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. 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 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 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.
- 長拳 Changquan (Long Fist)
- 南拳 Nanquan (Southern Fist)
- 太極拳 Taijiquan (Taiji Fist)
- Short Weapons
- 刀 Dao (single-edged sword)
- 劍 Jian (double-edged sword)
- 太極劍 Taijijian (Taiji double-edged sword)
- 南刀 Nandao (Southern single-edged sword)
- Long Weapons
- 棍 Gun (Staff)
- 槍 Qiang (Spear)
- 南棍 Nangun (Southern Staff)
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.