China Daily: From street kid to kung fu crusader

发布日期:2020-01-09   字体大小:   

Shaolin disciple Fabrice Mba shows kids some kung fu basics in Yaounde, Cameroon. Born into poverty, Mba's love of martial arts was nurtured at Yaounde's Confucius Institute and he now teaches kung fu for free in his spare time. [Photo/Xinhua]

A chance encounter with a Chinese worker set a poverty-stricken Cameroonian child on an unlikely path to fulfillment

Fabrice Mba grew up in poverty on the streets of the southern Cameroonian town of Sangmelima. With his single mom unable to properly take care of him, 8-year-old Fabrice left for the capital Yaounde with his elder sister in 1987. Little did he know back then, this would be the start of his journey to Shaolin enlightenment.

Every morning, little Fabrice saw a Chinese man performing slow-motion movements on the square of the Yaounde Conference Center-a landmark building in the city, which was built in the 1980s with Chinese aid money. He and his friends-all barefoot and wearing torn T-shirts-soon began to imitate the foreigner. "It was very beautiful," recalled Fabrice.

One day, the man summoned Fabrice and his buddies and asked them to try to assume a specific posture-knees slightly bent and arms positioned as if holding onto a tree trunk. "We stood facing the wall. It hurt our feet, shoulders and arms so much that my friends fled and I was left alone," said Fabrice.

Fabrice Mba tends to one of his patients at his physiotherapy practice in Yaounde, Cameroon. Mba grow up on the streets but credits Chinese martial arts for helping him turn his life around. [Photo/Xinhua]

The stance in question is called zhan zhuang, a basic kung fu training technique. Its practitioner was a technician assigned to Cameroon to maintain the conference center.

Fabrice began returning every morning to learn more from his new teacher. "He was very thin but at the same time very strong," recalled Fabrice of his tutor.

A year later, Fabrice returned to Sangmelima. His big brother was a projectionist there, and Fabrice often helped him sweep the movie theater, where he caught his first glimpse of Shaolin monks on the screen. "It spoke to me very loudly," he said.

After completing school, Fabrice returned to Yaounde to endeavor to eke out a living. However, life hurt him more than the zhan zhuang stance.

Jobs came and went so earning to enough to eat was a struggle. His friend, who worked at a bakery, sometimes kept bread crumbs for him, which a famished Fabrice would ravenously devour. "I had crumbs on my hands, face and in my nostrils," he said of those lean times.

Fabrice, who has trained at the Shaolin Temple in Henan province, hopes that by teaching kids kung fu's principles he can give them a solid moral grounding. [Photo/Xinhua]

Despite food being scarce, Fabrice managed to continue to practice martial arts, learning from videos and training in front of the conference center, just as his Chinese teacher once did.

In 2011, a professor from the Confucius Institute encountered Fabrice as he practiced his moves and invited him to the institute to learn about Chinese language and culture. Soon, Fabrice became friends with the Chinese teachers, who encouraged him to pursue his passion for martial arts. "I finally had the feeling of becoming me," he said.

Four years later, Fabrice was awarded a scholarship to be trained in martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine at the Shaolin Temple in Henan province.

"It was just like what I saw in the movies," said Fabrice. "The great masters of Shaolin really edified and enlightened me."

Between 2015 and 2019, Fabrice went to the temple three times for training. Back in Yaounde, he is now a physiotherapist and, when he's not busy with his patients, teaches free kung fu lessons at the Confucius Institute and several schools.

Many Africans think of kung fu purely as a combat system, so Fabrice is keen to stress its true meaning.

"What kung fu basically teaches is the production of a man of morality," he said. "When a man is rich in moral values, it is easier for him to be surrounded by people who love him and to have advancements in life," said Fabrice.

A youngster grimaces as Fabrice assists him with a stretch. Fabrice is in the process of establishing a program which will offer free training in physiotherapy to disadvantaged youngsters. [Photo/Xinhua]

It's a principle his eager young pupils are keen to follow.

"He teaches us to be a man of integrity, hardworking and respectful. If you have a problem with your friend, you have to keep cool and take a step back," said student Emmanuel Ze.

In 2017, Fabrice published a collection of poems, entitled Breach in a Stone Wall. The poems reflect on his years of hardship and express gratitude towards China for helping him through those difficult days.

"I come with a story, which is more and more similar to that of a million Africans, to whom China opens its doors, to whom China changes (their) destiny," he wrote in the anthology.

Now Fabrice is trying to help others change their destiny too. He is currently preparing a program which will offer free training in physiotherapy to disadvantaged youngsters.

The program is called "Lotus and Water Lily", because "these are the only flowers able to grow in a polluted environment and succeed in producing white flowers," Fabrice explained.

"I was a street kid, destined to be a bandit or a robber, but I discovered kung fu which teaches me to become a man of moral excellence even if I had no money," he added.

"All these children who are in difficulty like I once was, who are destined for a bad life, can become lotuses and water lilies if they are given the opportunities."


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