Defining Wushu

 Sijo Glenn Luscher
Founder of Qing Long Wushu

When most people (especially in the western world) refer to the martial arts of china, they usually refer to them as a "kung fu". The use of this word has been a part of the western thinking for many years. This word has been wrongly understood and used. Kung fu is a word used to express the quality of effort one uses in performing a task whether its training in the martial arts or sweeping a floor. The correct word to use when referring to martial arts of china is "wuyi". Wuyi is not limited to the use of the hands and feet. Wuyi includes all the arts that are related to combat such as horseback riding, archery, the making of weapons, or any other art. Those skills that are used in the area of combat are called "wushu", which means martial techniques.

To be a wushu, the style must have techniques in four catagories: hand striking(da), kicking(ti), wrestling(shuai), and seize and control(chin na). The amount of training in each catagory may differ in one style from another. There are many styles in china, and anyone of them that trains in the four catagories can be considered a wushu.

Wushu can also be classified by other catagories; soft,soft-hard,or hard, northern or southern, and internal or external. Tai-chi is considered a soft style, and so are some of the techniques relating to the crane. The techniques associated with the tiger or leopard are considered hard. Through the blending of many of the styles or adoption of techniques outside of the style, many styles have become soft-hard. A style is considered a northern style if there is a greater use of the legs, or considered southern if there is a greater use of the hands. External styles rely upon the strength and power of the muscles and tendoms. Internal styles derive strength and power through breathing techniques and inner energy called "chi".

Today, there is an art form that is being popularized as a wushu, however, it is gynastic in nature rather than martial. To the western mind this is what wushu is---gymnastics. This is because the western mind has had no reference to the fighting arts of china being called wushu. The word "kung fu" had been accepted for many years and little has been done to correct this error in the thinking of the western mind.

Marketing practices of this "modern day wushu" also imply that this particular gynastic art form is wushu as if to be the only wushu. This disassociation from all the other wushus is easy to do since westerners think the fighting arts are "kung fu". If westerners start viewing the martial techniques of china as wushu, how will they view this "modern day" wushu that is gymnastic? Another good question might be that if the chinese use the word "wushu" for a fighting art, then why did they even day use it in reference to this "modern day wushu" which is gymnastic in nature rather than martial?

After the second world war in 1945, mainland china fell under communist rule, and martial arts rining was forbidden. Later, the national athletics institute established wushu training but the martial applications were deleted, preseving the aesthetic and gymnastic portions. In the 1980"s traditional training was once again encouraged, but by this time many of the masters had either died or had left the country. Those that remained did not trust the communist party and were not willing to share their knowledge.  Another effort was to make wushu a part of the olympics. This then would introduce wushu as a sport, but china lost the bid to host the olympics.

Attemps were made to bring the martial aspects back into wushu, but the roots of the gymnastic wushu was now well established and hard to change. Also, the spirit of training was signigicantly reduced. The young viewed wushu training as an old fashioned persuit and paid more attention to the materialistic ways of the western world.

The history of wushu has gone pretty much the way the history of professional wrestling has gone in the
united states . Many of the combative techniques in professional wrestling have been deleted. It is now called "sports entertainment". It looks like the real deal.but it isn't. Despite this fact, this sport wrestling is widely accepted, and appreciated for the athletic abilities of the performers.

The fighting arts of china can be viewed very much like the professional wrestling if the united states. While many styles will bring the martial aspects back into their training programs, the gymnastic wushu that has become so popular may continue to remain gymnastic. This would be a very positive path for these arts. Many will appreciate the values offered in the programs of the martial wushus. The gymnastic wushu is a reminder of the history of wushu and the struggles to preserve wushu. Although not martial in nature, many will appreciate it for the gymnastic abilities of the performers.

Sijo glenn luscher
founder of qing long wushu