Ren Ruzhi is a 24-year-old kung fu practitioner from Jiaxing in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. In the last few months Ren has gone viral, after video footage of him engaging in a form of bullfighting inspired dozens of news articles and videos.
Xihao Jiang and Martin Quin Pollard of Rueters reported on Ruzhi and his unusual past time. “It symbolizes the bravery of a man,” said Ren to the reporters.
The version of bullfighting Ren engages in could more accurately be described as bull-wrestling. It involves Ren grabbing a bull by the horns and then grappling with the animal, which weighs around 880 lbs, until he is able to pin it to the ground.
Video of Ren, captured by Thomson Reuters, can be viewed courtesy of PressTV/YouTube.
Unlike bull-fighting that is common in Spain, there are no swords involved and the bull is not slaughtered after the bout.
“[This Chinese form of bullfighting] is truly a contest pitting human’s strength against a bull. There are a lot of skills involved and it can be dangerous,” said Hua Yang, a bullfighting enthusiast interviewed by Reuters.
Ren trains with other martial artists and bullfighters at the Haihua Kung fu School in Jiaxing, which is operated by Han Haihua, a former pro wrestler. There Han teaches a technique known as “the explosive power of hard ‘qigong.’” Han said that this technique was used to direct qi energy to a specific point in the body, which can then be harnessed to summon up the strength needed to bring down a bull.
Han spoke about ‘hard qigong’ and other techniques for Chinese bullfighting in a video produced by the South China Morning Post.
In an interview with that outlet Han, who is a member of the Hui Muslim minority group in China, stated that bullfighting first began to pop up around Eid celebrations. Eid al-Fitr is an Islamic holiday which occurs after the fasting periods of Ramadan.
Han told SCMP that locally Eid celebrations featured the sacrificing of cattle. “[During this time] people started to wrestle with the bull,” added Han. “So bullfighting developed out of a combination of Hui culture and Chinese martial arts culture.”
Despite the bulls not being skewered with swords and spears, animal rights activists still believe this form of bullfighting ought to be stopped.
“In Chinese bullfighting, we can’t deny the bulls experience pain,” said PETA’s Layli Li (per Reuters). “As long as it exists, that means there is suffering.”
Peter Li, a professor at the University of Houston-Downtown and a China policy specialist for Humane Society International, echoed PETA’s statement on Chinese bullfighting (per SCMP). “Culture or tradition is no defense of justification for animal cruelty of all manifestations,” he said. “Bull-wrestling serves to desensitize the audience, particularly young people, to animal cruelty.”
In response to cruelty claims Han said, “We make bulls fall over in a way that doesn’t injure their bodies or cause bloodshed.”
Li Bo, another bullfighter, told SCMP that “Our bulls are not like normal bulls, they are specially trained fighting bulls. It’s like the difference between an ordinary human who’s not very fit, and a trained boxer. Their body strength and fighting capabilities are completely different.”
Professor Li stated that the training of bulls is cruel in itself, “since the bulls are forced to act unnaturally or against the nature of bulls.”