A sport which is a hybrid between bullfighting and martial arts is becoming increasingly popular in China. The bullfighters use the movements of kung fu to shoot down a bull.
Many of the fighters have to train intensively and usually have short-term careers in sports.
Although Chinese bullfighters believe that their sport is less harmful to bulls than Spanish bullfights, some activists of the rights of the bulls animals They say that this sport can still be harmful and cruel.
Martial arts and bullfighting combined to create a unique spectacle
Several times a week, kung fu master Ren Ruzhi enters a ring to train with a bovine opponent who exceeds five times his weight and is capable of killing him from one moment to the next.
The mix of martial arts with the bullfights that Ren practices worries his mother, but the 24-year-old fighter has never been hurt. Also, he says, dealing with a snorting bull is exciting.
The fight "Symbolizes the courage of a man," said Ren in Jiaxing, in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.
Differences between Spanish and Chinese bullfighting
Unlike the most famous sport in Spain, the Chinese variant of bullfighting does not involve swords or blood, but fuses the movements of martial arts and the speed of kung fu to shoot down beasts weighing up to 400 kg (880 pounds) .
"The Spanish bullfights are more like a performance or a show," said Hua Yang, a 41-year-old enthusiast who watched a bullfight during a visit to Spain.
"This (the Chinese variety) is truly a test that confronts the strength of a human against a bull. There are many skills involved, and it can be dangerous. "
Bullfighter Ren Ruzhi poses in the bull stable of Haihua Kung Fu School in Jiaxing, China, on October 27.
The physically demanding sport requires fighters to train intensively and usually have short races, said Han Haihua, a former professional wrestler who trains bullfighters at his Haihua Kung Fu school in Jiaxing.
Martial arts and bulls, a test for the courage of Chinese men
They call the bullfighting style that teaches "the explosive power of hard qigong" and says that it combines the skill and speed of martial arts with traditional fighting techniques.
Typically, a fighter approaches the bull's head, grabs its horns and turns. The goal is to turn your head until the bull falls.
The martial artist Li Bo, 22, fights with a bull during a Chinese bullfighting performance in Jiaxing, China, on October 27.
"What do I mean by explosive power?" Han asked. "In an instant! Pow! Concentrate all your power in one point. Suddenly, in an instant, hit it on the ground. "
The rules of the fight
If the first fighter tires, another can enter the ring, but they only have three minutes to knock the bull down or lose the fight.
The bulls, too, are trained before entering the ring, Han said. They have to learn how to extend their legs or find a corner to lean against so as not to be knocked down.
"A bull can also think like a human, they are smart," adds Han.
Although he says that his bulls get a better deal than the animals involved in Spanish sport, animal rights activists believe that Chinese bullfighting is still painful for animals and that they are cruel as a form of entertainment.
"In bullfighting in China, we can not deny that bulls experience pain," said Layli Li, a spokeswoman for the animal welfare group PETA. "As long as it exists, that means there will be suffering."
Martial arts and bulls, a story of extraordinary strength and bravery
Within the arena, Ren Ruzhi, 23, struggles with an opponent who exceeds five times his weight: a bull. He holds the two horns of the bull tight, gathers all his strength and suddenly screams loudly, as he knocks the bull down on the ground.
Ren is one of the few fighters of kung fu bulls in China. Practice traditional sport at the Haihua Martial Arts Club in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, Orient China. The fighting of bulls in Jiaxing goes back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), when a group of Hui Muslims entered the eastern city. Each year, during Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice, the Hui fought against bulls before killing them for the festival.
In 1982, Han Haihua, a professional wrestler and a native of Jiaxing of the Hui ethnic group, brought this tradition to a wider audience. Han celebrated the bullfighting during China's traditional ethnic minority sports games that year, which made fighting bulls a recognized sport. Over the years, in his martial arts club, Han, 65, has been training bullfighting fighters and trying to convey this tradition.
But the traditional sport has aroused the concern of animal protectors for the concerns of animal cruelty.
Han Haihua denies the accusation. "Unlike the Spanish bullfights, in which the matador sinks his sword into the bull's heart and kills it, the Chinese bullfight does not use a weapon. Nor is the bull killed after a fight. Each bull can serve three to five years before retiring, "says Han.
Ren says: "We respect the bull as our opponent and before each game, we bow to him to show our respect." He adds that human fighters are much more dangerous than bulls, even breaking their bones and being stabbed by the horns of bulls.
The use of martial arts skills in the fight with the bull
Han said that fighting with a bull requires the basics of kung fu, the flexibility of the fight and the explosive strength of hard qigong. "It's 60 percent strength plus 40 percent skills," Ren said.
This is the reason why apprentices are required to learn kung fu and qigong for two or three years before they can begin to learn to fight against bulls. In addition to kung fu movements, his daily exercises also include pulling vehicles with ropes and hands and turning large tires.
Martial arts, strength and courage
"At first, we were intimidated by the bull. But as we become familiar with them, we're used to it, "Ren said. The martial arts club of Haihua now has around 20 bulls, which are specially selected and trained for the sport.
Han said that when he was young, bulls plowed farmland and were powerful. But since China's agriculture is already more industrialized, bulls are now mainly raised for the beef industry and most bulls no longer have the physical strength and stamina needed for bullfighting.
They look for bulls that grew in rural mountains and were fed natural grass and protein powder. In the school of martial arts they also train the bulls by running them every day.
But even so, the bulls are docile creatures and are not natural fighters. Before each fight fight, a man must chase the bull to make it more energetic.
Throughout the years, the fight of bulls like culture and sport has gained the approval and the support of the local government of Jiaxing, that grants to Han a total subsidy of more than 1 million yuan ($ 144,090) each year to transmit and promote the tradition. However, finding successors for dangerous art is not easy.
Han said he used to have some Hui apprentices, including his own nephew, but when they entered adulthood and had to make a living, they all left. Han had also tried to invite professional wrestlers and kung fu masters from the Shaolin Temple to come to his martial arts club and help convey this tradition. "However, they frown at the thought of having to fight with a bull," said Han.
Han now trains his own apprentices, among whom is Ren. The youngest is only 17 years old. Han pays between 5,000 and 6,000 yuan ($ 725- $ 870) per month.
Han is optimistic about the future of bullfighting. Now he organizes a national bullfighting competition every year, inviting martial arts practitioners and wrestlers from all over the country to challenge their skills in bull fighting. He is also preparing for a dance and martial arts show that presents the fight of bulls as the main point.
The Spanish bullfight essentially differs from the new Chinese sport