Behind the fists of fury, there are holistic health benefits to Chinese martial arts, says Daniel Xuan who teaches the art of Wing Chun in Muskoka. (Submitted photo)
Bracebridge’s newest martial arts instructor says there’s more to his craft than just fighting.
Since arriving in Muskoka several months ago, kung fu instructor Daniel Xuan has been working to share his knowledge of wing chun – the martial art made famous by Bruce Lee – with the people of Muskoka. Though wing chun teaches self-defense, Xuan says many traditional Chinese martial arts also place a heavy emphasis on healthy living.
“A good martial art is holistic. It must contain health benefits – physical and mental, and self-defense properties,” he said.
Traditionally, Xuan said students of traditional Chinese martial arts had to study medicine before being taught combative techniques. In traditional Chinese medicine, Xuan said fitness was associated not only with physique, but also with healthy mind and organ function.
“It wasn’t how well you looked physically, but how well your immune system worked against environmental, physical and mental abuses,” he said. “Consequently, this outlook was adapted by the founders of martial arts. The arts were built with health, vitality and longevity in mind.”
Xuan learned wing chun from Yip Man, the master who trained a number of high-profile martial artists, including Bruce Lee. Since moving to Muskoka, Xuan said the local community has welcomed him with open arms. The laidback lifestyle of the region, he said, has also increased the allure of learning the art here.
“One of the goals or characteristics aimed for the student is to develop a calm and tranquil mind,” he said. “With clean air and water in Muskoka, the mind is already in a calmer state than in large cities full of pollution and aggression.”
Having established a niche market in Muskoka, he offers his training to students aged 10 to 59 through partnerships with Bracebridge gyms Nautilus North, owned by John Little, and Snap Fitness, owned by Sandy Long.
“One of my students, who had taken wing chun in Toronto previously, can’t thank me enough every day for bringing myself to Bracebridge,” said Xuan. “He used to drive to Toronto three times a week for five years to learn the art. He can’t believe I landed a stone’s throw away from his house.”
A unique aspect of wing chun is that it was an art designed by women, though it is widely practiced by both genders. Xuan says the art can also represent empowerment.
“What can be more unique than a female martial art?” he said. “What would better represent a martial art that sells the concept of (the) small overpowering the large than a woman against a man?”
Though Xuan said there are no western scientific studies done which show the health benefits of Chinese martial arts, he said there is agreement within the Chinese medical and martial arts community that health benefits do exist.
“I’m a living proof of wing chun’s health benefits,” he said. “I’m 61 years old, and I spar and overpower men half my age and nearly twice my size.”