SOUTH WINDSOR, the United States, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) -- Eight years ago, when young American Kurt Karamanos started practicing kung fu, the Chinese martial arts, he didn't expect he could go so far.
With prowess and techniques in fighting with the fist, sword or cudgel, the 21-year-old from Connecticut state impressed both judges and audience at the 9th New England International Chinese Martial Arts Championships.
The competition held in South Windsor, Connecticut, over the weekend attracted more than 220 players from across the United States.
"I have practiced a lot in my preparations for the event. There is always room for improvement," Karamanos told Xinhua.
Ranking first in all the three categories he participated in, the young enthusiast for Chinese kung fu added a big trophy to his awards of about 20 gold medals from past martial arts competitions.
A student of engineering at Manchester Community College, Karamanos said he hopes to be able to compete in world championships and have a career of teaching kung fu.
Karamanos said he used to do gymnastics but shifted to the Chinese kung fu, or wushu, at the age of 13, being inspired by "Shaolin Temple," a Chinese kung fu movie starring Jet Li.
He still remembered how he was electrified by the fast and mesmerizing moves demonstrated in the film. They jumped so high and the skills were kind of the stuff of legend, Karamanos said.
He then began to learn wushu at a local school.
Karamanos said he has found health, fitness, discipline and confidence in practicing wushu, which has helped him overcome his shyness and become more open-minded.
"I use it to express my emotions," he said.
Over the years, Karamanos kept practicing wushu for two to three hours every day.
"Determination, patience and hard work are crucial in learning wushu," he said.
In late 2017, Karamanos was recruited as a part-time instructor at Malee's School of Tai Chi & Kung Fu, a 25-year-old martial arts school in Connecticut, becoming the youngest instructor there.
Karamanos said he is even more proud of being offered an opportunity in September 2018 for a training program in Chengdu Sport University, which is located in the capital Chengdu of China's southwestern Sichuan Province.
Calling the experience "very exciting, educational and helpful," he said he is looking forward to attending more training programs as it is always important to perfect skills.
Over decades of growth, an industry of martial arts has been expanding in the United States with more and more people actively involved.
"One of the great things about Chinese martial arts is that it's such a beautiful art form. It trains not only the body but also the mind," said Anthony Roberts, a kung fu and Taichi instructor at Malee's School, who began to learn wushu in 1999.
"Wushu is of the essence of the Chinese culture. Many foreigners, after being introduced to kung fu or Taichi, begin to take an interest in the Chinese history and language," said the kung fu instructor, who speaks Mandarin fluently.