Wushu (sport)

Wushu (sport)
A typical wushu competition, here represented by the 10th All-China Games.
Traditional Chinese 武術
Simplified Chinese 武术
Literal meaning martial arts
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The sport of wushu is both an exhibition and a full-contact sport derived from traditional Chinese martial arts.[1][2] It was created in the People's Republic of China after 1949, in an attempt to nationalize the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts.[3] Most of the modern competition forms (套路 taolu) were formed from their parent arts (see list below) by government-appointed committees.[3] 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 and won by Yuan Wen Qing.[4]

Competitive wushu is composed of two disciplines: taolu (套路; forms) and sanda (散打; sparring)[5] Taolu involve martial art patterns and maneuvers 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 traditional Chinese martial art style 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. Modern wushu competitors are increasingly training in aerial techniques such as 540 and 720 degree jumps and kicks to add more difficulty and style to their forms.[6]

Sanda (sometimes called sanshou or Lei tai) is a modern fighting method and sport influenced by traditional Chinese boxing, 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.



In 1958, the government established the All-China Wushu Association as an 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. In 1979, the State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports created a special task force to teaching and practice of Wushu. Wushu literally means "martial methods". In 1986, the Chinese National Research Institute of Wushu was established as the central authority for the research and administration of Wushu activities in the People's Republic of China.[7] Changing government policies and Master Yanlong Li attitudes towards sports in general lead 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.[8] As a result of these changing sociological factors within China, both traditional styles and modern Wushu approaches are being promoted by the Chinese government.[9]


  • Barehanded
    • 長拳 Changquan (Long Fist)
    • 南拳 Nanquan (Southern Fist)
    • 太極拳 Taijiquan (or T'ai chi ch'uan) (Taiji Fist)
  • Short Weapons
    • Dao (knife)
    • Jian (double-edged sword)
    • 南刀 Nandao (Southern single-edged sword)
    • 太極劍 Taijijian (Taiji double-edged sword)
  • Long Weapons

Most events were first set up in 1958.

A Jian dual event (choreographed)

These 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 (集体), 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 (难度; 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.

Main events

Changquan refers to long-range extended wushu styles like Chaquan (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 practised from a young age.

Nanquan 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 (T'ai chi ch'uan) is a wushu style 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 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.

Dao 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).

Jian refers to any double-edged straight sword/blade, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the jian.

Gun refers to a long staff (shaped from white wax wood) as tall as the wrist of a person standing with his/her arms stretched upwards, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the white wax wood staff.

Qiang 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.

Taijijian is an event using the jian based on traditional Taijiquan jian methods.

Nandao is a weapon that appears to be based on the butterfly swords of Yongchunquan, but has been lengthened and changed so that only one is used (as opposed to a pair). This event is a Nanquan method, and was created in 1992.

Nangun is a Nanquan method of using the staff. This event was created in 1992.

Other 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. These routines generally do not garner as many points as their modern counterparts, and are performed in events separate from the compulsory routine events. Among these, the more commonly seen routines include:

  • Baguazhang (八卦掌) - Eight-Trigrams Palm
  • Bajiquan (八極拳) - Eight Extremes Fist/Boxing
  • Chaquan (查拳) - Cha Fish/Boxing
  • Changquan (长拳)- Long fist
  • Chuojiao (戳腳) - Poking Feet
  • Ditangquan (地躺拳) - Ground-Prone Fist/Boxing
  • Fanziquan (翻子拳) - Tumbling Fist/Boxing
  • Houquan (猴拳) - Monkey Fist/Boxing
  • Huaquan (華拳) - Hua Fist/Boxing
  • Nanquan (南拳)-Southern Fist
  • Paochui (炮捶) - Cannon Punch
  • Piguaquan (劈掛拳) - Chop-Hitch Fist/Boxing
  • Shequan (蛇拳) - Snake Fist/Boxing
  • Tantui (弹腿)- Spring Leg
  • Tanglanghushi (螳螂虎势) - Praying Mantis and Tiger Style
  • Tanglanquan (螳螂拳) - Praying Mantis Fist/Boxing
  • Tongbeiquan (通背拳) - Through-the-Back Fist/Boxing
  • Wing Chun (Yongchunquan) - Eternal Spring
  • Xingyiquan (形意拳) - Shape-Intent Fist/Boxing
  • Yingzhuaquan (鷹爪拳) - Eagle Claw Fist/Boxing
  • Zuiquan (醉酒拳) - Drunken Fist/Boxing
  • Tornado Poing - Tornado Fist (French Form of Wushu)

Similarly, there is also a traditional weapons category, which often includes the following:

  • Changsuijian (長穗劍) - Long-Tasseled Sword
  • Shuangshoujian (雙手劍) - Two-Handed Sword
  • Jiujiebian (九節鞭) - Nine Section Whip
  • Sanjiegun (三節棍) - Three Section Staff
  • Shengbiao (繩鏢) - Rope Dart
  • Dadao (大刀) - Great Sword
  • Pudao (撲刀) - Pu Sword
  • Emeici (峨嵋刺) - Emei Daggers
  • Shuangdao (雙刀) - Double Broadsword
  • Shuangjian (雙劍) - Double Sword
  • Shuangbian (雙鞭) - Double Nine Section Whips
  • Shuanggou (雙鈎) - Double Hooksword


List of major international and regional competitions featuring wushu:

Notable practitioners

For Sanda competitors, see the article on Sanshou.
  • Jet Li (李連杰) - 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.
  • Yuan Wen Qing - One of the most famous, successful, and skilled wushu practitioners in the world who has won countless of gold medals on 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.
  • Wu Jing (吳京) - 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 [10]
  • 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.[11][12] He also heavily retrained prior to filming G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, in which he portrayed the martial arts expert Snake Eyes.[13]
  • Donnie Yen - Chinese martial artist and actor, trained with the Beijing Wushu Team.[14]
  • Wu Bin - Jet Li's coach in the Beijing Wushu Team, training more wushu champions than any other coach in China.[15]
  • Voice actor Yuri Lowenthal is a practitioner of Wu Shu.
  • Jiang Bang Jun - a well-respected international Wushu Champion. He was the Mens All Around Wushu Champion in 1996 and 1998. Personally invited to the Beijing Wushu Team by Wu Bin, he became the lead Athlete and Coach for the Beijing Wushu Team. Today, he has opened a Wushu school in Virginia Called PMAA (Professional Martial Arts Academy).
  • An Tian Rong - having graduated from Changchun Physical Education and Sports College, An Tian Rong is a former national (China) champion and wushu pioneer. He was approved as a national (China) and international level judge in 1980, has taught at numerous universities throughout China, and authored more than 50 books on internal and external martial arts. Among the national/international champions he's coached, while on Wu Bin's coaching staff for the Beijing Wushu Team, he provided guidance to the international celebrity, Jet Li and his student, Jinzhao Au, won the Japanese national champion title in 1986.
  • Zhao Qing Jian - Started learning martial arts at the age of 7, and was a standout member of the Beijing Wushu Team. Retained his #1 ranking at the 2009 All China Games.
  • 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.
  • Lu Xiaolin - won the 1985 National Martial Arts Open Championship in China. She also was the youngest to receive a seventh duan from the International Wushu Federation. She was a judge for the U.S. in the 1997 and 1999 World Wushu Championships. She is also the current Vice President of the United States of America Wushu Kungfu Federation.[16]

Wushu as an Olympic event

The IWUF placed a bid to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to have wushu included in future Olympic Games, but did not meet with success. However, the IOC allowed China to organize an international wushu event during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but this event is not one of the 28 official Olympic sports, nor is it a demonstration event. Instead, it was called the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Wushu Tournament.[17] Wushu is one of 8 sports that will be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics. [18][19]


Wushu has been criticized by some traditional martial artists as not as authentic, too commercialized, and potentially threatens old styles of teaching martial arts. Such critics argue that contemporary wushu helped to create a dichotomy between form work and combat application.[20][21][22] [23] [24] [25]


  1. ^ "Kung Fu Fighting for Fans". Newsweek. 2010-02-18. http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/beijingolympics/archive/2008/08/23/kung-fu-fighting-for-respect.aspx. 
  2. ^ Wren, Christopher (1983-09-11). "OF MONKS AND MARTIAL ARTS". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1983/09/11/travel/of-monks-and-martial-arts.html?scp=10&sq=wushu&st=cse. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  3. ^ a b Fu, Zhongwen (1996, 2006). Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan.. Louis Swaine. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books. ISBN 1-58394-152-5 (trade paper). 
  4. ^ Lee, Sb; Hong, Jh; Lee, Ts (2007). "Wu Shu". Conference proceedings : ... Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference (British Kung Fu Association) 2007: 632–5. doi:10.1109/IEMBS.2007.4352369. PMID 18002035. http://www.laugar-kungfu.com/wushu.asp. Retrieved 2008-08-27 
  5. ^ International Wushu Federation. Wushu Sport.
  6. ^ Wu, Raymond (2007). Fundamentals of High Performance Wushu: Taolu Jumps and Spins. Lulu. ISBN 978-1-4303-1820-0. 
  7. ^ Wu Bin, Li xingdong and Yu Gongbao(1992), "Essentials of Chinese Wushu", Foreign Language Press, Beijing, ISBN 7-119-01477-3
  8. ^ Riordan, Jim (1999). Sport and Physical Education in China. Spon Press (UK). ISBN 0-419-24750-5.  p.15
  9. ^ Minutes of the 8th IWUF Congress, International Wushu Federation. International Wushu Federation. 9 December 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-06-14. http://web.archive.org/web/20070614182537/http://www.iwuf.org/Meetings/8thCongress/minutes.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-26 , archived from the original on 2007-06-14.
  10. ^ Jacky Wu's Bio Jacky WU Jing
  11. ^ "Ray Park and Martial Arts: Part 1". Kung Fu Magazine. http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=258. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  12. ^ "Ray Park and Martial Arts: Part 2". Kung Fu Magazine. http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=278. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  13. ^ "GI JOE - YO JOE, The Snake Has Returned". Kung Fu Magazine. http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=833. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  14. ^ "Donnie Yen Biography". Biography. Starpulse. http://www.starpulse.com/Actors/Yen,_Donnie/Biography/. Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  15. ^ "Wu Bin". US Wushu Academy. http://www.uswushuacademy.com/members/coaches/wubin.htm. Retrieved 2011-9-6. 
  16. ^ http://www.omei-wushu.com/Instructor.php
  17. ^ Rogge says wushu no "Olympic sport" in 2008
  18. ^ "IOC announces new events for Sochi 2014, shortlisted sports for 2020". Olympic.org. http://www.olympic.org/ioc?articleid=133067. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  19. ^ "Monday's Sports in Brief". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/othersports/tennis/mondays-sports-in-brief/2011/07/05/gHQATOHjyH_story.html. Retrieved 2011-07-06. [dead link]
  20. ^ "China Gets the Gold!". Kung Fu Magazine. http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=368. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  21. ^ "Salute to Wushu". Kung Fu Magazine. http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=475. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  22. ^ "The Tradition of Modern Wushu". Kung Fu Magazine. http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=749. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  23. ^ "Where Wushu Went Wrong". Kung Fu Magazine. http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=679. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  24. ^ "Wushu Needs Name Rectification". Kung Fu Magazine. http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/ezine/article.php?article=585. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  25. ^ Kuhn, Anthony (1998-10-16). "Chinese Martial-Art Form Sports Less Threatening Moves". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1998/oct/16/news/mn-33160. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 

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See also

External links

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