Feature: Disabled Wushu teacher in Athens introduces Chinese martial arts to Greeks

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by Alexia Vlachou

"With Wushu, you develop your fighting skills, you build better soul and body, and eventually you can see that the weak can win the strong," Moukas stressed.

For Kostakis, who has tried also other types of martial arts, Wushu helped him develop other characteristics.

At his school in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, in Akadimia Platonos, where ancient Greek philosopher Plato's Academy was located, Moukas holds training sessions of Wushu mixed classes.

In harmony, a group of students with and without mobility impairments practice for an hour and a half performing a taolu, a wide variety of techniques that include both bare-handed routines and those performed with weapons like long poles and knives.

Constantinos Hronis, one of the athletes, has taken part in the national championships and won both times in the special category.

"For me, the wheelchairs don't exist during the training. That is something that our teacher has conquered from the first time we practiced together. We didn't see a man in a wheelchair, but a person who was showing us Wushu techniques," Kostakis noted.

"The last two years, under the patronage of the Hellenic Wushu Federation, we managed to have disabled athletes in the national championship. We train the judges to understand what they see, so the term of para-wushu is established in Greece," Moukas said during an interview recently.

He used to practice wheelchair basketball with Moukas together. But the last three years he has dedicated his life to Wushu.

Until now, there are seven athletes who take part from his school, but he hopes more to join in the future.

"It helps us discover other qualities in our body and have the opportunity to work together," he said.

"There are approximately 10 athletes who compete, few participants; we hope to reach 200 and host a dedicated tournament," he noted.

ATHENS, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Kostas Moukas is the only Wushu teacher in wheelchair in Greece and among a few probably in the world to teach Wushu, which is commonly called Chinese Kung Fu, to people with and without disabilities.

Moukas has developed a code of communication with his students breaking all physical barriers.

Regarding the mixed classes, it is a unique experience to practice with people in wheelchair, as one of his first students Marios Kostakis said.

"One could wonder how this is possible," he told Xinhua. "It happens with a lot of studying by my side. I study the students' body. I opened the school, because I like to practice Kung Fu. I experience it in my body, and that is something that is transferred to them like a methexis," he stressed, using the term ancient Greeks used to describe spiritual uplift.

Moukas not only has introduced the Chinese martial practices to people with an impairment helping them find balance both physically and mentally, but he teaches people without disabilities as well.

Looking back when he started practicing in the park and at one of his friends' garage before setting up his school, Moukas feels that he has one main goal, and that is no other than to grow the Chinese martial art in popularity to all people.

The national martial art of China, which is both an exhibition routine (Taolu) and a full-contact combat (Sanda), is among the popular martial practices in Greece, with more than 200 clubs certified by the Hellenic Wushu/Kung Fu Federation and over 1,000 people participating every year in championships.

"I will tell you how to move your feet, how to complete a flip without showing it to you, just by describing it and it will happen," Moukas said.

Moukas has managed to take Wushu a step further, and in cooperation with the federation, to coin para-Wushu. In the last two years, athletes with mobility impairments can compete in championships.

"Wushu gives you balance, strength; you can find balance in yourself, you get physically and mentally better also," Hronis said referring to the benefits of the Chinese martial arts.

"You build strong character, self-confidence, certainty, serenity and social ties. We fight together, we sweat together, it is a unique experience," Kostakis said.

"You must gain your autonomy, re-discover your body with new techniques. Wushu is the best way to practice your whole body," he said.

He has been practicing the art since 2003 to acquire autonomy and well-being, after an accident he had with his motorbike. He quickly progressed and found his passion which helped him also with his physical rehabilitation.

His students, ranging from 4 years old to plus 200 years old, are introduced to the Chinese internal martial arts known collectively as "Nei Jia Quan".