Ruan Qi (aka Devil Consultant) is the guru of pick-up artists in China

Ruan Qi is the China's guru of pick-up artists. And when I read how the term "average frustrated chumps" is mentioned, I come to remember this book, "The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists" by Neil Strauss. Quite a wonder that even in China, the evil art of picking-up-girls has gathered its followers. Heh.

Just kidding. Remember the movie, "Hitch"? It really depends on the individual to misuse the knowledge.

An online posting about his experience of picking up girls on the street has accidentally transformed a failed businessman into a professional pick-up artist.

Last year, Ruan Qi's apparel business failed. Frustrated, he started writing online, covering topics such as setting up a business and picking-up girls on the street, or in the workplace.

Within weeks, he received a multitude of e-mails, interested in nothing but his "pick-up skills" (dashan), which soon made him think he could make money out of it.

In February last year he started his first training class in pick-up skills at Beijing's Wangfujing Bookstore. Six men participated. Within a year, they all found girlfriends and claim this would not have been possible without their enhanced finesse with the opposite sex.

Word spread. Over the past year, Ruan's training class has become such a phenomenon that on douban.com, the website where Ruan first posted, there are now about 50 pick-up groups based in different cities across China.

Ruan now runs classes full-time. He has even got a nickname: "Devil Consultant".

His classes take place every weekend, though the venue changes from shopping malls to bookstores and college campuses.

Currently, some 300 people have registered for Ruan's classes, among whom nearly 30 percent have established relationships with their pick-up targets.

"Class members are aged between 22 and 35, with those between 25 and 29 in the majority," Ruan says. "Most of them are white-collar workers and post-graduate students who have not been able to find girlfriends, partly because of their small socializing circle and their shy and unassertive character."

They are the so-called "average frustrated chumps", referring to guys who have no pick-up skills.

"I blushed, my heart fluttered and I couldn't speak every time I talked with pretty girls, even if they were my classmates," says a 27-year-old post-graduate science student surnamed Han, who like others interviewed for this article did not want to give their full name.

"Now, inspired by 'Devil' and encouraged by my fellow members, I have the guts to speak to even women I don't know."

Traditionally, men or women of a marriageable age unable to find a partner will turn to matchmakers, usually relatives and friends, or commercial agencies. But dating of this kind has its limitations. "Blind dates are usually embarrassing and disheartening, because matchmakers simply don't understand what we want. Also, even if we know we don't click at first sight, we have to have dinner together for the matchmaker's sake. It is a waste of time and money," says a 30-year-old man surnamed Wu.

Ruan gives online lectures, imparts techniques to spot a potential target, pick up, date and maintain a relationship. Advanced classes involve phonetic coaching and image building.

"Although seduction groups have been formed in cities around the world for nearly two decades - they even have guide books - I drew on techniques mostly from my personal experience, because Western theories don't apply to our Eastern culture," Ruan explains.

Success in the dating game doesn't come cheap. Tuition for basic classes is 600 yuan ($88) per person, while advanced classes are 2,200 yuan. Student Han thinks it's worth it.

"Besides the progress I have made in dealing with girls, another benefit is that after image building training, the security guard at my college no longer checks my credentials out of the suspicion that I might be a migrant worker," Han says.

But there is also opposition to the pick-up artists.

While there are 50-some pick-up groups on douban.com, about 3,000 people have formed a "counter-pick-up group" on the same website to discuss ways against the "art of seduction".

An online survey by sina.com shows that while 57.7 percent of 10,906 respondents are supportive of pick-up classes, believing they promote confidence and social competence, 37.3 percent fear they may encourage sexual harassment and one-night stands.

Another young man, surnamed Yang, was called a "pervert" when he tried to pick up a girl.

"I was lousy that day and the place - an elevator - made things worse," he admits.

Girls who have this dismissive attitude are termed "steel slabs". "Glass slabs" are indifferent, while "plastic slabs" are generally friendly and perhaps willing to leave their phone number. Ruan tells his trainees that you don't have to become a pick-up professional to meet someone but with the addition of pick-up skills the likelihood is greater. And he is not short of real-life examples.

"From October 2008 to March 2009, I have taken part in 13 weekend practices, started 40 pick-ups, got 18 phone numbers, and become friends with six," writes a former member of Ruan's pick-up class, who calls himself "Fog".

"Now, since I have found the one, I will quit. But guys, we can still have dinner together."

From Asiaone, "Picking up girls makes failed businessman success".

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