What is Wushu?

by Raffi Kamalian

Among China's well kept secrets, one caught the imagination of Americans - Chinese wushu. Wushu is an important component of the cultural heritage of China, with a rich content that has remained untarnished over the centuries. Literally translated, "wu" is military, "shu" is art. Wushu therefore means the art of fighting, or martial arts.

Previously, wushu figured significantly in the simple matter of survival through China's many wars and political upheaval. Today, wushu has been organized and systematized into a formal branch of study in the performance arts by the Chinese. It reigns as the most poular national sport in the country of 1.1 billion people, practiced by the young and old alike. It's emphasis has shifted from combat to performance, and it is practiced for its method of achieving heath, self-defense skills, mental discipline, recreational pursuit and competition.

To describe wushu, it is best to understand the philosophy of its teaching. Every movement must exhibit sensible combat application and aestheticism. The wealth of wushu's content, the beauty of wushu movents, the difficulty factor, and the scientific training methods are the song of the elements that set wushu apart from martial arts. Routines are performed solo, paired or in groups, either barehanded or armed with traditional Chinese weaponry. In short, wushu is the most exciting martial art to be seen, felt, and ultimately practiced.

How is wushu related to kung fu and taijiquan? "Wushu" is the correct term for all Chinese martial arts therefore kung fu and wushu were originally the same. During the last thirty years, wushu in Mainland China was modernized so that there could be a universal standard for training and competing. In essence, much emphasis has been placed on speed, difficulty, and presentation. Consequently, wushu has become an athletic and aesthetic performance and competitive sport, while "kung fu" or traditional wushu remains the traditional fighting practice. Taijiquan is a major division of wushu, utilizing the bodies internal energy or "chi" and following the simple principle of "subduing the vigorous by the soft."

Although still in budding stages in many countries, wushu is an established international sport. In 1990, wushu was inducted as an official medal event in the Asian Games. Since then World Championships have taken place with 56 nations participating. Wushu is also vying for the Olympic games in the 21st century.


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