INDEPENDENCE — In the Central High School gym, students move together — well, nearly altogether — on command.
One, two, three.
They are following directions from a sixth-generation Chinese martial arts Shun- style master, Hu Fang.
“I was born in a Wushu family,” Fang, 34, said. “I am sixth generation of the family style. Our family has our own style, Shun-style boxing.”
Fang is a visiting scholar at Western Oregon University. WOU and the university she works at in China, Chengdu University of Information Technology, have an agreement that allows her to come here to work.
Hu Fang helps Richard Leos perfect a pose used in a Chinese martial arts routine. Leos, a senior, and classmates at Central High are learning long-style boxing.
She is from Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, and arrived in the United States on Jan. 10. She returned this fall to teach classes at both WOU and Central.
Fang teaches different Chinese martial arts styles at the university and at the high school, specially tailored for the age groups.
“The long-style boxing is just for the kids,” she explained. “It is faster and more suitable for the kids. It is powerful, faster.”
The students love it.
“It’s great that we’re learning how to do the different things,” said Tianna Wilson, a junior at Central High. “I think most of what we’re learning is the defense routines.”
The taiji style, taught at the university, is more beneficial to overall health, Fang said.
“It can rebuild the recycling of the body, and it can make the chi and blood (delivery more smoothly),” she said. “It can make them (taiji practitioners) more happy, and it can help them to protect the joints.”
Taiji is Fang’s favorite form of Chinese martial arts.
“First, (taiji) can rebuild our health,” she said. “Second, it can give me more wisdom, and I can keep the balance with nature.”
Another factor in teaching the high school kids a faster-paced martial arts style is the timing of the class. The high school class begins at 8 a.m. — the first class of the day.
“Everyone is sleepy,” Fang said, “so I feel if we’re practicing slowly, everyone will fall asleep.”
The teenagers seem to like the class, she said.
“You can see they are practicing hard, and they are happy and they are asking me some questions,” Fang said.
She stresses safety to her students, particularly the high school kids.
“Of course they are kids,” Fang said. “I must make sure they are practicing the applications during class, … and that they take care. No practicing outside.”
Kashmir Russell, also a Central junior, admits they practice outside of class.
“We’re not supposed to,” Wilson said, “because she (Fang) says it’s dangerous.”
Students practice their routine, which is more like a dance, and the applications, which is more for fighting, Fang said.
She also notices differences between American and Chinese students.
“American students work hard,” Fang said. “If they are interested, they work hard.”
Chinese students don’t show as much interest in sports, she said.
“Not so many children like it because they are very tired,” Fang said. “I think maybe in China, we have a large quantity of human beings, so they have the high pressure to start work so they do not have the time to enjoy their interests. I think the kids here are lucky. They can follow their interests.”
Overall, Fang said her main purpose in teaching Chinese martial arts – whether in China or America – is to help students learn how to deal with life.
“Let them be happy, encourage them, (help them learn not to) be afraid of the pressure, and they can deal with more difficulties,” she said. “I’m not (just) a teacher of Chinese martial arts, but also a psychologist.”
WOU prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national or ethnic origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in all programs, activities and employment practices as required by Title IX, other applicable laws, and policies. Retaliation is prohibited by WOU.