Chinese martial arts (wushu) are the great heritage of Chinese culture as well as of human civilization. Wushu gathered together military experience and traditions of many great martial artists generations, complicated systems of various trainings and the traditional Chinese medicine achievements, miscellaneous religious and philosophical doctrines of China for a long period.
The word ‘wushu’ literally means “martial arts”. ‘Wu’ means “military”, “martial”. Its Chinese equivalent consists of two letters ‘Zhi’ (“to stop”, “to finish”, “to end”) and ‘Ge’ (“a spear” or generally speaking – “weapon”). ‘Shu’ can be translated as “art”. Thus it’s clear that the original meaning of Chinese martial arts was to stop or to put an end to weapon using. This means that the basis of wushu is the idea of creating but not destroying. Wushu is destined to defend and not to attack.
This concept is different from the one appeared in the West in 60’s. Every Chinese martial art was called Kung Fu implying under it hand-to-hand fight. The Chinese equivalent of ‘kung-fu’ is “energy” for ‘kung’ and “time” for ‘fu’. So if you are having any kind of activity requiring professional skills and time, it can be easily called ‘kung-fu’. For instance, it may be food making, music teaching, painting, or any other kind of activity.
General name of Chinese martial arts had been changing through times. The most popular variation was ‘Ui’ name meaning “martial arts” and including all the kinds of martial arts such as shooting, riding, darts, armor making, etc. The other no less known name ‘quanshu’ meaning “hand-to-hand fight” (‘quan’ is a fist) now is using less.
Wushu technique has such elements as strikes, kicks, throws, seizures, ‘chopping’ strikes, ‘pricks’, etc., made according to principles of defense and attack, oming and retreat, moving and calmness, movement acceleration and deceleration, rigid and soft movements, etc. Movements are united in complexes – taolu forms or can be displayed in sparring. It is practiced for its method of achieving health, skills and mental discipline
All the schools and branches of wushu have their special technique and training methods, their own history and traditions. It is hard to define the only classification system that could include all the styles and traditions. They may be classified by three main criteria: 1) power distinction – external and internal styles; 2) belonging to certain religious and philosophical systems (Taoism, Buddhism); 3) geographic origin (North, South, North-West regions, Udan and E-mai mounts, Shaolin temple, etc.).
External and internal styles differ from each other mainly on ways the power displayed. Under power we mean not only muscular force but the special power connected to inner human energy. Pressure and might, hard strikes and widely peak movements prevail in external styles. Some styles imitate movements of real or mythical animals (like tiger, crane, dragon etc.). For internal styles the main thing is management over qi-energy flowing considered by ancient Taoists to be born in special energetic center - dantyan. The master of internal style can instantly shift it in a required direction, using it for neutralization and control over opponent. In this case an opponent’s power may be used against him/herself. Just a small master’s effort of 4 ounces overcomes the power of 1000 li, so they say in China.
Nowadays professionals suppose that we can talk about two main styles: external and internal. Every style use muscle power and internal energy. The only question is how intensive they are used. Internal styles features are: bio-energy managing, intensive internal work, movements are soft. Due to it, the most typical representatives of "external" styles are shaolin wushu branches and discerning schools, while "internal" styles until recently were three basic ones: Taiqui, Pigua and Cinji.
Despite many flaws of this system it was widely spread all over the world from the end of 1920s. However recently due to the present tendency of traditional wushu revival in China, expert researches in this field have made essential additions. Thus, some researchers ( including a well-known master of traditional wushu Tszi Tszjanchen) now add several west styles to "internal": Lio Ho Pa Fa, Shi San Taibo, Tszu Ran tsuan, Vu Xin tsuan, I tsuan, Tszu Men tsuan, " the Southern white crane ", " 18 Lohan ", and also Baji tsuan.
Fighting wushu techniques may be divided into four main:
1. Strikes (da)
2. Kicks (ti).
3. Wrestling and throws (shuai).
4. Releasing from seizures (quinna).
Strikes (da) are when using fingers, hands, forearms, elbows and shoulders for self-defense and strike making. All four kinds of wushu technique have their own prescription and can oppose each other. In any wushu, an effective using of one of the techniques demands knowing the rest of them. Some martial techniques can be hardly referred to certain group.
Happened to come from China to Japan, the techniques divided into many separate martial art directions. Karate uses a lot of hands and feet working, Judo – wrestling, Ju-Juqu – blocks, and Aikido is a mixture of wrestling and quinna. Only strong and skillful person could win a fight. More than that, martial arts considered to be the part of human self-realization. So that in every combat a person could be tested physically, checking technique, and spiritually, understanding human’s being.
Unity of form and content, of body and spirit is the main principle of wushu. Practical principles in wushu were always connected to spiritual growing. In wushu and qigong ‘shen’ meant inner transformation of one type of energy into another and understanding one’s role in this world. Wushu training without internal work couldn’t bring a fruit. The secrets of martial arts were available only to those who persistently worked on physical and spiritual aspects. To become a master, one should understand the real meaning of martial arts – to work ‘internally’.
In 1949 wushu was completely forbidden in China. Cloisters were closed and some monks moved to Taiwan, the USA and other countries where they opened their own schools. Later on, wushu trainings were organized at the National Institute of Athletics. In this organization Wushu was taught in a cut way to avoid the possible martial artists’ collusion against the government. Thus wushu took many gymnastic attributes. The situation hadn’t been changed up to 80s.
However, wushu revival in China after many years of persecution had some hardships. Some masters didn’t want to share their knowledge about wushu, some just made away with manuscripts and school secrets. With economic revival and copying the west style of life, young people started making business with great enthusiasm. Traditions and school secrets were not in favor any more. Only Ma family, “Chinese wushu stars” they call them in China, were able to keep their family secrets during time of persecution. Ma Menta became a history professor, Ma Syanta is known as sport official. Wushu masters were highly respected everywhere. Ma Menta’s son, Ma Leanzhan, decided to be Muslim clergy. Later on, traditional wushu got its support from government. And brothers Ma started work developing family Tongbei style in China, Russia and other countries.
China government decided to make traditional wushu an Olympic kind of sport and to support special programs. For this purpose they arranged a group searching for the masters of traditional wushu, gathering miscellaneous information and publishing books. Different monasteries were renewed where famous wushu schools took their place. Shaolin Monastery became a great tourists center. Many people got interested in traditional martial arts so that not far from the Shaolin Monastery they built Wushu Academy.
Festival and Seminars:
Russian State Sports Academy and The Traditional and Sport Wushu Federation invite you on the Martial Arts Seminars.
1. The Traditional and Sport Wushu Seminar: Moscow, 12 - 25th September, 2005. An intensive two-weeks educational program for all levels of student.
2. The Martial Arts Festival: Moscow, 24 - 25th May, 2005. The program of Festival: participants presentation and performance demonstration; master - classes of Grandmasters of various branches and schools. You can take part in demonstrations or master - classes. Materials of Festival will be submitted in the final collection issued by organizing committee of the Festival. The Festival will be covered by MASS-MEDIA, submitted to one of central TV programs.