Wan Sheng Bringing Mixed Martial Arts to Shenzhen
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), more commonly known as Cage Fighting, has grown exponentially in the international media over the past few years. Organizations such as UFC, Pride, and Strikeforce have brought the sport into every household and changed the negative views of the once illegal underground fighting scene into a very strictly regulated competitive sport. These organizations put in a great effort to educate the public about the complicated techniques that are used in the ring. Today, every sports fan in the west knows what an arm bar, rear naked choke, or triangle leg lock is and this could be one of the biggest reasons for MMA’s success today.
Recently, Chinese fighters and fans have shown a huge interest in MMA. Fighters such as Bao Li Gao, who is a very
popular national Sanda champion and Zhang Tie Quan, who recently became the first Chinese fighter to win in UFC. Both fighters have earned success and established a sense of Chinese pride into their loyal fans. This is a huge milestone for the sport in China!
One of our own, Heinrich “Woody” Potgieter, and Shenzhen’s first foreign Sanda Champion has opened a fully equipped MMA gym in the heart of the city, Louhu. With the opening of Wansheng WSC MMA, Shenzhen MMA fans, students, and athletes have a place of their own to train at.
Woody has had an extremely successful career as a fighter claiming titles such as Shenzhen Taekwondo Champion, 3rd place at the South African Combat Taekwondo (K1 Rules), and the winner at the Shenzhen Sanda Championship. More impressively, he claimed the Sanda Champion title weighing in at only 88kg whilst having competition weighing over 120kg in the same division. When we asked him about overcoming the challenge of this huge weight difference he replied the following,
“The bigger ones are tough to fight because they just cover up and close the distance to exploit their weight advantage by pushing and leaning on you. The benefit of their size is that their punches are normally slow and have no sting so it’s nice replying what they give you with loads of interest by hitting them faster, harder and more accurately. I also enjoy using knees to the body when fighting bigger guys as they tend to give away control into a Thai clinch.” Woody could not help but laugh while adding his last comment about what it is like to enter into the ring with a heavier opponent by adding “… but most of all it’s so much more rewarding when you beat someone much bigger than you!”
Woody has been involved in various types of martial arts most of his life and has spent most of his time since moving to Shenzhen in 2003 focusing specifically on MMA. Growing up in South Africa, he spent most of his time doing competitive sport. However, after a horse accident ruined his athletics career he turned to competitive fighting. When you meet Woody it is sometimes hard to believe he is a monster in the ring as his fans have labeled him Le Brute, the SZ Rocky, and
the African Beast. However, in person you will find him very approachable, optimistic, well mannered, and a modern Buddy Holly look alike.
Woody and his partner Du Shan Gen, a long time friend and his standup coach, have been toying with the idea of opening their own facility since meeting each other. They have been holding MMA classes for years, but it was only for a group of friends. They realized that this was something the city needed and they were in the perfect position to make it work. Sam has many Taekwondo clubs all over SZ and is a very well known and respected fighter, trainer, and ambassador for martial arts in Guangdong. Woody has had international training experience in various styles of fighting and has had a lot of success fighting since coming to Shenzhen. They both understand what equipment is needed in a club and have invested in buying the best quality products to ensure the comfort, durability and safety when training
in the club. They are very optimistic about their club saying,
“We are using top quality gear, modern training methods and have very competitive pricing. We also have the first and only MMA cage in the city. Our classes are bilingual and our coaches are very experienced in their fields. Under the head coaches Du Shan Gen and Woody we also have Pini, or Peter as we call him (the Ground Fighting Coach). He is an ex-Olympic judo athlete and a 3-year Israeli Special Forces veteran. The Strength and Conditioning Coach is Josh who is also very well known in the city as a gym and fitness instructor with years of experience in the fitness industry. No one else is in a position to offer this well rounded package to their students in the city!”
Due to an overwhelmingly positive response they have received from their Luohu club, they have decided to open a second, bigger location in Nanshan before the end of the year. “We are having great success at the Louhu club in all aspects. Our fitness groups of students are having fun and losing weight, the older students are getting in shape and learning self-defense skills, and the fighters are getting ready to enter the ring and are looking fit and mean. Our club has become a community and we have fun activities outside of MMA and try to help each other in our daily lives. It’s more than a club for us; it’s the Wan Sheng Family!”