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US teenagers make friends in China through martial arts

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-04-02 11:33

US teenagers train with kung fu fans at the Capital University of Physical Education and Sports in Beijing on March 19, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

SHENZHEN  -- With lunges and squats and open arms, US teenager Makenna Kelpman was ready to "take off" in Beijing. When members of the martial arts team of Capital University of Physical Education and Sports (CUPES) pulled quickly on wires, Kelpman rose into the air and experienced the feeling of being a "chivalrous woman" in a kung fu movie.

"It feels great, but handling the wires is not as easy as it looks. Compared with the martial arts team, my posture in the air is not ideal. I need to practice more," said Kelpman.

Kelpman is a high school student from Steilacoom High School in Washington State in the United States. Along with more than 20 other students from Lincoln High School and Steilacoom High School in Washington State, she embarked on an 11-day trip to China in mid-March as one of a new batch of "friendship envoys" who are part of China's five-year program to invite 50,000 American youths to China for exchanges and study.

The movie "Kung Fu Panda" is one of Kelpman's favorites. Ranging from Chinese martial arts to giant pandas and Chinese food, she is very interested in the Chinese elements in the movie. At the CUPES, 15-year-old Kelpman was eager to have a try after first seeing the wonderful martial arts performances presented by the Chinese students.

"I love sports. I play football, I do wrestling, and I won a state golf championship, but I never learned Chinese martial arts. I can't wait," said Kelpman. Learning martial arts in China is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated and unforgettable experiences for Kelpman and her companions.

From cities to mountains and rivers, over the course of a few days, the delegation visited many locations in China, experienced the colorful Chinese culture, and felt the enthusiasm and friendship of Chinese people.

After a ride on winding mountain roads and a walk along rough trails, Lincoln High School student Jake Junior Tei and his twin brother Lucky Joe Tei finally reached the scene they had seen in "The Karate Kid," a film released in 2010, when they arrived at Wudang Mountain in central China's Hubei Province.

"I love kung fu movies and have watched Yip Man many times. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Donnie Yen are my top three favorite kung fu stars," Jake Junior said.

The brothers felt deep and keen desire for this trip, which was aimed at seeing and attempting real Chinese martial arts. In a green valley with luxuriant vegetation, they finally met their master, who was waiting to teach them the art of tai chi.

"This is so amazing! We had to endure a long slog to be here for tai chi, and now it turns out that all this was worth it!" Jake Junior exclaimed.

What the Tei brothers did not know then was that a big surprise was still ahead of them -- they would later end up having closer contact with Bruce Lee in the city of Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong province.

Retaining its exterior and furniture, the former residence of Bruce Lee's family on the old street of Yongqing Square in Guangzhou has been turned into a museum to commemorate the legendary martial artist.

"Seeing all these old photos and stuff is like walking into a movie. It's interesting to learn more about Bruce Lee and his family, and I also found Yip Man in photos," Jake Junior said as he showed his friends pictures he took inside the museum.

As their stay in Guangzhou drew to a close, the US teenagers felt reluctant to depart. During their visit to Shenzhen, another city in Guangdong province, the US students met and sang songs together with Chinese students at the High School of Shenzhen Nanshan Foreign Language School (Group) -- turning the venue into an ocean of friendship.

"Friendship! The biggest gain in China is definitely friendship. I have met many Chinese friends and I think we will definitely keep in touch," Jake Junior said excitedly. "It's wonderful to gather around and sing together. I realized at that moment that we had so much in common," he added.

After studying martial arts in China and making friends with Chinese students the same age as him, Jake Junior came to understand how to cultivate virtue and make friends with martial arts, as he was taught at CUPES.

Through such shared experiences, the Chinese and US high school students got to join hands and plant a friendship forest in Qianhai Bay in Shenzhen.

"Maybe I'll come back in future and I hope the friendship thrives," said Kelpman after planting the seeds and watering the saplings of friendship.

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