Wushu (sport)

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10th all china games floor.jpg
A typical wushu competition, here represented by the 10th All-China Games.
Also known asKung fu, Gong fu, CMA, WS
FocusStriking, Grappling, Throwing, Performance Martial Art
Country of originChina China
Famous practitionersJet Li, Wu Bin, Ray Park, Jon Foo, Wu Jing, Donnie Yen, Yuan Wen Qing, Cung Le, Alfred Hsing, Vincent Zhao, Dennis To, Liu Hailong
Olympic sportno
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10th all china games floor.jpg
A typical wushu competition, here represented by the 10th All-China Games.
Also known asKung fu, Gong fu, CMA, WS
FocusStriking, Grappling, Throwing, Performance Martial Art
Country of originChina China
Famous practitionersJet Li, Wu Bin, Ray Park, Jon Foo, Wu Jing, Donnie Yen, Yuan Wen Qing, Cung Le, Alfred Hsing, Vincent Zhao, Dennis To, Liu Hailong
Olympic sportno
Simplified Chinese武术
Traditional Chinese武術
Literal meaningmartial arts

Wushu (simplified Chinese: 武术; traditional Chinese: 武術) is both an exhibition and a full-contact sport derived from traditional Chinese martial arts.[1][2] It was developed in China after 1949, in an effort to standardize the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts,[3] although attempts to structure the various decentralized martial arts traditions date back earlier, when the Central Guoshu Institute was established at Nanking in 1928. The term wushu is Chinese for "martial arts" (武 "Wu" = military or martial, 术 "Shu" = art). 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 of traditional Chinese martial art styles 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-, 720-, and even 900-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. This new system seeks to incorporate common elements from all styles and forms as well as the general ideas associated with Chinese martial arts. Stylistic concepts such as hard, soft, internal, external, as well as classifications based on schools such as Shaolin, Taiji, Wudang and others were all integrated into one system. Wushu became the government sponsored standard for the training in martial arts in China.[7] The push for standardization continued leading to wide spread adaptation. In 1979, the State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports created a special task force to teaching and practice of Wushu. In 1986, the Chinese National Research Institute of Wushu was established as the central authority for the research and administration of Wushu activities in China.[8]

Changing government policies and 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.[9] As a result of these changing sociological factors within China, both traditional styles and modern Wushu approaches are being promoted by the International Wushu Federation.[10]

Contemporary events[edit]

A Jian dual event (choreographed)

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 weapons[edit]

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 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 weapons[edit]

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.

Other routines[edit]

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:

Traditional weapons routines[edit]

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


List of major international and regional competitions featuring wushu:

Notable practitioners[edit]

Wushu as an Olympic event[edit]

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.[21] Wushu was one of 8 sports that was considered for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics.[22][23] On May 29, 2013, Wushu's bid was rejected.[24]


Wushu, as a "competitive sport", has faced criticism. It has been criticized by some traditional martial artists for being too commercialized, losing much of its original values, and potentially threatening to old styles of teaching martial arts. Such critics argue that contemporary wushu helped to create a dichotomy between form work and combat application.[25][26][27][28][29][30]


  1. ^ "Kung Fu Fighting for Fans". Newsweek. 2010-02-18. 
  2. ^ Wren, Christopher (1983-09-11). "Of monks and martial arts". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  3. ^ Fu, Zhongwen (1996, 2006). Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan. Louis Swaine. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books. ISBN 1-58394-152-5 (trade paper) Check |isbn= value (help). 
  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. 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. ^ Lorge, Peter (2012). Chinese Martial Arts From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/97805218788|97805218788 [[Category:Articles with invalid ISBNs]]]] Check |isbn= value (help). 
  8. ^ Wu Bin, Li xingdong and Yu Gongbao(1992), "Essentials of Chinese Wushu", Foreign Language Press, Beijing, ISBN 7-119-01477-3
  9. ^ Riordan, Jim (1999). Sport and Physical Education in China. Spon Press (UK). ISBN 0-419-24750-5.  p.15
  10. ^ Minutes of the 8th IWUF Congress, International Wushu Federation. International Wushu Federation. 9 December 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2008-08-26 , archived from the original on 2007-06-14.
  11. ^ Liu, Yu; Cerf, Dawn (2010). Awakening the Sleeping Tiger: The True Story of a Professional Chinese Athlete. CA: The CLiu Yu. p. 398. ISBN 978-0-9828262-0-1. 
  12. ^ "Ray Park and Martial Arts: Part 1". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  13. ^ "Ray Park and Martial Arts: Part 2". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  14. ^ "GI JOE – YO JOE, The Snake Has Returned". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  15. ^ "Wu Bin". US Wushu Academy. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  16. ^ Jacky Wu's Bio Jacky WU Jing
  17. ^ a b "Donnie Yen Biography". Biography. Starpulse. Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  18. ^ Burr, Martha. "China's Brightest Star". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  19. ^ http://zhaochangjun.net/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=3
  20. ^ http://www.kungfumagazine.com/magazine/article.php?article=679
  21. ^ Rogge says wushu no "Olympic sport" in 2008
  22. ^ "IOC announces new events for Sochi 2014, shortlisted sports for 2020". Olympic.org. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  23. ^ "Monday's Sports in Brief". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-07-06. [dead link]
  24. ^ "Wrestling makes 2020 short list". ESPN. Retrieved 2013-05-29. 
  25. ^ "China Gets the Gold!". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  26. ^ "Salute to Wushu". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  27. ^ "The Tradition of Modern Wushu". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  28. ^ "Where Wushu Went Wrong". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  29. ^ "Wushu Needs Name Rectification". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  30. ^ Kuhn, Anthony (1998-10-16). "Chinese Martial-Art Form Sports Less Threatening Moves". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 

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