technique.
"In order to beat the stereotypes and pursue real Kung Fu, I gave up a comfortable life in Denmark to come to Foshan," said Lundqvist.
Jesper Lundqvist (Photo: GDToday)
"You must have heard of the classic stereotype: every Chinese person knows Kung Fu. In the city of Foshan, this just might be true." According to Lundqvist, taking a casual walk in the parks of Foshan, you might run into a humble-looking old man who happens to be a hidden Kung Fu master.
Travelling thousands of miles to learn real Chinese Kung Fu
Lundqvist was introduced to martial arts around 1984. At that time, he was practising Japanese martial arts, and he was often plagued by injuries due to hard training. Around 1992, he suffered a serious knee injury that left him almost unable to move. A big martial arts exhibition was held in Lundqvist's hometown at the time, and an encounter with Chinese Kung Fu changed his life.
"I would say that to date, that was the best and most inspiring martial arts demonstration I have ever seen," Lundqvist recalled. The explosive power of one of the Wing Chun performances struck a chord with him. He was fascinated by this martial art, and as soon as his knee got better, he went on a Wing Chun course.
Lundqvist learns Wing Chun in Denmark. (Photo provided by Jesper Lundqvist)
Studying Kung Fu made Lundqvist feel like going down the rabbit hole. He was initially attracted to the dynamism and practicality of Chinese Kung Fu, but as he kept training, he wondered about its theory, evolution and the Chinese philosophy behind it.
Around 2004, in order to learn Wing Chun, Lundqvist came to China for the first time and took a few days of introductory courses in Shunde, Foshan. Driven by his interest, he has been travelling back and forth between Europe and China since 2008, just to practice real Chinese Kung Fu. Lundqvist believes that for him to learn something, he should seek out the masters, and so he decided to get as close to the source as possible to learn Kung Fu. In 2012, Lundqvist decided to give up his business in Denmark to settle in Foshan, and become a promoter of Chinese Kung Fu while working as a physiotherapist and an osteopath.
Known as the City of Kung Fu, Foshan city of Guangdong is the preeminent birthplace of Southern styles of Chinese martial arts. Wong Fei-hung, a famous martial artist, and Ip Man, a grandmaster of Wing Chun, both came from Foshan. These days, more than 50 types of martial arts still exist here, and there are over 10,000 martial arts practitioners and more than 100,000 people involved in martial arts exercises.
After a traditional Chinese initiation ceremony, Lundqvist became a disciple of a Foshan Wing Chun master. He found out that a lot of things that Europeans have learned about Wing Chun did not come from China, but were developed by themselves. In China, he can practice the wooden dummy, which is considered the "last part of the Wing Chun system" in Europe, and develop a more family-like relationship with his Chinese Wing Chun teacher.
Lundqvist practices the wooden dummy. (Photo: GDToday)
Lundqvist can now talk a lot about Wing Chun. He emphasizes that Wing Chun is a practical fighting system, which is short-range. "The purpose is to close in on the opponent and keep them under pressure in order to overwhelm them, so that they don't have a chance to counter you," he explained, "In essence, it's simple, but not easy to learn."
Building a bridge for Kung Fu enthusiasts in the world
Now, Lundqvist often wears Chinese-style clothing and can demonstrate various Wing Chun moves. He has visited many masters in Foshan, such as Chen Qingjun, the inheritor of Yuen Chai-wan Wing Chun, and Xian Zhiming, one of the representatives of Foshan Snake Style Wing Chun.
Lundqvist and Foshan Snake Style Wing Chun master Xian Zhiming (Photo provided by Jesper Lundqvist)
For Lundqvist, Kung Fu brought him the best thing in life, and through Kung Fu, he met his wife. In 2013, they met at the annual school celebration of a Guangzhou Wing Chun master. They subsequently fell in love, and over the years, they have become the perfect partners for promoting the culture of Chinese Kung Fu.
Lundqvist, Hung Kuen master Lam Chun-sing, and Lundqvist's wife (Photo provided by Jesper Lundqvist)
During his pursuit of Kung Fu in Foshan, Lundqvist learned that many Kung Fu masters were not as mysterious as depicted in the movies. "We found that there are many very skilled, traditional martial arts practitioners and masters who want to teach, whether their apprentices are Chinese or foreigners. But nowadays in China, it's a bit difficult for them to find disciples," said Lundqvist, "In the West, there are many enthusiasts of Chinese martial arts who don't really have any contact with local teachers."
Therefore, Lundqvist and his wife tried to create a bridge between overseas Kung Fu enthusiasts and masters in China, painting a more authentic picture for millions of other Kung Fu enthusiasts worldwide. On top of that, they formed a company to spread information about the Chinese Kung Fu culture, making it the focus of their life and work. They have interviewed over 100 masters in Foshan and published relevant articles in overseas journals and on their Facebook page.
"We hope everybody interested in Kung Fu can benefit from it," he said. "People can get a better or more accurate and complete picture of what martial arts are in China and how they are actually trained."
Lundqvist and his wife publish articles in Wing Chun Illustrated magazine. (Photo provided by Jesper Lundqvist)
Lundqvist and his wife introduce Gu Weihua, a Gulao Wing Chun master, on their Facebook page. (Photo provided by Jesper Lundqvist)
Lundqvist is convinced that the only way to truly understand Chinese Kung Fu is to experience it in person. Over the past few years, Lundqvist has received many people who came to Foshan from around the world with a desire to learn Kung Fu. He introduced them to the local Kung Fu masters, real Chinese kung fu, and local culture as well. In the meantime, he organizes Kung Fu masters to conduct seminars, lectures, and training courses in Europe so that people overseas can also experience Kung Fu first-hand. "Even though it's just a little bit, it's better than nothing."
"Nowadays, it's unfortunate there is this kind of schism or split. Some people say the traditional martial arts are totally useless, and that the modern style combat sports are much better," Lundqvist added, "But to me, they are all martial arts and the evolution has just gone in different directions."
"For me, Kung Fu is life," Lundqvist stressed. Next, he plans to make documentaries featuring different aspects of Kung Fu. "My hope is that through this work, people can better understand the traditional Chinese martial arts and better appreciate this thing."