Huo Yuanjia ( ; Cantonese: Fok Yuen-gap; January 18, 1868 – August 9, 1910 ) was a Chinese martial artist and co-founder of the Chin Woo Athletic Association, a martial arts school in Shanghai. A practitioner of the martial art Mizongyi, Huo is considered a hero in China for defeating foreign fighters in highly publicized matches at a time when Chinese sovereignty was being eroded by colonization, foreign concessions, and spheres of influence. Due to his heroic status, legends and myths about events in his life are difficult to discern from facts.
Huo was born in 1868 in Xiaonanhe Village in Jinghai County, Tianjin, as the fourth child of Huo Endi's ten children. The family's main source of income was from agriculture, but Huo Endi also made a living by escorting merchant caravans to Manchuria and back. Although he was from a family of traditional wushu practitioners, Huo Yuanjia was born weak and susceptible to illness (he had asthma and at an early age he contracted jaundice, that would recur periodically for the rest of his life), so his father discouraged him from learning traditional Wushu.
Huo Endi hired a tutor named Chen Seng-ho (aka Chiang Ho) from Japan to teach his son academics and the values of humility and perseverance. In return, Chen was taught the Huo family's style of martial arts, Mizongyi. Against his father's wishes, Huo still wanted to learn Wushu. He secretly observed his father teaching students martial arts during the day and practiced them at night with his tutor.
In 1890, a martial artist from Henan visited the Huo family and had a fight with Huo's older brother. Huo's brother was defeated and to the surprise of the family, Huo fought against his brother's opponent and defeated him. Because Huo proved that he was physically able to practice wushu, his father accepted him as a disciple. In later years, Huo went on to challenge martial artists from neighboring lands and his fame grew as he defeated more and more opponents in bouts.
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