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Chinese martial arts
Traditional Chinese武術
Simplified Chinese武术
Literal meaning'martial techniques'
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu Pinyinwǔshù
Yue: Cantonese
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Chinese martial arts, often named under the umbrella termskung fu (/ˈkʊŋˈf/; Chinese: 功夫; pinyin: gōngfu; Cantonese Yale: gūng fū) and wushu (武術; wǔshù), are the several hundred fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. These fighting styles are often classified according to common traits, identified as 'families' (; jiā), 'sects' (; pài) or 'schools' (; mén) of martial arts. Examples of such traits include Shaolinquan (少林拳) physical exercises involving Five Animals (五形) mimicry, or training methods inspired by Old Chinese philosophies, religions and legends. Styles that focus on qi manipulation are called internal (内家拳; nèijiāquán), while others that concentrate on improving muscle and cardiovascular fitness are called 'external' (外家拳; wàijiāquán). Geographical association, as in northern (北拳; běiquán) and 'southern' (南拳; nánquán), is another popular classification method.

  • 2History
    • 2.2Early history
    • 2.3Southern and Northern dynasties (420–589 AD)
    • 2.5Modern history
  • 4Training
    • 4.7Forms


See also: Kung fu (term)

Kung fu and wushu are loanwords from Cantonese and Mandarin respectively that, in English, are used to refer to Chinese martial arts. However, the Chinese terms kung fu and wushu (listen (Mandarin); Cantonese Yale: móuh seuht) have distinct meanings.[1] The Chinese equivalent of the term 'Chinese martial arts' would be Zhongguo wushu (Chinese: 中國武術; pinyin: zhōngguó wǔshù) (Mandarin).

In Chinese, the term kung fu (功夫) refers to any skill that is acquired through learning or practice. It is a compound word composed of the words 功 (gōng) meaning 'work', 'achievement', or 'merit', and 夫 (fū) which is a particle or nominal suffix with diverse meanings.

Wǔshù literally means 'martial art'. It is formed from the two words 武術: (), meaning 'martial' or 'military' and or 术 (shù), which translates into 'art', 'discipline', 'skill' or 'method'. The term wushu has also become the name for the modern sport of wushu, an exhibition and full-contact sport of bare-handed and weapons forms (Chinese: 套路), adapted and judged to a set of aesthetic criteria for points developed since 1949 in the People's Republic of China.[2][3]

Quanfa (拳法) is another Chinese term for Chinese martial arts. It means 'fist method' or 'the law of the fist' (quan means 'boxing' or 'fist', and fa means 'law', 'way' or 'method'), although as a compound term it usually translates as 'boxing' or 'fighting technique.' The name of the Japanese martial art kempō is represented by the same hanzi characters.


The genesis of Chinese martial arts has been attributed to the need for self-defense, hunting techniques and military training in ancient China. Hand-to-hand combat and weapons practice were important in training ancient Chinese soldiers.[4][5]

Detailed knowledge about the state and development of Chinese martial arts became available from the Nanjing decade (1928–1937), as the Central Guoshu Institute established by the Kuomintang regime made an effort to compile an encyclopedic survey of martial arts schools.Since the 1950s, the People's Republic of China has organized Chinese martial arts as an exhibition and full-contact sport under the heading of “wushu”.

Legendary origins[edit]

According to legend, Chinese martial arts originated during the semi-mythical Xia Dynasty (夏朝) more than 4,000 years ago.[6] It is said the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) (legendary date of ascension 2698 BCE) introduced the earliest fighting systems to China.[7] The Yellow Emperor is described as a famous general who, before becoming China’s leader, wrote lengthy treatises on medicine, astrology and the martial arts. One of his main opponents was Chi You (蚩尤) who was credited as the creator of jiao di, a forerunner to the modern art of Chinese wrestling.[8]

Early history[edit]

The earliest references to Chinese martial arts are found in the Spring and Autumn Annals (5th century BCE),[9] where a hand-to-hand combat theory, one that integrates notions of 'hard' and 'soft' techniques, is mentioned.[10] A combat wrestling system called juélì or jiǎolì (角力) is mentioned in the Classic of Rites.[11] This combat system included techniques such as strikes, throws, joint manipulation, and pressure point attacks.Jiao Di became a sport during the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BCE). The Han History Bibliographies record that, by the Former Han (206 BCE – 8 CE), there was a distinction between no-holds-barred weaponless fighting, which it calls shǒubó (手搏), for which training manuals had already been written, and sportive wrestling, then known as juélì (角力).Wrestling is also documented in the Shǐ Jì, Records of the Grand Historian, written by Sima Qian (ca. 100 BCE).[12]


In the Tang Dynasty, descriptions of sword dances were immortalized in poems by Li Bai. In the Song and Yuan dynasties, xiangpu contests were sponsored by the imperial courts. The modern concepts of wushu were fully developed by the Ming and Qing dynasties.[13]

Philosophical influences[edit]

The ideas associated with Chinese martial arts changed with the evolution of Chinese society and over time acquired some philosophical bases: Passages in the Zhuangzi (庄子), a Daoist text, pertain to the psychology and practice of martial arts. Zhuangzi, its eponymous author, is believed to have lived in the 4th century BCE. The Dao De Jing, often credited to Lao Zi, is another Taoist text that contains principles applicable to martial arts. According to one of the classic texts of Confucianism, Zhou Li (周禮/周礼), Archery and charioteering were part of the 'six arts' (simplified Chinese: 六艺; traditional Chinese: 六藝; pinyin: liu yi, including rites, music, calligraphy and mathematics) of the Zhou Dynasty (1122–256 BCE). The Art of War (孫子兵法), written during the 6th century BCE by Sun Tzu (孫子), deals directly with military warfare but contains ideas that are used in the Chinese martial arts.

Daoist practitioners have been practicing Tao Yin (physical exercises similar to Qigong that was one of the progenitors to T'ai chi ch'uan) from as early as 500 BCE.[14] In 39–92 CE, 'Six Chapters of Hand Fighting', were included in the Han Shu (history of the Former Han Dynasty) written by Pan Ku. Also, the noted physician, Hua Tuo, composed the 'Five Animals Play'—tiger, deer, monkey, bear, and bird, around 220 CE.[15] Daoist philosophy and their approach to health and exercise have influenced the Chinese martial arts to a certain extent. Direct reference to Daoist concepts can be found in such styles as the 'Eight Immortals,' which uses fighting techniques attributed to the characteristics of each immortal.[16]

Southern and Northern dynasties (420–589 AD)[edit]

Shaolin temple established[edit]

In 495 AD, Shaolin temple was built in the Song mountain, Henan province. The first monk who preached Buddhism there was the Indian monk named Buddhabhadra (佛陀跋陀罗; Fótuóbátuóluó), simply called Batuo (跋陀) by the Chinese. There are historical records that Batuo's first Chinese disciples, Huiguang (慧光) and Sengchou (僧稠), both had exceptional martial skills.[citation needed] For example, Sengchou's skill with the tin staff is even documented in the Chinese Buddhist canon.[citation needed] After Buddhabadra, another Indian[17] specifically Western South Indian monk, Bodhidharma (菩提达摩; Pútídámó), simply called Damo (达摩) by the Chinese, came to Shaolin in 527 AD. His Chinese disciple, Huike (慧可), was also a highly trained martial arts expert.[citation needed] There are implications that these first three Chinese Shaolin monks, Huiguang, Sengchou, and Huike, may have been military men before entering the monastic life.[18]

Shaolin and temple-based martial arts[edit]

The Shaolin style of kung fu is regarded as one of the first institutionalized Chinese martial arts.[19] The oldest evidence of Shaolin participation in combat is a stele from 728 CE that attests to two occasions: a defense of the Shaolin Monastery from bandits around 610 CE, and their subsequent role in the defeat of Wang Shichong at the Battle of Hulao in 621 CE. From the 8th to the 15th centuries, there are no extant documents that provide evidence of Shaolin participation in combat.

Between the 16th and 17th centuries, at least forty sources exist to provide evidence both that monks of Shaolin practiced martial arts, and that martial practice became an integral element of Shaolin monastic life. The earliest appearance of the frequently cited legend concerning Bodhidharma's supposed foundation of Shaolin Kung Fu dates to this period.[20] The origin of this legend has been traced to the Ming period's Yijin Jing or 'Muscle Change Classic', a text written in 1624 attributed to Bodhidharma.

Depiction of fighting monks demonstrating their skills to visiting dignitaries (early 19th-century mural in the Shaolin Monastery).

References of martial arts practice in Shaolin appear in various literary genres of the late Ming: the epitaphs of Shaolin warrior monks, martial-arts manuals, military encyclopedias, historical writings, travelogues, fiction and poetry. However these sources do not point out to any specific style originated in Shaolin.[21] These sources, in contrast to those from the Tang period, refer to Shaolin methods of armed combat. These include a skill for which Shaolin monks became famous: the staff (gùn, Cantonese gwan). The Ming General Qi Jiguang included description of Shaolin Quan Fa (Chinese: 少林拳法; Wade–Giles: Shao Lin Ch'üan Fa; literally: 'Shaolin fist technique'; Japanese: Shorin Kempo) and staff techniques in his book, Ji Xiao Xin Shu (紀效新書), which can translate as New Book Recording Effective Techniques. When this book spread to East Asia, it had a great influence on the development of martial arts in regions such as Okinawa[22] and Korea.[23]

Modern history[edit]

Wushu Taolu Video

Further information: Modern history of East Asian martial arts

Republican period[edit]

Most fighting styles that are being practiced as traditional Chinese martial arts today reached their popularity within the 20th century. Some of these include Baguazhang, Drunken Boxing, Eagle Claw, Five Animals, Xingyi, Hung Gar, Monkey, Bak Mei Pai, Northern Praying Mantis, Southern Praying Mantis, Fujian White Crane, Jow Ga, Wing Chun and Taijiquan. The increase in the popularity of those styles is a result of the dramatic changes occurring within the Chinese society.

In 1900–01, the Righteous and Harmonious Fists rose against foreign occupiers and Christian missionaries in China. This uprising is known in the West as the Boxer Rebellion due to the martial arts and calisthenics practiced by the rebels. Empress Dowager Cixi gained control of the rebellion and tried to use it against the foreign powers. The failure of the rebellion led ten years later to the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the creation of the Chinese Republic.

The present view of Chinese martial arts are strongly influenced by the events of the Republican Period (1912–1949). In the transition period between the fall of the Qing Dynasty as well as the turmoil of the Japanese invasion and the Chinese Civil War, Chinese martial arts became more accessible to the general public as many martial artists were encouraged to openly teach their art. At that time, some considered martial arts as a means to promote national pride and build a strong nation. As a result, many training manuals (拳谱) were published, a training academy was created, two national examinations were organized and demonstration teams travelled overseas.[24] Numerous martial arts associations were formed throughout China and in various overseas Chinese communities. The Central Guoshu Academy (Zhongyang Guoshuguan, 中央國術館/中央国术馆) established by the National Government in 1928[25] and the Jing Wu Athletic Association (精武體育會/精武体育会) founded by Huo Yuanjia in 1910 are examples of organizations that promoted a systematic approach for training in Chinese martial arts.[26][27][28] A series of provincial and national competitions were organized by the Republican government starting in 1932 to promote Chinese martial arts. In 1936, at the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, a group of Chinese martial artists demonstrated their art to an international audience for the first time.

The term kuoshu (or guoshu, 國術 meaning 'national art'), rather than the colloquial term gongfu was introduced by the Kuomintang in an effort to more closely associate Chinese martial arts with national pride rather than individual accomplishment.

People's Republic[edit]

Further information: Wushu (sport) and International Wushu Federation

Chinese martial arts experienced rapid international dissemination with the end of the Chinese Civil War and the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Many well known martial artists chose to escape from the PRC's rule and migrate to Taiwan, Hong Kong,[29] and other parts of the world. Those masters started to teach within the overseas Chinese communities but eventually they expanded their teachings to include people from other ethnic groups.

Within China, the practice of traditional martial arts was discouraged during the turbulent years of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1969–1976).[3] Like many other aspects of traditional Chinese life, martial arts were subjected to a radical transformation by the People's Republic of China to align them with Maoist revolutionary doctrine.[3] The PRC promoted the committee-regulated sport of Wushu as a replacement for independent schools of martial arts. This new competition sport was disassociated from what was seen as the potentially subversive self-defense aspects and family lineages of Chinese martial arts.[3]

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. The suppression of traditional teaching was relaxed during the Era of Reconstruction (1976–1989), as Communist ideology became more accommodating to alternative viewpoints.[30] In 1979, the State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports created a special task force to reevaluate the 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.[31]

Changing government policies and attitudes towards sports in general led 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.[32] As a result of these changing sociological factors within China, both traditional styles and modern Wushu approaches are being promoted by the Chinese government.[33]

Chinese martial arts are an integral element of 20th-century Chinese popular culture.[34]Wuxia or 'martial arts fiction' is a popular genre that emerged in the early 20th century and peaked in popularity during the 1960s to 1980s. Wuxia films were produced from the 1920s. The Kuomintang suppressed wuxia, accusing it of promoting superstition and violent anarchy. Because of this, wuxia came to flourish in British Hong Kong, and the genre of kung fu movie in Hong Kong action cinema became wildly popular, coming to international attention from the 1970s.The genre underwent a drastic decline in the late 1990s as the Hong Kong film industry was crushed by economic depression.In the wake of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), there has been somewhat of a revival of Chinese-produced wuxia films aimed at an international audience, including Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers (2004) and Reign of Assassins (2010).


See also: List of Chinese martial arts
The Yang style of taijiquan being practiced on the Bund in Shanghai

China has a long history of martial arts traditions that includes hundreds of different styles. Over the past two thousand years, many distinctive styles have been developed, each with its own set of techniques and ideas.[35] There are also common themes to the different styles, which are often classified by 'families' (; jiā), 'sects' (; pai) or 'schools' (; men). There are styles that mimic movements from animals and others that gather inspiration from various Chinese philosophies, myths and legends. Some styles put most of their focus into the harnessing of qi, while others concentrate on competition.

Chinese martial arts can be split into various categories to differentiate them: For example, external (外家拳) and internal (内家拳).[36] Chinese martial arts can also be categorized by location, as in northern (北拳) and southern (南拳) as well, referring to what part of China the styles originated from, separated by the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang); Chinese martial arts may even be classified according to their province or city.[24] The main perceived difference between northern and southern styles is that the northern styles tend to emphasize fast and powerful kicks, high jumps and generally fluid and rapid movement, while the southern styles focus more on strong arm and hand techniques, and stable, immovable stances and fast footwork. Examples of the northern styles include changquan and xingyiquan. Examples of the southern styles include Bak Mei, Wuzuquan, Choy Li Fut, and Wing Chun. Chinese martial arts can also be divided according to religion, imitative-styles (象形拳), and family styles such as Hung Gar (洪家). There are distinctive differences in the training between different groups of the Chinese martial arts regardless of the type of classification. However, few experienced martial artists make a clear distinction between internal and external styles, or subscribe to the idea of northern systems being predominantly kick-based and southern systems relying more heavily on upper-body techniques. Most styles contain both hard and soft elements, regardless of their internal nomenclature. Analyzing the difference in accordance with yin and yang principles, philosophers would assert that the absence of either one would render the practitioner's skills unbalanced or deficient, as yin and yang alone are each only half of a whole. Free library manager software. If such differences did once exist, they have since been blurred.


Chinese martial arts training consists of the following components: basics, forms, applications and weapons; different styles place varying emphasis on each component.[37] In addition, philosophy, ethics and even medical practice[38] are highly regarded by most Chinese martial arts. A complete training system should also provide insight into Chinese attitudes and culture.[39]


The Basics (基本功) are a vital part of any martial training, as a student cannot progress to the more advanced stages without them. Basics are usually made up of rudimentary techniques, conditioning exercises, including stances. Basic training may involve simple movements that are performed repeatedly; other examples of basic training are stretching, meditation, striking, throwing, or jumping. Without strong and flexible muscles, management of Qi or breath, and proper body mechanics, it is impossible for a student to progress in the Chinese martial arts.[40][41] A common saying concerning basic training in Chinese martial arts is as follows:[42]


Which translates as:

Train both Internal and External. External training includes the hands, the eyes, the body and stances. Internal training includes the heart, the spirit, the mind, breathing and strength.


Stances (steps or 步法) are structural postures employed in Chinese martial arts training.[43][44] They represent the foundation and the form of a fighter's base. Each style has different names and variations for each stance. Stances may be differentiated by foot position, weight distribution, body alignment, etc. Stance training can be practiced statically, the goal of which is to maintain the structure of the stance through a set time period, or dynamically, in which case a series of movements is performed repeatedly. The Horse stance (骑马步/马步; qí mǎ bù/mǎ bù) and the bow stance are examples of stances found in many styles of Chinese martial arts.


In many Chinese martial arts, meditation is considered to be an important component of basic training. Meditation can be used to develop focus, mental clarity and can act as a basis for qigong training.[45][46]

Use of qi[edit]

Main article: Qigong

The concept of qi or ch'i (氣/气) is encountered in a number of Chinese martial arts. Qi is variously defined as an inner energy or 'life force' that is said to animate living beings; as a term for proper skeletal alignment and efficient use of musculature (sometimes also known as fa jin or jin); or as a shorthand for concepts that the martial arts student might not yet be ready to understand in full. These meanings are not necessarily mutually exclusive.[note 1] The existence of qi as a measurable form of energy as discussed in traditional Chinese medicine has no basis in the scientific understanding of physics, medicine, biology or human physiology.[47]

There are many ideas regarding the control of one's qi energy to such an extent that it can be used for healing oneself or others.[48] Some styles believe in focusing qi into a single point when attacking and aim at specific areas of the human body. Such techniques are known as dim mak and have principles that are similar to acupressure.[49]

Weapons training[edit]

Most Chinese styles also make use of training in the broad arsenal of Chinese weapons for conditioning the body as well as coordination and strategy drills.[50] Weapons training (器械; qìxiè) are generally carried out after the student is proficient in the basics, forms and applications training. The basic theory for weapons training is to consider the weapon as an extension of the body. It has the same requirements for footwork and body coordination as the basics.[51] The process of weapon training proceeds with forms, forms with partners and then applications. Most systems have training methods for each of the Eighteen Arms of Wushu(十八般兵器; shíbābānbīngqì) in addition to specialized instruments specific to the system.


Main article: Lei tai

Application refers to the practical use of combative techniques. Chinese martial arts techniques are ideally based on efficiency and effectiveness.[52][53] Application includes non-compliant drills, such as Pushing Hands in many internal martial arts, and sparring, which occurs within a variety of contact levels and rule sets.

When and how applications are taught varies from style to style. Today, many styles begin to teach new students by focusing on exercises in which each student knows a prescribed range of combat and technique to drill on. These drills are often semi-compliant, meaning one student does not offer active resistance to a technique, in order to allow its demonstrative, clean execution. In more resisting drills, fewer rules apply, and students practice how to react and respond. 'Sparring' refers to the most important aspect of application training, which simulates a combat situation while including rules that reduce the chance of serious injury.

Competitive sparring disciplines include Chinese kickboxingSǎnshǒu (散手) and Chinese folk wrestlingShuāijiāo (摔跤), which were traditionally contested on a raised platform arena Lèitái (擂台).[54] Lèitái represents public challenge matches that first appeared in the Song Dynasty. The objective for those contests was to knock the opponent from a raised platform by any means necessary.San Shou represents the modern development of Lei Tai contests, but with rules in place to reduce the chance of serious injury. Many Chinese martial art schools teach or work within the rule sets of Sanshou, working to incorporate the movements, characteristics, and theory of their style.[55] Chinese martial artists also compete in non-Chinese or mixed Combat sport, including boxing, kickboxing and Mixed martial arts.


Further information: form (martial arts)

Forms or taolu (Chinese: 套路; pinyin: tàolù) in Chinese are series of predetermined movements combined so they can be practiced as a continuous set of movements. Forms were originally intended to preserve the lineage of a particular style branch, and were often taught to advanced students selected for that purpose. Forms contained both literal, representative and exercise-oriented forms of applicable techniques that students could extract, test, and train in through sparring sessions.[56]

Today, many consider taolu to be one of the most important practices in Chinese martial arts. Traditionally, they played a smaller role in training for combat application, and took a back seat to sparring, drilling, and conditioning. Forms gradually build up a practitioner's flexibility, internal and external strength, speed and stamina, and they teach balance and coordination. Many styles contain forms that use weapons of various lengths and types, using one or two hands. Some styles focus on a certain type of weapon. Forms are meant to be both practical, usable, and applicable as well as to promote fluid motion, meditation, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Teachers are often heard to say 'train your form as if you were sparring and spar as if it were a form.'

There are two general types of taolu in Chinese martial arts. Most common are solo forms performed by a single student. There are also sparring forms — choreographed fighting sets performed by two or more people. Sparring forms were designed both to acquaint beginning fighters with basic measures and concepts of combat, and to serve as performance pieces for the school. Weapons-based sparring forms are especially useful for teaching students the extension, range, and technique required to manage a weapon.

Forms in Traditional Chinese Martial Arts[edit]

The term taolu (套路) is a shorten version of Tao Lu Yun Dong (套路運動), an expression introduced only recently with the popularity of modern wushu. This expression refers to “exercise sets” and is used in the context of athletics or sport.

In contrast, in traditional Chinese martial arts alternative terminologies for the training (練) of 'sets or forms are:

  • lian quan tao (練拳套) – practicing sequence of fist.
  • lian quan jiao (練拳腳) – practicing fists and feet.
  • lian bing qi (練兵器) – practicing weapons.
  • dui da (對打) and dui lian (對練) – fighting sets.

Traditional 'sparring' sets, called dui da (對打) or dui lian (對練), were an important part of Chinese martial arts for centuries. Dui lian literally means, to train by a pair of combatants opposing each other—the character lian (), means to practice; to train; to perfect one's skill; to drill. As well, often one of these terms are also included in the name of fighting sets (雙演; shuang yan), 'paired practice' (掙勝; zheng sheng), 'to struggle with strength for victory' (; di), match – the character suggests to strike an enemy; and 'to break' (; po).

Generally there are 21, 18, 12, 9 or 5 drills or 'exchanges/groupings' of attacks and counterattacks, in each dui lian set. These drills were considered only generic patterns and never meant to be considered inflexible 'tricks'. Students practiced smaller parts/exchanges, individually with opponents switching sides in a continuous flow. Basically, dui lian were not only a sophisticated and effective methods of passing on the fighting knowledge of the older generation, they were important and effective training methods. The relationship between single sets and contact sets is complicated, in that some skills cannot be developed with single sets, and, conversely, with dui lian. Unfortunately, it appears that most traditional combat oriented dui lian and their training methodology have disappeared, especially those concerning weapons. There are a number of reasons for this. In modern Chinese martial arts most of the dui lian are recent inventions designed for light props resembling weapons, with safety and drama in mind. The role of this kind of training has degenerated to the point of being useless in a practical sense, and, at best, is just performance.

By the early Song period, sets were not so much 'individual isolated technique strung together' but rather were composed of techniques and counter technique groupings. It is quite clear that 'sets' and 'fighting (2 person) sets' have been instrumental in TCM for many hundreds of years—even before the Song Dynasty. There are images of two person weapon training in Chinese stone painting going back at least to the Eastern Han Dynasty.

According to what has been passed on by the older generations, the approximate ratio of contact sets to single sets was approximately 1:3. In other words, about 30% of the sets practiced at Shaolin were contact sets, dui lian, and two person drill training. This is, in part, evidenced by the Qing Dynasty mural at Shaolin.

For most of its history, Shaolin martial arts was largely weapon-focused: staves were used to defend the monastery, not bare hands. Even the more recent military exploits of Shaolin during the Ming and Qing Dynasties involved weapons. According to some traditions, monks first studied basics for one year and were then taught staff fighting so that they could protect the monastery. Although wrestling has been as sport in China for centuries, weapons have been the most important part of Chinese wushu since ancient times. If one wants to talk about recent or 'modern' developments in Chinese martial arts (including Shaolin for that matter), it is the over-emphasis on bare hand fighting. During the Northern Song Dynasty (976- 997 A.D) when platform fighting known as Da Laitai (Title Fights Challenge on Platform) first appeared, these fights were with only swords and staves. Although later, when bare hand fights appeared as well, it was the weapons events that became the most famous. These open-ring competitions had regulations and were organized by government organizations; some were also organized by the public. The government competitions resulted in appointments to military posts for winners and were held in the capital as well as in the prefectures.

Practice forms vs. kung fu in combat[edit]

Even though forms in Chinese martial arts are intended to depict realistic martial techniques, the movements are not always identical to how techniques would be applied in combat. Many forms have been elaborated upon, on the one hand to provide better combat preparedness, and on the other hand to look more aesthetically pleasing. One manifestation of this tendency toward elaboration beyond combat application is the use of lower stances and higher, stretching kicks. These two maneuvers are unrealistic in combat and are used in forms for exercise purposes.[57] Many modern schools have replaced practical defense or offense movements with acrobatic feats that are more spectacular to watch, thereby gaining favor during exhibitions and competitions.[note 2] This has led to criticisms by traditionalists of the endorsement of the more acrobatic, show-oriented Wushu competition.[58] Historically forms were often performed for entertainment purposes long before the advent of modern Wushu as practitioners have looked for supplementary income by performing on the streets or in theaters. Documentation in ancient literature during the Tang Dynasty (618–907) and the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1279) suggests some sets, (including two + person sets: dui da also called dui lian) became very elaborate and 'flowery', many mainly concerned with aesthetics. During this time, some martial arts systems devolved to the point that they became popular forms of martial art storytelling entertainment shows. This created an entire category of martial arts known as Hua Fa Wuyi. During the Northern Song period, it was noted by historians this type of training had a negative influence on training in the military.

Many traditional Chinese martial artists, as well as practitioners of modern sport combat, have become critical of the perception that forms work is more relevant to the art than sparring and drill application, while most continue to see traditional forms practice within the traditional context—as vital to both proper combat execution, the Shaolin aesthetic as art form, as well as upholding the meditative function of the physical art form.[59]

Another reason why techniques often appear different in forms when contrasted with sparring application is thought by some to come from the concealment of the actual functions of the techniques from outsiders.[60]


Forms practice is mostly known for teaching combat techniques yet when practicing forms, the practitioner focuses on posture, breathing, and performing the techniques of both right and left sides of the body also develop both hemispheres of the brain and contributes to improved motor skills, forms practice also trains the muscles to execute many complex techniques of the art (muscle memory) and can improve balance, flexibility, and the cardiovascular system.[61]


Modern forms are used in the sport of wushu, as seen in this staff routine
See also: Wushu (sport)

The word wu (; ) means ‘martial’. Its Chinese character is made of two parts; the first meaning “walk” or “stop” (; zhǐ) and the second meaning “lance” (; ). This implies that “wu’ 武,” is a defensive use of combat.[dubious] The term “wushu 武術” meaning 'martial arts' goes back as far as the Liang Dynasty (502-557) in an anthology compiled by Xiao Tong (蕭通), (Prince Zhaoming; 昭明太子 d. 531), called Selected Literature (文選; Wénxuǎn). The term is found in the second verse of a poem by Yan Yanzhi titled: 皇太子釋奠會作詩 'Huang Taizi Shidian Hui Zuoshi'.

'The great man grows the many myriad things . . .

Breaking away from the military arts,

He promotes fully the cultural mandates.'

(Translation from: Echoes of the Past by Yan Yanzhi (384–456))

The term wushu is also found in a poem by Cheng Shao (1626–1644) from the Ming Dynasty.

The earliest term for 'martial arts' can be found in the Han History (206BC-23AD) was 'military fighting techniques' (兵技巧; bīng jìqiǎo). During the Song period (c.960) the name changed to 'martial arts' (武艺; wǔyì). In 1928 the name was changed to 'national arts' (国术; guóshù) when the National Martial Arts Academy was established in Nanjing. The term reverted to wǔshù under the People's Republic of China during the early 1950s.

As forms have grown in complexity and quantity over the years, and many forms alone could be practiced for a lifetime, modern styles of Chinese martial arts have developed that concentrate solely on forms, and do not practice application at all. These styles are primarily aimed at exhibition and competition, and often include more acrobatic jumps and movements added for enhanced visual effect[62] compared to the traditional styles. Those who generally prefer to practice traditional styles, focused less on exhibition, are often referred to as traditionalists. Some traditionalists consider the competition forms of today's Chinese martial arts as too commercialized and losing much of their original values.[63][64]

'Martial morality'[edit]

Traditional Chinese schools of martial arts, such as the famed Shaolin monks, often dealt with the study of martial arts not just as a means of self-defense or mental training, but as a system of ethics.[39][65]Wude (武德) can be translated as 'martial morality' and is constructed from the words wu (), which means martial, and de (), which means morality. Wude deals with two aspects; 'morality of deed' and 'morality of mind'. Morality of deed concerns social relations; morality of mind is meant to cultivate the inner harmony between the emotional mind (; Xin) and the wisdom mind (; Hui). The ultimate goal is reaching 'no extremity' (無極; Wuji) – closely related to the Taoist concept of wu wei – where both wisdom and emotions are in harmony with each other.


ConceptNameTraditional ChineseSimplified ChinesePinyin romanizationYale Cantonese Romanization
ConceptNameChinesePinyin romanizationYale Cantonese Romanization

Notable practitioners[edit]

See also: Category:Chinese martial artists and Category:Wushu practitioners

Examples of well-known practitioners (武术名师) throughout history:

  • Yue Fei (1103–1142 CE) was a famous Chinese general and patriot of the Song Dynasty. Styles such as Eagle Claw and Xingyiquan attribute their creation to Yue. However, there is no historical evidence to support the claim he created these styles.
  • Ng Mui (late 17th century) was the legendary female founder of many Southern martial arts such as Wing Chun, and Fujian White Crane. She is often considered one of the legendary Five Elders who survived the destruction of the Shaolin Temple during the Qing Dynasty.
  • Yang Luchan (1799–1872) was an important teacher of the internalmartial art known as t'ai chi ch'uan in Beijing during the second half of the 19th century. Yang is known as the founder of Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan, as well as transmitting the art to the Wu/Hao, Wu and Sun t'ai chi families.
  • Ten Tigers of Canton (late 19th century) was a group of ten of the top Chinese martial arts masters in Guangdong (Canton) towards the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912). Wong Kei-Ying, Wong Fei Hung's father, was a member of this group.
  • Wong Fei Hung (1847–1924) was considered a Chinese folk hero during the Republican period. More than one hundred Hong Kong movies were made about his life. Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li have all portrayed his character in blockbuster pictures.
  • Huo Yuanjia (1867–1910) was the founder of Chin Woo Athletic Association who was known for his highly publicized matches with foreigners. His biography was recently portrayed in the movie Fearless (2006).
  • Ip Man (1893–1972) was a master of the Wing Chun and the first to teach this style openly. Yip Man was the teacher of Bruce Lee. Most major branches of Wing Chun taught in the West today were developed and promoted by students of Yip Man.
  • Gu Ruzhang (1894–1952) was a Chinese martial artist who disseminated the Bak Siu Lum (Northern Shaolin) martial arts system across southern China in the early 20th century. Gu was known for his expertise in Iron Palm hand conditioning among other Chinese martial art training exercises.
  • Bruce Lee (1940–1973) was a Chinese American martial artist and actor who was considered an important icon in the 20th century.[66] He practiced Wing Chun and made it famous. Using Wing Chun as his base and learning from the influences of other martial arts his experience exposed him to, he later developed his own martial arts philosophy that evolved into what is now called Jeet Kune Do.
  • Jackie Chan (b. 1954) is the famous Hong Kong martial artist, film actor, stuntman, action choreographer, director and producer, and a global pop culture icon, widely known for injecting physical comedy into his martial arts performances, and for performing complex stunts in many of his films.
  • Jet Li (b. 1963) is the five-time sport wushu champion of China, later demonstrating his skills in cinema.
  • Donnie Yen (b. 1963) is a Hong Kong actor, martial artist, film director and producer, action choreographer, and world wushu tournament medalist.
  • Wu Jing (b. 1974) is a Hong Kong actor director, martial artist. He was a member of the Beijing wushu team. He started his career as action choreographer and later as an actor.

In popular culture[edit]

References to the concepts and use of Chinese martial arts can be found in popular culture. Historically, the influence of Chinese martial arts can be found in books and in the performance arts specific to Asia.[67] Recently, those influences have extended to the movies and television that targets a much wider audience. As a result, Chinese martial arts have spread beyond its ethnic roots and have a global appeal.[68][69]

Martial arts play a prominent role in the literature genre known as wuxia (武俠小說). This type of fiction is based on Chinese concepts of chivalry, a separate martial arts society (武林; Wulin) and a central theme involving martial arts.[70] Wuxia stories can be traced as far back as 2nd and 3rd century BCE, becoming popular by the Tang Dynasty and evolving into novel form by the Ming Dynasty. This genre is still extremely popular in much of Asia[71] and provides a major influence for the public perception of the martial arts.


Martial arts influences can also be found in dance, theater [72]and especially Chinese opera, of which Beijing opera is one of the best-known examples. This popular form of drama dates back to the Tang Dynasty and continues to be an example of Chinese culture. Some martial arts movements can be found in Chinese opera and some martial artists can be found as performers in Chinese operas.[73]

In modern times, Chinese martial arts have spawned the genre of cinema known as the Kung fu film. The films of Bruce Lee were instrumental in the initial burst of Chinese martial arts' popularity in the West in the 1970s.[74] Bruce Lee was the iconic international superstar that popularized Chinese martial arts in the West with his own variation of Chinese martial arts called Jeet Kune Do. It is a hybrid style of martial art that Bruce Lee practiced and mastered. Jeet Kune Do is his very own unique style of martial art that uses little to minimum movement but maximizes the effect to his opponents. The influence of Chinese martial art have been widely recognized and have a global appeal in Western cinemas starting off with Bruce Lee.

Martial artists and actors such as Jet Li and Jackie Chan have continued the appeal of movies of this genre. Jackie Chan successfully brought in a sense of humour in his fighting style in his movies. Martial arts films from China are often referred to as 'kung fu movies' (功夫片), or 'wire-fu' if extensive wire work is performed for special effects, and are still best known as part of the tradition of kung fu theater. (see also: wuxia, Hong Kong action cinema). The talent of these individuals have broadened Hong Kong's cinematography production and rose to popularity overseas, influencing Western cinemas.

In the west, kung fu has become a regular action staple, and makes appearances in many films that would not generally be considered 'Martial Arts' films. These films include but are not limited to The Matrix Trilogy, Kill Bill, and The Transporter.

Martial arts themes can also be found on television networks. A U.S. network TV westernseries of the early 1970s called Kung Fu also served to popularize the Chinese martial arts on television. With 60 episodes over a three-year span, it was one of the first North American TV shows that tried to convey the philosophy and practice in Chinese martial arts.[75][76] The use of Chinese martial arts techniques can now be found in most TV action series, although the philosophy of Chinese martial arts is seldom portrayed in depth.

Influence on Hip Hop

In the 1970s, Bruce Lee was beginning to gain popularity in Hollywood for his martial arts movies. The fact that he was a non-white male who portrayed self-reliance and righteous self-discipline resonated with black audiences and made him an important figure in this community.[77] Around 1973, Kung Fu movies became a hit in America across all backgrounds; however, black audiences maintained the films’ popularity well after the general public lost interest. Urban youth in New York City were still going from every borough to Time Square every night to watch the latest movies.[78] Amongst these individuals were those coming from the Bronx where, during this time, hip-hop was beginning to take form. One of the pioneers responsible for the development of the foundational aspects of hip-hop was DJ Kool Herc, who began creating this new form of music by taking rhythmic breakdowns of songs and looping them. From the new music came a new form of dance known as b-boying or breakdancing, a style of street dance consisting of improvised acrobatic moves. The pioneers of this dance credit kung fu as one of its influences. Moves such as the crouching low leg sweep and “up rocking” (standing combat moves) are influenced by choreographed kung-fu fights.[79] The dancers’ ability to improvise these moves led way to battles, which were dance competitions between two dancers or crews judged on their creativity, skills and musicality. In a documentary, Crazy Legs, a member of breakdancing group Rock Steady Crew, described the breakdancing battle being like an old kung fu movie, “where the one kung fu master says something along the lines of ‘hun your kung fu is good, but mine is better,’ then a fight erupts.” [79]

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Retrieved from 'https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chinese_martial_arts&oldid=893477954#Forms'
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This article is about the modern sport. For other types of Chinese martial arts, see Chinese martial arts.
A typical wushu competition, here represented by the 10th All-China Games.
Highest governing bodyInternational Wushu Federation
First playedChina
Mixed genderNo
TypeMartial art
Country or regionAsia, Europe
OlympicDemonstration only
World Games2009 – 2013 (invitational)
Also known asKung fu, CMA, WS
FocusStriking, Grappling, Throwing, Performance Martial Art
Country of originChina
Famous practitionersJet Li, Hossein Ojaghi , Wu Bin, Ray Park, Jon Foo, Wu Jing, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Yuan Wen Qing, Cung Le, Dan Hardy, Pat Barry, Michelle Waterson, Andrei Stoica, Daniel Ghiță, Johnny Yong Bosch, Alfred Hsing, Vincent Zhao, Dennis To, Liu Hailong, Huang Zitao, Caity Lotz, Fang Bian, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Manjunath Bellikuppi, Wei RuiWen Junhui
Olympic sportDemonstration Sport in 2008 and recognized by the IOC
'Wushu' in Traditional (top) and Simplified (bottom) Chinese characters
Traditional Chinese武術
Simplified Chinese武术
Literal meaning'Martial arts'
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu Pinyinwǔshù
Yue: Cantonese
Yale Romanizationmóuh-seuht
Southern Min
Part of a series on
Chinese martial arts (Wushu)
  • Styles of Chinese martial arts
  • Kung fu (功夫)
  • Shifu (師傅)
  • Waijia (外家)
  • Chin Na (擒拿)
  • Fa jin (發勁)
  • Neigong (內功)
  • Neijia (內家)
  • Qi (氣)
  • Qigong (氣功)
Wushu in the world
  • Chen Village (陳家溝)
  • Kunlun Mountains (崑崙山)
  • Mount Emei (峨嵋山)
  • Mount Hua (華山)
  • Shaolin Monastery (少林寺)
  • Wudang Mountains (武當山)
Wushu athletes/practitioners
  • Guan Yu (關羽)
  • Bodhidharma (菩提達摩)
  • Zhang Sanfeng (張三丰)
  • Eight Immortals (八仙)
  • Five Elders (五祖)
  • Fong Sai-yuk (方世玉)
  • Yim Wing-chun (嚴詠春)
  • Li Ching-Yuen (李清雲)
  • Zhao Kuangyin (宋太祖; 922–976)
  • Yue Fei (岳飛; 1103–1142)
  • Hung Hei-gun (洪熙官; 1745–1825)
  • Dong Haichuan (董海川; 1797/1813–1882)
  • Yang Luchan (楊露禪; 1799–1872)
  • Chan Heung (陳享; 1806–1875)
  • Wu Quanyou (吳全佑; 1834–1902)
  • Wong Fei-hung (黃飛鴻; 1847–1924)
  • Sun Lu-t'ang (孫祿堂; 1860–1933)
  • Li Shuwen (李书文; 1864–1934)
  • Huo Yuanjia (霍元甲; 1868–1910)
  • Wang Zi-Ping (王子平; 1881–1973)
  • Chen Fake (陳發科; 1887–1957)
  • Ip Man (葉問; 1893–1972)
  • Ten Tigers of Canton (廣東十虎)
  • Bruce Lee (李小龍 1940–1973)
  • Bolo Yeung (楊斯; b. 1946)
  • Sammo Hung (洪金寶; b. 1952)
  • Jackie Chan(成龍; b. 1954)
  • Jet Li (李連杰; b. 1963)
  • Donnie Yen (甄子丹; b. 1963)
  • Vincent Zhao (趙文卓 b. 1972)
  • Zhang Jin (張晉 b. 1974)
Wushu influence
  • Wuxia (武俠)

Wushu (/ˌwˈʃ/), or Chinese Kungfu, is a hard and soft and complete martial art, as well as a full-contact sport.[1][2] It has a long history in reference to Chinese martial arts. It was developed in 1949 in an effort to standardize the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts,[3] yet attempts to structure the various decentralized martial arts traditions date back earlier, when the Central Guoshu Institute was established at Nanking in 1928.

'Wushu' is the Chinese term for 'martial arts' (武 'Wu' = military or martial, 術 'Shu' = art). In contemporary times, Wushu has become an 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.[4] The World Kungfu Championships are held every four years subset International Wushu Federation, as well.

Competitive Wushu is composed of two disciplines: taolu (套路; forms) and sanda (散打; sparring). But it has other disciplines, like self defense, breaking hard objects, and other related practices, that are not performed in competitions.

Taolu involves martial art patterns, acrobatic movements and techniques 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 of traditional Chinese martial art styles, 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 some external styles, to over five minutes for internal styles.

Sanda (sometimes called sanshou) is a modern fighting method and a full contact sport. Sanda contains boxing, kicks (kickboxing), and wrestling. It has all the combat aspects of wushu. Sanda appears much like Kickboxing, Boxing or Muay Thai, but includes many more grappling techniques. Sanda fighting competitions are often held alongside taolu.

  • 2Contemporary taolu events
  • 3Other taolu routines
  • 5Competitions


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. This new system seeks to incorporate common elements from all styles and forms as well as the general ideas associated with Chinese martial arts. Stylistic concepts such as hard, soft, internal, external, as well as classifications based on schools such as Shaolin, Taiji, Wudang and others were all integrated into one system. Wushu became the government sponsored standard for the training in martial arts in China.[5] The push for standardization continued leading to widespread adaptation. 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 China.[6]

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.[7] As a result of these changing sociological factors within China, both traditional styles and modern Wushu approaches are being promoted by the International Wushu Federation.[8]

Contemporary taolu events[edit]

A Jian dual event (choreographed)

Wushu 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.

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 beforehand. The group event, also known as jiti (集體), 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 (難度; difficulty movements) integrating a maximum 2 point nandu score into the overall maximum score of 10.

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.


Chángquán (長拳 or Long Fist) refers to long-range extended wushu styles like Chāquán (查拳), Huaquan (華拳), Hongquan (洪拳; 'flood fist'), and Shaolinquan (少林拳), but this wushu form is a modernized style derived from movements of these and other traditional styles. Changquan is the most widely seen of the wushu forms, and includes speed, power, accuracy, and flexibility. Changquan is difficult to perform, requiring great flexibility and athleticism, and is often practiced from a young age. All nandu movements must be made within 4 steps or it will not count for nandu points.

Nanquan (南拳 or Southern Fist) refers to wushu styles originating in south China (i.e., south of the Yangtze River, including Hongjiaquan (Hung Gar) (洪家拳), Cailifoquan (Choy Li Fut) (蔡李佛拳), and Yongchunquan (Wing Chun) (詠春拳). Many are known for vigorous, athletic movements with very stable, low stances and intricate hand movements. This wushu form is a modern style derived from movements of these and other traditional southern styles. Nanquan typically requires less flexibility and has fewer acrobatics than Changquan, but it also requires greater leg stability and power generation through leg and hip coordination. This event was created in 1960. All nandu movements must be made within 4 steps or it will not count for nandu points.

Taijiquan (太極拳, T'ai Chi Ch'uan) is a wushu style mistakenly famous for slow, relaxed movements, often seen as an exercise method for the elderly, and sometimes known as 'T'ai chi' in Western countries to those otherwise unfamiliar with wushu. This wushu form (42 form) is a modern recompilation based on the Yang (楊) style of Taijiquan, but also including movements of the Chen (陳), Wu (吳), Wu (武), and Sun (孫) styles. Competitive contemporary taiji is distinct from the traditional first form for styles it draws from, in that it typically involves difficult holds, balances, jumps and jump kicks. Modern competitive taiji requires good balance, flexibility and strength. The traditional second forms however like cannon fist, are more difficult than the modern forms, But less known and usually taught to advanced students.

Short weapons[edit]

A dao

Dao (刀 or broadsword) refers to any curved, one-sided sword/blade, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using a medium-sized willow-leaf-shaped dao (柳葉刀).

Nandao (南刀 or Southern Style broadsword) refers to a form performed with a curved, one sided sword/blade based on the techniques of Nanquan. The weapon and techniques appears to be based on the butterfly swords of Yongchunquan, a well known Southern style. In the Wushu form, the blade has been lengthened and changed so that only one is used (as opposed to a pair). This event was created in 1992.

Jian (劍 or sword) refers to any double-edged straight sword/blade, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the jian.

Basic Training Photos

Taijijian (太極劍 or Taiji sword) is an event using the jian based on traditional Taijiquan jian methods.

Long weapons[edit]

Gun (棍 or cudgel) refers to a long staff (shaped from white wax wood) as tall as the person standing upright, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the white wax wood staff.

Nangun (南棍 or Southern cudgel) is a Nanquan method of using the staff. This event was created in 1992. A Nangun should be as tall as a person holding a fist above his head. There are several basic steps and techniques that must be included in an Optional Southern cudgel event. The basic steps are bow stance, empty stance, dragon riding stance (弓步、虛步、騎龍步).[9] The basic techniques in Southern Cudgel are cleft stick, collapse stick, twisted stick, roll press stick, defend stick, hit stick, uphold stick, throw stick (劈棍、崩棍、絞棍、滾壓棍、格 棍、擊棍、頂棍、拋棍).[10]

Qiang (槍 or spear) refers to a flexible spear with red horse hair attached to the spearhead, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the qiang.

Other taolu routines[edit]

The majority of routines used in the sport are new, modernized recompilations of traditional routines. However, routines taken directly from traditional styles, including the styles that are not part of standard events, may be performed in competition, especially in China. These routines generally do not garner as many points as their modern counterparts, and are performed in events separate from the compulsory routine events. Among these, the more commonly seen routines include:

  • Baguazhang (八卦掌) – Eight-Trigrams Palm
  • Bajiquan (八極拳/八极拳) – Eight Extremes Fist/Boxing
  • Chāquán (查拳) – Cha Fist/Boxing
  • Chuōjiǎo (戳腳/戳脚) – Poking Feet
  • Ditangquan (地躺拳) – Ground-Prone Fist/Boxing
  • Fānziquán (翻子拳) – Tumbling Fist/Boxing
  • Houquan (猴拳) – Monkey Fist/Boxing
  • Huaquan (華拳/华拳) – Hua Fist/Boxing
  • Nanquan (南拳) – Southern Fist
  • Pào Chuí (炮捶) – Cannon Punch
  • Piguaquan (劈掛拳) – Chop-Hitch Fist/Boxing
  • Shequan (蛇拳) – Snake Fist/Boxing
  • Tán Tuǐ (弹腿) – Spring Kick
  • Tang Lang (螳螂拳) – Praying Mantis Fist/Boxing
  • Tongbeiquan (通背拳) – Through-the-Back Fist/Boxing
  • Wing Chun (詠春拳/咏春拳) – Eternal Spring
  • Xing Yi Quan (形意拳) – Shape-Intent Fist/Boxing
  • Ying Zhao Pai (鷹爪拳/鹰爪拳) – Eagle Claw Fist/Boxing
  • Zui Quan (醉拳) – Drunken Fist/Boxing

Traditional weapons routines[edit]

There is also a traditional weapons category, which often includes the following:

  • Shuangshoujian (雙手劍/双手剑) – Two-Handed Sword
  • Jiujiebian (九節鞭/九节鞭) – Nine Section Whip
  • Sanjiegun (三節棍/三节棍) – Three Section Staff
  • Shengbiao (繩鏢/绳镖) – Rope Dart
  • Dadao (大刀) – Great Sword
  • Pudao (撲刀/扑刀) – Horse Knife
  • Emeici (峨嵋刺) – Emei Daggers
  • Shuangdao (雙刀/双刀) – Double Broadsword
  • Shuanggou (雙鈎/双钩) – Double Hook-sword

Sanda (sparring)[edit]

The other major discipline of contemporary Chinese Wushu is 散打 Sǎndǎ, or 运动散打 (Yùndòng Sǎndǎ, Sport Free-Fighting), or 竞争散打 (Jìngzhēng Sàndǎ, Competitive Free-Fighting): A modern fighting method, sport, and applicable component of Wushu / Kung Fu influenced by traditional Chinese Boxing, of which takedowns & throws are legal in competition, as well as all other sorts of striking (use of arms & legs). Chinese wrestling methods called Shuai Jiao and other Chinese grappling techniques such as Chin 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. Sanda represents the modern development of Lei Tai contests, but with rules in place to reduce the chance of serious injury. Many Chinese martial art schools teach or work within the rule sets of Sanda, working to incorporate the movements, characteristics, and theory of their style.

Chinese martial artists also compete in non-Chinese or mixed combat sports, including Boxing, Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts.[6] Sanda is practiced in tournaments and is normally held alongside taolu events in wushu competition. For safety reasons, some techniques from the self-defense form such as elbow strikes, chokes, and joint locks, are not allowed during tournaments. Competitors can win by knockout or points which are earned by landing strikes to the body or head, throwing an opponent, or when competition is held on a raised lei tai platform, pushing them off the platform. Fighters are only allowed to clinch for a few seconds. If the clinch is not broken by the fighters, and if neither succeeds in throwing his opponent within the time limit, the referee will break the clinch. In the U.S., competitions are held either in boxing rings or on the raised lei tai platform. Amateur fighters wear protective gear.

'Amateur Sanda' allows kicks, punches and throws. A competition held in China, called the 'King of Sanda', is held in a ring similar to a boxing ring in design but larger in dimension. As professionals, they wear no protective gear except for gloves, cup, and mouthpiece, and 'Professional Sanda' allows knee and elbow strikes (including to the head) as well as kicking, punching and throwing.

Some Sanda fighters have participated in fighting tournaments such as K-1 , Muay Thai, Boxing and Shoot Boxing. They have had some degree of success, especially in Shoot boxing competitions, which is more similar to Sanda. Due to the rules of Kickboxing competition, Sanda fighters are subjected to more limitations than usual. Also notable competitors in China's mainstream Mixed Martial Arts competitions, Art of War Fighting Championship and Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation are dominantly of wushu background. Sanda has been featured in many style-versus-style competitions. Muay Thai is frequently pitted against Sanda as is Karate, Kickboxing, & Tae Kwon Do. Although it is less common, some Sanda practitioners have also fought in the publicly viewed American Mixed Martial Arts competitions.


Major international and regional competitions featuring wushu include:

Wushu is not a Summer Olympicsport; the IWUF has repeatedly backed proposals for Wushu to be added to the Olympic programme, most recently as one of eight sports proposed for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. However, it failed to reach the final shortlist, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ultimately voted for the re-inclusion of wrestling instead. Wushu was formally introduced into the Olympics as an exhibition sport in Berlin, in 1936, under Chancellor Hitler's request. In March 2015, IWUF executive vice president Anthony Goh stated that the Federation was planning to propose Wushu again for the 2024 Summer Olympics.[11][12][13] As part of new IOC rules allowing host committees to accept proposals for new sports to be added to the programme (allowing the addition of sports of local interest to the Olympic programme under an 'event-based' model), in June 2015, Wushu was shortlisted again as part of eight sports proposed for inclusion in the 2020 Games in this manner.[14] However, it did not make the final shortlist of five.[15]

Owing to its cultural significance in China, the IOC allowed the organizers of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to hold a Wushu tournament in parallel with the Games as a separate event—the first time that the IOC has allowed such an event.[16][17][18]

Notable practitioners[edit]

  • Wu Bin (吳彬/吴彬) – Jet Li's coach in the Beijing Wushu Team, training more wushu champions than any other coach in China.[19]
  • Jet Li (李連杰/李连杰) – possibly the most famous wushu practitioner in the world. He started wushu as a competition sport and gained fame as he took the National Wushu Champion of China title five times as an original member of the Beijing Wushu Team, he was later selected to demonstrate his wushu on the silver screen in the worldwide hit film Shaolin Temple. Many of his old teammates have also appeared on-screen with him, especially in his older movies.
  • Donnie Yen (甄子丹) – Chinese martial artist and actor, trained with the Beijing Wushu Team. Gold medalists for various international Wushu Competitions.[20][21][22] Known for his portrayal of Ip Man, mentor of Bruce Lee.
  • Wu Jing (吳京/吴京) – Chinese actor who was sent to the Beijing Sports Institute at Shichahai in Beijing when he was 6 years old. Like Jet Li he competed as a member of the Beijing Wushu Team in national level wushu competitions in China. Both his father and grandfather were also martial artists [23]
  • Ray Park – Showcased his skills in wushu in several major films, including his portrayal of Darth Maul in 1999's Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, as well as Toad in the film X-Men (2000) and as stunt-double for Robin Shou and James Remar in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.[24][25] He also heavily retrained prior to filming G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, in which he portrayed the martial arts expert Snake Eyes.[26]
  • Steve Coleman – Longest running Great Britain Wushu champion 2002–present, Captain GB Wushu Team, starred as Shane Powers in film On the Ropes (2011 film).
  • Jon Foo – Learned Kung Fu when he was 8 years old, but didn't begin serious training in Wu Shu until he was 15. Starred as Jin Kazama in the film adaptation of Tekken.
  • Jade Xu (徐慧慧) is a martial arts actress and multiple World Wushu Champion. She won the World Championships three times in a row and the first (gun/staff) and second (dao/broadsword) place in the Olympic Wushu Tournament Beijing 2008 and became one of the most famous female Wushu athletes in the world. Soon after her athletic career, Jade Xu received offers to star in various international Film and TV productions, such as Tai Chi 0, Tai Chi Hero and Michael Jackson: One, and successfully launched her second career, as an actress.
  • Hossein Ojaghi:He is an Iranian Sanda fighter and one of the best Sanda fighters in history. He has won many medals in every kind of international martial arts and Sanda competitions. Nowadays he is the coach of the Iran national team.
  • Muslim Salikhov: He is one of the most technical fighters in sanshou. He has participated in MMA competitions such as Ultimate Fighting Championship(UFC). Salikhov is from Russia.
  • Cung Le: Cung Le is an American Vietnamese and great wushu sanda and Mixed martial arts fighter. He has won a lot of medals.
  • Zhao Changjun (赵长军) – One of the best classical contemporary wushu legends of the 20th Century. His rivalry with Jet li was legendary, losing first place in men's longfist at the 1978 Men's Longfist competition, legend says it was due to Zhao's pinkie being slightly off, resulting in a minuscule deduction that cost him gold. After Jet li left to become an actor, the playing field was set and for nearly an entire decade Zhao Changjun was left to dominate the scenes in national Wushu competitions in the 80's. It has been said that 'the '70s belonged to Jet, but the '80s belonged to Zhao'. Trained both in traditional and contemporary Wushu, Ditang Quan, Gunshu and Daoshu are known as 'Zhao's Three Uniques'. He was also trained in traditional Cha quan, a uniquely Muslim traditional wushu style. Retiring in 1987, he currently owns a Wushu school.[27][28]
  • Liu Yu is an author, former Head Coach of the U.S. Wushu Team from 1997 to 1999. She is now teaching at the Wushu Taichi Center located in San Luis Obispo, CA.[29]
  • Philip Sahagun is a martial arts champion who has promoted the art of Wushu as a finalist on two of China’s top-rated reality competitions, Kung Fu Star and Jackie Chan’s Disciple. In 2008 & 2009, Philip performed Wushu while touring as a martial arts ‘Ninja’ performer for Tina Turner, Queen of Rock and Roll, record breaking Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour. He has represented America twice at the World Traditional Wushu Festival in China winning both gold and silver medals for the U.S. Team. Today he serves as the head Instructor of traditional Martial Arts at his family owned and operated South Coast Martial Arts in Southern California.
  • Yuan Wenqing (原文庆) – One of the most famous, successful, and skilled wushu practitioners in the world who has won countless gold medals in Chinese, World, and Asian Championships. He is a former Shanxi wushu team athlete trained by the coaches Pang Lin Tai and Zhang Ling Mei. He is most famous for his ChangQuan, DaoShu, GunShu, ShuangDao, and DiTangQuan. A number of his routines (TaoLu) became the official standard competition routines (GuiDing) for a number of years until the new GuiDing TaoLu's were introduced.[30]
  • Zhao Qingjian (赵庆建) – Started learning martial arts at the age of 7, and was a standout member of the Beijing Wushu Team. Retained his #1 ranking at the 2009 All China Games. Currently has retired from the professional circuit of competition.[31]


Wushu has faced criticism as a competitive sport. It has been criticized by some traditional martial artists for being too commercialized, losing many of its original values, and potentially threatening old styles of teaching. Such critics argue that contemporary wushu helped to create a dichotomy between form work and combat application.[32][33][34][35][36][37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Liu, Melinda (18 February 2010). 'Kung Fu Fighting for Fans'. Newsweek. Archived from the original on 30 August 2008.
  2. ^Wren, Christopher (11 September 1983). 'Of monks and martial arts'. New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  3. ^Fu, Zhongwen (2006) [1996]. Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan. Louis Swaine. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books. ISBN1-58394-152-5.
  4. ^Lee, Sb; Hong, Jh; Lee, Ts (2007). 'Wu Shu'. Conference proceedings : .. Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Conference. British Kung Fu Association. 2007: 632–5. doi:10.1109/IEMBS.2007.4352369. PMID18002035. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
  5. ^Lorge, Peter (2012). Chinese Martial Arts From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN978-0-521-87881-4.
  6. ^Wu Bin, Li xingdong and Yu Gongbao(1992), 'Essentials of Chinese Wushu', Foreign Language Press, Beijing, ISBN7-119-01477-3
  7. ^Riordan, Jim (1999). Sport and Physical Education in China. Spon Press (UK). ISBN0-419-24750-5. p.15
  8. ^'Minutes of the 8th IWUF Congress, International Wushu Federation'. International Wushu Federation. 9 December 2005. Archived from the original on 14 June 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2008., archived from the originalArchived 30 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine on 2007-06-14.
  9. ^'Wushu Glossary'. Official Website of the Chinese Olympic Committee. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  10. ^'Rules for International Wushu Taolu Competition (International Wushu Federation)'(PDF). Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  11. ^Fetters, Ashley (13 August 2012). 'The Summer Olympic Sports of the Future'. The Atlantic. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  12. ^'Wushu eyes slot for 2024'. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  13. ^Staff (14 February 2013). 'IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics'. ESPN. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  14. ^'Olympic Games: Snooker misses out on 2020 Tokyo place'. BBC Sport. 22 June 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  15. ^'Olympics: Skateboarding & surfing among possible Tokyo 2020 sports'. BBC Sport. 28 September 2015. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  16. ^Madrid, Michael (21 August 2008). 'Kung-fu makes Olympic showcase debut'. USA Today. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  17. ^'Rogge says wushu no 'Olympic sport' in 2008'. Xinhua. Archived from the original on 28 November 2006. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  18. ^Baker, Andrew (8 August 2008). 'Slower, lower, weaker: Wushu contest cuts a dash at the same time as Beijing Olympics'. The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  19. ^'Wu Bin'. US Wushu Academy. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  20. ^'Donnie Yen Biography'. Biography. Starpulse. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
  21. ^Berwick, Stephan (23 December 2000). 'Donnie Yen: The Evolution of an American Martial Artist'. Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  22. ^'Donnie Yen: The Next Martial Arts Icon'. Goldsea Asian American. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  23. ^Jacky Wu's BioJacky WU Jing
  24. ^Reid, Craig. 'Ray Park and Martial Arts: Part 1'. Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  25. ^Reid, Craig. 'Ray Park and Martial Arts: Part 2'. Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  26. ^Reid, Craig. 'GI JOE – YO JOE, The Snake Has Returned'. Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  27. ^'Zhao Changjun Kung Fu Institute - Zhao Changjun'. zhaochangjun.net. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  28. ^Ching, Gene Ching; Gigi, Oh. 'Where Wushu went wrong'. kungfumagazine.com.
  29. ^Liu, Yu; Cerf, Dawn (2010). Awakening the Sleeping Tiger: The True Story of a Professional Chinese Athlete. CA: The CLiu Yu. p. 398. ISBN978-0-9828262-0-1.
  30. ^Burr, Martha. 'China's Brightest Star'. Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  31. ^Gene Ching. 'The Wushu Champion from Shaolin'. Kung fu Tai Chi Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  32. ^Ching, Gene; Ching, Andy. 'China Gets the Gold!'. Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  33. ^Borkland, Herb. 'Salute to Wushu'. Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  34. ^Ching, Gene; Gigi, Oh. 'The Tradition of Modern Wushu'. Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 March 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  35. ^Ching, Gene; Gigi, Oh. 'Where Wushu Went Wrong'. Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  36. ^tianrong, An; Aiping, Cheng. 'Wushu Needs Name Rectification'. Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  37. ^Kuhn, Anthony (16 October 1998). 'Chinese Martial-Art Form Sports Less Threatening Moves'. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 November 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mastering WUSHU by Jiang Bangjun and Emilio Alpanseque, ISBN978-1-933901-31-2.
  • Fundamentals of High Performance Wushu: Taolu Jumps and Spins by Raymond Wu, ISBN978-1-4303-1820-0.
  • Kung Fu Elements, Liang, Shou-Yu and Wu, Wen-Ching, ISBN1-889659-17-7

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wushu.
  • Wushu.in - A largest martial arts community online, Providing detailed information of all Martial Arts Styles, Martial Arts Competitions, Styles and Forms, Martial Arts Legends and Practitioners around the world.
  • International Wushu Federation – Official Website
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