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Heroic Women in Art and Fiction

Ancient stories and legends provided a foundation that inspired future martial artists. The rich heritage of Chinese culture combined with female passion offers new perspectives to self-cultivation through the martial arts. Guan Daosheng (Chinese: 管道升; 1262-1319) a female Chinese poet and painter during the Yuan Dynasty provides an example of the deep feelings of love that can be invoked:

 《我儂詞》  You and I
你儂我儂,  You and Me, Me and You,     
忒煞情多,  Are so much in love;
情多處,  Love that is all encompassing;
熱如火。  Passion burning like a fire.
把一塊泥,捻一個你,塑一個我。  We were made for each other, you and I;
將咱兩個,一齊打破,用水調和,  Together, combined and indistinguishable.
 再捻一個你,  Take a piece from me and there will be you;
 再塑一個我,  Cut a piece from you and you will find me.
 我泥中有你,  There is only you in me.
 你泥中有我。  There can only be me for you.
 我與你生同一個衾,  I will live beside you forever,
 死同一個槨。  I will die by your side in the end. 

The Taoist concept of the Yin and the Yang holds true.  There can be no natural harmony without female martial artists. Traditional Chinese martial arts is not just about fighting or even the use of physical force.  In fact, self defense and expressions of aggression might be the simplest level of training.  Rather, it is the long journey of self-cultivation and discovery that is at times difficult and challenging.  However, the rewards are the experience gained and the friends made along the way.  A worthwhile endeavor that requires investment in effort over time - real kung fu !  But a journey that is suitable for everyone!

 1.  Heroine
 2.  Ancient Times
 3.  Past
 4.  Art and Fiction
 5.  Present Day

(Martial arts is about finding a balance.)

Training for Women martial artists in Ottawa

The Ottawa Chinese Martial Arts Association provides a training system and programs that specialized in women’s self defense. Many traditional Chinese Kung Fu styles such as Wudang and Taiji rely on developing internal power rather then reliance on brute strength. We can use those systems as a basis for training in order to provide the student with the confidence to face any potential adversity. In Chinese martial arts, the history and tradition suggests that women contributed and played an important role in the development of this art.  The training serves as a means of developing self control and as a process of self cultivation.

Our thirty years of experience has provided our students with a customize curriculum designed for females to improve their health and wellness. 


There are many stories in Chinese art and fiction that highlights the contribution of women and their martial arts. In Peking opera, the following famous plays are representative of the their contributions:

  • Women Generals of the Yang Family (Yangmen Nu Jiang; 楊門女將): This opera tells the popular Song Dynasty story of the famous women generals of the Yang family. Widow She Taijun and her granddaughter-in-law Mu Guiying, who is also a widow, lead other widow generals of the family to defeat invaders from the West Xia regime.
  • Mu Guiying Takes Command (Mu Guiying Guashuai; 穆桂英挂帅) :She Taijun, widow of a famous Yang general of the Song Dynasty can not sit idle when she learns that the Western Xia regime has invaded the Song Empire. So she decided to take charge and defend the country.
  • Yang Silang Visits His Mother(Silang Tan Mu; 四郎探母): An episode from the Yang Family Generals, this story takes place in the Song Dynasty. Yang Silang, a Song general, is arrested by his counterpart in the Liao army and later married a Liao princess, Tiejing. After 15 years, when Yang Silang hears that his mother and brother are leading a Song army to the border area, he wants to see them very much. But that's near impossible. When his wife, Princess Tiejing, realizes he is worrying, she helps him cross the heavily guarded border. He finally meets his mother, but in the end returns to his lovely princess(Yang Silang is the fourth son of She Taijun of the Yang family) .
  • Two Sisters of the Qiao Family (Fenghuang Er Qiao) - The two daughters of the Qiao Xuan, Qiao Xuan (108-183; 橋玄), a high official near the end of Eastern Han, were both famous martial artists. Their names were not recorded in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  They  were referred to simply as Dà Qiáo (simplified Chinese: 大乔; traditional Chinese: 大喬) and Xiǎo Qiáo (simplified Chinese: 小乔; traditional Chinese: 小喬), literally "the elder Qiao" and "the younger Qiao".  They eventually marry  Sun Ce (孫策, 175 – 200), a military general and warlord during the late Eastern Han Dynasty and his friend and chief military strategists Zhou Yu (Chinese: 周瑜; pinyin: Zhōu Yú ; 175 - 210).
  • Madame Big Feet (Dajiao Furen; 大腳夫人): Madame Yang (楊夫人), known as "Madame Big Feet", is a distinguished lady with an honorary title by imperial mandate. Her son, a playboy, beats an old villager to death and then is accidentally killed by Wu Xianliang, a hero. Madame Big Feet chooses the law over her maternal feelings and orders her son's corpse to be left in the street for three days. Then she adopts Wu as her son and together, they go to join the imperial force to defend the country.


(A Yang Family General)

(The Matriarch in Dajiao Furen)



Heroines are a major component of Wuxia or Wǔxiá (simplified Chinese: 武侠; traditional Chinese: 武俠 Wǔxiá, Mandarin: [ùɕjǎ]; Cantonese Pinyin: Mou5 Hap6: Taiwanese/Hokkien: Bu Kiap ; martial arts fiction).  Here are some of the most intriguing and well known examples of woman that are skilled in the martial arts: 

  • The White Horse in the West Wind (simplified Chinese: 白马啸西风; traditional Chinese: 白馬嘯西風; pinyin: Bái Mǎ Xiào Xī Fēng; Jyutping: Baak6 Maa5 Siu3 Sai1 Fung1; 1961) by Louis Cha.  Li Wenxiu (李文秀) learns the martial arts only to find the bitterness and disappoint of lost love.
  • The Bride with White Hair  (simplified Chinese: 白发魔女传; traditional Chinese: 白髮魔女傳; pinyin: Bái Fà Mó Nǚ Zhuàn; Jyutping: Baak6 Faat3 Mo1 Neoi5 Zyun6; 1957) and its associated book Seven Swords of Mount Heaven (Qi Jian Xia Tian Shan (simplified Chinese: 七剑下天山; traditional Chinese: 七劍下天山; pinyin: Qī Jiàn Xià Tiān Shān; Jyutping: Cat1 Gim3 Haa5 Tin1 Saan1; 1957) tells the tragic love story of the martial artist Lian Nichang (練霓裳).  Despite her martial arts excellence, she cannot control her heart and as a result, her hair turns white with grief overnight.  
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wohu Canglong 臥虎藏龍) by Wang Dulu (王度盧) that was made into the Oscar winner movie of the same name.  This book was part of the five book Crane-Iron Series" ("He Tie Xilie" 鶴鐵系列).  The book featured some very strong female characters including Yu Shu-lien (Chinese: 俞秀蓮; played by Michelle Yeoh), Jade Fox (played by Cheng Pei-pei) and Jen (simplified Chinese: 玉娇龙; traditional Chinese: 玉嬌龍; pinyin: Yù Jiāolóng) played Zhang Ziyi).  They all have one thing in common - strong passions and peerless training in Chinese martial arts. 

(Teaching a new generation of students to carry on the tradition of Chinese Martial Arts.)