Huo Yuanjia

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is 霍 (Huo).
Huo Yuanjia

Huo Yuanjia
Born 1868 AD
Xiaonan Village
Died August 9, 1910 AD (42)
Occupation Martial Artist (Wushu)

Huo Yuanjia (Chinese: 霍元甲; pinyin: Huò Yuánjiǎ) [Cantonese: Fok Yuen Gap] (c.1868-1910[1]) was a Chinese martial artist and co-founder of the Chin Woo Athletic Association, a martial arts school in Shanghai. A practitioner of the martial art Mízōngyì,[2] he is considered a hero in China for challenging foreign fighters in highly publicized matches at a time when Chinese sovereignty was being eroded by foreign concessions and spheres of influence. Due to his heroic status, legends and myths about events in his life are difficult to discern from the facts.


[edit] Biography

[edit] Early life

Huo Yuanjia was born in 1868 in Xiaonan Village in Jinghai County in Tianjin as the fourth child of Huo Endi's ten children. The family's main source of income was from agriculture, but Huo Endi also made a living by escorting merchant caravans to Manchuria and back. Although born to a family of traditional Wushu practitioners, Huo Yuanjia was born with physical deficiencies and susceptible to illness. Thus, Huo Endi encouraged his son to pursue scholarly interests instead of learning Wushu.

Huo Endi hired a tutor named Chen Seng Ho (Chiang Ho) from Japan to teach Huo Yuanjia. In return, Chen learnt the Huo family's style of martial arts, Mízōngyì, from Huo Endi. Huo Yuanjia refused to accept the vocation his father had chosen for him. He observed his father teaching students martial arts secretly from a distance in the day and practiced them secretly at night together with his tutor.

In 1890, a martial artist from Henan Province visited the Huo family and had a fight with Huo Yuanjia's elder brother after witnessing the latter putting on a display of the Huo family's martial arts. Huo's elder brother was defeated and to the surprise of the family, Huo Yuanjia fought with his brother's opponent and defeated him. Since then, Huo Yuanjia was officially accepted by his father as a disciple. Later, Huo Yuanjia went on to challenge martial artists from neighboring lands and his fame grew as he defeated more and more opponents in bouts.

Huo Yuanjia joined his father at work as an escort. Once, while escorting a group of monks, Huo Yuanjia was confronted by an aggressive bandit leader who threatened to attack the monks with his bandit followers. Huo Yuanjia fought with the bandit leader and defeated him. News of his feat spread and added on to his growing fame. In 1896, Huo Yuanjia went to Tianjin and made living there by working as a porter in the Huaiqing pharmacy there and by selling firewood.

[edit] Rise to fame

In 1901, Huo Yuanjia responded to a challenge advertised by a wrestler from Russia in Xiyuan Park, Tianjin. The wrestler openly called the Chinese "Sick men of the East" as no one accepted his challenge to a fight. The Russian forfeited when Huo Yuanjia accepted his challenge. The Russian told Huo that he was merely putting on a performance in order to make a living and made an apology for his earlier remark in the newspaper.

Between 1909 and 1910, Huo Yuanjia traveled to Shanghai twice to accept an open challenge posed by a British boxer Hercules O'Brien. The two of them had arguments over the rules governing such boxing matches and eventually agreed that whoever knocked down his opponent would be the victor. However, O'Brien never fought Huo,[3] opting to leave town instead.[4]

[edit] Chin Woo Athletic Association

Between 1909 and 1910,[citation needed] Huo Yuanjia founded the Chin Woo Physical Training Center (later known as Chin Woo Athletic Association) with his close friend Nong Jinsun as president of the association.[5] Huo Yuanjia was encouraged by close friends and sponsored by Sun Yat-sen and Song Jiaoren from Tokyo, Japan. The training centre was meant to be a school for learning the art of self-defense, improvement of health and mind, and the building of national loyalty. Since then, Wushu gradually grew to become a sport as it is today.

Huo Yuanjia's suffered from jaundice and now tuberculosis and started seeing a Japanese doctor for medication and treatment. The doctor who was a member of the Japanese Judo Association, based in Shanghai invited him to a competition upon hearing of his fame. Huo Yuanjia's student Liu Zhengsheng competed with a Judo practitioner. Although there were disputes over who won the match, both sides generally agreed that the disagreement culminated in a brawl and ten members of the Judo team were injured, some with broken fingers and hands, including the head instructor.[citation needed]

[edit] Death

Huo Yuanjia died on August 9, 1910 at 42 years of age from arsenic poisoning. Some accuse the Japanese of being responsible while others speculate that the European colonists may have been responsible.[citation needed]

In 1989, the tomb of Huo Yuanjia and his wife was relocated. Black spots were discovered in the pelvic bones, in which Tianjin Municipality Police Laboratory confirmed that they contained arsenic.[citation needed] Consequently, it is difficult to ascertain whether his death was caused by malicious poisoning or wrong prescription of medicine. This was because arsenic trioxide has been used therapeutically for approximately 2,400 years as a part of Chinese medicine.

Historian Chen Gongzhe, who was also one of Huo's students, believed that the cause of his teacher's death was hemoptysis disease. Chen wrote that as Huo Yuanjia was introduced to a Japanese doctor by the Judo instructor as his health declined. The doctor prescribed some medicine for his condition, but Huo Yuanjia's health continued to deteriorate. Huo was admitted to Shanghai Red Cross Hospital where he died two weeks later. Although Chen Gongzhe did not mention that the medicine prescribed by the Japanese doctor contained arsenic or any other poison, some leaders of the Chin Woo Athletic Association speculate that Huo was poisoned around the time of his death.

[edit] Legacy and expansion of Chin Woo

Huo Yuanjia died only months after helping to fund the Chin Woo Athletic Association. Before his death, he invited Zhao Lianhe of Shaolin Mizong Style to teach in Chin Woo and Zhao agreed. Subsequently, other a number of martial arts masters agreed to teach at the school. They included Eagle Claw master Chen Zizheng, Seven Star Praying Mantis master Luo Guangyu, Xingyi master Geng Xiaguang, and Wu Chien Chuan, the founder of Wu style Taijiquan. In June 1910, the Eastern Times announced the establishment of this association in the name of Huo Yuanjia. It was the first civil Kung Fu organization in China that was not associated with a particular school or style.

During the Japanese sphere of influence, the Twenty-One Demands sent to the Chinese government resulted in two treaties with Japan on May 25, 1915. This separated the Manchurian ruling class from exercising control over the Han Chinese. Huo Yuanjia's students purchased a new building as headquarters for the organisation and renamed it Chin Woo Athletic Association. Re-organization, publications of books and magazines, and new styles of martial arts other than what Huo taught, were accepted under the mantle of the new association. In 1918, Chin Woo opened a branch at Nathan Road in Hong Kong.

In July 1919, the Chin Woo Association sent five representatives to Southeast Asia to perform a missionary program to expand activities overseas. They were Chen Gongzhe, Li Huisheng, Luo Xiaoao, Chen Shizhao and Ye Shutian. They made their first stop in Saigon, Vietnam where they opened the first Chin Woo school outside of China. Later, they opened schools in Malaysia and Singapore as well. By 1923, these five masters had opened schools all over Southeast Asia and visited nine different countries.

In 1966, Shanghai's Chin Woo school was forced to discontinue its activities due to the Cultural Revolution, whose goal was to destroy old ideas, culture, customs in order to modernize China. Those restrictions were later lifted in 1976 and activities were continued in Shanghai Chin Woo.

Currently, Chin Woo is one of the largest Wushu organizations in the world with branches in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Poland, Canada, UK, U.S., Australia, and Switzerland.

Huo Yuanjia was survived by three sons and two daughters, and now has seven grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.

[edit] Huo Yuanjia in popular culture

[edit] TV series adaptations

[edit] Film adaptations

  • The 1982 Chinese film Legend of a Fighter has often been cited as the first film to feature the character Huo Yuanjia.
  • The films Fist of Fury (1972) and its remake Fist of Legend (1994) are fictionalized accounts of the events following his death. The main character in all of these films is based upon a student of Huo Yuanjia named Chen Zhen, who was portrayed by Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury, and Jet Li in Fist of Legend.[6]

[edit] Others

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ states that the wu shu association was founded on July 7, 1910. An interview with Huo Yuanjia's great-grandson states that he died about 70 days after the Jingwu school was founded. states August 1909 as the date of death.
  2. ^ Draeger, Donn F.; Smith, Robert W. (1980) [1969]. Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. Tokyo: Kodansha International. p. 23. ISBN 0-87011-436-0. 
  3. ^ Moore, Roger. (September 22, 2006) Orlando Sentinel Li jets out of action genre by playing a generic hero. Section: Calendar; Page 14. (Quote: Aussie strongman Nathan Jones "plays Euro-strongman Hercules O'Brien here, a real-life fighter who was supposed to fight Huo but never did.")
  4. ^ Chester, Rodney. (August 26, 2006) The Courier-Mail Tweaking the artistic truth. Section: etc1 - First with the news; M04. (Quote, "In reality, big bad O'Brien left town when Huo challenged him to a fight. Likewise, a Russian fighter had a change of heart when Huo challenged him for calling Asian men weak. The Russian opted for a public apology instead of a public brawl.")
  5. ^ Historic involvement of the Tongmenghui as helping start the first Chin Woo center.
  6. ^ Huo Yuan-Jia (1982) at the Internet Movie Database

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

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