When Your Favorite Instagram Star Lives in China

If you enjoy martial arts and appreciate female athletes, you may have encountered the work of Jiang Yuhuan, who went viral with security footage.

In the genre of anxiously commenting on women demonstrating physical prowess, we see that it’s staged, but have to admit that Yuhuan is incredibly impressive. Turns out, she’s a taekwondo champion, and her Instagram page allowed us better-angled looks at her elegant but brutal craft. Here’s a montage someone compiled on YouTube:

Again, in some of these clips, she’s sped up a little, but the power is undeniable. Those dummies get rocked, and I wince at the high kicks, which look like they could take a head clean off. The violence, however, is tempered by a charming persona, where she does skits and even “reality checks” to remind us that the extravagant Black Widow-style takedowns aren’t exactly practical. In recent weeks she was talking about taking a next step by launching a Facebook page, and she’s won plaudits from Shannon Lee and Scott Adkins.

Then all of a sudden, she disappeared.

This should sound alarm bells for anyone familiar with Fan Bingbing and, more recently, Zhao Wei. Yuhuan’s Instagram mysteriously turned into “Gotham MMA,” and all links back to her handle @bangitsjiang (I love that!) went nowhere.

Gotham MMA debuted with a Yuhuan video, but has since showcased other martial artists (a lot of kids?). This had me confused for several days. Today, November 26, Gotham MMA finally clarified the situation in an Instagram Story, which I’ll reproduce as text:

Hello all,

Regarding the account @bangitsjiang or Jiang Yuhuan. Sadly, due to China’s laws and policies, Jiang has had to leave Western Social Media. Using a VPN to dodge the law is illegal in China. Obviously.

Secondly. Jiang is fine and okay. She’s well despite Guangzhou currently being in lockdown.

Thirdly. There is a chance that a variation of Jiang’s page will appear in the future. But it will likely be an official fan page rather than Jiang herself. Obviously, Jiang returning properly would break Chinese law. A majority of “Chinese” martial arts accounts are either facing the same thing or they’re fake accounts/fan pages.

Finally. This page will be used to share content from China’s private social media channels for the rest of the world to see. Jiang is fully aware that I am running her account. I refuse to be silenced and creators deserve to be seen.

Yours faithfully,
V

Well, if there’s one thing you wouldn’t want to do as a nationalistic government, it’s sit back while exceptional examples of your civilian population engage in compelling global soft power. I mean, this is martial arts! (Granted, mixed styles).

Either way, it’s really disappointing news to read, and subsequently screenshot like a stalker. It’s a strange experience, too, how social media — and soft power — can connect people made distant by geography and culture, and then the realities of those two worlds make for collisions. We might love K-pop but cringe at the industry demands placed on young artists. You may be following an amazing Chinese martial artist, only for her voice to be silenced by paranoid, isolationist laws.

As a westerner, you can still check out her book, Press X To Kick – The guide I wish I had when I first started Taekwondo on Gumroad. Beyond that, I suppose we just wait for updates. I hope everything goes well for her, and I’d love to see her again someday.

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