SAN FRANCISCO, March 24 (Xinhua) -- The 27th annual Chinese Martial Arts Tournament (CMAT 27) was held at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) Sunday, attracting hundreds of Chinese Kung Fu fans from across the United States and Canada.
The two-day event, hosted by the UCB Martial Arts Program, brought together many diverse martial arts groups and individuals from North America who have a strong interest in traditional Chinese culture, such as Chinese Kung Fu.
Nearly 350 athletes, aged six to 60-plus, competed in the two categories of contemporary martial arts and traditional Kung Fu, including weapons and Tai Chi Kung Fu.
The CMAT, which was a competition originally limited to UCB students decades ago, has now grown into one of the largest and most popular Chinese martial arts events open to the public after 27 years.
This year, the CMAT 27 organizers added a Shaolin Division to the competition events. The new division includes the famous Shaolin Tongbi Fist, Shaolin Luohan Fist (or Arhat Fist), as well as Shaolin Short and Long Weapon.
Shi Yanran, executive director of Shaolin Temple USA and head judge of the Shaolin Division events, said the addition of Shaolin Division to the contest indicated that more Americans have come to realize the true value of Chinese Kung Fu culture and also the charm of Shaolin martial arts.
Bryant Fong, president of the National Chinese Wushu Association of America and CMAT chair, said the tournament aims to preserve the philosophy, techniques and tradition of Chinese martial arts.
Elena Sfecla, a video producer who works for an international video gaming company in San Francisco, has competed in several Shaolin events, such as Tongbi Fist, Shaolin Staff and Long Weapon.
"I was fascinated by Shaolin Kung Fu immediately after I came across it last year," she said.
"Practicing Shaolin Kung Fu trained my discipline of the mind and the body, and it keeps me fit and in shape," she said.
Bill Zemlidge, a father of two pre-teen boys who are competing in the Shaolin events, said he wants to have his children practice Shaolin Kung Fu. "It's difficult to practice martial arts, but I think it's nice to see that my kids are learning to do things better than before," he said.
"They have to persevere, and I don't think it comes naturally," Zemlidge said.
Lara Brooke was pleased to see her seven-year-old girl win first place in the Shaolin Broad Sword competition.
"I brought my girl to Shaolin Temple USA to do Chinese martial arts because I want her to learn something that she can carry with her for life," she said.
"Chinese Kung Fu can train her physical discipline and flexibility in good health, in addition to the mental discipline," Brooke said.