What is Wushu?

Wushu, a form of contemporary Chinese martial arts, combining performance elements with martial application. Wushu focuses on speed and power with natural and relaxed movements.

A wushu practitioner combines strength, speed and flexibility with effortless, fierce and flawless technique!

Literal meaning of Wushu

Wushu can be translated to “martial arts” in English. The word wushu is however more diverse and has a slightly different meaning among the Chinese. The “wu” in wushu itself consists of two parts, meaning “stop” and “invaders”, combined together to mean something defensive.

The use of term “wushu” dates back to at least 6th century. However initially the term and related ones were used to describe the martial and military art to defend oneself, these days modern wushu has changed to more of a sport than an art.

Modern Wushu

Chinese government established the All-China Wushu Association in 1958 to regulate the training for martial arts in China. A lead was taken by the Chinese State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports to create standardized forms while establishing instructors grading. They introduced wushu at both university and high school levels.

As a result, wushu became the government sponsored standard for martial arts training in China. There was a widespread adaptation to the standardized wushu. However the State Sports Commission was closed in 1998 because of changing government attitudes and policies towards sports. Now both traditional wushu and the modern wushu sport are promoted by International Wushu Federation.

Different styles in Wushu

Wushu comprises of a variety of Chinese martial arts styles. The core curriculum of wushu consists of eight major styles, including:

  • Bare handed
    • Chang quan (long fist)
    • * Nan quan (southern fist)
  • Short weapon
    • Dao shu (Broadsword-play)
    • Jian shu (Sword-play)
    • * Nan dao shu (Southern broadsword-play)
    • Gun shu (Staff-play)
    • Qiang shu (spear-play)
    • * Nan gun shu (southern staff-play)

(The styles with * at the beginning of their name are southern system styles, while others are all northern system styles)

Once the student starts training in Wushu, he learns the basics of most of the core styles. Once he gains experience, he starts focusing on lesser number of styles and then specializes in any one of the styles of barehand, short weapon and long weapon.

Details of some of the styles are as follows:

Long fist
Long fist styles include the ones that focus on attacking the opponent not too close to ones body. The fighter has to remain relaxed and use extended posture and motion. The long fist movements are rhythmic, explosive, agile and include jumping techniques. The techniques are not just supposed to be powerful only but also fluid and graceful.

Southern fist
Southern fist styles include a firm stancework with powerful hand strikes. The boxer fights with ferocious techniques with fast and low footwork. There isn’t much distinction between defense and offense in southern fist. Most countering and blocking techniques are so forceful that they act as counter attacks too.

Staff is called the “father of all weapons” in Chinese martial arts, probably because many techniques used with various weapons are originally derived from staff techniques. The staff is as tall as the practitioner with the tip being slightly tapered than the butt end. The wood used for the staff is semi-flexible, allowing it to be smashed against the objects or opponent without breaking it.

The broadsword is known as “Marshal of all weapons”, as it was the standard weapon of soldiers on foot in medieval China. The broadsword, held in a single hand, has a wide, curved blade with a single sharp edge. A silk flag is usually attached to the swords holding side.

The weight and the width of the blade of broadsword allow it to slice the opponents body more easily than penetrating it, however both techniques can be used. Main techniques of broadsword include coiling around the head, upper cutting, parrying, hacking and stabbing. The techniques are explosive, swift and ferocious, resembling an enraged tiger!

The simple straight sword is also known as “gentleman of all weapons”. It’s held in single hand in a way that the thumb and last two fingers curve and meet each other, while the inner two fingers are together and extended. The blade is thin and has both sharp ends. As the Wushu saying goes: “sword-play resembles a flying phoenix”, the practitioner is quick but controlled in every attack, like a phoenix. The major techniques include parrying, hacking, pointing, tilting and stabbing.

Wushu, which was once a broad term that included various martial arts of China, now has developed into various forms, each having its own goals and focus with each practitioner focusing on either health and well being as primary goal while others focusing on skills and culture. More recently Wushu has developed into a competitive sport at a global level, practiced and enjoyed by people all over the world.

What is Wushu by Doctorali

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