By Qiao Benxiao
YAOUNDE, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- At the top of Nkol-Nyada hill, the Yaounde Conference Center was built in the 1980s as a China-aid project, and remains to this day one of the landmark buildings in Cameroon. The story of Fabrice Mba, a Shaolin disciple, started there.
Little Mba grew up on the street. He had no dad, his mom could not take care of every child because there are so many. In 1987, at the age of eight, he left his home in the southern town of Sangmelima with his elder sister to settle in the capital. They lived not far from the Yaounde Conference Center.
Every morning, little Mba saw a Chinese man making movements on the square of the Conference Center. He and his friends, all barefoot and T-shirts torn, looked at the foreigner and imitated him. "It was very beautiful," recalled Mba.
One day, the Chinese called them and asked them to take a posture, with knees slightly bent as if holding a tree in the arms. "We stood facing the wall. It hurted in feet, shoulders and arms so much that my friends fled, and I was left alone," said Mba.
This posture which is called "zhan zhuang" is in fact a basic training method of the Chinese martial arts. The man who "mistreated" little Mba was a Chinese technician assigned to Cameroon to maintain the Conference Center, and the "very beautiful" movements that the Chinese made was obviously Kungfu.
Since then, little Mba came every morning to learn Kungfu. "He was very thin, but at the same time very strong," remembered Mba of his teacher, without being able to say his name is Zhang or Jiang.
A year later, little Mba returned to Sangmelima. His big brother was a projectionist, little Mba often helped him sweep the movie theater. For the first time, he saw the Shaolin monks on the screen. "It spoke to me very loudly."
After studies, Mba returned to Yaounde to make a living. Life has hurt him more than the posture of zhan zhuang. Each job did not last long, and he did not know what to do to eat. His friend, who worked as a guardian of a bakery, sometimes kept breadcrumbs for him. "I had it on my hands, face and in my nostrils."
"I don't drink, I don't smoke, Kungfu is all I have," said Mba, who continued to practice martial arts by learning from videos. To find inner peace, he trained in the morning in front of Conference Center, as his Chinese teacher once did.
In 2011, a professor from the Confucius Institute encountered Mba while he was playing Kungfu. After short exchanges, Mba was invited to visit this establishment for teaching the Chinese language and culture. In a very short time, he made close friends with Chinese teachers who believed in him a lot. "I finally had the feeling of becoming me."
Four years later, after a selection of profiles by the Confucius Institute, Mba obtained a scholarship to be trained in China in martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine at the Shaolin temple.
"It was just like what I saw in the movies," said Mba, only this time he was on the other side of the screen. "The great masters of Shaolin really edified and enlightened me."
Between 2015 and 2019, Mba went to Shaolin temple three times for training. Back to Yaounde, he became a physiotherapist, and gradually, he has constant income. When he is not busy with his patients, he teaches for free Kungfu fundamentals at the Confucius Institute and in several schools in Yaounde.
For many Africans, Kungfu is presented only as a combat system, however, "by embracing the Chinese martial arts, I discovered their virtue," he said.
"What Kungfu basically teaches is the production of a man of morality. 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 Mba.
He managed to convey this message to young Kungfu enthusiasts. "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 Emmanuel Ze, a student of Mba.
In his collection of poems published in 2017 entitled "Breach in a stone wall", Mba saw his difficult years as a wall of despair. If he was finally able to break a breach, it is due to China.
"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 this autobiographical anthology.
Growing up on the street, Mba knows that many young Africans need help to break a hole in the wall of their lives. He is currently preparing a program to offer short-term training in physiotherapy and others to disadvantaged young people free of charge so that they can find work.
"Be your own boss" is the slogan of his program named "Lotus and Water Lily", because "these are the only flowers that are able to grow in a polluted environment, and succeed in producing white flowers," he explained.
"I was a street kid, destined to be a bandit or a robber, but I discovered Kungfu which teaches me to become a man of moral excellence even if I had no money", he said.
"All these children who are in difficulty like once I was, who are destined for a bad life, can become lotuses and water lilies if they are given the opportunities."