Lives: St Genis, France. From: Larnaca
Sport: Kung Fu
Style: Wu Shu Kwan (WSK)
3 Favourite Things: Sun, Beach, Dogs!
Fun fact: I like adrenaline and speed... So one of the things on my to-do list is getting a skydiving certificate!
Dr Androula Alekou
Kung Fu Black Belt second degree
CYPRUS GIRLS CAN chats with Andri, to learn about her passion for Kung Fu and what it takes to get to Black Belt - and beyond!
Interview by Natalie Christopher
Tell us, what exactly is the Wu Shu Kwan style of Kung Fu?
Andri: Hi! Nice to meet you! So, Kung Fu is a Chinese Martial Art. There are actually numerous Kung Fu styles.
Wu Shu Kwan (WSK) is a full contact martial art. We learn how to defend ourselves and counter-attack.
In WSK Kung Fu, you are allowed to strike the opponent wherever you like. We learn how to break legs, punch in the groin. However we are always taught to respect our opponent.
Natalie: Hi Andri! It’s great to meet a female Cypriot who is so highly qualified in Kung Fu!
Wu Shu Kwan is a martial art
with a culture of respect, honesty and goodwill.
What is Wu Shu Kwan (WSK) Kung Fu?
Translated from the Chinese language:
Wu means martial or fighting;
Shu means the art, the way or the method;
Kwan (or Guan in Chinese pinyin system) means a centre or an association.
Put together, Wu Shu Kwan therefore means: Chinese Boxing Centre i.e. Academy of Martial Art.
Some people may be more familiar with the term Kung Fu rather than Chinese Boxing. They describe more or less the same thing
- however -
Kung Fu usually refers to the flowery, sometimes irrelevant type of Chinese martial art often seen on the screen,
Chinese Boxing originates from the oldest name used by non-Chinese to describe the systematic and pragmatic self-defense art of China.
some practitioners liken Kung Fu to fireworks for display
and equate Chinese Boxing with the real dynamite.
N: How long have you been interested in martial arts?
A: I always wanted to get involved in martial arts, something just drew me to it. I tried Judo when I was 10 years old.
Fast-forward a few years, to when I was studying Physics at the University of Cyprus. I went to a meeting related to my Bachelor studies and I heard kicks and shouting coming from a room… Out of curiosity I stuck my head in the door and saw there were people kicking targets. I was so excited! I had stumbled across a full contact Karate class.
I asked them if I could have a go… I kicked the target so hard, they asked if I was angry! I just loved it! I joined the club and trained with them. The really great thing was that the classes were filled with women!
N: That’s great to hear! Where did you take it from there?
A: After I finished my degree, I moved to the UK to start a PhD in Particle Physics. I could not find any full-contact Karate classes, so I looked around and I ended up finding a Kung Fu class. I loved it from day one: I never missed a class!
The classes were on the weekend. From then on for me, the weekends were just for Kung Fu, never for visiting friends or doing anything else! Since I never missed a class, I progressed quickly.
Just after I finished my PhD, I got my Black Belt in Kung Fu. That was really a great period of my life!
N: Wow, congratulations! You are a lady of many talents! So what did you decide to do once you’d gotten your Black Belt?
A: Well, for my first Postdoc, I got a fellowship at CERN. There was no other martial art I wanted to do in my spare time other than Kung Fu and as there were no WSK classes near me, I started teaching!
After that Postdoc finished, I went to Oxford for my second Postdoc where I had the chance to drive to London and attend classes. After Oxford, I was in Manchester for 3 months and I was driving every week to Liverpool to attend the class there. Two years later, I was back at CERN and I restarted teaching my classes!
At the moment I teach Kung Fu at CERN every week. The classes are open to public and CERN provides the space, free of charge.
Gender should not play a role when doing martial arts, however most of my students are employees at CERN and as a result mainly male.
People pay to attend, but as I volunteer my time, all the money goes back to students and goes towards things like buying equipment.
The students can be examined every 3 to 4 months; we specifically bring examiners over from the UK. We also hold demos when the examiners are there, to try to attract more students.
N: What can someone expect if they come to one of your classes?
A: Every class is 2 hours. The format of every class is the same in all countries where Wu Shu Kwan is taught - we follow the same schedule week per week. During class we learn to do blocks, kicks and punches in the air and then we spend time on our Forms. At the end of class, students can practice their free sparring.
The Globe of Science and Innovation, a visitor centre designed to inform visitors about the significant research being carried out at CERN (Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire; 'European Organization for Nuclear Research' in English).
Andri is a Accelerator Physicist and conducts research at CERN. She holds Wu Shu Kwan Kung Fu lessons at CERN once a week.
Andri (3rd from left, back row), with her WSK students (front row) and examiners (back row) at an examination held at CERN.