Emei Kung Fu Girls aim to showcase the charm of Chinese martial arts to the world
A fusion of grace and power
Published: Jun 17, 2024 09:58 PM
Eight members of the Emei Kung Fu Girls group train with the Emei piercers Photo: Courtesy of the Emei Kung Fu Girls group

Eight members of the Emei Kung Fu Girls group train with the Emei piercers Photo: Courtesy of the Emei Kung Fu Girls group

In multiple novels written by Chinese ­martial arts novelist Jin Yong, there is an Emei Sect which is known for its almost all-female disciples who are skilled in an array of unique martial arts techniques. The sect is said to reside on Mount Emei in Southwest China's Sichuan Province. 

Nowadays, the Emei Kung Fu Girls group has emerged as one of the hottest girl groups in China. Like the description in Jin's novels, they are all female and can perform various Emei kung fu techniques.

In 2008, Emei martial arts, with a history spanning over three millennia, were designated a National Intangible Cultural Heritage.

In late April 2024, a video went ­viral online featuring nine girls ­wearing coordinated green uniforms, performing various Emei kung fu techniques against the backdrop of various locations on the Mount Emei, blending the legendary allure of the Emei Sect with real-life martial ­prowess.

"Unlike the dramatized versions of Emei kung fu in TV shows, which ­focus on legends, our practice is rooted in the practical skills and traditions of Emei martial arts," said Chen Yufei, 23, one of the group members. She is skilled in Emei martial arts, double whips, swords and staves.

Photo: Courtesy of the Emei Kung Fu Girls group

Photo: Courtesy of the Emei Kung Fu Girls group

"As the first all-female martial arts group in China, we want to transcend the conventional idol group image and inspire more young people to embrace traditional Chinese culture through our efforts and influence," Ling Yun, one of the co-founders of the group, told the Global Times.

A millennia-old art

Originating from the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC), Emei kung fu has a history of about 3,000 years old. 

According to information about Emei martial arts on the website of the government of Emeishan city, there are currently 68 styles and schools, 1,093 bare-hand routines, 518 weapon routines, 41 pair practice routines, and 276 training methods associated with Emei martial arts. 

Among the various weapons, the Emei piercer is particularly notable. It is said that the Emei piercer evolved from women's hairpins, Chen told the Global Times.

"The use and performance of the Emei piercers showcase a unique fusion of feminine grace and power. We are currently training daily with Emei piercers, swords, spears, and fists," said Chen.

According to Chen, the group's daily training regimen includes two hours of basic physical training each morning, followed by practicing martial arts fundamentals and Emei-specific techniques. 

Besides martial arts, they also have specialized training, such as wirework for performances. They also take acting, street dance, and traditional culture classes.

"We hope that in the future, we can excel not only in kung fu but also in other aspects, aiming toward being well-rounded in both culture and martial arts," said 20-year-old team member Li Nuofei in an interview with the Global Times. 

Photo: Courtesy of the Emei Kung Fu Girls group

Photo: Courtesy of the Emei Kung Fu Girls group

Apart from martial arts, Li is also skilled in both ethnic and contemporary dances.

Forming the group was initially challenging, particularly in finding members with solid martial arts backgrounds and strong teamwork skills, team leader Li Jieyu told the Global Times. "The current team was established after several rounds of selection and training.''

Ling, who boasts 22 years of martial arts experience, is a national representative inheritor of Emei martial arts. At 26, she is the visionary driving the group's mission to engage more young people with traditional Chinese culture. 

"We want Emei martial arts to thrive in contemporary times," said Ling.

Videos of the group's performances on social media have inspired many viewers to express their interests in learning and practicing Emei martial arts. 

On May 11, former Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin shared a training video of the group on Facebook, saying "Heroines out of Chinese martial arts novels! See how Emei kung fu girls present stunning moves," which sparked widespread excitement among the team members. 

A cultural ambassador 

Ling finds these responses both "gratifying" and "motivating." For those who have an interest in Emei kung fu, she advises aspiring practitioners "to be persistent" and "to seek formal training from reputable schools or masters."

"Wherever you are, as long as you have a passion for martial arts in your heart, you can start your martial arts journey. The doors to Emei martial arts are always open to those who love it," she said.

"I hope everyone can find their own joy and value in the process of learning and practicing, and together, carry forward and promote this precious cultural heritage," Ling noted.

Ling told the Global Times that she has another broad vision - "enhancing women's status and influence in the martial arts world."

"Martial arts are not solely for men. We will demonstrate through our actions that women can also excel in this field and encourage more women to engage in martial arts and break gender barriers," Ling noted.

Looking ahead, the group plans to explore how to transform itself as a cultural ambassador of Chinese martial arts to the world, promoting Chinese martial arts globally and enhancing international cultural exchanges. For example, in July, the group will perform in Paris, France, integrating content related to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"We believe that with the collective efforts of all our members, the Emei Kung Fu Girls group will continue to grow and thrive through inheritance and innovation, contributing to the prosperity and development of ­Chinese martial arts," says team leader Li Jieyu.