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Li Kai Wen And Ma Jia Wen Share Their Chinese New Year Experiences

February 05, 2019

Tuesday, 5 February marks the Chinese New Year, which is an important time for a number of Chinese athletes on the ONE Championship roster.

This year marks the Year of the Pig, the last of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, with the animal representing wealth and prosperity.

Two Chinese athletes looking to prosper in the Year of the Pig are featherweight stars “The Cannon” Ma Jia Wen and “The Underdog” Li Kai Wen, both of whom are targeting a run towards World Title contention in 2019. 

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Both martial artists have grown up following the traditions of Chinese New Year, but for this year’s celebration, each competitor has different plans.

“I want this year to be a bit different,” says Li, who usually celebrates the occasion with friends and family.

“I want to spend time with myself. I will have a very quiet Chinese New Year, or I will spend it with my wrestling team.”

For Ma, the holiday is a golden opportunity to reconnect with his family and enjoy quality time with his loved ones.

“I haven’t been back home for a long time, so I want to be with my parents and grandparents,” he confesses. “Plus, I can take this chance to go out more and eat more!”

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One of the long-standing traditions of Chinese New Year is the “red packets,” or little red envelopes that are given to children to commemorate the start of the new year.

The envelopes contain money, which signifies the passing on of fortune and success from the family elders to the younger generation.

It is a tradition both “Cannon” and “The Underdog” still follow today, and the pair revealed it as their favorite aspects of the Chinese New Year celebrations from their younger days.

“The red packets, and all the lights and the fireworks — I really enjoyed it,” Ma says.

As for Li, there was something else he enjoyed.

“When I started growing up, I also liked the Lantern Festival because there were many activities like walking around with the rabbit lantern,” he explains. “I also enjoyed eating with the locals.”

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Now grown adults and professional athletes, both Li and Ma have seen the annual holiday change.

Both men still enjoy the Chinese New Year celebrations, but now do so in moderation as they look to keep their bodies in tip-top shape as they prepare for their next bouts — whenever they may be.

“Chinese New Year means I can finally take a good rest,” Ma explains.

“I have been working hard, so now I can play with the kids and the old people.”

Last year’s Chinese New Year was a particularly tricky one for Li, as the celebration fell just one week before his bout with Roel Rosauro at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD.

“I was under weight control, and I saw all my friends coming back to our hometown eating good food and tasting fine wine, but I could only eat vegetables and fruits,” he recalls.

“My friend asked me, ’Kai Wen, do you think it’s all worth it?’ I said, ‘The rainbow comes after the storms.’”

That assessment proved true. He claimed a 43-second submission victory, which put him on a winning streak that continues to this day.

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Li’s dedication to his martial arts training comes from the knowledge that his athletic career will not last forever. 

The 23-year-old appreciates the short-term nature of a competitive martial artist’s career, and he plans to achieve as much as he possibly can by pushing himself to be the best he can be.

“I gave my all in training, and I concentrated every minute during that time. I realize that it was all worth it to spend time training. I am so passionate about it,” he says. 

“Time goes so fast for fighters like us — the time is too short for you to stand on this stage to shine for our own career. The golden years won’t last long, so cherish every minute you train and enjoy it.”

And, with “The Underdog” being born in 1995, he believes 2019 could prove to be a spectacular year for him.

“I was born in the Year of the Pig,” Li says. “So this year is my year!”