Wushu (/ˌwuːˈʃuː/), 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; the first World Championships were held in 1991 in Beijing. The World Kungfu Championships are held every four years subset International Wushu Federation, as well.
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.
Wushu events are performed using compulsory or individual routines in competition. Compulsory routines are those routines that have been already created for the athlete, resulting in each athlete performing basically the same set. Individual routines are routines that an athlete creates with the aid of his/her coach, while following certain rules for difficulty.
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 or even using bare hands against weapons. The dual event is usually spectacular and actions are choreographed beforehand. 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.
Previously, international wushu competitions most often used compulsory routines, while high-level competitions in China most often used individual routines. However, after the 2003 Wushu World Games in Macau it was decided to opt for individual routines in international competition with nandu (難度; difficulty movements) integrating a maximum 2 point nandu score into the overall maximum score of 10.
There is some controversy concerning the inclusion of nandu in wushu because many of the movements created for the specific events are not originally movements used in those styles. In addition the number of injuries which have resulted from the inclusion of these nandu have caused many people to question their inclusion.
Those who support the new difficulty requirements follow the assertion that they help to progress the sport and improve the overall physical quality of the athletes.
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. All nandu movements must be made within 4 steps or it will not count for nandu points.
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. All nandu movements must be made within 4 steps or it will not count for nandu points.
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.
Dao (刀 or broadsword) refers to any curved, one-sided sword/blade, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using a medium-sized willow-leaf-shaped dao (柳葉刀).
Nandao (南刀 or Southern Style 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) refers to any double-edged straight sword/blade, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the jian.
Taijijian (太極劍 or Taiji sword) is an event using the jian based on traditional Taijiquan jian methods.
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.
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).
Qiang (槍 or spear) refers to a flexible spear with red horse hair attached to the spearhead, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the qiang.