Stereotypes about Asian culture might lead you to imagine that everyone on the street will be a martial arts master, patiently waiting to put you into an inescapable grapple hold and wrestle you into submission. However, the reality is far from this exaggerated portrayal. While Chinese martial arts have played a significant role in Chinese and Taiwanese history, they are no longer as prevalent as they once were. Let’s explore the fascinating world of martial arts in Taiwan and see how it has evolved over time.
History of Martial Arts in Taiwan
Taiwan has often served as a safe-haven for old traditions that have been forced out of the mainland, particularly during times of political upheaval. In the face of the communist Cultural Revolution, which aimed to eliminate any connection to religion or spiritual practices, Taiwan became a sanctuary for ancient traditions, including martial arts. However, repressive governments, such as the Chiang-Kai Shek regime, were cautious about allowing a population skilled in hand-to-hand combat, as it could pose a threat. Interestingly, many of the rebellious groups in Chinese history started as seemingly harmless martial arts classes, which is why leaders felt the need to control them.
Martial Arts in Taiwan – Out of Style?
In recent years, martial arts have fallen out of favor in Taiwan, but not because of dictatorship or repression. Traditionally, martial arts were seen as a way to develop character, discipline, and balance in children. However, with Taiwan’s successful economic position, parents have shifted their focus to other activities. Math, English, piano, and swimming classes now take precedence, as Taiwanese parents can afford to place greater emphasis on academic achievements rather than self-defense.
Tae Kwon Do is Popular in Taiwan
Nevertheless, martial arts still have a presence in Taiwan. Tae Kwon Do, originally a Korean invention, is one of the more popular forms of martial arts in the country. If you ever come across a store or shop with a Korean flag logo, it is likely to be a delicious bibimbap stop for Korean cuisine or a Tae Kwon Do dojo. These centers can be found sprinkled throughout Taiwan, with children inside, enthusiastically practicing their moves.
Taiwanese Also Love Tai Chi
The most prevalent form of martial arts in Taiwan, and the one for which it is most famous, is undoubtedly Tai Chi. If you take a leisurely stroll in a park in Taiwan, you will spot dozens of older men methodically manipulating their limbs into different positions. Tai Chi, though slow-moving with little or no actual contact, is practiced by hundreds of people in public parks. One particularly captivating sight is at Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, where hundreds of Taiwanese participate in a morning Tai Chi ritual in the massive open space in front of the building dedicated to Taiwan’s ex-autocrat.
Martial Arts for Foreigners in Taiwan
Curiously, many of the more intense and violent forms of martial arts in Taiwan are being revived by expatriates living here. If you are interested in studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, or any art of systematically taking someone down, chances are you’ll find a class taught by an expatriate who studied with masters in their home country. However, if you’re looking to learn the actual practice of martial arts, you may need to embark on a thorough search as it’s not as widely available in Taiwan. Nevertheless, the history and theory behind martial arts are abundant and can be explored.
Study Mandarin Chinese Instead!
If you were hoping to learn martial arts in Taiwan but find yourself feeling a little down, fret not! Taiwan is one of the best places in the world to enroll in a Mandarin Chinese course. Learning Mandarin Chinese will not only be a valuable skill but also a doorway to understanding Taiwanese culture even better. So, seize the opportunity to immerse yourself in the language of this captivating island.
Ratingperson is your go-to resource for discovering more about Taiwan and its rich cultural heritage.
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