My name is Jarek Szymanski. I became interested in martial arts in early 1980s - I was a teenager at that time and everything happened in a very typical way - I saw several kungfu movies and got very impressed by incredible feats of undefeated masters who - only with their fists and legs - could destroy crowds of opponents. I already had some background in judo and ju-jutsu, but kungfu was something much more appealing. Since there were no kungfu instructors in my area at that time, I decided to start with karate which I practiced until mid-1980s. I learnt the meaning of "eat bitter" and took part in several fighting competitions. Later a kungfu instructor began to come to my hometown for weekly seminars. He taught many styles and we had a lot of fun learning, but there was almost no stress on practical aspects of the movements, applications or fighting. After some time I decided to check a teacher living in another town who taught Seven Star Praying Mantis Boxing. I found the group very dedicated and teachings being very down-to-earth and practical. I continued my studies of the style until 1990.

In 1988 while completing studies in electric engineering I learnt from a friend that a sinology department was opened at the local university. That was a chance I could not miss. I applied and through a series of coincidences started my Chinese studies.

1990 was crucial year for me. The university sent me for one year language training to Beijing Language Institute. The stay originally scheduled for one year became an adventure that has been lasting for twelve years already and will hopefully continue.

I spent four years in Beijing studying the language, history, geography, culture of China while at the same time learning martial arts. Since I was always afraid that I would have to go back home anytime, the idea was to learn as much as possible to have material to practice on my own when back home. I studied Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang as well as some Yi Quan. Fortunately I was lucky to be taught by teachers who stressed basics a lot and were often reluctant to teach more unless the student got the basics correct.

In 1993 I graduated from Beijing Language Institute (at that time the school changed its name into Beijing Language and Culture University) and in 1994 I moved to Shanghai where I have been living with my family since then. Having a job allowed me to look at my martial arts practice from another perspective. I was not in a hurry to learn as much as possible anymore, I decided to focus my efforts on chosen styles and methods. I continued my Baguazhang studies while at the same time spending more and more time on learning Xinyiquan, both Henan and Dai family branches.

Starting from 1991 I have been traveling extensively around China, first for fun, then taking part in martial arts festivals which from early 1990s became important meeting places for teachers and practitioners. I've met many famous  and not so famous - but often very skilful - internal martial arts experts here; conducted interviews with them, collected martial arts related materials. I realized how important it was after some of them passed away, leaving often no skilful students, and often the photos and videos I took became the only documentation of their style. There is another side of my travels - they often take me to some really remote places never visited by foreigners. I'm happy to meet people living there, people that I would never run across otherwise. It's a great opportunity not only to research martial arts, but also to learn about the country and its people.

This site was created to present some material that is often not accessible to martial arts practitioners in the West. I will continue to translate excerpts from more interesting - in my opinion - martial arts books as well as articles published in China. I will also publish own texts based on my research, interviews with Chinese experts of internal arts, etc. While the site is not a commercial venture, I'm selling books and video materials (VCDs and DVDs) released in Mainland China. In many cases they are not easily available in the West but offer quality material of high instructional value. I'm also looking forward to receiving your comments and suggestions - please visit the Contact Me page if you want to write to me.

I hope you will find this site interesting and visit it often!

Jarek Szymanski

Shanghai, China

 


I'm receiving many letters in which visitors not only ask me about learning and practicing martial arts in China, but also about living here, in the country that has been closed for so long and has culture so different from the Western one. Jim Counsilman, writer and a good friend of mine who spent many years in Shanghai, wrote a novel - "Journey into a Far Country" - in which he describes Chinese society, its bright and dark sides, as seen by a foreigner living in China. Martial arts (Jim was practicing Xinyi Liuhe Quan in China) are important part of the book and you can even find a character based on my person in there...:) However do not forget that after all it is just fiction, although based on Jim's life here and some situations described there have really happened.

Journey into a Far Country - available through Gadfly Books

Click Here


 

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