LOS ANGELES — Building a "bridge" is no easy feat.

But in a martial arts studio in Roland Heights, teens Eric Zhu and Iris Wang are hoping to do just that by teaching kids in the community the art of Wushu (also known as Chinese kung fu) amid unprecedented attacks on the Asian American community.

What You Need To Know

  • Teens in Southern California are spreading cultural awareness through martial arts

  • Wushu is also known as Chinese fung fu

  • Classes take place in Roland Heights

  • The teens started their Pacific Bridge program in December 2020

Zhu explained how the rise in hate crimes has been disturbing but has motivated him to be part of the change. 

"It makes me feel depressed. It gives me a desire to change. I want to see the community be better, and I want to be the change the community needs," Zhu said.

Zhu and Wang attend the Orange County School of the Arts. They started their program Pacific Bridge in December of 2020, hoping to create more awareness between Asian and American cultures, they said. As Asian Americans themselves, they said they see the need to be prepared but don't necessarily view this as a program to solely teach self-defense. Teaching Wushu is a way to start a conversation.

"Being able to share what we know within Asian culture and hopefully even branching out to more parts of the area and more people," said Wang.

The teens were able to get their idea off the ground and make it a reality thanks to the Dragon Kim Foundation, which awarded them a fellowship and $5,000 grant.

But there's no doubt that physicality is designed to build strength. Zhu and Wang have been practicing Wushu since they were about as young as Zhu's little sister Cindy — who is 7 years old.

"My favorite part of doing kung fu is doing kicks because it's a way to make my legs stronger and make my body stronger," Cindy said.

Stop AAPI Hate received nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents between March 2020 and February of 2021. 

And for Zhu and Wang, the chance to show people something new is an opportunity to build understanding. 

"I believe that while we are different cultures, our fundamental values are the same like humanity, compassion, kindness and supporting each other when we fall down," Zhu said.

For more information on Pacific Bridge, visit @ocsa.pacific.bridge on Instagram, or Pacific Bridge on YouTube.