Shuaimeng Liu’s story is one that has seen him pursue martial arts mastery from one end of the globe to the other – it is the story of a childhood dream pursued, and realised, with unparalleled passion.
For Shuaimeng (more affectionately known as Shuai), it is a story that began when he was only 9 years old.
Driven by the unorthodox dream of martial arts mastery, the young Liu applied the persistence that would become a hallmark of his martial arts career in convincing his parents to support his young, but insistent ambition. After three attempts at running away from home, and a great deal of coaxing, Liu’s parents were finally convinced to send him over 12,000km from their home in Shandong Province, China, to Henan Province – birthplace of Chinese civilisation, and home to the world-renowned Buddhist Monastery that Shuai would come to call home.
It was at the Monastery that Shuaimeng Liu would spend the next 16 years of his life.
Isolated from the outside world with discipline and dedication as his constant companions, Liu studiously pursued his training. He became a 34th generation Buddhist Monk and was given the monk name of Shi Yan Meng.
Shuai continued his refinement of Shaolin Kung Fu under the guidance of Master Liang Yiquan – one of the ten foremost instructors of the martial arts in China – and earned his 5th Dan in Chinese martial arts grading. It was around this time that Liu also qualified as a martial arts coach on a national level.
Not one to rest on the laurels of past accomplishments, Shuaimeng went on to prove his Shaolin mastery by competing in, and winning, a number of championships between 1995 and 1998. This included competing at the Chinese Golden Awards at the city, provincial, and national levels.
Having proven his expertise and the effectiveness of his instruction, Liu was appointed as a manager and coach at provincial and national tournaments. He led his team to victory twice in the group championship, helping his students on the path to taking 33 medals in the competition.
In 1997, Shuaimeng was invited to teach Shaolin Wushu at the Beijing University and Beijing Sports University, a prestigious honour.
Shuaimeng Liu’s limitless passion for the martial arts also led him through a decade-long struggle of earning mastery of Sanshou. He became a coach in that art, and, as it was becoming a trend, led his team to championship wins in the lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight divisions – in both a national and international competition.
It was in 2005 that the story of Shuaimeng Liu’s already notable life would take its most profound twist.
Liu and his students were invited to South Africa as part while travelling the world as part of a monk tour. It was during this time that he recognised a gap in the gym and sports culture of South Africa – a gap that he, and the wealth of martial arts knowledge he now carried, could fill.
While karate and self-defence classes were not unheard of, there was an absence of the traditional Chinese martial arts instruction that Shuai saw as having had such a profound impact on his own life.
It was a serendipitous situation and, armed with only his hard-earned expertise and a deep-seated desire to spread the philosophies and techniques of the Chinese martial arts, Shuaimeng leapt at the opportunity to fulfil this desire in the South African environment.
The SMA Centre is the realisation of this desire – the continuation of a journey embarked upon by a young man who wanted nothing more than to master the arts for which his homeland is renowned.
Today, that young man’s dream is still growing, and it is now supported by a dedicated team of instructors – each regional and national champions in their respective styles. Not only has Shuai received his 6th Dan to achieve the rank of a Shaolin Master, he has developed South African world champions from scratch.
His years of training and coaching have exposed Shuai to the true depth of skill and knowledge that martial arts offer, expanding his mind to appreciate what’s possible and motivating him to continue learning new styles. This never-ending exploration of martial arts has set him apart in terms of his creativity and flexibility. Armed with years of training and experience, Shuai has taken the next step of developing his own unique styles – San Thai and Wuxian Combat – from the ground up.
The passion and persistence with which Shuaimeng Liu forged his path from Shandong Province to Johannesburg North is on full display at the SMA Centre. Here, he leads the SMA competition team as it shows off its Protea Colours and represents South Africa on the international stage.