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Setting goals for better health isn’t what comes to mind when you’re watching the Yandong Shaolin Kung Fu Troupe in action.

The gravity-defying moves and chiseled formations seem more the stuff of Hollywood legends – maneuvers for street-fighting warriors or animated Kung Fu pandas facing down renegades gone wild.

Those modern notions are what brought the four monks to Charlotte – to create a more realistic understanding of their 1,500-year-old art form through martial arts performances and classes.

The monks will lead two classes that start Saturday at the year-old Confucius Institute at Pfeiffer University on Park Road.

There will be plenty of room to have fun, but the script in this Kung Fu program really is about fitness.

“The classes are mainly for mental and physical health,” said Weihong Yan, director of the Confucius Institute and a Chinese language professor at Pfeiffer.

Of course, having Chinese-born Kung Fu masters share the ancient traditions also could help create better appreciation for Chinese culture in a broader sense.

That is the goal of the 328 Confucius Institutes, affiliates of a Beijing-based public institution called Hanban that has ties to the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The institutes are designed to help boost the economic reform that China began in the 1970s as it shifts to a market economy.

The institutes support Chinese language programs in primary and secondary schools. They also act as a resource for business owners in China and other countries that want to expand their markets.

Affiliates operate in more than 82 countries and regions, including more than 70 in the United States.

The Confucius Institute opened at Pfeiffer in 2009 and became the third in the Carolinas. Others operate at N.C. State University in Raleigh and the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

Ultimately, the institute in Charlotte hopes to open a Kung Fu center and bring six additional masters for martial arts classes and a traveling performance show, Yan said.

The classes that start Saturday will help gauge interest in a center.

Yan expects that participation in the classes will be solid because training courses with Chinese masters are rare in the United States.

He expects young adults will be most interested in the classes, but children as young as 5 can begin training with the masters.

“China has been closed for centuries,” Yan said. “It’s an important cultural exchange between two countries.”