At 78 years old, gongfu master Li Junfeng is still fighting fit.
Li, who hails from Gaocheng, Hebei, in China, is a qigong master and world-renowned wushu coach.
He has tutored an estimated 10,000 students in the Chinese martial arts, among them film star Jet Li, who trained under him and fellow coach Wu Bin on the Beijing Wushu Team for about 10 years.
Li Junfeng made his way to the silver screen too, in 1982, when he was picked to star in martial arts film Wu Lin Zhi. He went on to appear in three other films, choreograph action scenes and host his own television show, Learning Wushu.
He recently published a new textbook in English, The Ultimate Chinese Martial Art, with bagua expert Ge Chunyan, whom he considers his best student. Bagua is a form of martial arts. Ge, a five-time national bagua champion in China, trained actress Zhang Ziyi for her role in Wong Kar Wai's 2013 film, The Grandmaster.
The book, which was also co-written by martial arts practitioner Luo Tong, was launched in Singapore earlier this month by publisher World Scientific.
The trio write in the book's first chapter: "Nowadays, many people think of Chinese martial arts as being similar to dancing or gymnastics. However, the origins of Chinese martial art were more sombre, being essentially for killing.
"Honour, pain, tears and blood - all these are irrelevant to a Chinese gongfu master... Chinese martial arts are arts of survival. They are about only life or death, nothing else."
Today, Li, who is based in California and has two children in their 40s, sees himself not as a trainer of killers, but as a bringer of health.
He tells The Straits Times in an e-mail interview in Mandarin: "Now, we have a global environment which is beneficial for martial arts training. People are more concerned about their health now and we can leverage the education system to spread martial arts better."
1 What inspired you to start practising martial arts?
I started very early because my father was both a doctor in traditional Chinese medicine and a martial arts master - they are traditionally connected. Martial arts is also very popular in my hometown.
When I grew up and had the opportunity to see the world, I found Japanese and Korean martial arts spreading very well internationally. I thought, I can help do the same for Chinese martial arts.
2 How did your film career get started?
As chief coach for the Beijing martial arts team, I was asked to recommend suitable candidates for a new film, Wu Lin Zhi.
I tried my best and recommended many. The director finally told me that he had chosen someone, but refrained from telling me who it was. Then he told my boss I had been chosen.
My boss refused him as he needed me for many key activities, but the director used all his power to get higher-level officials to make my boss agree. This was the way things were done in China then.
3 What was it like to train Jet Li?
Jet Li was a perfect pupil, not just in terms of power and flexibility, but also, most importantly, learning capability. He had great coordination and his movements were very graceful.
At the same time, he was an especially hard-working student. You never had to worry about his training attitude, but I often worried that he trained too hard.
4 What is the most challenging aspect of a career in martial arts?
Chinese martial arts is a huge and complicated system. There are so many different schools - even in one clan, there can be many conflicting interpretations.
People from different backgrounds need to respect one another, rather than try to dominate and oppress one another.
5 What is the state of martial arts in the world today, compared with when you were younger?
Nowadays, young people are often the only child in their family. Many are pampered too much to train hard enough to excel. They also tend to be fragile in the face of criticism.
Traditionally, Chinese martial arts coaches seldom praised anybody for doing a good job. We always try to pick out the weak points and ask students to improve. One who cannot take criticism is bound to fail.
6 Why did you decide to write the book, The Ultimate Chinese Martial Art?
Be it taichi or bagua, Chinese martial arts are spreading all over the world. I have been training students worldwide and I need to have a textbook in English.
To teach students in the West, it is important to have a scientific approach.
I was lucky to meet Luo, a physicist with more than 40 years of extensive martial arts training. He is capable of explaining the physical mechanics behind Chinese martial arts.
7 How do you continue to keep fit at your age?
I have a very good background in martial arts, which helps. But when I got older, I realised it was not enough to solve health issues with only a physical approach.
For the Chinese, the word "heart" has two aspects. One refers to the entire circulation system, the other to our soul.
I developed Sheng Zhen Gong, a set of unique movements and philosophy, to take care of my heart both physically and non-physically. I am spreading this to people all over the world.
8 How would you like to be remembered?
I am proud to be a gongfu coach and the person who originated Sheng Zhen Gong. However, I would like to be remembered more as a preacher of love and positive energy.
•The Ultimate Chinese Martial Art: The Science Of The Weaving Stance Bagua 64 Forms And Its Wellness Applications by Li Junfeng, Ge Chunyan and Luo Tong is available at $82 (hardcover) and $28 (paperback) at major bookstores.