For many in the past three generations, the ancient martial arts were introduced through popular culture in Hong Kong action films, where good often defeated evil. Icons like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and later Donnie Yen brought martial arts into the limelight. While martial arts, in general, have been romanticized through cinema and television, Kung Fu, in particular, has always been portrayed as an ancient, mysterious, and closely guarded secret art form that has survived for millennia.

However, these clichés, stereotypes, and biases are quickly erased when one sits down for a conversation with Grandmaster Loashi Shu Wai Chung from the International Gung Fu and Healing Centre in Gaborone, Botswana. Within just an hour of speaking with the Grandmaster, one quickly realizes that classic Chinese cinema titles like, 'Enter The Dragon', 'Drunken Master', 'Once Upon in China', and now 'Ip Man,' are not merely popcorn fun but rather a fun and entertaining way to preserve an ancient art form that spans over 3000 years.

This past week, Grandmaster Loashi and his troupe were part of the festivities at the Chinese Spring Festival, a celebration of the Lunar New Year, which happens to be the year of the Dragon. Grandmaster Loashi and his talented troupe of Gung Fu students were involved in the Chinese Embassy reception at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC), where they performed the colorful traditional Lion Dance. It was easy to recognize the air of respectability, culture, discipline, and humanity inspired by this ancient art form when Grandmaster Loashi interacted with his students, some of whom are international gold medal winners. Grandmaster Loashi's journey into the world of martial arts began long ago in his pre-teens in his native US.

He started training in the ancient arts of Kung Fu as early as 10 years old, and it has been a lifelong journey of practice, culture, and teaching - a tale of perseverance and dedication in the face of challenges. Grandmaster Loashi arrived in Botswana some years back, and in the early days, he reminisces: "I was actively involved in trying to find Kung Fu here, establish Kung Fu schools, instructors, whatever the case may be, as it is in the states or the UK or other places." Yet, the path to finding authentic Chinese martial arts in Botswana was fraught with obstacles. Despite his relentless search and even going through phone books and online directories, he encountered dead ends and false leads.

There were simply no legitimate teachers of true Chinese martial arts. The Grandmaster went on to explain that the all-encompassing term used for all martial arts being karate was rather insulting to him as a staunch guardian of traditional Chinese martial arts, adding that martial arts or war arts was the more appropriate term to use in this context.


Providing context in his distinctive American accent, the Grandmaster said, "There is karate, but then there's traditional Chinese martial arts. Let me say this, and people always get this confused when you say martial arts—martial arts is a big umbrella. That's a huge umbrella—martial arts, meaning war arts. Boxing is a martial art, fencing is a martial art. Yeah, all of it is martial arts if you say, okay, what type of martial art or war art do you take or do you train? And oh, I take Japanese martial arts, I take Chinese martial arts, I take Korean martial arts.

Oh, okay, what type of Japanese martial arts do you take? Oh, I take karate, oh, I take judo, oh, I take aikido, oh, I take jiu-jitsu. Undeterred by setbacks in Botswana, Grandmaster Loashi remained committed to his quest for authenticity in delivering well-organized Chinese traditional martial arts. With a lifetime of martial arts training since the tender age of four, he delved deeper into the essence of Gung Fu, recognizing it not merely as a form of combat but as a way of life. "It is something I actually pay homage to; it is a way of life for me," he reflects with profound reverence. Grandmaster Loashi has previously spent a combined seven years studying traditional martial arts in China.

While navigating through a Botswana martial arts landscape fragmented by diverse styles and scattered practitioners, Grandmaster Loashi sought to unite the disparate threads of Chinese martial arts in Botswana. As a traditional Chinese martial artist, he values the preservation of the art form and the way it molds and builds character over competitions and financial gain. While navigating the fragmented local martial arts scene, Grandmaster Loashi encountered a lack of cohesion and standardized training, where practitioners claimed mastery without adherence to the foundational principles of ethics and tradition. "Not that they didn't exist, but they were not authentic," he remarks, highlighting the absence of a unified community.

Amidst the chaos, Grandmaster Loashi found solace in the authenticity of a few dedicated practitioners. Through mutual respect and shared reverence for tradition, they eventually formed a bond that transcended individual styles and egos. Together, they envisioned a future where Chinese martial arts in Botswana could flourish under a common banner.

Recognition However, their aspirations faced opposition from entrenched divisions and petty rivalries. "It was pulled apart because of petty jealousies and misunderstandings trumped up by other martial artists from an outside entity," Grandmaster Loashi laments, underscoring the need for unity in the pursuit of martial excellence. For Grandmaster Loashi, Chinese martial arts extend beyond mere physical prowess; they embody a holistic philosophy encompassing ethics, spirituality, and cultural heritage. "It's not just about martial arts.

There's a meditation element to it. There's a cultural element to it," he emphasizes, highlighting the intrinsic connection between mind, body, and spirit. As he continues to impart his wisdom to a new generation of students, Grandmaster Loashi remains steadfast in his commitment to preserving the timeless traditions of Chinese martial arts. Through his teachings, he instills not only the techniques of combat but also the values of integrity, humility, and perseverance. In a world where authenticity is often obscured by commercialization and dilution, Grandmaster Loashi remains a beacon of tradition, guiding his students along the unyielding path of martial excellence.

As he looks towards the future, he envisions a world where martial arts are not merely a spectacle but a profound expression of human potential and cultural heritage. Currently, Kung Fu as a sporting code is struggling to gain recognition as a sporting code despite huge international medal potential for the country. Grandmaster Loashi could not hide his frustration from local sport authorities that cannot get past bureaucracy and red tape to find common ground for sporting codes like Gung Fu. Gung Fu currently affiliates with the Botswana All Budu Styles Association (BABUSA), which is currently struggling to affiliate with the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC). Grandmaster Loashi is hoping that they will compete at the 2026 Youth Olympic Games should they gain recognition from the BNSC in the long run. Meanwhile, Grandmaster Loashi is expected to lead his students at the upcoming 2nd Africa International Youth Kung Fu Championship for kids and youth (10-19 years) in Cape Town, South Africa from 2nd to 3rd March.