Do you know Bruce Lee, Jet Li or Jackie Chan, all famous Chinese film stars adept in Wushu? Wow, how magic and terrific! Anyone who has seen classical Chinese Kung Fu movies will be deeply impressed by the Chinese Wushu, which is called Kung Fu or Chinese martial arts in the west. This year's hottest Kung Fu movie is the Hollywood box office hit, Chow Yun-Fat's CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, another martial arts epic.
Wushu (also known as kung-fu or martial arts) is one of the typical demonstrations of traditional Chinese culture. It is a sport which utilizes both brawn and brain.
The theory of Wushu is based upon classical Chinese philosophy, while the skills of Wushu consist of various forms of fighting: fist fights, weapon fights, and other fighting routines (including such offence and defence acts as kicking, hitting, throwing, holding, chopping and thrusting) and unarmed combats.
Wushu is not only a sporting exercise but also an artistic form. It is used to cure illness as well as for self-defence and is a comprehensive form of culture of the human body.
Literally, wu means military while shu means art, thus Wushu the art of fighting or martial arts. Wushu is an important and unique component of Chinese cultural heritage with centuries of cultural history attached. Wushu not only includes physical exercise but also Chinese philosophy, meditation and aesthetics.
Wushu enjoys a long history and great popularity in China. Thanks to its uniqueness and charisma originating from traditional oriental culture, Wushu is captivating the attention of more and more people in other nations.
In the past, Wushu was developed for the sake of military prowess and physical well being. Wushu was seen as crucial to a soldier's survival in the time of hand -to -hand combat. Today, military function has faded and it has been organized and systematized into a formal branch of study in the performance arts by the Chinese, while it's physical welfare and athletic functions become dominant. Hence Wushu is popular among the whole nation of China, practiced by men and women, young and old alike. Today many people practice Wushu to pursue health, defense skills, mental discipline, entertainment and competition.
Wushu can be practiced solo, paired or as a group, barehanded or armed with ancient Chinese weapons. In centuries past, Wushu developed into many systems and styles. The most famous systems include Shaolin Temple system and Mt. Wudang System. Only the Shaolin system has hundreds of styles. Among the many styles are Chang quan (long fist), Nan quan (southern fist), Taiji quan (shadow boxing or supreme ultimate fist), Xingyi quan (mind fist), Baqua quan (eight directions fist). The former two belong to the external style which emphasizes physical strength and abilities while the latter three belong to the internal style that depends upon internal power-qi. The ancient weaponry of Chinese Wushu consists of many represented by 18 named weapons.
Recently, Chinese Wushu has been modernized. Training and competing standard systems have been set up. Continuing its fighting function, Wushu becomes a more athletic and aesthetic performance and competitive sport. More and more foreigners come to learn the mysterious Wushu. In order to promote Wushu internationally, China Zhengzhou International Shaolin Wushu Festival will be held twice annually.
Wushu is now to be a sport of the Olympic Games soon.
Chinese Kungfu Characteristics
As one of the earliest and long-lasting sports, Wushu has developed its own characteristics over time. Major characteristics are listed below:
1. A fight stressing the use of legs
Because of its long history incorporating differences in culture, ideology, region and usages, Wushu has developed into a great variety of schools and styles. While some schools emphasize the use of fists and hand technique, others emphasize leg technique and footwork ( Fig . left ) Some take interest in the variation of acts whereas others prefer simplicity. Some focus on keeping opponents at arm's and leg's length while others like to fight in close contact. The assortment of schools and styles displays the colorful features of Wushu and gratifies the various needs of people.
2. Wushu includes the use of many weapons.
Chinese ancients named the Wushu arsenal the "Eighteen Arms," but there are many more in use. Almost all fights are accompanied by weapon usage of one kind or another. The combination of fist fights and weapon usage allows for a fuller and more efficient application of Wushu skills while sh-arpening the insight of combat and control and enriching the program of Wushu exercise.
3. The combination of offence and defence is the essence of Wushu.
Implications of offence and de-fence permeate the complete gamut of Wushu exercise. They are fully demonstrated in both practice and real combat. Even a solo practice implies the atmosphere of offence and defence against an imaginary opponent in time and space. Wushu masters have systematically summed up the con-tradictions of offence and defence and established a set of theories and techniques on combat.
4. The movement of the human body is only the external display of Wushu.
Wushu is by no means limited to the external movement, but also emphasizes the full display of the internal temperament, mental attitude and potential of the human being. The practice of Wushu not only strengthens the bones and muscles but also the internal organs and intelligence. Coordination and cooperation are called for with each and every movement of the hand, eye, body, foot and form of movement. Wushu stresses that the mind directs the circulation of air flow within the body and that the inner circulation of air generates the external strength, so demonstrating the combination of external and internal forces. Cultivating air flows inside the body in order to improve the basic structures inside the body is an important purpose of Wushu exercises .
5. Ingenious applications of substantial and insubstantial blows are incorporated in the movements and forces of Wushu. Motion and stillness alternate with each other, while hardness and softness su-pplement one another, greatly enhancing the artistic expression and the practicality of Wushu, and de-monstrating its inclusive and equilibristic nature. Once in action, the movements can be as fast and forceful as a gust of wind, while being still, the body looks as steady as a mountain. Hard blows are like lightning and thunderclaps, whereas soft punches are like breezes delicately caressing willow twigs. Human feelings and abilities are clearly demonstrated through the rhythmic movements of opening and closing, and the emotions excited in doing exercises.
Chinese Kungfu Functions
Wushu boasts versatile functions, of which the most outstanding are:
(1) Moral Cultivation
As a human practice which stresses cultivation of moral characters and demon-stration of spirit and temperament, Wushu is conducive to developing good manners and con-duct. It also helps adjust one's psychology. The moral characters and etiquette are held in esteem by all schools of Wushu masters.
(2) offence and Defence
Wushu practitioners can master various offence and defence techniques of armed and unarmed combat for self defence through a great number of training exercises. Many of the Wushu techniques can also be utilized in military and police training programs.
(3) Curative Effect
Tai Chi Quan, one of the traditional schools of Chinese shadow Chuan, and the various still standing exercises emphasize the adjustment of one's breathing, thinking and psychology. These exercises have been proven to have good curative and re-habilitative effects on sufferers of chronic diseases of many kinds. As these exercises help strengthen the coordination of the human body and its immunity, they are ideal for preventing and curing diseases.
(4) Health Improvement
The practice of the basic exercises and routines of Wushu are effective methods for improving the pliability of the joints and the suppleness of the back and legs. The generation of energy, the jumping and leaping and the changes from one stance to another, all help enhance human strength and speed of movement. Wushu, therefore, can be taken as the basic exercise for other sporting activities.
(5) Artistic Effect
The graceful movement of the body, especially the typical oriental charm revealed during exercises and practice of Wushu, has an impressive artistic effect and provides visual delight. People can benefit mentally as well as physically from the display of the Wushu offence and defence skills and the exertion of forces through the display (Figs. below).
A graceful Wushu stance A broadsword practising stance
While stressing the development of physical prowess, Wushu also emphasizes the ex-ercise of thinking. By adjusting various human functions, Wushu also helps im-prove the nervous system and is therefore good for intellectual development