Chinese Martial Arts With an Islamic Twist – Meet Hui Grand Masters Ma Xianda and Wang Zi-Ping

The Chinese culture is one of the oldest cultures in the world with an extensive and varied tradition. An indispensable part of the culture, which has been developed over the centuries, is Chinese martial arts. Chinese martial arts, or also known as Wu Shu and Kung Fu, include hundreds of fighting styles. Each of them were inspired by different Chinese religions, philosophies and legends.

One of the traditional philosophies is to harmonize the internal and external energy and to achieve a physical and spiritual perfection. The Hui family, which is the Chinese Muslim ethnic group, got inspired by the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad in which he said: “The strong man is not the good wrestler; the strong man is only the one who controls himself when he is angry.”

The Hui members got encouraged to create a fusion between the Islamic belief and the Chinese tradition, the Hui martial arts. New grand masters were born and it will not take long until they reach the highest level of Wu shu. Here are two examples of Hui grand masters who are more than impressive.

Ma Xianda

One of them is the Muslim Grandmaster Ma Xianda. Ma Xianda was born in 1932 in Hebei province, China. He belongs to the sixth generation of a prominent Hui family of martial artists and to a handful masters that has reached the highest level in Chinese martial arts, that is the 9th Duan. He was one of the first and youngest at the time to receive this rank. His father and uncle started to train him at the age of five. Grandmaster Ma learned many traditional Wu Shu styles and studied boxing, Mongolian wrestling (Shuaj Jian) and fencing.

It is estimated that he taught around 10,000 students during his career, including Zhao Chanjun and Jet Li. In 1980 he became the martial arts coach and the chief choreographer for the movie The Shaolin Temple” starring Jet Li. On top of that, more than twenty students of him earned the title of Wu Ying, ‘Martial Hero’. This is a title awarded to athletes who have placed more than once in the top three positions in China’s national championship. Both of his sons are national champions as well. It is more like a family legacy.

Wang Zi-Ping

Another Muslim Grandmaster that should be mentioned is Wang Zi-Ping. He was born in 1881 and lived until 1973. During his life he has revived the title “Lion of Chinese Kung Fu”. Even though both his father and grandfather were famous martial artists. They refused to teach Zi-Ping. They did not want him to experience the suffer they had to go through. Wang Zi-Ping on the other hand was passionate about it and started to train on his own when he was seven years old.

He made the decision to travel around the country. During his trip he was chosen to train under the Wu Shu master Yang Hong Xiu. Many dared to challenge him in a fight but he stayed undefeated.  German workers, a group of Judo players and an American named Sullivan could not win over him. After the 1949 revolution he was respected as a hero and was appointed as Deputy to Shanghai’s Multicipal People’s Congress, Vice-President of National Wh Shu Association and as a member of the All-China Sports Federation.

Ma Xianda and Wang Zi-Ping are only two examples of a long list of Muslim Grandmasters and another example of how Muslims took part in way more aspects of life than you might think. Many martial artist around the world do not only admire them, they are an inspiration and motivation for them. These Grandmaster’s influences will be never forgotten.