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September 2013 - What is Wushu?

Quick History and Overview

Wushu, or perhaps better known as Kung-fu, is an ancient martial art, thought to date back thousands of years in China. It serves many different purposes including self defense, fitness and sport.

As a sport, wushu is practiced worldwide. The International Wushu Federation was set up in 1990 and now has over 140 member nations. The first ever Wushu World Championships were held the following year in China. Since then they have been held biannually, in a different country each year.

The Taolu

Events are divided into two parts, the “taolu” and the “sanda”. The taolu is more of a demonstration of knowledge and skill, similar to the “kata” in karate. A predetermined routine is executed by the performer(s). There are several different kinds of taolu including individual, dual or group. In the dual and group versions a choreographed battle takes place between the competitors. These battles can be performed with bare hands or any array of different weapons. Some routines are slow and methodical like the Taijiquan or “Tai Chi” while others are faster and more dynamic. Individual exhibitions may also incorporate the use of different weapons including long and short swords, staves or spears.

The Sanda

In the sanda or fighting portion, competitors wear protective head and body gear as well as boxing gloves. The fight takes place on a raised platform. The bout is won by scoring points, which are awarded by several judges sitting around the platform. It is legal to force your opponent off the platform, in fact points are scored for it. In addition, the rules also allow for kicks, punches, standing grappling, throws and takedowns. Strikes with the knees, elbows and head are not allowed. Once the fight has reached the ground, no more striking or wrestling is allowed and both competitors must stand up and resume the fight. In essence, sanda is much like kickboxing with the allowance of throwing and takedowns.

The Teams

Much like other sporting forms of martial arts, wushu is mostly dominated by the country in which the art originated. Historically the Chinese have won the most gold medals and the most overall medals. However, as in other martial arts, there are also a few other countries that have very strong teams as well and have on occasion beaten the Chinese at their own game. Among the best are Iran and Vietnam. In Europe, Russia and Turkey seem to be the most dominant teams.

The next World Championships are set to take place from October 28th until November 6th of this year. They will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The Final Verdict

In my opinion what makes wushu worth watching is how dynamic the sport is. In the sanda, the fight can change direction several times in the matter of a few seconds. There is a whole other side of standup fighting added when you allow for takedowns and throws. The flow of the match isn’t hindered by the ground grappling either. Many times when you’re watching an MMA fight it becomes boring for a lot of fans once they begin grappling on the ground. Wushu seems to have eliminated that aspect by not allowing the fight to continue once they do hit the ground.

Another interesting aspect of wushu is the platform that they fight on. It’s not only legal, but in your best interest to force your opponent off the platform. In fact, in the olden days it was said that wushu fights would take place on platforms so high that a fall would mean certain death.

I like watching wushu because there is so much strategy involved including how to strike your opponent, how to counter their strikes with either another strike or a takedown or a throw and then there is also the added element of the “ropeless ring” which forces you to be even more aware of where you are at all times during the fight.

I also enjoy watching the taolu, especially the group battles. Kata is great in karate, but in wushu you get the same thing with the added excitement of the different weapons.

Although the premiere of wushu has already passed on Fightbox, it will continue to be shown regularly this month. It’s definitely worth your time to watch a few episodes and see for yourself just what this sport is all about. You won’t be disappointed if you do. As always, feel free to leave a comment on our Facebook page or send me any of your feedback by e-mail.

- Daniel Austin


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