Wushu Martial Arts Training:
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Introduction Into Wushu
Wushu is a is a mix of the more traditional Chinese martial arts. Beginning development in 1949 the creation of Wushu was seen as a way of standardizing the practice of all the martial arts which are practiced across China.
The term Wushu is in fact the Chinese term for “martial arts”, and Wushu is now practiced across the world, with it’s world Championships taking place every two years.
Wushu practitioners can compete in Taolu, a forms style competition, or in Sanda which is the Wushu term for sparring.
Taolu competitions are judged on how closely you match the stances, punches and kicks as described under the specific Wushu rules.
Sanda competition uses a great deal of techniques from traditional Chinese style boxing, and the Chinese wrestling arts of Shuai Jiao and Chin Na.
Wushu Training & Techniques
Due to Wushu inheriting a large number of techniques from the Chinese martial arts Wushu breaks these down into three separate areas, or ranges.
They are barehanded, short weapon and long weapon.
On top of this each of the three ranges core techniques are further broken down into eight individual styles. The beginner studies all eight and as they gain experience begin to specialize in two or three. The choice of style is greatly influenced by the student’s instructor (in a bid to avoid students opting for the latest “good-looking” techniques).
It is however a joint decision, as it is important the student feels an interest in, and comfortable using the techniques taught.
There are three styles of barehanded technique used in Wushu. They are Changquan, Nanquan and Taijiquan.
The Changquan techniques rely upon speed, accuracy, power and flexibility. Most often seen used in forms competition, they are a way of displaying the high levels of athleticism and flexibility a highly skilled Wushu fighter needs.
Nanquan techniques rely more upon core stability and the ability to generate power through the hips, rather than the more acrobatic movements of Changquan. Using a lower form of stance these techniques require strength in the legs, hips and core sections.
Somewhat different to Changquan and Nanquan, is Taijiquan. Taijiquan is famous for its slow and relaxed movements and is most often used as a form of exercise, especially by the elderly. Taijiquan is more commonly known by its Western name Tai Chi.
Wushu inherits the bare handed techniques from both the North and South traditional styles found in early China. The Northern techniques are classed as the “long fist” techniques, and ones from the south are classed as Southern Fist techniques.
Short Weapon Techniques
The four short range weapons of the Wushu fighter are the Dao, the Nandao, the Jian and the Taijijian.
The Dao class of weapon includes any with a blade, such as swords and daggers. They must be curved in shape and sharpened along one side only.
More commonly known as the Southern Style, the Nandao class of short weapon is used in the techniques more commonly associated with in Wing Chun. With roots in the south of China the Nandao class of weapons have been lengthened slightly to match the Wushu style of combat.
Jian class weapons are double-edged and use a straight sword or blade.
Taijijian weapons are double-edged and mostly used during the practice of Taijiquan Jian style fighting techniques.
Long Weapon Techniques
The Wushu fighter uses two different long weapons. They are the staff and the spear.
The staff falls into two categories, the first is called the Gun, and refers to the more traditional long-staff.
The second form of staff is the Nangun. This southern style of using the staff uses takes many of its techniques from the Nanquan style.
Finally there is the Qiang, this is a flexible spear often seen with red horsehair attached to it. The flexibility of the spear allows it to be used in a whipping action, allowing the user to attack from unexpected angles.
Popular due to its easy method of manufacture it became known as the “King of all weapons” due to it having a longer range than the sword, yet still has deadly as the Wushu spear dons a sharp blade at its end.
The spear features as one of the four major weapons of the Chinese style martial arts.
The normal dress of the Wushu practitioner is the silk uniform. This loose fitting outfit allows for a full range of motion and is quite cheap to buy, costing less than one would normally spend on a Judo or Brazilian Ju-Jitsu gi (for example). Wushu training shoes are very similar to lightweight canvas tennis shoes, with rubber grip soles.
There are over twelve traditional weapons taught to Wushu fighter. These include longer range weapons like the rope dart, the whip, the three section staff, and the sword. Closer range weapons include the various types of knife and dagger.
During training wooden or rubber versions of these weapons are used so techniques can be practiced in a safe environment. Most people new to Wushu begin by choosing one long-range and one short range weapon to begin with, developing an understanding of the basics, focusing mostly on defense. As they increase in skill level many choose to try out some other of the weapons, and begin to learn the more dangerous, offensive techniques.
Three Famous Wushu Fighters
Ma Yue –
Born in 1959 Ma Yue is China’s most successful Wushu champion. Winning four gold medals in 1983 and placing first in the categories of Short Weapon, Straight Sword, Fanzi and Pigua Yue is a well-known celebrity throughout mainland China. Ma Yue later went on to graduate from the Wushu University of China, twice winning the gold medal to become National Wushu Champion.
Film actor Wesley Snipes, star of the Blade series of films is a well-known martial arts practitioner. Most noted for 5th degree black belt in Shotokan Karate, and his 2nd Dan in Hapkido, Snipes went on to incorporate many Wushu techniques during the filming of movies like Blade.
Brandon Lee –
Brandon Lee, famous son of the legendary Bruce Lee was a well practiced Hapkido technician. Introduced to the art by his father at a young age Brandon used many Hapkido techniques when filming, best known of which was The Crow. Brandon sadly was shot during the making of this film, in 1993, at the young age of twenty-eight.
The other styles of martial art he trained in were his father’s style of Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai boxing, Wing Chun and Shaolin Kung-Fu.
International Wushu Federation – The International Wushu Federation is the sport’s officially recognized organizing body. Established in 1990, and located in Beijing, China it is the role of the federation to promote the competitive form of Wushu throughout the world.
Consisting of almost 150 member states, the federation’s official languages are Chinese and English.
Central Guoshu Institute – The Central Guoshu Institute is China’s central martial arts academy. Wushu’s role as a national martial art is reflected in the institutes older, more traditional component organizations.
Holding its inaugural national martial arts competition in 1928 the CGI attracted over four hundred of the nation’s finest martial artists to that event has continued to grow up until today.
Chin Woo Athletic Association – The Chin Woo Athletic Association founded in 1910 has over fifty branches located in over twenty countries worldwide.
It’s curriculum includes ten different types of combative sets, including both unarmed combat and weapon based training.
Known as the Federation or Athletic Association it supports and teaches the art of Wushu both at home and abroad.