Wǔshù (n) – “Martial Art”

"Wushu" as a Term
Wushu's origin lies in China and it is a term that is commonly used to encompass Chinese martial arts in general. This includes kung fu which is a term widely used in Western society but can actually mean to have "skill" in something. For example, a chef can have good "kung fu" in cooking and a wushu practitioner can have good "kung fu" in wushu practice.

Modern Wushu
Chinese martial arts can be traced back over thousands of years, however modern or contemporary wushu was developed and standardised in the late 1940s. It is now considered a national sport of China and is both an exhibition sport (taolu) and a full-contact sport (sanda/sanshou). Taolu enjoys immense popularity due to the aesthetic and explosive nature.

Taolu forms are more widely practiced in Australia and can be similar to a gymnastics floor routine. It involves performing martial arts patterns and movements either barehanded or with weapons on a 14x8m area, which are judged and given points according to specific rules.

A question often posed to many wushu practioners is whether wushu can be used in self defence. While full contact sparring does exist in the form of sanda, it is often not practiced in Australia due to liability or insurance reasons.

The movements in modern wushu have been elaborated since the 1940s and is not how it would be used in a combat situation. Forms have been designed to be more aesthetically pleasing, using lower stances and higher kicks, which is also used for exercise purposes. Difficult acrobatic and aerial movements are also incorporated, gaining favour for exhibitions and competitions.

Modern Competition
Wushu has become a truly competive sport with several international competitions held, including the World Wushu Championships which run every two years. Rules and regulations are set by the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), who also introduced wushu to the world audience, with a competition held alongside the 2008 Beijing Olympics as an external competition.

Australia also has a national competition, organised by the Australian Kungfu and Wushu Federation (AKWF) every year.

As mentioned earlier, forms are performed on a 14x8m carpet and techniques are evaluated by multiple judges, with a final score presented out of 10. The minimum time limit for external forms is 1 minute and 20 seconds and 3-6 minutes for internal taichi forms.

Most competitions are divided by these common categories:
  • Barehand: Changquan (Northern Longfist), Nanquan (Southern fist), Taichiquan (Taichi fist)
  • Short Weapons: Broadsword, Straightsword, Southern Broadsword, Taichi sword
  • Long Weapons: Staff/Cudgel, Spear, Southern Cudgel
  • Group Events: coreographed routine that focuses on synchronisation and fluidity
  • Dual Events: coreographed sparring with or without weapons and is often spectacular to watch

Notable Practitioners
  • Jet Li - original member of the renowned Beijing Wushu Team in the 1970s. Chinese National Champion.
  • Wu Jing (Jacky) - Beijing Wushu Team member 1990s. Now an actor, some of his credits include Legendary Assassin, and The Mummy 3.
  • Ray Park - Darth Maul (Star Wars I), Toad (X-Men)
  • Brad Allan - trained with Monash Wushu Club and Master Tang in the late 1990s. Picked up by Jackie Chan during filming in Melbourne to become a member of the JC Stunt Team. He is now a stunt coordinator and action choreographer, recently working on Hellboy 2, Rush Hour 3 and Eragon.
  • Daniel Wu - now a major actor in Hong Kong, Daniel grew up in the United States and started wushu training at the age of 11. Some of his works include GenXCops, New Police Story and The Shinjuku Incident.