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Beijing to Barrie: Kung-fu master brings Shaolin training to city

Richard Yang will host grand opening April 20 for Wisdom Kung Fu Academy on Bell Farm Road
Richard Yang, owner of Wisdom Kungfu Academy in Barrie, trained for five years at Shaolin Temple in China.

Richard Yang is literally a kung-fu master.

Yang, who relocated to Barrie from Beijing, China six months ago, is set to open Wisdom Kungfu Academy in the city’s north end later this month, where he will bring the skills and knowledge he has learned in traditional martial arts over the last two decades to a new group of students.

The 30-year-old has been practising martial arts since the age of 13, when he says he began training at Shaolin Temple, after his mother decided he needed to grow taller. 

“You can see I am a little bit short and my mom decided to send me to Shaolin Temple. She said maybe if I do some exercise I would get taller,” he said with a laugh. “I trained the whole day — six hours a day, non-stop.”

Although it didn’t exactly help him gain much extra height, Yang took to martial arts easily — and despite the long hours of training six days a week, he also grew to enjoy it. Over time, he became proficient in both Shaolin boxing and weapons and holds the title of national champion of traditional martial arts. 

Yang spent five years training at Shaolin Temple, after which he obtained a bachelor's degree from Martial Arts College of Beijing Sport University as well as a master’s degree in sports training from Capital University of Physical Education and Sports.

For the past 10 years, Yang has been teaching martial arts to both children and adults at his studio in Beijing, but says he was convinced by the parents of a former international student to bring his expertise to Canada.

“In Beijing, I teach a lot of international students, so they’re all foreigners. They want to explore more and to learn more," he said. "After COVID, they were all back to their country, so I was thinking about my next 10 years. The parents said you (should) go to Canada to try to explore more.”

Yang was unsure at first, but after doing some research decided to take the leap of faith.

Since landing in Barrie and finding a location for Wisdom Kung Fu Academy, Yang has been busy preparing to open the doors of the 1,800-square-foot facility, located at 20 Bell Farm Rd., to new students, which he said will happen after the official grand opening ceremony on April 20 from 2-4 p.m.

He says he’s excited to share his love of martial arts — including kung fu, tai chi and kickboxing — with the citizens of Barrie and show them all of the benefits it brings. 

“I think kung fu is really good for the small kids to improve their body strength, balance,” Yang said. “Kickboxing, you’re trying to release all of the pressure, but tai chi, you’re more calm but also exercising.”

Yang hopes his background and experience — he has been studying various martial arts techniques and philosophies, as well as delving into the realm of adolescent psychology — can help set him up for success in his new city.

“I know how to deal with the kids. If kids try the class, they will like it,” he said, noting the goal in his classes is to help students find their own self-motivation inside, build confidence, strength and skill.

“We try to lead the kids … give them a goal, step-by-step to achieve something,” he said. “It’s not just kung fu. It’s about your confidence and how to treat (things).”

As for kickboxing and tai chi, which are aimed at teenagers and adults, Yang said they can serve as a positive way to focus energy.

“They don’t know how to release their pressure,” he said. ‘That’s the yin yang … If you burn off the energy, they don’t have the energy to fight with you.”

Skills learned in class, Yang added, are all things that can be used in a person’s day-to-day life as well, and he always leads by example.

“If you have strong chi, you do have energy … the kids see. They have to see an example. I think the most important thing is to give them a good example.”