Art of wrestling

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 August, 2007, 12:00am

Wrestlers on TV often give the impression that all they care about is violence, as they toss tables and chairs at each other.

But in reality, knowing how to protect your body and that of your opponent is by far the most important skill for these athletes.

Founded by Richard Tang Wing-kit and Wong Yuk-lun in 2005, the Hong Kong Pro Wrestling Association (HKPWA) is the only organisation of its kind in the city.

These pro-wrestling enthusiasts hope to promote their sport and at the same time correct some of the public's misconceptions about the sport.

'To me, pro-wrestling is more an art more than a martial art,' said Anton Daniel Sparkes, an 18-year-old HKPWA member.

Pro-wrestling, or professional wrestling, refers to wrestling matches where the outcome is predetermined. The matches are more like performances than competitions.

'It's like a 10-15 minute script. The fighting looks real, but actually everything is planned in advance,' said Tang, 27.

Audiences enjoy seeing wrestlers attack each other, but often jeer when the loser stands up again, doubting that he was beaten at all.

'It's sad when people think that just because the matches are predetermined, it doesn't hurt when wrestlers are punched on stage,' said the British-Chinese Sparkes.

'In every match, wrestlers decide with their partner well in advance what moves they'll use during the match. The two players then know how to protect each other's bodies.

'But sometimes we get moves wrong and punch our opponents when they're not expecting it. It does hurt when this happens and we have to apologise to our partner,' said the 18-year-old.

In Hong Kong, there are about 25 active wrestlers. Their ages range from 14 to 27.

They regularly practise on Sundays, and meet occasionally during the week when they are preparing for public performances.

Like his wrestling buddies, Wong first got involved after watching pro wrestling on television.

In 2003, he met and trained with a wrestler living in Dongguan who used to wrestle professionally in Korea.

After attending training sessions in China, Wong decided to set up HKPWA with Tang and pass his skills and techniques on to local players.

'Pro-wrestling is just like performing magic. It's easy to learn once you have the basics.

'Once you've learned to be protective, you can try other tricks,' said the 20-year-old.

Hong Kong caught the pro-wrestling bug from Japan and the United States, where the sport is extremely popular. Each country has its own approach to the sport.

Japanese wrestlers focus on the actual sport, while the Americans are more entertaining, turning their fights into a story.

And Hong Kong's wrestlers now want to incorporate their own style.

'At first, we were often being criticised for being copycats. Now we try to incorporate original ideas to suit local audiences,' said Tang.

Instead of publicising 'Two 200-pound men wrestle each other', they use catchy lines like 'Policeman vs. Fitness trainer', Tang added.

By organising and participating in these events, and listening to audience feedback, the HKPWA members say they have learned a lot.

'Hongkongers prefer a continuous show without a break in between.

'They also get bored when a wrestler appears too many times in the same show,' said Wyatt Yin Wai-lo, a 22-year-old who has just graduated from Pennsylvania State University.

'The ultimate goal of our shows is to let audiences enjoy themselves. We hope to get more people involved in the sport,' he said.

Watch these pro-wrestlers today in Lai Chi Kok from 7-10pm. There will be six matches lasting about 20 minutes each. There are 120 seats for the audience. Entry is free of charge.

See for venue details.