Journal of Combative Sport, February 2000

Wushu: Chinese Girl Athletes, Form and Fascination

From the North-China Herald, May 8, 1920, 342-343.

"During the first month we girls took to physical culture, we felt as if we were as stiff as dried bamboos and could not move."

Such was the opinion of a young member of the Ladies' Department of the Chin Wu Athletic Association [in Shanghai].

The formal inauguration of this Department was held at the Young Men's Christian Association on Saturday afternoon and a very enjoyable programme was performed. About 80 girls took part in the exhibitions. Mr. S.S. Chow, English Secretary of the Club, presided over the gathering. More than 800 visitors were present.

It was extraordinarily fascinating to see these young girls come out and deliver addresses and give exhibitions of boxing. It showed that the girls of to-day are indeed different from the girls of twenty years ago. In those days few girls dared to show their faces in public. But nowadays…! The united dancing drill by three entire schools was excellent. The girls were thoroughly trained and the instructors deserve all the praise for the smart work the girls showed. One learns that the girls met on two occasions only to go through their practice together. To show that foreign drill and calisthenics are not neglected, there were also exhibitions of both these, to the great credit of the girls.

The Chinese boxing, however, was the feature of the day. Girls whose ages ranged from six to 30 took part in the display. With fists, feet, knives, swords, chains, clubs, staves, and what-not, they attacked each other with the fury of men in actual battle. As in all exhibitions of Chinese boxing, the girls showed that they knew how to use their feet -- and use them well. They kicked their dainty little feet over their heads in such a manner as would put foreign dancers to shame. They did somersaults on the floor and in the air quite as well as any of the menfolk. "Turning the wind" jump and the "double kick" were exhibited with much grace and neatness. When two of the girls got together in a wrestling match, they went at it heart and soul. They were in some respects superior to the men. They fought in the same manner as the men and chopped "with the same strength of nine."

"What methods of physical culture do you use most?" a representative of the "North-China Daily News" asked a member of the Club. "We put Chinese Kung-fu or boxing first," was the immediate reply.

"How did you feel after taking exercise?" -- "During the first month we girls took to physical culture we felt as if we were as stiff as bamboos and could not move. Instead of remaining stiff and weak as we were before taking exercise we gradually began to grow strong, muscular, less fat, more active, and in all we found that we were more efficient. We could eat more and sleep more soundly. We can study harder, and can work for 15 or 16 hours a day without feeling the least tired. Don't you think that proves the exercise is beneficial to us?"

"And another thing," the speaker added rather shyly, "we find that we are prettier and our beauty increases as time goes on. We do not have to suffer growing old. Our bodily form and our style of walking or sitting are much improved."

"As I have just said, we emphasize Chinese boxing, from the smallest to the oldest or strongest. We can play football as well as any of you men."

"Yes, it is stiff in the beginning and no real progress can actually be made until after a year or so."

"Why do you like Chinese boxing?" -- "Because we find that in using the Chinese methods of boxing and the old-fashioned Chinese swords and other implements of warfare, every one of our muscles is brought into force."

"Do you have any forms of foreign exercise?" -- "Yes. We play tennis, volleyball, basketball, rings, and other sorts of foreign gymnastics and games. Of course, you must understand that while we put Chinese boxing first, we do not preclude others from playing just as they please. If a girl wishes to play a certain game, she is at liberty to do so. However, we do not have calisthenics in our Club."

The Club has a membership of about 250, and members age range from four years to 40. Half of the membership are schoolgirls while the other half are ladies from various families.

The Chin Woo Club was established a little more than ten years ago in very modest buildings. To-day it owns some 30 mow of land, some of which was presented to the Club. On this land are two buildings at present but it is hoped to build 20 more later on. There is a large football field, a Chinese park which has not yet been completed, and a "model village" will be erected some time next year, where there will be a public library. At present some Tls. 90,000 has been put into the Club.

Modern sanitary applications and baths have been installed, and it is hoped to make the Club as complete in every particular as possible within the next five years.

JCS Feb 2000