This post was written by Project Pengyou intern, Tammy Tian.
Iconic images of cartoon turtles fighting evil stole the hearts of boys and girls across America in the early 90s. One of these boys was Edgar Ruiz. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles inspired the then seven year-old boy with a severe case of asthma to learn martial arts.
Two decades later, Project Pengyou TAMIU Chapter Cultural Coordinator Edgar has come a long way, and will represent the U.S. in the 2015 World Wushu Championship held in Jakarta, Indonesia from November 11th-18th. Here’s his story:
Wushu and Project Pengyou
When Edgar was young, doctors predicted that the severity of his asthma would drastically shorten his lifespan. However, when Edgar’s father taught him Wushu, a branch of contemporary Chinese martial arts, everything changed. “When I started practicing Wushu, my lungs strengthened with my body.” Edgar said. “It saved my life. After 13 years, the asthma has gone and Wushu has stayed.”
In 2006, Edgar made his first visit to Beijing and was inspired to open his own martial arts academy, the International Martial Arts of Laredo in Laredo, Texas in 2010. It is the only martial arts academy in the U.S. to have instructors certified in Beijing’s Shichahai Sports School – home to China’s famous martial artists like Jet Li.
“I believe it is my mission to guide people to lead healthy lives. Wushu has given me so much satisfaction, friends around the world, and has allowed me to be a disciplined person,” Edgar said in an interview with Laredo Morning Times en Espanol.
To Edgar, Wushu isn’t just a sport; it’s a philosophy intertwined with Chinese culture and also a central part of his identity. Now, he wants to share his unique experience with his community in Laredo.
While taking Mandarin courses at TAMIU, Edgar met Leslie Martinez, the president and founder of the TAMIU Project Pengyou Chapter. After attending last year’s Pengyou Day celebration at TAMIU and talking with Leslie about her experiences at the Project Pengyou Leadership Summit, he knew this was a community he wanted to be a part of and a way to share his experiences with Chinese culture.
He became the Cultural Coordinator of the Project Pengyou Texas A&M International University Chapter and during the Spring 2015 semester, Edgar helped organize a Martial Arts Exhibition in front of hundreds of students before final exam week. There, he taught Tai Chi and self-defense to help students relax for the coming stressful week.
This past June Edgar returned to Beijing once more to get his 13th certification at the Beijing Shichahai Sports School. While he was abroad, he kept in contact with Leslie and together they developing a bridge between the Beijing Shichahai Sports school and Project Pengyou TAMIU Chapter.
Paying it Forward at TAMIU
The TAMIU Chapter is now in the process of creating a sports exchange program that allows students to develop their athletic skills and connect with Chinese language and culture.
“Most of all I want to let people know that nothing is impossible,” Ruiz said. “Chinese culture is part of my life, and Project Pengyou became my family.” The Pengyous at the TAMIU Chapter feel the same. Chapter founder Leslie said:
“[Edgar] has greatly supported our chapter as our cultural coordinator, bringing opportunities for TAMIU students to engage in this art…[he] has been a great factor in bringing China to South Texas through sportsmanship, cultural awareness and development of the younger generations.”
As the 2015 World Wushu Championship draws near, Ruiz is looking for support to help fund his flight and accommodation expenses to the competition in Jakarta, Indonesia. Help him connect the U.S. and China and pay it forward in his community by supporting his gofundme campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/pwivck!