“Mai Jia is described in the publisher's blurb of this absorbing and unusual book as ‘the most popular writer in the world that you've never heard of.’ Now, with the translation of his 2005 debut being published in the west, English-language speakers will have a chance to see why Mai deserves this reputation…. [T]he central story is a gripping one, offering a protagonist who is never exactly sympathetic but whose struggles in service of an unknown and unknowable goal seem all too clearly an echo of what his fellow countrymen faced during the postwar era.”
- The Guardian, 2 February, 2014
It’s been 32 years since best-selling author and Zhejiang native, Mai Jia, last set foot in his childhood home. His first stop is the ancestral village temple, a hall rich with some 400 years’ worth of history, and a sacred space which has heard the hopes and dreams of generations. He surveys the scene with nostalgia in his eyes.
“The ancestral hall is well-preserved. In the last year or two, there’s been some painting. The appearance should be the same as when I was a child. Nothing’s changed. It is the place I first started my studies. I spent the first year of my primary school here, or, my intellectual life began in this place, on the second floor.”
Mai Jia, born Jiang Benhu, is perhaps the most famous person to hail from Jiangjia Village. Known affectionately as A’hu, he guides me on a tour of his hometown, which boasts some 600 years of history, and apparently an equally impressive literary tradition. It is informative.
“This is where I studied. I started primary school here. My seat at that time, if I recall, was here. The seat was against the pillar. Teacher was over there. This place has no windows. It was freezing cold in winter. Snowflakes can still float in.”
We approach an old, and not particularly inviting, building. “I was born here,” he says. “In fact, I lived here until I left.”
The structure has long since been abandoned. Fifty years ago, six households lived there together. Mai Jia and his family, seven persons in all, lived in one room. It was in the confines of this small space that he honed his creativity, imagination, and sense of urgency.
“The biggest dream I had was just to leave here. It was poor and backward. Given our family status at that time, I knew it was only a dream. I could hardly leave here,” Mai Jia says, referring to his family home. “But it couldn’t stop me from dreaming. How could I get out of here?”
Mai Jia’s grandfather and father were both victims of political persecution. The circumstances of which gave his family – everyone in it – a tinge of contamination. The subject changes the character of Mai Jia’s nostalgia.
“I feel at that time, my father was talking less. This was the atmosphere, the atmosphere of society. I felt we didn’t have the right to speak. As a result, he was very depressed. The inhibition and sorrow took their toll. But, in fact, when we look at it today, it’s [part of what] made me a good writer.”
It is almost cliché, but the atmosphere of the times certainly facilitated cliché. Mai Jia's father was irritable and hot-tempered. His mother was kind and merciful. Limited by rural poverty and stigma, his parents, nonetheless, tried to light their children’s way, albeit in very different ways. Today, his strongest sympathies seem to lie with his mother. He says, “Later, after I left, I’d remember my childhood and be overwhelmed by how great I felt my mother was.”
Throughout childhood, Mai Jia kept looking for a way out and a way of life that suited him. While the period known to history – and as it was propagandized at the time – as Reform and Opening-Up would not immediately reestablish his family’s reputation, or their fortunes, but it would be the stage upon which Mai Jia began to open up.
“The relationship between my father and I is complicated. Once, we were absolute opposites. We seldom communicated with each other. Today, I have to say, my father indeed benefited me. It was the Spring Festival of 1978, and it was my last semester of junior high school.” He paused thoughtfully, “It was my father who brought me to a senior high school, seven or eight kilometers away from home. Walking around the wall of the school, he told me that everything was going to change. In other words, he knew entrance examinations were going to be resumed.”
In 1978, senior high school entrance examinations were resumed in the rural area of Fuyang, and Mai Jia, with parental prodding and paternal support, successfully matriculated. Mai Jia explains, “Crops can be destroyed by floods. Luxurious houses can be burned to the ground. But a great storehouse of knowledge, this cannot be easily destroyed by either floods or fire. For this reason, he encouraged me to study.”
Mai Jia studied hard. He graduated from high school in 1981 and was admitted to a military academy. After graduation, he became a respected officer, and the pride of Jiangjia, but celebrity, or perhaps redemption, was a long way off.
Jiang Jinle, a friend of Mai Jia, attempts to elucidate, “Many people have said it already. Mai Jia writing novels is itself a novel. I can understand what they mean. First, Mai Jia is a person who speaks little but thinks a lot. Second, in junior high school and senior high school, the writing courses were completely irrelevant to [an aspiring] writer. Right? At that time, Mai Jia might not have written good compositions, you know, the kind that matched the teachers’ tastes, but Mai Jia never meant to do that. A good article Mai Jia wrote at that time was not considered good. This phenomenon still exists today.”
Mai Jia’s preference for introspection seems to have begun as an effort to transcend the village, his family’s infamy, the congested confines of their home, and the silence of his embittered father.
“I spent plenty of time thinking. Since I was young, I’ve had many funny ideas. Writing diaries became a part of my process, because I thought too much and never spoke to others. There was no one I could talk to. My mind was full of ideas. They wanted to rush out. Finally, I chose to pour-out in a diary. I wrote diaries because I thought too much.”
After graduating from the military academy, Mai Jia was assigned to work in a confidential unit in a remote mountain area. It’s there that he picked up his pen and wrote. Lonely, his emotions, his depression, found a voice in his novels.
“The mid-1980s was a hot time for literature. Publishing a novel was evidence of your talent. The motivation for starting my novel was simple. A very utilitarian purpose. I just wanted to show my talent. I just wanted to catch my leaders’ attention. I wanted to change my life. The Catcher in the Rye had a great influence on me. I started my literary career because of that book. I told you just now, in my youth, I kept diaries. After reading this book, I realized how to write a novel. I thought I could also write novels. So I began to write.”
And on the origin of his nom de plume he explains, “In the 1980s, around 1986, I changed my name to Mai Jia. It has a double-meaning. First, it pays homage to The Catcher in the Rye. Second, our family planted wheat when I was a child. So for these two reasons, I named myself Mai Jia.”
Mai Jia’s style was influenced by both European and American modernist literature; Hemingway, Faulkner, Krakow, and Kafka. A mild seismic shift came when he encountered Latin American magical realism. After encountering the works of Argentinean writer, Jorge Louis Borges, Mai Jia says his silent but unstill ruminations about his craft became much deeper.
“Some of his theories about the novel guided me. Novels had to have something other writing did not. A novel is just like handicraft. It should build a kind of maze. He influenced me in this respect. I wrote a novel about a cryptologist and another was a spy thriller. Both of them are closely connected with [Borges’] concept of the novel. To some extent, it was [Borges] who taught me how to use my own life experience, to find my position in a literary family. Over these 16 years, I kept writing silently. Today, what has brought me fame and fortune is my novel, Plot Against. This novel was rejected 11 times. My first novel, Decryption, was rejected as many as 17 times.”
After years of hardship and rejection, Mai Jia brought his novel, Plot Against, to completion in 2003. It quickly became a bestseller, one which he himself adapted as a teleplay. The success of the series he created triggered a wave of contemporary Chinese spy thrillers, earning him the sobriquet, China’s Ian Fleming. The lonely road that began with poverty, sadness, and failure, has now led to accolades and awards in both literature and television. Mai Jia is currently one of the most famous and wealthiest writers in China.
“A writer wants fame and fortune, but not many writers can get it. I think luck is relatively important for us. If you want me to summarize what I have done, I think two things are worth mentioning. One thing is I am a decent man. I never take the conventional route. I never take shortcuts, and I never look for shortcuts. The other thing is I work hard. These are the two points I’d mention. I walk the right way, so I can walk further.”
In 2008, Mai Jia returned to his hometown in Zhejiang Province. He has a studio in Hangzhou’s Xixi Wetland. This year, he was elected chairman of the Writers Association of Zhejiang Province. He still worries about those struggling to get out from under, and make names for themselves; and so the dreamer turned darling and doyen of the literary world established a writing base for young writers, one that focuses mainly on those facing the greatest challenges. As a chairman of the provincial chapter of the Writers Association, Mai Jia has to attend all kinds of conferences and social events, which he does, but what he wants most, he says, is to live in peace.
“In a sense, it is easy for me to concentrate. Once I touched literature, I fell in love with it. It totally changed me.”
He is currently writing a love story. A story, he says, he has never shared before. The novel, a departure from the genre for which he’s now best-known, will likely shed some more light on Jiang Benhu. Fans and critics are sure to want to engage it and decode it.
FROM PENGUIN BOOKS (AVAILABLE MARCH 2014):
Translated by Olivia Milburn and Christopher Payne.
Never before translated into English, Decoded tells the story of a maths genius who becomes China's greatest code-breaker, only to be driven mad by the unfathomable darkness in the world of cryptology. With the pacing of a literary crime thriller, it combines elements of magical realism with historical fiction and state espionage. The fact that it takes place in a fully characterised shadowy world of the Chinese secret security, where Mai Jia worked for decades, makes it all the more unfamiliar, intriguing and authentic… Decoded was published in 2002 and became an immediate success. There are over 3,000,000 copies in print and it has won several awards.
Over the past eight weeks, the Wellington College International Hangzhou community has rallied together to face and overcome the challenges associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. During this time, Wellington College International Hangzhou is experiencing an increasing number of enquiries for admissions, and from March 30th the entire Admissions team have been back on campus assisting families through the admissions process.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, we are unable to host families on campus for our personalised tours, but that doesn’t mean you cannot learn more about the unique Wellington approach to holistic education. From phone conversations, email and video conferencing, through to our 360-degree virtual campus tours and online information sessions, we can still connect in this digital age despite our distance.
Online Open Day
On Wednesday 8th April, Wellington College International Hangzhou will be hosting an online information session, open to anyone keen to learn more about Wellington.
In this webinar style event, Mr. Paul Rogers, founding Executive Master of Wellington College Hangzhou, will provide a broad overview and introduction to the Wellington College family of schools, our heritage, educational philosophy and values.
Ms. Kathryn Richardson, Principal of Wellington College International Hangzhou, will take a deeper dive into what makes a Wellington education unique, as well as exploring many of the common topics that parents are curious about.
Additionally, you will have the opportunity to take a 360-degree virtual campus tour to view the state-of-the-art facilities we have on offer and how we utilize these facilities to provide the very best possible education for the children in our care.
Finally, we will host a live Q&A session where participants will be able to interact with the speakers and Admissions team, allowing us to address the questions that are important to you.
Scholarships at Wellington
In order to recognise and reward the pursuit and achievement of excellence in pupils at Wellington College International Hangzhou, and to make a Wellington education accessible to a broader range of pupils throughout Hangzhou and surrounding regions, scholarships, awards and bursaries are available to different year levels at Wellington. Awards of up to 100% of the tuition fees will be available to successful applications in Year 7 or above in August 2020. For more information, please visit this link or contact our Admissions team directly.
eLearning at Wellington
Results from our recent parent survey are conclusive. Our eLearning provision is meeting the needs of our families and ensuring that children are meeting their educational needs during this difficult time. 94% of Wellington College International Hangzhou families agree that our teachers have ensured that our pupils, irrespective of time zones, have been able to access all learning materials during this period of eLearning.
Since eLearning started, Wellington College International Hangzhou pupils have been able to maintain their close-knit relationships with their teachers and classmates. These ongoing relationships, personalised learning plans, 1:1 tutoring where required and innovative use of technology to smoothly facilitate learning objectives has ensured that our children are all progressing as they should during this time.
This high-quality eLearning provision is a testament to Wellington’s ongoing commitment to always providing the best possible learning outcomes to the children in our care, regardless of circumstance or challenge. We remain committed to this objective and welcome enquiries from all parents who are interesting in providing a world-class education to their children.
To learn more about eLearning at Wellington College International Hangzhou, please click the links below to learn more;
Top 12 FAQs | All you need to know about joining Wellington!
The Admissions team regularly fields questions from parents who are keen to learn more about Wellington, and as a result have compiled the following useful FAQ. Please click the link below to see what other parents are curious about.
Do you have different questions? Are you interested in learning more about Wellington? If so, we welcome you to join our online open day being hosted at 7pm on Wednesday 8th April. We look forward to seeing you there!
Don’t forget that our Admissions team are available at any time to answer your questions. Due to the international nature of the school, we field questions at all times of the day. Feel free to contact us using any of the methods listed below and we will respond to your enquiry within 48 hours.
The Chinese hot-pot restaurant chain Haidilao is known for a lot of things, except being moderate. They will give you a free manicure and clean your shoes while you’re waiting for your table, provide a big stuffed animal to keep you company if you’re lunching alone, and perform an acrobatic dance if you order noodles.
Haidilao is the epitome of the “client comes first” mentality that will go to great length to provide you with first-rate service. However, as experience shows, some clients find that the best service is when they are left alone and not bothered by pesky over-the-top courtesy.
At one time Chinese Internet was replete with articles titled along the lines of “Don’t let Haidilao know your birthday, it’s too scary” where users would detail their experiences dealing with the restaurant’s overblown birthday service that included singing and dancing waiters holding LED lights and more. Some have even joked saying “If you hate your friend, go to Haidilao for their birthday.”
To tackle the problem and better cater to the needs of different groups of customers, Haidilao recently introduced a witty solution. Tables in some of the chain’s restaurants are now equipped with “Do not disturb” flip-boards. Customers who do not want to be approached too often by waiters can use the sign to fend off their insistent advances.
The flip-board also provides other options such as “I’ll serve dishes myself” meaning that the waiter does not need to help with the dishes frequently or “detailed services are not required” telling waiters that they are only wanted to bring dishes and clean the table.
According to Haidilao, the service is still in the pilot stage, and it will be tried in some stores. It will continue to be optimized according to the needs of customers and different situations. Stores and employees will be continuously encouraged to innovate and provide customers with more personalized services.
Though Haidilao's service has always been known as "perverted", but sometimes it is too intimate and it can cause embarrassment. A while ago, a post named "Don't let Haidilao know your birthday" went viral on the internet.
“I went to Haidilao with my girlfriend, we just asked if we could get a discount on birthdays, then a group of people appeared with LED lights and sang the birthday song, they even gave us a ‘Most Beautiful Girlfriend Reward” and asked us to read the girlfriend vows to each other.’
“Two of us went to celebrate my friend’s birthday at Haidilao, we hid the cake in our bag and sneaked some scoops every now and then, just because we were so scared that the waiters would find out that’s her birthday, then we would be the super star of the night.”
“Look at me, I looked so surprised and happy!”
Therefore, for many customers who like Haidilao, the appearance of "Do Not Disturb" flip-board is simply a relief and has been unanimously appreciated by everyone.
From a steaming glass of traditional mulled wine, brimming with spices, to an indulgent mudslide cocktail, our winter drinks recipes are perfect for seeing in the festive season. Curl up in your fluffiest jumper with a creamy peppermint hot chocolate, or get the party started with a batch of our marvellous mulled gin.
Keep everyone's glasses topped up with our favourite festive drinks, and mouth-watering non-alcoholic drinks for every taste. Find top mixology tips, reviews of our favourite products and even more triple-tested recipes in our cocktails & drinks hub.
Spiced Apple Syrup with Clementine & Cloves
Our spiced apple syrup with clementine and cloves will add a burst of fabulous Christmas flavour to any drink. Try adding to hot apple juice or mulled wine for festive fruit and spice. It's even delicious drizzled over ice cream for an upgraded frozen treat. It will keep for about a month, so store it in the fridge ready for impromptu gatherings.
200ml apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp whole allspice
1 mace blade
2 whole cloves
Small strip fresh ginger
1 clementine, zest finely peeled with a vegetable peeler
100g golden caster sugar
1. Heat the apple juice with the whole spices, ginger, zest and sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins.
2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then strain the syrup into small bottles.
It wouldn't be winter without a steaming mug of mulled wine, complete with a glug of sloe gin for a sweet twist. Simply leave your wine, (we recommend an unoaked tempranillo) to infuse with seasonal spices like star anise and cinnamon and a little citrus zest. Keep a batch warming on the stove and let guests top up their glasses. Want to try something different this year?
750ml bottle red wine
1 large cinnamon stick, or 2 small ones
2 star anise
2 strips lemon zest, pared using a vegetable peeler
4 tbsp caster sugar
100ml sloe gin (we used Gordon's) (optional)
1. Put the red wine, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, lemon zest and sugar in a large pan. Cook on a low heat for 10 mins.
2. Remove from the heat and cool, leaving to infuse for about 30 mins.
3. To serve, heat without boiling, stir in the sloe gin (if using) and pour into mugs or heatproof glasses.
Winter Whisky Sour
Warm up from the inside out with our simple winter whiskey sour. Give the classic sour a couple of delicious tweaks and it's ready for the festive season. Add a splash of orange juice to your favourite bourbon, a little sugar syrup, some fresh fruit and some sparkle. Need some more help getting into the spirit?
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
½ tbsp sugar syrup
2 slices of oranges
Gold edible glitter
1. Using a small paintbrush (or your finger), brush some honey around the rim of two tumblers and use another small paintbrush to stick edible gold glitter around each.
2. Fill each glass with crushed ice. Put the bourbon into a cocktail shaker with the lemon juice, orange juice and sugar syrup. Shake and strain into each glass, and serve with an orange slice and short straws.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Nothing says 'indulgence' like a velvety-smooth hot chocolate, made with rich dark chocolate and double cream. Stir our peppermint hot chocolate with a striped candy cane and let it melt into the drink for a refreshing minty flavour. These delectable drinks are hard to resist. Got something.
200g bar plain chocolate, broken into chunks
150ml pot single or double cream
Sugar, to taste
6 peppermint candy canes, to serve
1. Put the chocolate in a pan with the milk. Gently heat, stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Continue heating until the milk is steaming, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream.
2. Divide the hot chocolate between 6 mugs, add sugar to taste and hang a candy cane on the edge of each. Pass the mugs round and let everyone stir their hot chocolate with their candy cane – letting as much of the sweet peppermint dissolve as they fancy.
Cinnamon Buttered Rum
Once you're tried our super smooth, gently spiced cinnamon buttered rum, it'll be your drink of choice when the nights draw in. Serve up mugfuls of this buttery brilliance for your next party. Neither sickly sweet nor too citrussy, this perfectly balanced tipple will warm you up in no time. Whether you prefer white or dark, spiced or smooth, we have a rum cocktail recipe to get your party started.
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
2 small cinnamon sticks
200ml spiced rum
1. Gently heat the butter, golden caster sugar and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
2. Stir in the spiced rum, then pour into four small heatproof glasses to serve.
Mulled Pear & Cranberry Punch
Our versatile mulled pear & cranberry punch can be served as a cocktail or a non-boozy version, simply miss out the sloe gin. The beauty of this all-in-one recipe means you can simply chuck your ingredients in a pan, leave to heat, then ladle out as needed. It takes just ten minutes to make, so no need to sweat it out in the kitchen.
1l pear cider
1l pear (or cloudy apple) juice
1l cranberry juice
Good handful fresh or dried cranberries
150ml sloe gin
2 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla pods, scored lengthways
Put all the ingredients into your biggest saucepan or casserole dish. When you're ready to serve, heat to just below simmering point, then ladle into glasses.
This creamy, coffee-flavoured cocktail is for adults only. Our mudslide is pure decadence, something to be savoured and sipped at your leisure.
50g dark chocolate
60ml coffee-flavoured liqueur
60ml Irish cream liqueur
100ml double cream
1. Put two small tumblers in the fridge to chill overnight. Put 30g of the chocolate in a shallow bowl and melt in the microwave in short bursts. Dip the rim of the chilled glasses in the melted chocolate, then stand them upright so it gradually drips down the sides. Return to the fridge until you're ready to serve.
2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then pour in the coffee-flavoured liqueur, vodka, Irish cream liqueur and double cream. Shake until the outside of the shaker is very cold.
3. Put a few ice cubes in the prepared glasses, then strain in the cocktail. Finely grate over the remaining chocolate and serve with a paper straw.
Winter Pimm's Punch
This archetypal English cocktail isn't just for summer. Our Winter Pimm's punch is paired with sweet brandy and light apple juice for an instant cocktail cabinet winner. You'll probably have most of the ingredients already lurking in kitchen cupboards. It can be served warm or cool, depending on what you prefer.
1½ l apple juice
2 cinnamon sticks
Combine the Pimm's and brandy with the apple juice in a jug filled with ice, cinnamon sticks and a sliced apple and orange.
Looking for something a little different than the standard festive fare? Move over wine, this mulled gin is our new favourite Christmas cocktail. Infuse apple juice with aromatic spices like bay, cloves and cardamom, a few crushed juniper berries and a little honey for sweetness. Cut through rich canapés and sweet treats with this more delicate drink.
400ml apple juice
½ lemon, sliced
1 bay leaf
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 small cinnamon stick
3 juniper berries, lightly crushed
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp runny honey
For the garnish
4 bay leaves
2 lemon slices, halved
1. Divide the gin between four small heatproof glasses or teacups.
2. Tip the apple juice into a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Heat gently until simmering, then strain into a jug. Pour the mulled apple juice into the glasses with the gin and stir gently to combine. Garnish each glass with a bay leaf and half a lemon slice and serve warm.
Perk up the after-dinner lull with a luxurious Irish coffee. A grating of fresh nutmeg on top of the thick layer of cream adds some seasonal fragrance. Need some help choosing the perfect dram? Read our review of the 10 best Irish whiskies, from light and smooth to rich and spicy.
2 tbsp double cream
150ml freshly brewed black coffee
50ml Irish whiskey
½ - 1 tsp brown sugar
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1. Lightly whip the cream just so it’s very slightly thickened, then set aside.
2. Pour the hot coffee into a mug or heatproof glass, then add the whiskey and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Gently float the cream on the top and sprinkle the nutmeg over the cream. Serve hot.
My first encounter with Marco was through my friend’s WeChat moments. I can’t really recall for what reason we added each other, all I could remember were his big muscles and that bright smile hailing from L.A. Later on, we had more contact due to a few common friends who are involved with martial arts and I started to know him more.
Who is Marco
Marco has gained quite a reputation in the martial arts world since arriving in Hangzhou in 2018. He used to train at Checkmat Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in USA, an international academy, competition team, and family of Jiu Jitsu practitioners. Founded in 2008 by Master Vieira, Checkmat now has affiliate academies in thirty-four American cities and sixteen countries worldwide. You can find world-class, hands-on instruction that has been tested on the practice mats and proven on the competition field.
In Hangzhou, Marco started his own brand - Marcola Jiu Jitsu. It offers Jiu Jitsu training classes to people of different ages, whether professional or not. As one of the few black belt holders in China, his classes are really popular. Marco’s lifelong love of competitive athletics has molded him into both a lover and a fighter. His passion for athletics and a genuine desire to help people reach their fitness goals motivates him to continue learning each day, and develop new techniques to challenge himself and his clients. You see doctors, lawyers, students, law enforcers, businessmen and women walk into his class for the same reason - to get better at Jiu Jitsu.
Marco’s full name is Marco Alvarado and his Chinese name is rather cute: 马可乐. His Chinese friends would just call him 可乐, same as Cola. Before we tell you more, take a look at his incredible championship records below, the man is a real fighter.
Bronze Medal at International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Pan American Championship Blue Belt
Gold Medal at North American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation All Americas Tournament Purple Belt
Gold Medal at IBJJF Pan American Championships Brown Belt
Gold Medal at IBJJF World No Gi Championships Brown Belt
Gold Medal at IBJJF American Nationals No Gi Brown Belt
Silver Medal at Jiu Jitsu World League San Diego Championships Black Belt
Gold Medal at NABJJF All Americas Tournament Black Belt
Marco has been involved in many kinds of sports - boxing, taekwondo, karate, running, American football – and also physical rehabilitation. Like many other athletes, Marco’s first coach was his dad who was a boxer. Marco was just 5 years old when his dad introduced him to boxing. It was the classic story, his parents decided to put him in taekwondo and karate training when they found out that little Marco was being bullied in kindergarten. Six years later, he received his first black belt in taekwondo.
After that, he decided to move on to a new sport: running. From sixth grade till he graduated college, he never stopped running and he became one of the US national athletes in track and field.
Eventually, he knew he needed to find another new sport to challenge himself. One day, he went to a free Jiu Jitsu class at his college. Someone caught him in a choke, he had no idea what to do and that got him really interested. He wanted to know how it happened, how he did it, and how to do it back. He was 22 at the time. 10 years later, he won the Gold Medal at North American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Championships.
It’s Ok to Lose, Just Learn From It
As an amateur boxer who has only been training for 4 months, there was a question I really wanted to ask so I brought it up when we were having a lunch break at Blue Frog. “Before you had your first fight, how did you overcome your inner fear?” Marco took a bite of his big, juicy burger and said “My first Jiu Jitsu tournament was six months after I started training, I was very nervous. We sparred every week in college, so I learned how to deal with the fear, but this time was different. I knew who my opponents were, but I didn’t know what was going to happen. I got destroyed badly in two fights, one guy caught me in the armbar in 20 seconds, the other guy beat me so bad like 20-0. I left deflated and frustrated, but I wanted to do it again, I wanted redemption. This gives you more motivation to go back to train harder and learn from mistakes. In the fights later on, I started to get into my rhythm and started doing well. Sometimes maybe you don’t want to tap and lose in practice, because it hurts your pride for a day or two, but you come back for more training. It’s ok to lose, just learn from it. That’s an important life lesson.” During Marco’s career, his arms were almost broken a couple of times, he tore some ligaments on his knees and he got two broken teeth. With all these injuries, he had to learn about physical therapy in order to fix himself.
“Martial arts is more about avoiding problems than anything else. These days, there are always those untrained people or the ones who watched too much UFC and are looking for trouble. If you trained a little, you’ll have respect for your body. This stuff is no joke, it can really be dangerous.” Marco continues, “My teacher used to say if there is a fight, he’ll just run away, because he would feel bad for the guys once he’s had enough. He would turn around and fight.”
Back in L.A, Marco was teaching in a big chain gym where he soon became friends with a Taiwanese trainer. He followed his friend’s journey that brought him to Hangzhou to continue teaching for Checkmat and he became aware that there are a lot of blue and purple belt holders who opened Jiu Jitsu schools in Hangzhou, but there were only 2-3 with a black belt teaching here. Marco thought that he can bring people more advanced technique and professional training. So in June, 2018, Marco came to start his first job in a gym in Xiaoshan, teaching conditioning and creating a Jiu Jitsu program.
MMA vs. Traditional Chinese Martial Arts
I couldn’t help asking what Marco thinks about this outspoken Chinese MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong a.k.a. “Mad Dog”. Mad Dog has made it his mission to expose fake kung fu over the past two years by pulverising fraudulent traditional martial arts “masters”, but his actions have drawn the ire of Chinese authorities. “In my point of view, Bruce [Lee] was the first MMA fighter in the history of martial arts, because he was always so open minded about everything. He took things that he thought were useful and added on something unique of his own. I think Xu Xiaodong’s mission is to show that not one martial arts is dominating. If you know a bit of everything, that is more effective. I think Jiu Jitsu is very useful and complete, cause you go from standing to the ground, you can also go back up to defend yourself, knowledge is powerful. Martial arts is changing, and you need to keep yourself updated. Back home, some guys can use their chi to make someone fall. This is not video games, we call it McDojo.”
The Distance Between China and the World
Many are also immersed in the joy of Zhang Weili who won China’s first Gold Belt in MMA. She is now gearing up to defend her UFC strawweight title against the former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk on March 8, 2020. Marco thinks that China has started to close the gap with the other western countries and now there are more and more young Chinese fighters in UFC. Marco told me, “With Jiu Jitsu, specifically, China is a little bit behind. Brazil and US now are the two countries with the best fighters. There are a lot of 15-18 years old kids that have been training since they were 5. That means they have over 10 years of experience on the mat which is more than me. They have all those tricks that I have never seen, the level is just incredible. Even though China has a lot of catching up to do, they are doing a good job.”
How Did My First Jiu Jitsu Class Go?
I joined Marco’s class at R8 a few weeks ago. I was not only impressed by his superb Jiu-Jitsu skills, but also his passion in coaching. When a fight moves down to the ground, it can be quite brutal, especially in Jiu Jitsu where there are so many different kinds of chokes. It seems that getting bruises, breaking teeth or arms are normal in this sport. Plus, did I mention that if you are practicing with a guy, you’d better get used to some rather odd positions? Even Marco himself admitted that Jiu Jitsu positions can sometimes be awkward.
So I didn’t go in with a lot of confidence, but Marco’s explanation and demonstration of each move made everything seem possible. It is a grappling-based martial art where the central theme is the skill of controlling a resisting opponent in ways that force him to submit. Due to the fact that control is generally easier on the ground than in a standing position, much of the technique of Jiu Jitsu is centered around the skill of taking an opponent down to the ground and wrestling for dominant control positions from where the opponent can be rendered harmless. All those awkward positions can be very effective; the basis behind it is all about leverage. It’s about using the whole body on another body part, even if your opponent is a bodybuilder, he can’t win. If you are skilled in Jiu Jitsu, you can definitely hold yourself against 95% of the population; most people don’t even know how to fall down properly.
The Beauty of Jiu Jitsu
Marco has about 30 tough students at the moment and he’s determined to stay for a much longer time. Recently he took 7 people to attend the Shanghai Tournament and got 10 gold medals, this shows that this tiny team is going in the right direction. For the next step, Marco wants to create a kids’ program. He wants to share what he has with the next generation.
"It's important to stay focused and keep an open mind when it comes to learning Jiu Jitsu." The Jiu Jitsu lifestyle goes beyond just training. It's about taking care of yourself, making friends, and striving to put your 'best foot forward'. Setting your mind to learning and improving every week will help you to improve mind, body and soul. His over-all team goal is to improve at least 1% every week and this requires a positive attitude.
In light of the success of the first online open day, Wellington College International Hangzhou is very much aware of requests for an additional session held on a weekend, to enable more families to tune in and join the interactive Q&A session. The coming online open day will be held at 10am on Saturday 18th April.This event is open to anyone keen to learn more about Wellington College International Hangzhou.
The open day includes;
· A broad overview and introduction to the Wellington College family of schools, royal heritage, educational philosophy and values by Mr. Paul Rogers, founding Executive Master of Wellington College Hangzhou.
· 惠灵顿杭州校区总校长Paul Rogers将对惠灵顿大家庭的姊妹学校、悠久历史、以及我们的教育理念和价值观做整体介绍。
· A deeper dive into what makes a Wellington education unique, and a presentation exploring many of the common topics that parents are curious about by Ms. Kathryn Richardson, Principal of Wellington College International Hangzhou
· 杭州惠灵顿外籍人员子女学校校长Kathryn Richardson将深入阐述惠灵顿教育的与众不同之处以及就家长们关心的一些常见问题与大家进行探讨。
· A live Q&A session where participants will be able to interact with the speakers and Admissions Team, allowing the team to address the questions that are important to you.
All interested families are suggested to scan the QR code on the poster to register. Registered attendees will receive a reminder notification prior to the event starting.
Welcome Back to Wellington
As pupils quickly approach the highly anticipated return to schools in Hangzhou, Wellington College Hangzhou has been strictly following the local regulations on epidemic prevention in order to prepare the Wellington community for a smooth transition back to normality.
At Wellington College Hangzhou, ensuring the safety of the school community and protecting the health of Wellington pupils and staff always takes top priority. Over the past three months, the Senior Leadership Team and a specially appointed school emergency team have implemented a detailed COVID-19 plan that covers all aspects of school life, and ensures that strict guidelines will be followed to minimize risk and increase safety.
The Wellington College Hangzhou campus has undertaken a comprehensive site inspection by both the Education Bureau and the Hangzhou medical authority. Both inspection teams were incredibly impressed with Wellington’s preparations.
Wellington understand that this will be a difficult transition for their children, yet remain confident that with careful guidance, and through demonstrating the Wellington Values of Courage, Kindness, Responsibility, Respect and Integrity, the children will adapt quickly and fully embrace the mission of ensuring a safe return to school.
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