After China and Japan, we head to Hong Kong, which actually counts quite a few foreigners teaching Wushu there, to continue our interview series of these masters from the west that have established and are teaching in Asia.
If you missed the previous two interviews, go check them here: Angelica Cukon Interview and here: Minh Douangprachanh Interview
Today, I am very happy to share the experience of a fellow Hung Gar and MMA practitioner : Veronika Partikova, who is well known for her amazing level from traditional Wushu lovers around the world.
So let’s welcome her and read her amazing stories about living as a Hung Gar instructor in Hong Kong!
Wukong: Welcome and thank you for being part of our interview series! Could you please shortly introduce yourself?
Veronika: Thank you very much for having me!
Hi, my name is Veronika Partikova and I am from the Czech Republic. I moved to Hong Kong 7 years ago, and have been training in martial arts since 1999. Starting with Shotokan karate, in which I received my 1st degree black belt.
Later I switched to hung gar, traditional wushu style, that I have been training for the past 15 years or so. I won national championships several times and placed 2nd at the European Championships (EWUF), 5th at the IWUF’s World Kung Fu Championships, and 1st at World Championship (All styles).
However, I competed in Taolu and since I moved to Asia, I missed actual sparring a lot, and as a result of that, I eventually fell in love with MMA, where I am an amateur fighter looking to turn pro soon.
I have been teaching martial arts my entire life, it is even hard to say when I started! As a teenager, I was helping out at classes. Now, I coach under my brand name “Kung Fu Academic” in Hong Kong, both foreigners and Chinese people. I also hold a Ph.D. in Sport Psychology; my topic of research was kung fu and mental toughness & psychological collectivism.
Wukong: Why did you chose to go to Hong Kong at first?
Veronika: I first moved to Hong Kong to study Hung Gar from the source directly, with my today’s Sifu Wong Chung Man.
Wukong: How is training in Asia different from the West?
Veronika: Training in Asia (China, Hong Kong) is very different, depending on if you are coming for just a week or two, and if you actually live here.
If you live here, and as a woman too, you need to fight for your position and prove yourself, work harder than locals to get recognition and attention. It can be very bitter and difficult.
Wukong: Talking about things that were harder for you as a woman there, could you please give us a few examples?
Veronika: Usually, in my Sifu’s school I was the only foreigner and also one of only two women. The other one was a kid, and comparing to the boys of her age also training, she definitely was not expected to be of the same level as them. She was part of the kung fu family and everyone loved her, but I suppose it is the part of the mentality here that it is ok for the boys to workout hard, sweat or battle pain but not so much for girls, that are more protected. So I was of course viewed in the same way, which I hated. I adopted a simple trick.
The major part of the training was forms, and so once you are done with your form, you wait until your next turn. I did not wait, I would work my basics in the corner, or drill something, but I would not stop. At first, I was the “crazy white person”. Slowly it changed. I remember Sifu used to be a bit scared to show any application on me, but as time went, he realized I was ok to be hit.
It also translated outside of our gym, where for example we’ve been to a kung fu party, sitting at the table, and Sifu would proudly tell the other masters that I fight. In terms of fighting, Sifu was always the worrying one, but also told me stories of how he used to train rough when he was young. He also paid my medical bills when I got hurt once when training MMA in Thailand, and could not afford to pay it. So much to say about his support!
Going back to the women in the kung fu community in Hong Kong, they are of course few of them, few Sifus, too. But not too many.
Once I somehow got into a dragon dance performance, where a huge dragon body on poles is hold by several people, who run with it, wave it, etc. I held one of the poles and then I realized I was the only foreigner, and, not to mention, a woman. It was a big festival, few hundred people there.
My kung fu uncle (they were all my kung fu uncles) looked back at me, holding a pole a too, and said: We are going to run. I was like, damn I know! But I didn’t know… As soon as the entire dragon started moving, I knew I did a huge mistake. It was super heavy, and you couldn’t stop! Pushed and pulled by the people in front and behind you, holding the dragon too, it was a crazy run. That is why, with these big dragons, there are always people waiting to replace the runners.
So another of my uncles jumped in and saved me. I could definitely see a bit of surprise among the public and the kung fu practitioners of other schools there, of what that white girl was doing there.
It was amazing, although I was almost certain at some moments, that I will die crushed under the feet of the runners and the dragon.
Wukong: How did you decide to start teaching there?
Veronika: I was teaching back at home, so it was never a question really whether I should teach kung fu in Hong Kong, too. It is a part of me.
Wukong: How the fact that you, a foreigner, is teaching Hung Gar in Hong Kong was welcomed by the Wushu crowd there? Did you encounter issues as a foreign coach?
Veronika: It is a bit of fun fact, but after the years on the side of my sifu, I feel being part of the community and welcomed every time I meet the old masters of Hong Kong. I am very grateful for that!
They actually do not question me teaching, as a foreigner. Non-training folks usually point it out and laugh about me being a white person teaching Chinese kung fu, but then I just ask them if they play basketball.
No! I didn’t encounter any issues, and only have good experiences.
Wukong: How did your students feel at first?
Veronika: They never had any issues. In fact, I always say that I am trying to be the bridge between modern and traditional, or the translator of the traditional wisdom, with big help of my Sifu, so an average person can process it and take a sip of it, too.
Wukong: Do you feel legit now compared to other native coachs?
Veronika: Traditional kung fu has a huge knowledge that comes hand in hand with the culture and language. For a very basic example, our terminology is in Cantonese and we cannot simply use Mandarin here, because even the names of the stances are often different, holding a specific meaning in the terminology. I can speak very basic Cantonese, but I cannot grasp the entire art. On the other hand, there are people who can, and I believe we do not have to do everything by ourselves.
I try hard to be able to understand with some limitations and to pass on to my students, but I am not fluent in Cantonese. Living in Hong Kong does help a lot with the language and the culture. On the other hand, being a fighter and training for long years as a semi-pro athlete, I include lots of fighting, sparring, drilling content in my class, as well as mobility and prehabilitation. In the future, I want to strengthen my knowledge in prehabilition and personal training, as well as fighting.
Wukong: Most people wouldn’t believe foreigners can actually teach Wushu is such country where the level is already higher than most places in the world. What would you tell them to help demystifying these bias?
Veronika: I do not really agree with this. Yes, many great teachers are Chinese people, but we have many foreigners too whose skill is very high, who dedicated their lives to the art and often sacrificed a lot. So I hope that this really is not a common misconception.
Wukong: Any other words for the Wukong audience?
Veronika: I do coach people who are coming to me from offices and households, who probably will never fight anyone and neither that is the goal of our training. But as a representative of a traditional wushu style, I love to always pinpoint that fighting is the core of traditional martial arts, and even if we do not fight anyone ever, it is the referencing point of when we move the right way. Because the techniques are quite complicated, we need to understand when the movement is correct and WHY.
Learn more about Veronika’s KUNG FU ACADEMIC school or contact her directly through below links:
- Website: www.kungfuacademic.net
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/kungfuacademic
- Instagram: Kungfu Academic IG
Interview made by Ghyslain Kuehn