Wushu History

Wushu , a time-honored sport in China, traces back to as early as the time of the clan commune in primitive societies. At that time, there appeared the Xi (sport) of Jiaodi (wrestling) and the Wu (dance or exercise) of Ganqi (axe and shield). These were the earliest embryos of wushu, which served as a means to build up health, cure diseases, prolong life, temper the fighting will and train military skills for the members of these societies. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, there appeared activities of wushu, which served as means of training soldiers and became courses for students at school as well. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods, the applications of fighting techniques in the battlefield were emphasized. To choose soldiers, the " Jia (wrestling) exam " was held every year in spring and autumn. And the activity of sword fight became very popular then. Theories about swordplay were recorded in " Lyu' s Spring and Autumn and Zhuangzi: On sword ".

During the Qin and Han dynasties, dancing sports similar to routine exercise such as broadsword-play, dagger-axeplay, swordplay, double-halberdplay appeared successively. Activities of bare-hand fighting, competitive wrestling and sword fighting were recorded in "Annals of Arts/Han Book", "Biography of Emperor Wu/Han Book" , and "Preface/On Allusion" . During the Tang and Sung Dynasties, many civil wushu organizations came into existence, such as Yinglue Society (on cudgelplay), Archery Association and Xiangpu Society (similar to modern sumo) and Xiangpu Hut etc. There also appeared street-performers called Luqi men, making a living by performing "Exercise of Fists", "Kicking", "Exercise of Cudgel", "Play of Cudgel", "Dance with Saber and Spear", "Sword Dance", "Spear Vs Shield" and "Sword Vs Shield" in the streets. Bare-hand fighting and sumo being popular, the kind of contest on Leitai (an open ring for challenge) appeared. There were referees and simple competition rules for those contests already and the winners would be rewarded generous prizes. Scenes of wrestling and fighting were recorded in "Record of Wrestling by Tiaoluzi" . The Ming and Qing dynasties were the flourishing era for wushu, with various schools and different styles. The pugilism and weaponplay recorded in history are as follows: "32 form", "Six-Step Pugilism", "Monkey Pugilism", "Bazi Pugilism", "Si Pugilism", " Shaolin Pugilism ", "Internal Pugilism", "Yudayou' s Cudgel", "Qingtian (green field) cudgel", "Shaolin Cudgel", "Zhang's Cudgel", "Yang's Spear", "Ma's Spear", "Li' s Short Spear", "Sha' s Cane", "Liuhe Spear", "Emei Spear", "Shaolin Spear", "Single Broadsword", "Double Broadsword", "Yanyue Broadsword" and "24 form Swordplay" etc. During the Qing Dynasty with the development of pugilism and weaponplay, various schools of them formed gradually, such as Tai Ji Quan , Xing Yi Quan (form and will pugilism), Ba Gua Zhang (8 diagram palm). Wrestling system came into being and bare-hand fighting was also developed.

During the Republic of China (1912 - 1949), there appeared many wushu organizations in forms of pugilistic societies such as the Martial Artists' Society and Physical Culture Society . The Jingwu Sport Society was set up in Shanghai in 1910 and the Chinese Martial Artists' Society and Zhirou Pugilistic Society were set up successively. These wushu parties played an important role in spreading and developing wushu.

In 1928 the Republic Government established the Central Wushu Institute in Nanjing. After its establishment, local wushu institutes were established in provinces, cities and countries. The Central Wushu Institute held 2 National Wushu Meets in 1928 and 1933 in Nanjing, which carried out competitions on long weapons, short weapons, free sparring and wrestling. In 1936 the Chinese Wushu Delegation was organized to visit Southeast Asia. In the same year, the Chinese Wushu Team gave a demonstration in Berlin at the XI Olympic Games.

Since the founding of the People' s Republic of China, wushu has become a component of the socialist culture and the people' s physical education and sport and has developed spectacularly. In 1953 the Nation-wide Traditional Sport Demonstration and Competition was held in Tianjin at which wushu was the major content. Wushu was listed as a formal course in local sports institutes and their physical education departments. In 1956 the Chinese Wushu Association was set up in Beijing and wushu thus became an official competition event. The State Physical Culture and Sports Commission in 1958 compiled the first draft of Wushu Competition Rules . Routine exercises such as the Simplified Tai Ji Quan , Chang Quan , Broadswordplay, Swordplay, Spearplay and Cudgelplay of first class, intermediate class and primary level were published successively, which greatly helped the popularity and promotion of wushu. The general and specific policies of wushu development in the new historical period were made at the first National Wushu Conference held in Beijing in 1982, which brought the development of wushu to a new climax. Under the guidance of the Chinese State Physical Culture and Sport Commission and the Chinese Wushu Association , wushu associations, wushu schools, wushu societies, research societies, wushu teams of amateur sports schools and teaching centers were set up in many countries in all provinces, cities and autonomous regions, forming a vast network for wushu activities of the masses and a wide path for the development of wushu.

All schools have made wushu part of the program of physical education. Wushu societies and teams were set up in some colleges and universities. Wushu specialty has been established in some Physical Education Institutes and Normal Institutes to bring up undergraduates and postgraduates of wushu. The State Council set up a Wushu Master's degree in 1984. Approved by the Chinese government, the Chinese Wushu Research Institute was set up in 1986 as a high standard body for conducting academic and technical researches on wushu.

To inherit and develop this precious cultural legacy, a nation wide investigation was carried out, which generally uncovered the situation of wushu in China. The work of excavating, collecting and collating has been fruitful. On this basis, the books "Detailed Outline of Chinese Wushu History" and "Record of Chinese Pugilism and Weaponplay" will be compiled and published.

The experimenting competition of free sparring started in 1979 and it became a competition event in 1989.In order to make contributions to the welfare of the human being and dedicate wushu as a new sports event to the world, the promotion to the abroad has bee carried out through projects step since 1983.

Central and local governments sent wushu delegations, teams, instructors and experts to go abroad giving performances and lectures for many times.The First International Wushu Invitational Tournament was held in Xian in 1985, and the Preparatory Committee for the International Wushu Federation was formed. In 1986 the Second International Wushu Invitational Tournament was held in Tianjin. In 1987 the First Asian Wushu Championships was held in Yokohama, Japan, and the Wushu Federation of Asia established. During the 1988 China' s International Wushu Festival , International Routine Competition and International Wushu Free Sparring Challenge Tournament were held in Hangzhou and Shenzhen, which made sanshou formally stepped into international wushu arena.The second Asian Wushu Championships was held in Hong Kong in 1989. In 1990 at the XI Asian Games in Beijing, wushu was introduced as an official competition event. Wushu teams from 11 countries and regions participated in the wushu competition. The International Wushu Federation was formally established in the same year.

This text is a translated part of the Wushu International Judge Teaching Materials - edition 1995 book of the International Wushu Federation. All rights reserved on the International Wushu Federation.