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K-pop culture has been gaining popularity across the globe, but in China it is considered a decadent trend that threatens to destroy the nation’s future. To combat this menace, a former schoolteacher has founded the Real Man Training Club, a children’s boot camp that promises to turn boys into alpha males.
The Beijing-based Real Man Training Club offers members a variety of activities meant to boost their masculinity, such as American football, wrestling and boxing, as well as character-building treks through deserts and mountains. Founder Tang Haiyan leads the boys in chest beating and slogan shouting to build up their confidence, and makes them wear headbands with the words ‘Real Man’. Even their shirts and tracksuits feature English phrases like ‘Anything is Possible’ or ‘Power Leader’. All this is meant to develop the boys’ macho character to fit Tang’s perception of manliness, and make them immune to the taint of K-pop culture.
If you are promoting these effeminate figures it’s a calamity for our country,” Tang Haiyan told the Los Angeles Times about the rise of K-pop in China.
Tang is convinced that men are the pillars of a family and a country, but he is worried that China’s next generation will not be able to fulfil its role because of outside influences promoted by the media. K-pop inspired pop idols with their delicate beauty, dyed hair and pompous clothing are ruining the country’s youths, making them soft crybabies. And that’s where his alpha male boot camp comes into play.
Once they are enrolled in the Real Man Training Club, boys can no longer rely on their parents for everything. They aren’t allowed any phone calls or family visits for an entire week, and crying is simply ignored. They engage in physical activities that some parent may consider rough, but Tang insists that they are important to build up the boys’ courage and grit.
Tang Haiyan created Real Man Training Club in 2012, after a visit to California to see how American football teams trained. He concluded that American families wanted boys to play the rough sport “so they could become alpha males” so he decided is could work in China as well. His boot camp usually fluctuates between 2,000 and 3,000 members, mainly troubled, low-achieving boys, whose families believe in traditional Chinese values.
A decline in masculinity has become a cause for concern in China, with national television taking extreme (and hilarious) measures to prevent the spread of foreign influence, like blurring men’s ears if they happened to be wearing earrings.
“It’s created the impression that Chinese men are all weak, irresponsible and indifferent,” Chinese screenwriter Wang Hailin explained. “Male actors represent national ideology. We cannot encourage the younger generation to look up to them as role models.”
Tang believes his camp offers a masculine education that most Chinese boys lack. At home, it’s their mothers who handle most of their education, and at school 90% of faculty are women. They don’t have enough male role models, which is why he only hired men as instructors.