When you open the latest September/ October 2010 issue of Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine (KFTCM), you may be pleasantly surprised by the full-color pages throughout the entire magazine. Many martial arts enthusiasts appreciate the bold investment that the magazine has made with the seemingly stalled economic recovery. With full-color, each action photo is presented with great clarity and illustrates the intricate movements of martial arts.
Established in 1992, Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine is a product of TC Media, founded by Thomas Oh. It began as a quarterly and became a bimonthly in 1996. In 2000, it became a monthly but went back to a bimonthly in 2001 so the editorial department could reallocate its resources and energies towards its web platforms or E-ZINE. Today it is the largest English publication for Kung Fu, Wu Shu and Tai Chi. The magazine is distributed in over 40 countries, although many countries only get a few issues through select distributors. Along with Tiger Claw (a martial arts product supplier), TC Media supports a non-profit charitable branch called the Tiger Claw Foundation, supporting WildAid’s efforts to protect wild tigers. Tiger Claw and the magazine are the major sponsors and organizers of the annual Tiger Claw Kung Fu Magazine Championship tournament. The magazine also sponsors the annual World Congress on Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Publisher Gigi Oh and Associate Publisher Gene Ching have been recognized for their contributions to the martial arts community by various organizations and groups.
Kung Fu Tai Chi has always been a newsstand magazine. It is available in many major chains such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, etc. Due to the recent decline in newsstand distribution, all niche magazines have limited distribution, but Kung Fu Tai Chi magazine is proudly still on the newsstands. With “Kung Fu” in the title, it has kept the magazine in the sports section of the newsstands, away from the spirituality/yoga sections.
When asked about the growing pains that the magazine has experienced in its 18-year history, Associate Publisher Gene Ching said that “Right now is a very difficult time for print publishing. The rise of the internet has shifted reading habits in America. The economic downturn had a negative effect on advertising, the lifeblood of magazines. We’ve been fortunate to have had the support of so many loyal readers”.
He also mentioned were growing pains with the magazine’s title. Originally, it was titled “Kung Fu Wushu”. In 1995, they took on the title “Kung Fu Wushu Qigong” when merged Qigong magazine with Kung Fu Wushu magazine. But it was just too many Chinese words for a title. “Wushu” got dropped and it was just “Kung Fu Qigong”. Unfortunately not many people could pronounce Qigong — not even the distributors. Finally they settled on “Kung Fu Tai Chi” in 2003. However, there are some Tai Chi practitioners who are put off by the “Kung Fu” part of the title. Today, the magazine runs about 50/50 external martial arts versus internal martial arts articles. With the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), the editorial department at the magazine is considering increasing its emphasis on the internal arts.
Another interesting story about the magazine is with its cover. For many years, it was the only magazine to consistently put Chinese faces on the cover. It had the honor to interview Jet Li and put him on the cover. Then they got a backlash when a non-Chinese face showed up on the cover. That has subsided since more and more non-Chinese martial artists have excelled and achieving great accomplishments.
Associate Publisher Gene states that “Our readers are martial arts aficionados, specifically traditional practitioners. Our demographic hasn’t changed that much over the years. We have about a 20% female readership.” He does not have any statistics on teenager readers. But he imagines that is declining as that demographic is more tuned into its web platforms.
Besides the on-line magazine, its official website www.kungfumagazine.com contains great resources for Tai Chi, Qigong and Wushu. The News and Calendar section provide timely activity information about the industry. Recently, the magazine has been very active in the on-line social media. Its Facebook site is constantly updated with interesting photos and video links, having 2,468 friends on Monday July 26, 2010. Its MySpace site also had 1,150 friends. They also utilize Twitter to connect with their loyal readers. We are glad to see that Kung Fu Tai Chi magazine continues to strive in traditional print media as well as in the digital world to serve the martial arts practitioners in the U.S. and around the world.
About the Writer: Violet Li is an award winning journalist, certified Taiji (Taichi) instructor, and certified Heart Zone Trainer. She has studied Taiji, Qigong (Chi Gong), and heart fitness with many grandmasters and experts. She has taught Taichi, Chi Gong and other fitness programs to different demographic groups. Her passion for Taiji, Qigong and fitness motivates her to write articles on the related events, people, theories, techniques, practices, and health benefits for you. Violet writes locally as the St. Louis Tai Chi Examiner.