Photo by George Anton ’21 | Andre Magnum ’21 performs a Kung Fu pose outside of Brophy Hall.
By George Anton ’21
Andre Magnum ’21 is a sophomore who blends in with all Brophy kids, except maybe for his fiery red hair and his 6’4 body frame.
What most people don’t know about Andre is that he is a professional athlete in Kung fu, has won countless competitions, and he is ranked one of the best in the world for his age.
His journey all started when he was three years old and his doctor told his parents that Magnum had Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Magnum’s parents did not want to put their young child on all sorts of medication so their solution for him releasing his excess energy was to have him run laps around a track until he got tired.
The running lasted for a time but one day Andre saw a Jackie Chan movie on tv.
“That looks awesome. I want to do that!” said Magnum.
So Magnum began practicing Traditional Kung fu at the age of three but after a few years, the coaching in the United States was not at a high enough level for where Magnum was headed.
At that point, his family looked for coaching in China. At age six, Magnum and his father moved to China. They went to a small town called Tagou, and Magnum started practicing Kung fu and his academics at a school near the Shaolin Temple, the place where Kung fu was founded.
Magnum was the first foreigner to be admitted into the Kung fu academy and he sure did stand out with his red hair.
He picked up Chinese fairly easily especially because he was in such a rural area.
“There’s no one that speaks English. We expected one or two people to speak English and we were wrong,” said Magnum
The young Magnum did face a steep learning curve in China due to the vastly different teaching methods.
“They don’t train smart there, they train hard. If I did anything wrong I’d be hit with a stick,” said Magnum.
Magnum also mentioned the use of other force by instructors. If a student could not do the splits, the instructor would push them until they could, even if it meant serious pain or injury.
He said, “They don’t care as much if you get injured because there’s a line of people waiting to take your position.”
When Magnum was new to the Chinese environment he said that he was bullied a lot because he was the only white kid at an all Chinese school. He also had many coaches tell him that tall people cannot be good at Kung fu and Americans don’t have the spirit to be the best.
“I grew up hearing that day, after day, after day, and it really annoyed me. I wanted to prove them wrong,” said Magnum.
The adversity faced, he said, helped work hard and get to where he is today.
There was even a documentary filmed about Magnum and his time training in China. The film’s name is A Boy in China (2012).
Magnum continued to excel at Kung fu. The summer before his Freshman year of high school, his parents wanted to move him back to Phoenix so he could have an American education and a high school experience in the states.
That same summer, Magnum took a course called Bridge to Brophy with Mr. Steve Smith ’96. This course was for all incoming Freshman coming from very different backgrounds like Magnum was.
Mr. Smith remembers seeing A Boy in China when it came out and he eventually made the connection after teaching Magnum.
Mr. Smith admires Magnum for his humility considering how talented he is.
“He is very humble and unassuming. It’s not like he wears a shirt that says ‘I am the greatest Kung fu guy in the world’ but he is,” said Mr. Smith.
Ivan Robles ’21 agrees with Mr. Smith saying, “He’s not like any other kid that would boast about it. He acts the same among all of us. He is into memes.”
Magnum still makes Kung fu his priority and trains before school and after school daily, averaging about four hours every day. He trains to fight barehanded and with weapons.
He also still studies Mandarin. Last year he took AP Chinese courses at Xavier and now he studies independently with his tutor from China. He enjoys studying Chinese because he does plan to go back to China at some point and also because it is one of the most spoken languages in the world.
Looking into the future, Magnum is seeking a role in the film industry.
“Martial arts alone doesn’t get you anywhere, and most people that do well [in Kung fu] go towards the cinematography,” said Magnum.
Magnum has already acted in multiple fight scenes with a group in China and hopes to continue his acting career using his talents.
Today, Andre Magnum still competes regularly, by himself and with the USA National Team.
He has over 100 gold medals at this point and he is set on growing his collection.