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What is Wushu?

Wǔshù 武术  – “Martial Art”


The term wushu is Chinese for “martial arts” (武 “wu” = military or martial, 术 “shu” = art) that is used to encompass Chinese martial arts in general, which is commonly known as kung fu in Western societies.


Modern Wushu

Chinese martial arts can be traced back over thousands of years, however modern or contemporary wushu was developed and standardized in the late 1940s. It is the national sport of China and is both an exhibition sport (taolu) and a full-contact sport (sanda).


Taolu forms are more widely practiced and are comparable to gymnastics floor routines that emphasizes speed, flexibility, power and acrobatic techniques. Forms have been designed to be more aesthetically pleasing, using lower stances and higher kicks, which is also used for exercise purposes. Difficult acrobatic and aerial movements are also incorporated, gaining favour for exhibitions and competitions.


Modern wushu was made popular by Jet Li, who was a 5 time China wushu national champion before transitioning over to the big screen. Now wushu is often seen in action movies and video games. Today, wushu is officially practiced in more than 120 countries around the world.


Wushu Competitions

Contemporary wushu has emerged as a competitive sport with several international competitions held, including the World Wushu Championships held every two years with rules and regulations are set by the International Wushu Federation (IWUF).


The United States has a team trials selection competition for both the adult and junior teams, organized by the United States Wushu-Kungfu Federation (USAWKF) every two years.

Taolu forms are performed on a 14m x 8m carpet using martial arts patterns and movements either barehanded or with weapons, which are judged and given points according to specific rules. The minimum time limit for external forms is 1 minute and 20 seconds and 3-6 minutes for internal taichi forms.


Competitions are divided by these common categories:

  • Barehand 拳术: Longfist (长拳), Southern Fist (南拳),        Taichi Fist (太极拳)

  • Short Weapons短兵器: Broadsword (刀术), Straightsword (剑术), Southern Broadsword (南刀), Taichi Sword (太极剑)

  • Long Weapons长兵器: Staff (棍术), Spear (枪术), Southern Staff (南棍)

  • Group Events集体项目: Choreographed routines that focuses on synchronization and fluidity

  • Dulian Events对练: Choreographed fight sets with or without weapons

  • Traditional Form传统套路:Xingyi (形意拳), Baguazhaung (八卦掌), Dadao (大刀) and Double Sword (双剑) etc.

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