If you're a fan of Kung Fu or the martial arts films of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, you'll find plenty of action during your stay in Beijing.
Kung Fu, the Chinese martial art that blended the skills of self-defense, hunting and military training in ancient times, has been developed into a popular international sport also called wushu.
Modern Chinese martial arts usually concentrate on forms (or taolu in Chinese), which comprise basic movements, including stances, kicks, punches, jumps, sweeps and throws, which are mainly aimed at exhibitions and competitions, and often include more acrobatic jumps and movements.
Chinese martial arts heroes and heroines have been fascinating thousands of people all over the world with their performances on stage and screen.
Beijing offers many opportunities to enjoy wushu and even to learn some tai chi.
Kung Fu show
More than 400 skilled students from Beijing Shaolin Martial Arts School are to perform Kung Fu at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, but don't worry if you have no tickets.
Students in the school perform wushu at any time, allowing close views of forms and qigong (chi kung, practices that involve methods of accumulating, circulating and working with qi or energy within the body), two essential elements of Chinese martial arts.
You can ask your travel agency to contact the school directly if you are part of an interested group. The school will arrange special performances for a group (more than 10 people) for about 100 to 200 yuan (14 to 28 U.S. dollars) per person.
If you want to see the show alone or with two or three friends, you can also call the school for information on show times, and when you can enjoy it for free.
The school is in Huilongguan, Changping District, and the telephone number is 86-10-62715558.
"The Legend of Kung Fu", an 80-minute show playing every night in Beijing's Red Theater, tells how a small boy became a kung fu master after a series of trials. No speaking, only kung fu, dance and acrobatics. English subtitles explain the story.
The theater gives performances at 5:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The price ranges from 180 yuan (26 USD) to 680 yuan (100 USD) based on the seating. The address is 44 Xingfu Dajie, Chongwen District, and the telephone number 86-10-67142473.
TAI CHI IN PARKS
The city also has the perfect places to learn kung fu every morning.
Many Chinese practise tai chi and qigong in the morning in public parks such as the Ritan Park, or the Sun Altar Park, and the Temple of Heaven, especially at weekends, and visitors are welcome to look around or even take a short course.
Fifty-one-year old Wang Xuewu who has learned and practiced tai chi for more than 32 years is a regular coach in Ritan. He has hundreds of students, including dozens of foreigners.
In an area of about 100 square meters under the trees, children and adults of all ages practice tai chi together.
"I advise foreign friends to learn some basic forms when they are in China. They can keep practicing their whole lives after they get to know basic forms and movements," says 48-year-old Zhang Hongli.
Zhang started practising tai chi two years ago, and he says it has helped lower his high blood pressure.
Rong Xiaohui, another teacher, says the sport is helpful for people who suffer from heart problems, high blood pressure, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and other ailments.
He also said long-term tai chi practice helps promote physical balance, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness so it's best to start young.
Rong is planning special short-term training programs for foreign visitors in August and September, and he will hold lectures on Chinese culture and Taoist philosophy.
Enthusiastic and fast learners can finish the simplified 24 forms of tai chi within 10 days, and continue with DVD teaching programs.
The course costs 20 yuan (3 U.S. dollars) per hour, and lasts from 7:30 a.m to 10:30 a.m, Monday to Sunday. You may contact the coach in advance by e-mail (email@example.com) or go direct to the site on a fine day.
"I hope I can practice tai chi with kids from other countries," says 7-year-old Yin Chang, who started six months ago. "It's full of fun."