Wushu is one of China’s beloved cultural heritages that have transcended through time and reached different continents in the world. You can see Wushu competitions with men, women, young and old, perform spectacular flowing movements and choreographed sparring combats. It is always a sight to behold, which leaves spectators breathless and in awe.
The “wu” in wushu means military and the “shu” is art, so it literally means the art of fighting or more popularly known as martial arts. It is the most popular national sport in China, and is an exhibition and full-contact sport. Absolutely anyone can practice wushu. From early childhood age to people in their nineties, anyone can do it. One can practice it on his own privately, or as a group and in competitions.
Wushu is an external style of martial arts, which means that it focuses on physical exercise and technical proficiency rather than the internal style which focuses on developing the chi. The chi is a common concept of Asian martial arts surrounding the life force of an individual. With wushu, there is more emphasis on what can be visibly seen.
The modern history of wushu can be traced back to 1949, when the Chinese government made efforts to standardize the practice of traditional martial arts in the country. By 1958, the All-China Wushu Association was organized to regulate marital arts training, with a national wushu system that included standards and teaching curriculum. It was then taught at both the high school and university levels, where common elements from all styles and forms of martial arts were incorporated. In the year 1990, it became an official event in the Asian Games.
However, martial arts in China had existed thousands of years ago, but they remained well-kept secrets of founders and practitioners who took extreme measures in keeping their traditions within their families and a trusted select few. They had kept them secret in the fear that their enemies would use their very own teachings to harm and defeat them.
There are basically two disciplines of wushu. The first is the Taolu which involves martial arts patterns and movements like stances, balances, jumps, sweeps, throws, kicks and punches. They can involve bare hands, short weapons, and long weapons. The second discipline is the Sanda, which is a modern fighting method similar to kickboxing but with more grappling techniques.
Wushu has been highly associated with acrobatics and gymnastics because of the high flying acrobatics that involve high level jumps, kicks, and spinning, and most often with short weapons. There are two types of routines–compulsory and individual. Compulsory routines have been created and each athlete performs the same set while individual routines are created by the athlete and the coach while following certain rules. There are dual and group events with choreographed sparring with and without weapons.
Aside from being able to compete and perform, there is a multitude of benefits with the practice of wushu. It has many physical, emotional, spiritual and mental benefits that will improve a person’s flexibility, coordination, balance, and stamina. For young children, the art teaches discipline, focus, coordination, teamwork, and aids in memory. It is also a good exercise for older people who’ve lost their body’s flexibility due to old age.
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