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 rather typical way for the times back then - I saw several kungfu movies and was 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 Chinese kungfu was something much more exotic, secretful and appealing. Since there were no Chinese martial arts instructors in my area at that time, I decided to begin with karate which I practiced until mid-1980s. I soon 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 focus on practical aspects of the movements, applications or fighting. After some time I decided to visit a teacher living in another town who taught Seven Star Praying Mantis Boxing. I found the group of students very dedicated and instructions 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 had just been established 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 a crucial year for me. The university sent me for a one year language training to the Middle Kingdom and the famous Beijing Language Institute. The stay originally scheduled for one year became an adventure that has lasted forthirty years already.

I spent four years in Beijing learning the language, history, geography, culture of China while at the same time studying martial arts. Since the time in China was limited and precious the idea was to take the best of the opportunity and learn as much as possible - and to have enough material to practice on my own after return  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 Institute was upgraded to the status of the university and 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. With time I realized it is not the system that matters the most, but the person behind it - both the diligent student and qualified teacher.

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 to my travels - they often take me to some remote places, either unknown or without much to offer to a casual tourist - and hence 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 contact me.

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

Jarek Szymanski

Shanghai, China - Poznan, Poland

Back in 2018 Jon Nicklin (a fellow Internal Martial Arts researcher and practitioner, as well as the man behind the extremely informative website "Masters of the IMA") and I had a series of long conversations about my life in China, travels, research, studies, of course focusing on martial arts. Jon kindly edited them and published on his site here.

I'm receiving many letters in which visitors not only ask 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 are important part of the book and you can even find a character based on my humble self in there...:) Jim has also self-published a book documenting his martial arts practice of a rare system of Henan Xinyi Liuhe Quan under late Master Li Zunsi, one of the most prominent experts of the system. The title of the book is "Ten Animals Kungfu" and I'm very grateful to Jim for writing and publishing it.

Journey Into a Far Country

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