What is Wushu?
Wushu, more commonly known as Kung Fu in the West, refers in general to all forms of Chinese martial arts. In modern times, it has been used to more specifically refer to a collection of martial sports focusing on the performance of athletic routines and contact fighting based on Chinese martial arts Wushu training emphasizes concentration, quickness, explosive power, and natural, relaxed movement.
The sport of Wushu is broken up into taolu (forms performance) and sanda (a combat sport similar to kickboxing). Taolu is separated further into modern and traditional categories. Modern wushu is a highly standardised competitive sport with generally fixed routines, often combined from a number of different martial styles and an emphasis on difficult techniques including jumping kicks, acrobatic leaping and other aerial maneuvers. Traditional wushu tends to be less standardised and focuses on the techniques and training routines of the traditional martial arts, reflecting more direct self-defence techniques with less emphasis on acrobatics and difficult movements.
Outside of competition and performance, Wushu practice is great way to get fit and improve strength and flexibility. As well as the physical benefits, Wushu can instil a strong sense of discipline and confidence.
Styles of Wushu
Modern competitive wushu is composed of two disciplines: taolu (bare hands, duel events known as duilian, short and long weapon forms and sanda/contact sparring. The common taolu forms are categorizsed as follows:
- Changquan (Long Fist)
- Nanquan (Southern Fist)
- Taijiquan (or Tai Chi Chuan)
- Dao (single edge broadsword)
- Jian (double-edged straight sword)
- Nandao (Southern single-edged sword)
- Taijijian (Taiji double-edged sword)
- Gunshu (staff)
- Qiangshu (spear)
- Nangun (Southern cudgel)
The forms comprise basic wushu movements such as throwing fist, push palm, heel kicking, jumping and sweeping in combination with stances such as the horse stance, push down and bare hands sparring. The taolu form can also be modified for competition to highlight the competitorâ€™s strengths. Modern wushu competitors are increasingly training in aerial techniques such as 360, 540 and 720 degree jumps and kicks to add more difficulty and style to their forms.
In contemporary times, wushu has become an International Competitive Sport administered through the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), which holds the World Wushu Championships every two years. The first World Championships were held in 1991 in Beijing. The latest (Thirteen) World Championships was held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2015.
Like Modern Wushu, Traditional Wushu encompasses a large variety of different styles including barehand and weapons from Southern and Northern Shaolin, Wing Chun, Bajiquan, Fanziquan, internal styles like Taijiquan, Xingyiquan, Baguazhang and many more. Unlike Modern Wushu, Traditional Wushu routines can generally be choreographed by the practitioner and their coach without set movements and do not include scores for degree of difficulty (nandu) for additional acrobatic moves. More recently however, prescribed competition forms for events like Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang have become more prevalent in competition.