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A typical wushu competition, here represented by the 10th All-China Games.
This article is about the modern sport Wushu. For information on other types of Chinese martial arts, see Chinese martial arts. For the meaning of the word, see wushu (term).

Wushu, also known as modern wushu or contemporary 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 committee. Some authors have surmised that the creation of sport wushu and its subsequent disassociation from self-defense and the traditional closed system of family lineages was an attempt to suppress what the PRC felt was potentially subversive aspects of Chinese martial arts. In contemporary times, wushu has become a truly 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 Clark Zhang.

Modern wushu is composed of two disciplines: taolu (套路; forms) and sanda (散打; sparring). Taolu forms are similar to gymnastics and 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 traditional Chinese martial art style 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 the some external styles to over five minutes for internal styles. Modern wushu competitors are increasingly training in aerial techniques such as 540 and 720 degree jumps and kicks to add more difficulty and style to their forms.

Sanda (sometimes called sanshou or Lei Tai) is a modern fighting method and sport influenced by both traditional Chinese boxing, Chinese wrestling methods called Shuai Chiao and other Chinese grappling techniques such as Qin 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. In 1979, the State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports created a special task force to reevaluate the 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 the People's Republic of China. 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. As a result of these changing sociological factors within China, both traditional styles and modern Wushu approaches are being promoted by the Chinese government.


A Jian dual event (choreographed)
  • Short Weapons
    • Dao (single-edged sword)
    • Jian (double-edged sword)
    • 太極劍 Taijijian (Taiji double-edged sword)
    • 南刀 Nandao (Southern single-edged sword)
  • Long Weapons

Most events were first set up in 1958.

These 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, number of acrobatics, etc.

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 before hand. 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) added for additional point bonuses.

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.

Main Events

Changquan 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 whirling, running, leaping, and acrobatics. Changquan is difficult to perform, requiring great flexibility and athleticism, and is often practised from a young age.

Nanquan refers to wushu styles originating in south China (i.e., south of the Yangtze River, including Hongjiaquan (洪家拳), Cailifoquan (蔡李佛拳), and Yongchunquan (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 is a wushu style famous for slow, relaxed movements, and often seen as an exercise method for the elderly. 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.

Dao 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).

Jian refers to any double-edged straight sword/blade, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the jian.

Gun refers to a long staff (wooden, not made of bamboo as it will split) 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 gun.

Qiang refers to a flexible spear with red hair attached to the spearhead, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the qiang.

Taijijian is an event using the jian based on traditional Taijiquan jian methods.

Nandao is a weapon that appears to be based on the butterfly swords of Yongchunquan, but has been lengthened and changed so that only one is used (as opposed to a pair). This event is a Nanquan method, and was created in 1992.

Nangun is a Nanquan method of using the gun (Chinese word meaning staff, not to be confused with handgun). This event was created in 1992.

Other routines

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:

  • Baguazhang - Eight-Trigrams Palm
  • Bajiquan - Eight Extremes Fist/Boxing
  • Chaquan - Cha Fist/Boxing
  • Ditangquan (地躺拳) - Ground-Prone Fist/Boxing
  • Fanziquan (翻子拳) - Overturning Fist/Boxing
  • Houquan (猴拳) - Monkey Fist/Boxing
  • Huaquan (華拳) - Hua Fist/Boxing
  • Paochui (炮捶) - Cannon Punch
  • Piguaquan (劈掛拳) - Chop-Hitch Fist/Boxing
  • Shequan (蛇拳) - Snake Fist/Boxing
  • Taijiquan (太极拳) - Supreme Ultimate Fist/Boxing
  • Tantui (弹腿)- Spring Leg
  • Tanglanghushi (螳螂虎势) - Praying Mantis and Tiger Style
  • Tanglanquan (螳螂拳) - Praying Mantis Fist/Boxing
  • Tongbeiquan (通背拳) - Through-the-Back Fist/Boxing
  • Wing Chun (Yongchunquan) (永春)
  • Xingyiquan (形意拳) - Shape-Intent Fist/Boxing
  • Yingzhaoquan (鷹爪拳) - Eagle Claw Fist/Boxing
  • Zuiquan (醉酒拳) - Drunken Fist/Boxing

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


List of major international and regional competitions featuring wushu:

Notable practitioners

For Sanda competitors, see the article on Sanshou.

Wushu as an Olympic event

The IWUF placed a bid to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to have wushu included in future Olympic Games, but so far did not meet with success. However, the IOC has 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 will be called the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Wushu Tournament. <ref name=olympic>Rogge says wushu no "Olympic sport" in 2008</ref>

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Training Books

See also

External links

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