IN summer or winter you will find many people out in the parks in the early morning engaged in the practice of wushu (Chinese Martial Arts). In the city of Hangzhou a popular meeting place for the local martial artists is the park known as 'Warbler Singing of Willow Waves' situated by the famous West Lake. Here students and teachers can be seen practicing all manner of Chinese martial arts including Tai Chi Chuan, Pa Kua, Hsing Yi, Shaolin chuan, and weapons such as staff, spear, and sword. All age-groups are represented from children to grandparents. Among the older people training and teaching is one of China's top female champions and true kungfu heroines: Jiang Huixin.
Jiang Huixin was born in 1916 in Hangzhou. China. Her family was very poor and she could not afford to go to school but she was lively and healthy and liked to practice Wushu with her elder brother, an expert who studied under two famous masters, Zhao Yan-Hai and Han Ching-Tang. Her brother introduced her to Han with whom she began to practice at the age of 13. Master Han told Jiang's brother that he thought she had a genius for wushu and if she trained diligently could certainly reach the highest level. She trained all year round and made rapid progress.
In May 1933, she participated in the 3rd Zhejiang Province Sports in Hangzhou and won the individual Ladies' all-round championship in Wushu. In the following October, she entered the 5th All China Sports Competition and became Ladies' Wushu Champion of All-China. In the same year, aged 17, she became a full-time student of Wushu at the Nanking Central Academy of National Martial Arts 南 京中央国术馆.
In this college there were many great martial arts masters such as Wang Zi-Ping, Yang Cheng-Fu, and others. Jiang received advanced training from them in the various kungfu styles and traditional weapons. According to the school curriculum she was required to learn and practice styles including Chang Chuan, Hong Chuan, Cha Chuan, Hua Chuan, and related Shaolin forms. As for the 'internal' forms she studied Pa Kua, Hsing Yi, and Tai Chi Chuan. With the guidance of emminent masters and hard training during the two years at the college she attained a very high standard in both the 'external' and 'internal' branches of the traditional martial arts. In 1935 the Academy held its annual graduation tournament and once again Jiang Huixin took first place.
Having graduated, Miss Jiang went to take up a job as a Wushu instructor in Xiamen (Amoy) acoastal city in Fujian province. In 1938, the Japanese aggressors succeeded in occupying many cities on the seaboard of China. Miss Jiang returned to her home town of Hangzhou, then under the rule of Chinese traitors, so-called 'running dogs' of the hated Japanese. She had no job and, with her parents, lived in extreme poverty.
An opportunity for employment presented itself when the Governor's lady, knowing of Jiang's outstanding Wushu skills, decided to hire Miss Jiang as a personal bodyguard. Both she and the Governor were afraid of the very real possibility of assassination by the Chinese patriots. She subsequently sent two officials to offer money and the post of bodyguard to Miss Jiang. They explained to her that that she would have a high position and handsome salary if she would accept the offer; indeed a rare chance for her. Despite her poor circumstances Jiang Huixin told the officials that she was only an ordinary woman who practised Wushu, with little knowledge, but one thing she knew was that she would not enter the service of Chinese traitors and puppets of the Japanese. She sent the emmissaries on their way.
Not long after that, Jiang Huixin was out on the nearby mountain cutting firewood. As she came down to the foot of the hill she was confronted by two Japanese soldiers on patrol. They saw the young lady and decided to take advantage of her. Fearing no retaliation, they put their rifles down and started to close in on her. Jiang Huixin decided that death would be preferable to submitting to the loathesome Japanese soldiers and prepared herself to fight to the end. As one soldier attempted to embrace her she took the initiative and attacked him as fast as lightning. She then bent low and executed a powerful turning foot-sweep which knocked both men to the ground. While they were down she grabbed her axe, jumped on top of one of the soldiers and cut his throat. The other soldier managed to get up and ran to pick up his rifle but he was not quick enough; Jiang Huixin brought her axe down into his back. Having killed two men she did not dare to go back to her home. She ran away to Shanghai and spent the rest of the Second World War there.
She returned home at the end of the war and continued her practice of the martial arts. Though the former female Wushu champion of China, she never felt satisfied with her progress and sought out two of China's greatest masters who happened to be living in Hangzhou then, Liu Bai-Chuan and Huang Yuan-Xiu. Huang was a rare master of Wu-Tang swordsmanship, handed down to him by the 'sword-king' General Li Jing-Lin himself. This unique form of swordplay known as Wu-Tang Dui-Jian involves two participants and teaches actual combat sword techniques. Miss Jiang mastered this art after two years of practice.
During the next few years the New China was founded and Wushu took on new life. Miss Jiang continued to teach martial arts. She got married at the age of 36 and has a son and a daughter. She continued to live in Hangzhou and sometimes travelled throughout China visiting old martial arts colleagues. Though over 80 she is as enthusiastic as many of the young people and takes an active part in Wushu activities. In 1983, representing the old Wushu masters of Zhejiang Province she entered, aged 67, the All-China Wushu Performance and Competition held in Nanchang. Her outstanding skill earned her the gold medal, the highest prize in the contest. She still continued to teach every morning and night until her death and had students in many places both in China and abroad.