Chinese martial arts actress Miya Muqi has been compared to action star Michelle Yeoh Choo-kheng for refusing to use a body double when performing stunts.
In fact, the professional yoga instructor even has a habit of picking up new sports when preparing for a new movie. For her recent film Vanguard, in which she co-starred alongside Jackie Chan, Muqi spent three years learning jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts, free diving, parachuting, motor-biking and racing.
“I need to start from scratch as my forte is in yoga, which is soft in nature,” the 33-year-old tells the Post. “Martial skills need strength, balance and explosive force. My foundation in yoga helps me grasp the skills quickly.”
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The new sports training did not stop after she finished shooting for the film. In October, she got her Professional Association of Diving Instructors advanced freediver certificate, and she remains a student of accomplished American racer Steve Saleen.
“Doing these sports give me a unique sense of excitement,” Muqi explains. “When my adrenaline shoots up, I feel a big sense of achievement having conquered another sport.
“In free-diving, for example, you have to overcome the lack of oxygen and water pressure to dive to the deepest place (you can reach). At the deepest recesses, there’s an extreme tranquillity where the only sound you can hear is your own heartbeat. I love this feeling of absolute quietude under water. These moments are very good for self-reflection and reminding myself of the importance of self-composure.”
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Before making her film debut in 2014’s Tomb Robber, Muqi first attracted public attention for her yoga education work. Despite her rising fame, yoga remains a big passion of hers.
In 2017, while attending a yoga gathering of 10,000 people in Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu province, she was appointed China yoga ambassador by Prakash Gupta, consul general of India’s consulate in Shanghai. In particular, she says she wants to promote “kung fu yoga”.
“I want to fight in a cool and different way from others,” says Muqi, who helped design several
action scenes in Vanguard by incorporating martial arts and yoga.
Muqi’s lithe physique and sexy persona in another 2017 Jackie Chan vehicle, Kung Fu Yoga, earned her legions of male fans. Stanley Tong kwai-lai, who directed both Kung Fu Yoga and Vanguard, has said he sees traces of Michelle Yeoh in Muqi.
“Her performances compare to Yeoh’s in Police Story 3 (1992), which made a big splash then,” he said of the actress.
Muqi, who comes from the Yi ethnic minority in Yunnan province, sees Scarlett Johansson as her role model. “She looks, acts and fights so well when she’s playing Black Widow (in Marvel’s The Avengers series),” she says.
“I still have much to learn from Yeoh,” she adds. “I have collaborated with Jackie Chan twice. His mantra is that the audience will only be won over if the actors go all out. As an action star, with the exception of (life-threatening injuries), other wounds and pain are trivial. That’s why I do all the stunts and high-wire acts myself.”
In spite of her steely persona, Muqi says she actually feels a lot of fear when performing stunts. “Especially the wire-flying acts where I have to do somersaults mid-air,” she says.
“My serene exterior belies my deep inner fear. The repetitive practising day after day can be dull. One time, I completed a whole day’s training and packed my bags to leave. I dropped my phone on the ground. I was so exhausted that I did not want the phone any more as even bending over to pick it up was too much for me. To relax, I like eating hotpot as a reward.”
For her latest challenge, Muqi says she is learning swordplay and is about to receive military training and get more knowledge of military themes.
“I will undergo formal military training with a corps. I also want to brush up on my parachuting skills. I have to complete 200 take-offs and touchdowns to advance to another level. But I am too busy with work now. My parachute is gathering dust, but I want to get some intensive training for it when I get time,” she says.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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