Teaching Wushu in Asia as a Foreigner: Interview with Minh D.

Today we continue our interview series with foreigners that not only trained Wushu in Asia but are now instructors there. If you missed our first interview, click here to read it: Interview with Angelica Cukon.

Though it may seem weird to some people that a foreigner can teach Wushu in a place where nationals are usually more versed into it, it is indeed possible, and we want to understand how, with the help of those teachers.

We interview today Minh D, a very skilled and humble traditional Shaolin teacher, who opened his own school in Yokohama (Japan) and teaches both forms and fighting.

Wukong: Hello Minh! The traditional Shaolin crowd I’m sure have heard about you already, but could you please briefly introduce yourself and your experience to our audience?

Minh: My name is Minh. I was born in France and moved to Japan in 2013. I am 35 years old, married with a young son, and work for a multinational insurance company.
I have been practicing Chinese martial arts (or Wushu) for 20 years, and am specialized in Shaolin quan 少林拳 or Shaolin Gong Fu 少林功夫.

Last year I opened a martial arts school in Yokohama, named “Yokohama Shaolin Kung Fu School” and got certified 4th Duan from the All Japan Tai Chi Federation.

We are affiliated with the Fawang Shaolin Temple school, located in Dengfeng China.
My master, Shi Heng Jun 释恒君, 35th Shaolin warrior monk generation, is currently its director since 1995.

Wukong: Why did you go to Japan at first?

Minh: Backed then, I wanted to quit my job in France and live overseas. I had the opportunity to come to Japan with a Working Holiday Visa which grants you with a 1 year permission stay.

Why Japan? … I already had visited many countries before, but I guess none attracted me more than Japan ; maybe because of its culture, its mysteries… (thinking about it, I am not sure to remember why I was so attracted). I stayed a while here and ended up marrying my future wife. So here I am, plus a baby son!

Wukong: How was your first Wushu experience there? What did you feel was different from your home country?

Minh: From what I saw, in my opinion, Wushu is better developed here in terms of organization and infrastructure.

Modern sports Wushu is quite popular among young people, while Taiji Quan attracts older people (not much different than anywhere else you will tell me). Marketing and merchandising works well (apparel, accessories, etc…) and competitions can be quite huge (more than 1500 participants for the national championships).

If you prefer traditional arts, you will also find a large variety of styles and schools in the country.
Japan has a long Wushu History and friendship with China, and its aging population practice like Qigong and Taiji gain more popularity than ever.

Another big difference is that steel weapons are prohibited by the Japanese law. Therefore, you have to train with aluminum swords that tend to be more expensive.

I also find it funny that most people here use the word “Kung Fu” カンフー to designate “Wushu”, which is also the case in most countries. Some athletes here will also say that they practice 武術太極拳 which literally translates into “Martial Arts Taijiquan”.

Wukong: What made you open your Wushu school in Japan?

Minh: My actual Japanese Wushu teacher (Seiji Narusawa 成澤正治) pushed me to do so. There are not many schools that teach traditional Shaolin martial arts, so he told me that it would be a waste not to teach and share my knowledge.

Wukong: How the fact that a foreigner is teaching Wushu was welcomed by the Wushu crowd in Japan?

Minh: I don’t know about the Wushu crowd, and I don’t think that much Japanese even know about me.
However, what I hear from my students is that they like the atmosphere in my school (I am not sure what it means).

Wukong: How did your students feel at first?

Minh: Most of them are beginners.
Even after 1 year, I am still not sure how they feel – and felt the first time they came at my school. I guess that if they decided to stay, it means they enjoy it ; and that is the most important thing for me.
I want them to be happy and gain confidence while training hard.

Wukong: Did you encounter issues as a foreign coach?

Minh: Maybe language and communication issues, especially in Japan.
It would be too long to explain, but I am still working on it, not only as a coach, but also in private and work life.

Wukong: Do you feel legit now compared to other native coachs? If not, why do you think people still sign to your class, and how do you see your future as a coach there?

Minh: To be honest I don’t really care, I just want to share my passion with people, and give them the opportunity to discover the martial arts and culture of Shaolin.
As a coach I still have a lot to learn, as I lack experience. I have a long way to go if I want to help my students as much as I can.

I haven’t met any people thinking that a foreigner teaching here is a weird thing yet. Maybe some people were expecting a shaved head Buddhist monk though, and not a young tattooed guy with earrings.

Wukong: Any other words?

Minh: If you want to teach others, don’t forget the reason why you started doing it, as along the years, you might feel tired and/or disappointed. Reminding yourself why you started can give you more strength. It is even truer nowadays with the crisis the whole world is experiencing.

Discover more about Minh’s Yokohama Shaolin Kung Fu School, or contact him directly through below links:

少林俗家弟子連合会 / 横浜少林武術館
Shaolin Secular Disciples’ Union Yokohama Shaolin Kung Fu School

Interview made by Ghyslain Kuehn

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