Martial Arts Master: Jinzi Zhang ’11

Ever since Jinzi Zhang ’11 was first exposed to martial arts at a young age, her love for it has grown. She competes regularly in international tournaments and has received many gold medals. At school, Zhang frequently appears in talent shows and international festivals. Zhang hopes that the Phillips Academy community can admire and appreciate this ancient art as much as she does. Zhang shared her experiences in martial arts with the Phillipian. How and when did you begin martial arts? I started martial arts when I was 6. Both my parents were professionals in China, so I learned from them. My mom taught in a talent center, so I started there, and when I got better I trained with the team my dad taught in a high school. What convinced you to continue practicing martial arts through the years? My parents were such an inspiration to me. Their ability to perform the art so well really encouraged me to want to get as good at the sport as they are. Also having them constantly around to help me get better at it made it easier for me to practice and learn. What do you enjoy most about martial arts? My favorite thing about martial arts is the people I meet through it. They all have the same love and passion for Wushu [a Chinese form of martial arts]. For a lot of people, [training] is not just a way to workout – it’s their life. What forms do you specialize in? A: The forms I do are Northern Wushu. My forms are all choreographed by my dad to fit what I do well. They usually emphasize power and technique. I love learning new forms; sometimes it takes months of practicing a form to be able to really call it mine. What accomplishments are you particularly proud of? This summer I won 5 golds in the Wong People Kung Fu Tournament in Washington D.C., which was a national competition. [I also won] 3 golds in the United States Kuo Shu Federation Tournament in Huntsvalley, Maryland, which included a few countries. This summer was my breakthrough. I had never done so well before, and I was able to beat my long-time opponent. What is it like to participate in a tournament? Going to the international tournament is such a great experience. In the opening ceremonies there would be masters from all over the world speaking, and even though we don’t all speak the same language, everyone gives [the masters] the same respect. For the whole weekend, we’re not only competing against each other, but also learning from each other. I really appreciate the different styles that I get to see during the tournament. You can tell how much work [competitors] put into their training, and I feel honored to be able to compete against them. I love that Wushu can bring so many different people together – it serves as our common language. What is the studio in downtown Andover like? Yangs Martial Arts is a great place to train. The atmosphere is great for getting better; people are so encouraging, and the training is so much fun. Their style is a little different than the style at home, but I think [training at Yangs] helps me to learn other styles. What is your training schedule like at home during the summer? During the summer I usually train for 4 hours each day and then attend the classes at my dad’s studio three times each week. I get a few days off after each competition. What is the most difficult thing about martial arts? In Wushu everything comes from practice, and if I skip one day of practice, it shows in my form. Sometimes there is something that will take a long time for me to learn. It’s frustrating, but in Wushu nothing is impossible. I know I can’t give myself any excuses – with enough practice I would get it. [Knowing this] keeps me going. How do you hope that Phillips Academy can expand its exposure to martial arts? I practice with other students on campus, but there are only 6 of us. We don’t all practice the same form, though… There aren’t any competitions on campus, but we do want to perform in the International Talent Show. It would be great if we can have a martial arts program here at school. I know a lot of people would be interested, and it would be a great thing for people to experience.