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Bodies by Boston 2013

By PHOENIX STAFF  |  January 17, 2013

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YAO LI

Li's more famous students have included David Mamet, Robert Parish, and August Wilson, and Gisele Bündchen trains with him whenever she's in town. But you'd never know it from talking to him. Li's not a name-dropper, and he's happy to teach anyone who walks into the Boston Kung Fu Tai Chi Institute, the light-filled, fourth-floor studio on Boylston Street he co-owns with tai chi master Joshua Grant.

"That's one of the things I like about my job," he says. "I feel privileged to do what I do. I'm giving lessons of this very special art, this very special discipline, to people who can greatly benefit from it."

Born in Taiwan, Li came to Boston as a teenager and started studying martial arts after seeing David Carradine lay the smackdown on TV. Now in his 50s, Li teaches the art of wushu — the same dramatic style of kung fu you'll see in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. "It's like doing yoga and karate and dance rolled into one," he says. "I'm speaking from doing this art for years, and I feel it has made me a better man. I'm stronger in the right way. If you have strength, you have to use it properly."

_S.I. ROSENBAUM

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Boston , Harvard Stadium , bodies
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