What is Wushu?
The sport of Wushu is both an exhibition and a full-contact sport derived from traditional Chinese Martial Arts. It was created in the People's Republic of China after 1949, in an attempt to nationalize the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts. Most of the modern competition forms (套路 taolu) were formed from their parent arts (see list below) by government-appointed committees. In contemporary times, Wushu has become an international sport through the International Wushu Federation (iWUF), which holds the World Wushu Championships every two years. Other comeptitions sanctioned by the iWUF that the Calgary Tai Chi and Martial Arts College attended over the years are Junior World Wushu championships, World Taijiquan Championships, Masterships, World Cup Championships, World University Games and the Junior Olympics.
Wushu In More Depth:
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.
Changquan (長拳 or Long Fist) 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 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 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.
Short Weapon Forms:
Dao (刀 or knife) 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 knife) refers a form performed with a curved, one sided sword/blade based on a 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 double-edged 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 double-edged sword) is an event using the jian based on traditional Taijiquan jian methods.
Long Weapon Forms:
Gun (棍 or staff) 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.
Nangun (南棍 or Southern cudgel) is a Nanquan method of using the staff. This event was created in 1992.
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.