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Jack Ma, chairman of China’s leading e-commerce company Alibaba, is an avid practitioner of the Chinese internal martial art tai chi. He claims to be an apprentice of tai chi master Wang Xian and has included the martial art into company training and recruitment programs, reports the Chinese-language Henan Business Daily.

The business tycoon could not even resist pushing tai chi when signing a deal with the Henan government in November for the Cainiao Network Technology, an online logistic network for retailers. While inking the deal, Ma appeared in black cloth shoes and a traditional Mandarin shirt. He looked more like to a martial artist than a businessman.

Wang is the one of the representative masters of the Chen-style tai chi chuan, which originates from the village of Chen in Henan province. In early 2009, Ma asked his assistant to find the best tai chi master in the country after practicing the martial art in Hangzhou for some time. The assistant found Wang and invited the tai chi master to Ma’s holiday villa in Sanya in 2009. Ma learned tai chi from Wang for four days and officially become Wang’s apprentice after taking his third lesson around October in the same year.

Both of them are too busy to arrange regular lessons. Whenever both of them are available they spend four to five days together. Wang instructs Ma for two two-hour sessions, one in the morning and afternoon.

Ma has encouraged other business magnates, such as Wang Zhongjun, chairman of Shenzhen-listed film company Huayi Brothers Media, and Shen Guojun, the current chairman of Beijing-based China Yintai Holdings, to learn tai chi. He brought them to Chen village for a tai chi ‘pilgrimage.’

Ma has incorporated the health practice into company routine to alleviate workplace stress by opening tai chi classes. Around 400 employees attended the first round of tai chi classes in Hanzhou’s Chengxi and Bingjiang district. Other senior Alibaba officials joined in the second round. Ma hired five Chen-style tai chi practitioners who won national contests in 2011 to teach weekly at Alibaba.

Alibaba’s new employees are required to perform tai chi forms during their performance evaluations, which play a role in deciding their future at the company, said Wang’s assistant Yan. Tai chi lessons are held regularly and those who miss lessons have to make them up on Saturday.

No matter what other people or the outside world does, people should focus on doing what they have set out to do, and doing it well, said Ma. He wants to find a way to be calmer and slower in an increasingly restless society.

Ma’s vision is that one day people can remember him as a tai chi master foremost, rather than solely as the founder of China’s largest internet company and online shopping website, said Ma’s assistant.

Ma has backed his ambitions with the founding of a company called Tai Chi Zen, which he promoted with kung fu star Jet Li in Hangzhou in April 2011. The two and Wang have been taking turns teaching tai chi at Alibaba’s tai chi institution in Hangzhou every month since May this year.

Alibaba’s Jack Ma and actor Jet Li open tai chi school in China

Li rose to fame for his kung fu skills and has starred in such films such as the Chinese historical epic Hero and the Hollywood blockbuster The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

The school in Hangzhou will teach tai chi and martial arts under a disciple of a well-known master, said a statement from Ma’s company provided on Monday.

It is part of a larger development in a wetlands park which includes commercial services, according to the statement.

The film star and the entrepreneur already have a jointly-owned cultural company which provides tai chi training to company employees.


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