Kungfu Master From The West

Published : Jia-Xiang Hometown Magazine (Indonesian Version)
Reported by : Sylvia Lim

Picture Source : Aaron Balivet
At first glance, Aaron Balivet just look like a general American young man, with his brown hair, blue eyes and white skin, wearing his casual t-shirt and blue jeans. Growing up in a very small town like Danville, Illinois, he involved in many kinds of sport such as baseball, basket ball and soccer. He also joined in some music bands, he played trumpet and bass guitar. But surprisingly, he had live in China before, walked around everywhere with a sword on his back. Sounds like a classic hero in  Asian movie, isn't it?

“Well, in the beginning I really interested in sword. I did fencing, so I just wanted to learn Taichi sword. But I found the other martial art which really interest me, shun tzi. It has Taichi,and kungfu mixed in certain forms,” said Balivet when we meet in Memorial Union, Madison.

It was a nice weather. We were sitting on the colorful chairs near Mendota lake, spotting the beautiful sunset view. Balivet put his dark brown bag in the table, I could see some Chinese characters written in the bag cover. He pointed at the sketch of a Chinese man on his bag,”It's Lei Feng, one of the national hero in China,” he said.

Balivet learned martial art in Chengdu, a small town in Szechuan Province, China which is well known as  the best place to see Pandas. He taught english there and at the same time he also developed his Chinese language skill by making friends with native people. He started study Chinese language in the first year of college. After he learned basic conversation for 2 years, he went to Beijing for summer program.  He talked to native people and learned a lot pretty quickly. By the time he graduated, he can speak Chinese fluently and had traveled to Taiwan for teaching English. Now, he has studied Chinese for 8 years.

Balivet practiced Shuntzi martial arts everyday. It can be ranging from 20 minutes until several hours, depend on his schedule. “I can use 20 forms and probably ten or eleven weapons, like straight sword, double sword, hook sword, spade and the others.”

The most interesting fact about Shuntzi is the history backgrounds. In 1898, the boxer rebellion made it very popular by using it to against western people and their corrupt goverment. At that time, Europeans were driving China’s domestic and their foreign policy and as the result it made Chinese people very poor while the Europeans earned a lot of money on their business in China. In the end of nineteenth century, a strong sense of nationalism swept over China and many people wanted to reclaim China for the Chinese. These feelings boiled over into a rebellion. They targeted western people and the Manchu government who always supported them.

But now, after a long time, many western and Chinese become good friends. The trend of Asian studies major are raising among the westerners since the postwar era. Balivet is not the only western who learn Shun tzi martial art. There was a French man before him.

“I just want to become apart of the culture,” Balivet explained his intention,” I have a master who really kind and he is like a father to me. I also have a  very good relationship with the other apprentices, they treat me very well and we become a family. You know for somebody who came from a little town like me, going abroad and have a certain family, it's kind of amazing. In Chengdu there's a lot of people who join Szechuan school martial arts and athletics. They are all trained. But they don't have a master. They don't have a family, so I feel really lucky and very happy.”

Balivet shared his desire to become a “Kungfu Master” just like what his master did, “My master is the fifth generation, and I am the sixth. If I take an apprentice it will be the seventh. I really want to do that. One reason why my master took apprentices is to teach and spread Shuntzi. But it's also difficult for me to have an apprentice because a lot of student prefer the older people become their master rather than the younger guy.”

Balivet admitted that he didn't have intention to study Chinese before the college,“ It's kind of random. I really did not know anything about China. I took French in the high school but I didn't like it very much. Little boring I guess and I also wasn't really good at it so I didn't feel comfortable to speak out it. I tried something new. The Chinese department in my school, Hamilton college had a good advertisement. I kept hearing and seeing around and I thought 'why not?' “

During his staying in Chengdu, Balivet made a lot of friends and hang out a lot with them. He found many interesting facts while working on culture differences and he share it on his own journal:  jian4feng.livejournal.com. He even have a Chinese name, Bai Ailun. That is his English name changed in to Chinese, Ailun is Aaron and Balivet is Bai. Now Balivet pursues the higher education in University of Wisconsin. 

“I've been interested in doing a PhD for a while, but during the application process I fully realized how badly I want to do it,” said Balivet,” Mostly you do your job just like fun racing, you try to have  a lot of money. I don't want to do that. I don't like money. If I like money I probably will going to business, not into academia.”

Balivet really want to become a profesional in Chinese field. He really enjoys working in culture differences while doing his interest in martial art. Becoming a Kungfu Master from the west is a great experience. In his view, studies Chinese has a lot of advantages for American people. “It's more than having a good job which you could make a lot of money. It gives you the better perspectives for the world. Now China is important to whole world and it's really good to understand their perspectives. Learning language is one of the best way to do that. Another thing is China has a big, a long history, different aspects and culture so you will never stop learning something new.”

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