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Chinese Martial Arts   

Chinese Wushu, also called Chinese Martial Arts or Kung Fu, is an important and unique component of Chinese cultural heritage with a rich content that has remained untarnished over the centuries. Literally translated, "wu" is military, "shu" is art. Wushu therefore means the art of fighting, or martial arts. Wushu not only includes physical exercise but also Chinese philosophy, meditation and aesthetics. Previously, Wushu figured significantly in the simple matter of survival through China's many wars and political upheaval. Today, Wushu has been organized and systematized into a formal branch of study in the performance arts by the Chinese. Its emphasis has shifted from combat to performance, and it is practiced for its method of achieving heath, self-defense skills, mental discipline, recreational pursuit and competition.

Wushu appeared in ancient China as early as 2,500 years ago. Because of its long history incorporating differences in culture, ideology, religion and usage, Wushu has developed into a great variety of schools and styles. Among the many forms, Taijiquan may enjoy the highest popularity. Characterized by gentle, rhythmic movements, natural breathing, physical and mental coordination, it is of particular good to the old and weak, and those suffering from chronic diseases.

Through its long history, Wushu has developed into a number of categories, they generally are:

Empty Hand Forms
It involves the performance of a sequence, usually traditional, demonstrating the function and essence of a particular martial style. It can normally fall into the following subdivisions: Long Fist, Taijiquan, Southern Fist, Imitating Styles and some other styles.

Weapon Forms
There are more than 400 different types of ancient Chinese weapons and many usages of each, but only about 18 standard weapons will be usually seen in Wushu competition. Sometimes a practitioner will combine two weapons in a form or do a variation involving two of the same weapons. Some instances of forms often seen in competition are: Broadsword, straight sword, spear, staff, Kwan-sword, double-swords, double hook-swords, rope-dart, chained hammer, 3-sectional staff, 2-sectional staff, daggers, double short-staff, etc.

Choreographed Routines (involving 2 or more people.)
It is more often used by students in order to develop an understanding of the offense, defense, distance, reaction, speed, and so forth of a particular martial style. These forms can be practiced to the extent that spontaneity replaces the more mechanical.

Sparring Competition
Sparring competition is normally broken down into the following categories:

Bare-hand sparring: with or without protective equipment.

Taiji Push Hands: Stationary, moving, free-style, free-sparring.

Qinna: This joint-locking and controlling is done seated or standing.

Qigong

The category of Qigong involves demonstrations of internal power and strength. Practitioners of this esoteric art demonstrate the powers that internal strength training and breath-training have given them.

Wushu benefits the person who practices it in both body and mind:

Moral Cultivation: As a human practice stressing cultivation of moral characters and demonstration of spirit and temperament, Wushu is conducive to developing good manners and conduct. It also helps adjust one's psychology. The moral characters and etiquette are held in esteem by all schools of Wushu masters.

Offence and Defense: Wushu practitioners can aquire various offence and defense techniques of armed and unarmed combat for self defense through a great number of training exercises. Many Wushu techniques can also be used in military and police training.

Curative Effect: Wushu exercises emphasize the adjustment of one's breathing, thinking and psychology. These exercises prove to have good curative and rehabilitative effects on contractors of chronic diseases of many kinds. As these exercises help strengthen the coordination of the human body and its immunity, they are ideal for preventing and curing diseases.

Health Improvement: Wushu exercises are effective methods for improving the pliability of the joints and the suppleness of the back and legs. The generation of energy, the jumping and leaping and the changes from one stance to another, all help enhance human strength and speed of movement. Wushu, therefore, can be taken as the basic exercise for other sporting activities.

Artistic Effect: The graceful movement of the body, especially the typical oriental charm revealed during exercises of Wushu, has an impressive artistic effect and provides visual delight. People can benefit mentally as well as physically from the display of the Wushu performances.

With its graceful movements and salubrious effects on health, Wushu has a strong appeal to a vast multitude of people at home and abroad. Although still in budding stages in many countries, Wushu is an established international sport. In 1990, wushu was inducted as an official medal event in the Asian Games. Since then World Championships have taken place with 56 nations participating. Wushu is also vying for the Olympic Games in the 21st century.


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