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Martial arts growth needs Chinese expertise

05-30-2011 14:42 BJT

VANCOUVER, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Chinese martial arts experts are being encouraged to come to North America and pass on their knowledge to help develop the increasingly popular sport.

Speaking at the 32nd annual Can-Am International Championship for martial arts Sunday in the Vancouver-suburb city of Richmond, event organizer Ken Low said martial arts participation was currently booming because of the popularity of mixed martial arts - or MMA.

With the sport a combination of Muay Thai kicking boxing, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, wrestling and boxing with a bit of judo thrown in, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest of the MMA promotion companies, regularly sells out its live cards - currently at 130 events and counting - with millions more watching in around the world via pay-per-view.

The nearly-anything-goes fights, which have been dubbed blood sport by some, have struck a chord with fans, mainly young men, making millions for the UFC promoters, and those on some of the other circuits.

With about 700 athletes participating in his annual championship, Low, himself a ninth degree martial artist master, isn't in on the MMA financial windfall - but he is seeing an increased number of students coming to his classes.

"It's moving from a sports arena and closer and closer to actual combat. MMA means mixed martial arts so in a sense we can stand, kick and punch. And when we grapple, there's no referee to separate you," said the Hong Kong immigrant.

"It is because of the sheer popularity of the MMA, or the more extreme is UFC, it opens up an arena where a lot of martial artists before have trained only in above-ground techniques, stand-up techniques, kick and punch. Now everybody is kind of training at how to protect themselves once they are grabbed, once they are rolled on the floor - what do they do."

Low originally started the championship with the goal to bring all the martial arts under one roof. At the Richmond Olympic Oval where the event was being staged, the various rings featured bouts in karate, kung fu, taekwondo, wushu, tai chi, kenpo, kickboxing (Muay Thai), shanshou, pankration and jiu-jitsu.

While the majority of the participants had come from Vancouver, around Canada and the United States, for a second year a Chinese group was in attendance in a wushu delegation from Zhejiang province.

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