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Chinese Bullfighters Bring Martial Arts to Their Sport

2018-12-30

Several times a week, Ren Ruzhi battles an opponent that is five times his weight and strong enough to kill him. He is skilled in fighting bulls, animals known for their aggressive behavior.

Ren teaches the Chinese martial art of kung fu. The 24-year-old’s mixing of martial arts and bullfighting worries his mother. But Ren has never been hurt. And, he says, battling the bull makes him feel energized.

“It symbolizes the bravery of a man,” Ren told the Reuters news agency in the city of Jiaxing, China.

Bullfighting may be more famous in Spain, where it is usually very bloody. But the Chinese form of bullfighting is less violent. Instead it combines moves from the sport of wrestling with the skill and speed of kung fu to bring down animals weighing up to 400 kilograms.

“Spanish bullfighting is more like a performance or a show,” said 41-year-old Hua Yang. Hua watched a bullfight during a visit to Spain.

The Chinese form is truly a contest pitting a human’s strength against a bull. “There are a lot of skills involved and it can be dangerous,” he added.

Bullfighter Ren Ruzhi, 24, fights with a bull during a practice session at the Haihua Kung-fu School in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China October 27, 2018. Picture taken October 27, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song
Bullfighter Ren Ruzhi, 24, fights with a bull during a practice session at the Haihua Kung-fu School in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China October 27, 2018. Picture taken October 27, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

Han Haihua, a former wrestler, teaches bullfighters at his Haihua Kung fu School in Jiaxing. Han said the physically demanding sport requires fighters to train intensively and they usually have short careers.

Han described the form of bullfighting he teaches as the explosive power of hard ‘qigong’, saying it combines the skill and speed of martial arts with traditional wrestling moves.

Usually, a fighter faces the bull directly, seizes its horns and turns its head until the bull falls over.

If the first fighter gets tired, another one can take his place fighting the bull. But they have just three minutes in which to wrestle the animal to the ground or they lose the event.

The bulls, too, are trained before they go into battle, Han said. They learn how to spread their legs or find a place to stand against being taken down.

A bull can also think like a human, they are intelligent, Han added. He said that his bulls get better treatment than the animals involved in the Spanish sport. But animal rights activists believe Chinese bullfighting is still painful for the animals.

Layli Li is with the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She says it is undeniable that the bulls experience pain in Chinese bullfighting.

“As long as it exists, that means there is suffering,” she added.

I’m Pete Musto.

Xihao Jiang and Martin Quin Pollard reported this story for Reuters. Pete Musto adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. What do you think of the treatment of bulls in this sport? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.

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Words in This Story

aggressiveadj. ready and willing to fight or argue

martial artn. any one of several forms of fighting and self-defense, such as karate and judo, that are widely practiced as sports

symbolize(s) – v. to be an action, object or event that expresses or represents a particular idea or quality

wrestlingn. a sport in which two people try to throw, force, or pin each other to the ground

pit(ting) (a human’s strength) againstp.v. to cause someone or something to fight or compete against another person or thing)

horn(s) – n. one of the hard pointed parts that grows on the head of some animals