A typical wushu taolu competition at the 2005 National Games of China
|Highest governing body||International Wushu Federation|
|Contact||Dependent on type of Wushu|
|Team members||Individuals or Team|
|Venue||Taolu Carpet or Lei Tai|
|Country or region||Worldwide, Asia primarily|
|Olympic||(Demonstration Sport) 2008|
|World Games||(Invitational Sport) 2009, 2013, 2022|
|Also known as||Kung fu, CMA, WS|
|Focus||Striking, Grappling, Throwing, Performance Martial Art|
|Country of origin||China|
|Famous practitioners||Jet Li, Hossein Ojaghi , Wu Bin, Ray Park, Jon Foo, Wu Jing, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Yuan Wen Qing, Cung Le, Dan Hardy, Pat Barry, Michelle Waterson, Andrei Stoica, Mathias Bettan, Daniel Ghiță, Johnny Yong Bosch, Alfred Hsing, Vincent Zhao, Dennis To, Liu Hailong, Huang Zitao, Caity Lotz, Fang Bian, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Manjunath Bellikuppi, Wei Rui, Wen Junhui, Jia Aoqi, Daniel Wu, Kong Hongxing|
|Olympic sport||Demonstration Sport in 2008 and recognized by the IOC in 2002|
|Literal meaning||"Martial arts"|
|Part of a series on|
|Chinese martial arts (Wushu)|
Wushu (//), or Chinese Kungfu, is a hard and soft and complete martial art, as well as a full-contact sport. It has a long history in reference to Chinese martial arts. It was developed in 1949 in an effort to standardize the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts, yet attempts to structure the various decentralized martial arts traditions date back earlier, when the Central Guoshu Institute was established at Nanking in 1928.
"Wushu" is the Chinese term for "martial arts" (武 "Wu" = military or martial, 術 "Shu" = art). In contemporary times, Wushu has become an international sport through the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), which holds the World Wushu Championships every two years among other competitions. Under organization by the IWUF, wushu has appeared as a demonstration sport at the Summer Olympic Games and has become an official event at the Asian Games, Southeast Asian Games, and the World Combat Games among other multi-sport events.
Competitive Wushu is composed of two disciplines: taolu (套路; forms) and sanda (散打; sparring). But it has other disciplines, like self defense, breaking hard objects, and other related practices, that are not performed in competitions.
Taolu involves martial art patterns, acrobatic movements and techniques for which competitors are judged and given points according to specific rules. The forms comprise basic movements (stances, kicks, punches, balances, jumps, sweeps, and throws) based on aggregate categories of traditional Chinese martial art styles, and can be changed for competitions to highlight one's strengths. Competitive forms have time limits that can range from 1 minute, 20 seconds for some external styles, to over five minutes for internal styles.
Sanda (sometimes called sanshou) is a modern fighting method and a full contact sport. Sanda contains boxing, kicks (kickboxing), and wrestling. It has all the combat aspects of wushu. Sanda appears much like kickboxing, boxing or Muay Thai, but includes many more grappling techniques. Sanda fighting competitions are often held alongside taolu.
In 1958, the government established the umbrella organization to regulate martial arts training. The Chinese State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports took the lead in creating standardized forms for most of the major arts. During this period, a national Wushu system that included standard forms, teaching curriculum, and instructor grading was established. Wushu was introduced at both the high school and university level. This new system seeks to incorporate common elements from all styles and forms as well as the general ideas associated with Chinese martial arts. Stylistic concepts such as hard, soft, internal, external, as well as classifications based on schools such as Shaolin, Taiji, Wudang and others were all integrated into one system. Wushu became the government sponsored standard for the training in martial arts in China. The push for standardization continued leading to widespread adaptation. In 1979, the State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports created a special task force to teaching and practice of Wushu. In 1986, the Chinese National Research Institute of Wushu was established as the central authority for the research and administration of Wushu activities in China.
Changing government policies and attitudes towards sports in general led to the closing of the State Sports Commission (the central sports authority) in 1998. This closure is viewed as an attempt to partially de-politicize organized sports and move Chinese sport policies towards a more market-driven approach. As a result of these changing sociological factors within China, both traditional styles and modern Wushu approaches are being promoted by the International Wushu Federation.
Contemporary taolu events
Wushu events are performed using compulsory or individual routines in competition. Throughout the 1990s until 2005 for international competitions, athletes had to compete with routines choreographed by IWUF assigned coaches or athletes. In the November of 2003, a major revision took place regarding the taolu competition rules where the deduction content was standardized, judges roles were organized and expanded, and the degree of difficulty component, also known as nandu (難度; difficulty movements), was added. This category is worth 2.00 points of the 10.000 total. The quality of movements category is worth 5.00 points, and the overall performance category is worth 3.000 points. These changes were first implemented at the 2005 World Wushu Championships, and individual routines have become standard where an athlete creates a routine with the aid of his/her coach, while following certain rules for difficulty and technical requirements. Only the age group C and B athletes at the World Junior Wushu Championships still compete with compulsory routines at an international level. All junior events including group A athletes (which compete with individual routines), all traditional events, and all non-standard taolu events (ie. shuangdao, baguazhang etc.), are judged without the degree of difficulty component.
In addition to events for individual routines, some wushu competitions also feature dual and group events. The dual event, also called duilian (对练), is an event in which there is some form of sparring with weapons or without weapons. The group event, also known as jiti (集體), requires a group of people to perform together and smooth synchronization of actions are crucial. Usually, the group event also allows instrumental music to accompany the choreography during the performance. The carpet used for the group event is also larger than the one used for individual routines. The 2019 World Wushu Championships was the first international wushu competition to feature such an event.
Chángquán (長拳 or Long Fist) refers to long-range extended wushu styles like Chāquán (查拳), Huaquan (華拳), Hongquan (洪拳; "flood fist"), and Shaolinquan (少林拳), but this wushu form is a modernized style derived from movements of these and other traditional styles. Changquan is the most widely seen of the wushu forms, and includes speed, power, accuracy, and flexibility. Changquan is difficult to perform, requiring great flexibility and athleticism, and is often practiced from a young age.
Nanquan (南拳 or southern fist) refers to wushu styles originating in south China (i.e., south of the Yangtze River, including Hongjiaquan (Hung Gar) (洪家拳), Cailifoquan (Choy Li Fut) (蔡李佛拳), and Yongchunquan (Wing Chun) (詠春拳). Many are known for vigorous, athletic movements with very stable, low stances and intricate hand movements. This wushu form is a modern style derived from movements of these and other traditional southern styles. Nanquan typically requires less flexibility and has fewer acrobatics than Changquan, but it also requires greater leg stability and power generation through leg and hip coordination. This event was created in 1960.
Taijiquan (太極拳, T'ai Chi Ch'uan) is a wushu style mistakenly famous for slow, relaxed movements, often seen as an exercise method for the elderly, and sometimes known as "T'ai chi" in Western countries to those otherwise unfamiliar with wushu. This wushu form (42 form) is a modern recompilation based on the Yang (楊) style of Taijiquan, but also including movements of the Chen (陳), Wu (吳), Wu (武), and Sun (孫) styles. Competitive contemporary taiji is distinct from the traditional first form for styles it draws from, in that it typically involves difficult holds, balances, jumps and jump kicks. Modern competitive taiji requires good balance, flexibility and strength. The traditional second forms however like cannon fist, are more difficult than the modern forms, but are less known and usually taught to advanced students.
Nandao (南刀 or southern broadsword) refers to a form performed with a curved, one sided sword/blade based on the techniques of Nanquan. The weapon and techniques appears to be based on the butterfly swords of Yongchunquan, a well known Southern style. In the Wushu form, the blade has been lengthened and changed so that only one is used (as opposed to a pair). This event was created in 1992.
Jian (劍 or sword, but commonly known as straightsword) refers to any double-edged straight sword/blade, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the jian. The Jian event is known as jianshu.
Gun (棍 or cudgel) refers to a long staff (shaped from white wax wood) as tall as the person standing upright, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the white wax wood staff. The gun event is known as gunshu.
Nangun (南棍 or southern cudgel) is a Nanquan method of using the staff. This event was created in 1992. A Nangun should be as tall as a person holding a fist above his head. There are several basic steps and techniques that must be included in an Optional Southern cudgel event. The basic steps are bow stance, empty stance, dragon riding stance (弓步、虛步、騎龍步). The basic techniques in Southern Cudgel are cleft stick, collapse stick, twisted stick, roll press stick, defend stick, hit stick, uphold stick, throw stick (劈棍、崩棍、絞棍、滾壓棍、格 棍、擊棍、頂棍、拋棍).
Other taolu routines
The majority of routines used in the sport are new, modernized recompilations of traditional routines. However, routines taken directly from traditional styles, including the styles that are not part of standard events, may be performed in competition, especially in China. Many of these styles though are events in the World Kung Fu Championships, another IWUF-run event which is exclusively for traditional styles of wushu. The more commonly seen routines include:
- Baguazhang (八卦掌) – Eight-Trigrams Palm
- Bajiquan (八極拳/八极拳) – Eight Extremes Fist/Boxing
- Chāquán (查拳) – Cha Fist/Boxing
- Chuōjiǎo (戳腳/戳脚) – Poking Feet
- Ditangquan (地躺拳) – Ground-Prone Fist/Boxing
- Fānziquán (翻子拳) – Tumbling Fist/Boxing
- Houquan (猴拳) – Monkey Fist/Boxing
- Huaquan (華拳/华拳) – Hua Fist/Boxing
- Nanquan (南拳) – Southern Fist
- Pào Chuí (炮捶) – Cannon Punch
- Piguaquan (劈掛拳) – Chop-Hitch Fist/Boxing
- Shequan (蛇拳) – Snake Fist/Boxing
- Tán Tuǐ (弹腿) – Spring Kick
- Tang Lang (螳螂拳) – Praying Mantis Fist/Boxing
- Tongbeiquan (通背拳) – Through-the-Back Fist/Boxing
- Wing Chun (詠春拳/咏春拳) – Eternal Spring
- Xing Yi Quan (形意拳) – Shape-Intent Fist/Boxing
- Ying Zhao Pai (鷹爪拳/鹰爪拳) – Eagle Claw Fist/Boxing
- Zui Quan (醉拳) – Drunken Fist/Boxing
Traditional weapons routines
There is also a traditional weapons category, which often includes the following:
- Shuangshoujian (雙手劍/双手剑) – Two-Handed Sword
- Jiujiebian (九節鞭/九节鞭) – Nine Section Whip
- Sanjiegun (三節棍/三节棍) – Three Section Staff
- Shengbiao (繩鏢/绳镖) – Rope Dart
- Dadao (大刀) – Great Sword
- Pudao (撲刀/扑刀) – Horse Knife
- Emeici (峨嵋刺) – Emei Daggers
- Shuangdao (雙刀/双刀) – Double Broadsword
- Shuanggou (雙鈎/双钩) – Double Hook-sword
The other major discipline of contemporary Chinese Wushu is 散打 Sǎndǎ, or 运动散打 (Yùndòng Sǎndǎ, Sport Free-Fighting), or 竞争散打 (Jìngzhēng Sàndǎ, Competitive Free-Fighting) meaning: A modern fighting method, sport, and applicable component of Wushu / Kung Fu influenced by traditional Chinese boxing, of which takedowns and throws are legal in competition, as well as all other sorts of striking (use of arms and legs). Chinese wrestling methods called Shuai Jiao and other Chinese grappling techniques such as Chin Na. It has all the combat aspects of wushu.
Sanda appears much like Kickboxing or Muay Thai, but includes many more grappling techniques. Sanda fighting competitions are often held alongside taolu or form competitions. Sanda represents the modern development of Lei Tai contests, but with rules in place to reduce the chance of serious injury. Many Chinese martial art schools teach or work within the rule sets of Sanda, working to incorporate the movements, characteristics, and theory of their style.
Chinese martial artists also compete in non-Chinese or mixed combat sports, including boxing, kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts. Sanda is practiced in tournaments and is normally held alongside taolu events in wushu competition. For safety reasons, some techniques from the self-defense form such as elbow strikes, chokes, and joint locks, are not allowed during tournaments. Competitors can win by knockout or points which are earned by landing strikes to the body or head, throwing an opponent, or when competition is held on a raised lei tai platform, pushing them off the platform. Fighters are only allowed to clinch for a few seconds. If the clinch is not broken by the fighters, and if neither succeeds in throwing his opponent within the time limit, the referee will break the clinch. In the U.S., competitions are held either in boxing rings or on the raised lei tai platform. Amateur fighters wear protective gear.
"Amateur Sanda" allows kicks, punches and throws. A competition held in China, called the "King of Sanda", is held in a ring similar to a boxing ring in design but larger in dimension. As professionals, they wear no protective gear except for gloves, cup, and mouthpiece, and "Professional Sanda" allows knee and elbow strikes (including to the head) as well as kicking, punching and throwing.
Some Sanda fighters have participated in fighting tournaments such as K-1, Muay Thai, boxing and Shoot Boxing. They have had some degree of success, especially in Shoot Boxing competitions, which is more similar to Sanda. Due to the rules of kickboxing competition, Sanda fighters are subjected to more limitations than usual. Also notable competitors in China's mainstream Mixed Martial Arts competitions, Art of War Fighting Championship and Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation are dominantly of wushu background. Sanda has been featured in many style-versus-style competitions. Muay Thai is frequently pitted against Sanda as is karate, kickboxing, and Tae Kwon Do. Although it is less common, some Sanda practitioners have also fought in the publicly viewed American Mixed Martial Arts competitions.
See also: List of international wushu competitions
Major international and regional competitions featuring wushu include:
- World Wushu Championships
- World Junior Wushu Championships
- World Games (2009, 2013, 2022)
- World Combat Games
- Asian Games
- East Asian Games
- National Games of China
- South Asian Games
- Southeast Asian Games
- Mediterranean Games
- Lusofonia Games
Wushu is not a Summer Olympic sport; the IWUF has repeatedly backed proposals for Wushu to be added to the Olympic programme, most recently as one of eight sports proposed for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. However, it failed to reach the final shortlist, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ultimately voted for the re-inclusion of wrestling instead. Wushu was formally introduced into the Olympics as an exhibition sport in Berlin, in 1936, under Chancellor Hitler's request. In March 2015, IWUF executive vice president Anthony Goh stated that the Federation was planning to propose Wushu again for the 2024 Summer Olympics. As part of new IOC rules allowing host committees to accept proposals for new sports to be added to the programme (allowing the addition of sports of local interest to the Olympic programme under an "event-based" model), in June 2015, Wushu was shortlisted again as part of eight sports proposed for inclusion in the 2020 Games in this manner. However, it did not make the final shortlist of five. On 8 January 2020, it was announced by the IOC that Wushu will be added to the 2022 Summer Youth Olympics (which have been rescheduled to 2026).
Owing to its cultural significance in China, the IOC allowed the organizers of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to hold a Wushu tournament in parallel with the Games as a separate event – the first time that the IOC has allowed such an event.
Wushu was also a demonstration sport at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics at Nanjing, which featured events for Group A athletes who qualified at the World Junior Wushu Championships earlier that year. Wushu was also part of the 2014 Nanjing Sports Lab along with skateboarding, roller skating, and sports climbing.
- Wu Bin (吳彬/吴彬) – Jet Li's coach in the Beijing Wushu Team, training more wushu champions than any other coach in China.
- Jet Li (李連杰/李连杰) – possibly the most famous wushu practitioner in the world. He started wushu as a competition sport and gained fame as he took the National Wushu Champion of China title five times as an original member of the Beijing Wushu Team, he was later selected to demonstrate his wushu on the silver screen in the worldwide hit film Shaolin Temple. Many of his old teammates have also appeared on-screen with him, especially in his older movies.
- Donnie Yen (甄子丹) – Chinese martial artist and actor, trained with the Beijing Wushu Team. Gold medalists for various international Wushu Competitions. Known for his portrayal of Ip Man, mentor of Bruce Lee.
- Wu Jing (吳京/吴京) – Chinese actor who was sent to the Beijing Sports Institute at Shichahai in Beijing when he was 6 years old. Like Jet Li he competed as a member of the Beijing Wushu Team in national level wushu competitions in China. Both his father and grandfather were also martial artists
- Ray Park – Showcased his skills in wushu in several major films, including his portrayal of Darth Maul in 1999's Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, as well as Toad in the film X-Men (2000) and as stunt-double for Robin Shou and James Remar in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. He also heavily retrained prior to filming G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, in which he portrayed the martial arts expert Snake Eyes.
- Steve Coleman – Longest running Great Britain Wushu champion 2002–present, Captain GB Wushu Team, starred as Shane Powers in film On the Ropes.
- Jon Foo – Learned Kung Fu when he was 8 years old, but didn't begin serious training in Wu Shu until he was 15. Starred as Jin Kazama in the film adaptation of Tekken.
- Jade Xu (徐慧慧) is a martial arts actress and multiple World Wushu Champion. She won the World Championships three times in a row and the first (gun/staff) and second (dao/broadsword) place in the Olympic Wushu Tournament Beijing 2008 and became one of the most famous female Wushu athletes in the world. Soon after her athletic career, Jade Xu received offers to star in various international Film and TV productions, such as Tai Chi 0, Tai Chi Hero and Michael Jackson: One, and successfully launched her second career, as an actress.
- Hossein Ojaghi:He is an Iranian Sanda fighter and one of the best Sanda fighters in history. He has won many medals in every kind of international martial arts and Sanda competitions. Nowadays he is the coach of the Iran national team.
- Muslim Salikhov: He is one of the most technical fighters in sanshou. He has participated in MMA competitions such as Ultimate Fighting Championship(UFC). Salikhov is from Russia.
- Cung Le: Cung Le is an American Vietnamese and great wushu sanda and Mixed martial arts fighter. He has won a lot of medals.
- Philip Sahagun is a martial arts champion who has promoted the art of Wushu as a finalist on two of China's top-rated reality competitions, Kung Fu Star and Jackie Chan's Disciple. In 2008 & 2009, Philip performed Wushu while touring as a martial arts 'Ninja' performer for Tina Turner, Queen of Rock and Roll, record breaking Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour. He has represented America twice at the World Traditional Wushu Festival in China winning both gold and silver medals for the U.S. Team. Philip Sahagun has also served as a Martial Arts coach and artist for Cirque Du Soleil.
- Yuan Wenqing (原文庆) – One of the most famous, successful, and skilled wushu practitioners in the world who has won countless gold medals in Chinese, World, and Asian Championships. He is a former Shanxi wushu team athlete trained by the coaches Pang Lin Tai and Zhang Ling Mei. He is most famous for his ChangQuan, DaoShu, GunShu, ShuangDao, and DiTangQuan. A number of his routines (TaoLu) became the official standard competition routines (GuiDing) for a number of years until the new GuiDing TaoLu's were introduced.
Wushu has faced criticism as a competitive sport. It has been criticized by some traditional martial artists for being too commercialized, losing many of its original values, and potentially threatening old styles of teaching. Such critics argue that contemporary wushu helped to create a dichotomy between form work and combat application.
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