What is Wushu?


History of Wushu

The origins of wushu may be traced back to early man and his struggle for survival in the harsh environment during Bronze Age (3000-1200 BC), or even earlier, a struggle that led to the development of techniques to defend against both wild animals and other human beings. The application of weapons eventually came to form the roots of wushu’s weapon-based techniques, and contests of strength and technique (such as jiaodi, an early Chinese form of wrestling) enhanced the development of barehand combat systems.

From the Shang Dynasty (approx.1556-1046 BC) through Warring States period (481-221 BC) wushu further evolved specialized armed and unarmed combat methods, and sophisticated weapons for warfare began to emerge. During these times, wushu also became popular among the common people as a means of self-defense and health improvement, as well as entertainment; ancient Chinese philosophy famously espoused the culturing of both literary and martial arts (“wen wu”).

Fast-forward to 495 A.D when the Shaolin Temple, long-recognized internationally as a touchstone of certain styles of Chinese wushu, was erected on Song Shan Mountain for the monk Batuo, whose students enjoyed practicing wushu-type exercises in their spare time. Later generations of monks combined chan (Zen) and quan (martial arts) into what is famously known today as Shaolin Quan (Shaolin Wushu).

During the later part of the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911 AD), military “cold” weapons’ use began to diminish as the use of firearms gradually increased among soldiers. Wushu came to be practiced mainly by the common people, and martial techniques and practices started to be combined with theoretical and philosophical ideas popular amongst the common folk, resulting in hundreds of styles like Xingyi Quan, Bagua Zhang and Taiji Quan emerging. While primarily rooted in martial applications, these styles also placed importance on health and moral principles.

In the early 20th century the establishment of organizations like the Shanghai Jing Wu Physical Culture Society paved the way for wushu’s development into the realm of popular sport. Public performances, training, and competitions became common, further promoting wushu’s practice.

In 1923 the Chinese National Wushu Games were held in Shanghai, and in 1936 a Chinese wushu delegation performed a demonstration at the XI Olympic Games held in Berlin. Wushu continued to develop through the Republican Era and after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Wushu competition formats and rules were implemented, and teaching methods and materials were standardized, and in 1985 the first International Invitational Wushu Tournament was held in Xi’an, China, and the preparatory committee for the International Wushu Federation (IWUF) was formed. On October 3rd, 1990 the IWUF was officially founded.


Sport Wushu


Taolu refers to the set routine (form) practice component of wushu. A taolu routine comprises of a continuously connected set of pre-determined techniques choreographed according to certain principles and philosophies to incorporate stylistic principles of attack and defense. These include hand techniques, leg techniques, jumps, sweeps, stances and footwork, seizing, throwing and wrestling, and balances.

Traditionally, taolu routines were compiled to preserve the techniques and tactics of a particular lineage or system, and through regular training would gradually improve a practitioner’s flexibility, stamina, strength, speed, balance, and co-ordination, and would “imprint” a tactical order into practitioners. Taolu routines include individual routines and group routines, as well as duel routines with 2 or more practitioners involved. They have a rich and diverse content, utilizing both bare-handed techniques as well as those performed with weapons.

Sport wushu has developed from traditional wushu and is presented to the world in the form of a modern Olympic-level sport with a perfect combination of ancient practices and modern sports principles. Athletes perform routines (barehanded or with weaponry) based on specific rules, highlighting their athletic strengths.

Routines are appraised by a panel of judges who evaluate different aspects of a performance, namely quality of movements, overall performance and degree of difficulty, and award a score based on an athlete’s performance. Individual taolu routines include optional routines, compulsory routines, choreographed duel/sparring routines and group routines. Taolu competition takes place in a specialized 8m x 14m arena, which comprises of high density foam covered by a low-static carpet.


Sport Wushu


Sanda is a modern unarmed combat sport that developed from traditional wushu techniques, and primarily makes use of punching, kicking, throwing, wrestling and defensive techniques.

Competition bouts take place on an elevated platform called a “leitai,” which is 80cm in height, 8m in width and 8m in length, and comprises of a frame covered in high density foam with a canvas cover. On the ground surrounding the platform is a protective cushion that is 30cm in height and 2 meters in width. Competing athletes wear protective gear that includes a headguard, chest protector, and gloves, as well as a mouthguard and a jockstrap.

Competition bouts comprise of 3 rounds in total, each lasting two minutes with a one-minute rest period between rounds. Apart from illegal blows and methods, sanda athletes may employ punching, kicking and throwing techniques from all styles of wushu. Valid striking areas are: the head, the trunk (including the chest, abdomen, waist and back), and the legs. The full-contact bouts are free flowing and exciting, and athletes are awarded points by the sideline judges for successfully-executed techniques based on the scoring criteria. An athlete will be declared the winner if he or she wins 2 out of the 3 rounds of a bout, or if his or her opponent is knocked out.

Sanda competition includes 11 weight categories for men and 7 weight categories for women.

An athlete will be declared the winner if he or she wins 2 out of the 3 rounds of a bout, or if his or her opponent is knocked out.