One late afternoon in July, a burst of shouts of practicing Chinese martial arts (Wushu) came out from a primary school and could be heard on a crowded street in Bujumbura, capital of Burundi.
Over 30 Burundian youths wearing training clothes donated by the Chinese embassy in Burundi were doing Chinese martial arts in the school. They were led by Chinese teacher Zhang Xuguang, associate professor of the University of International Business and Economics of China.
Burundian Wushu Federation invited Zhang, who is also the director of Lide Martial Arts Research Center at the university, to Burundi to teach them Chinese martial arts. The training started from July 17 and will last for a month.
During the training, Zhang taught them the basics and actions of Wushu and taught them Tai Chi. Zhang planned to teach some of them a kind of traditional Chinese swordplay sometime to spread the Chinese swordplay in Burundi.
“Some of them are very good at Wushu, they practice Wushu with heart and soul,” said Zhang, adding that their passion for Wushu is beyond his expectation.
In the training, Zhang consciously help the students to have better understanding of Wushu’s connotation.
The head and the founder of Burundian Wushu Federation and Wushu Bujumbura Club Yves Nilrenganya said currently there are 12 Wushu clubs in Burundi, with more than 400 students. These clubs prepare for a national Wushu competition of Burundi each year since 2015, he said, adding that even the first year’s competition attracted 2,000 people to watch.
Nilrenganya started learning Chinese Wushu since 2003 when he was a primary school student in Rwanda. His teacher is a Rwandan, who learned Wushu from a Chinese.
“I learned martial arts for protecting myself and for health. After learning Wushu, I also learned philosophy of peace and know how to live with others,” he said.
In 2008, Nilrenganya returned to Burundi and started spreading Wushu in different areas of Burundi. In 2017, he created Burundian Wushu Federation with support from the Chinese embassy.
“Wushu is a very important game that every Burundi needs to know,” he said. According to him, everyone in Burundi are very excited to see Chinese movies, which include very impressive movements, but people can only see them in film, so he came up with an idea to gather people to do martial arts.
Nilrenganya expected that one day he could represent Burundi to compete in Wushu with people from other countries.
Technician Issa Havyariuana, 28, is Nilrenganya’s first student, who started learning Wushu in 2008.
Havyariuana said because of movies of Bruce Lee, Wushu has become a favorite game in Burundi. “I first learned Shaolin Wushu, then we started learning the new forms referring to international Wushu,” he said.
“I want to be Bruce Lee or Jet Li. Learning Wushu helps my technician work, I can do my job faster. I also know how to live with and respect others from Wushu.”
Some Burundian Wushu students can speak Chinese, including 27-year-old Ininahazwe Bonfils Ildephonse.
“I like kungfu, it’s my hobby. It is also a kind of Chinese culture,” Ildephonse, whose Chinese name is Li Zhixuan, told Xinhua in Chinese.
Besides Wushu, he also likes Chinese dancing very much, said Ildephonse, who learned Chinese language at Confucius Institute in Burundi.
“Chinese martial arts could help Burundian people understand Chinese culture and traditional Chinese philosophy. We hope to enrich culture exchanges between China and Burundi through exchanges of Wushu,” Chinese Ambassador to Burundi Zhuo Ruisheng told Xinhua in an interview.