Wushu is a martial art and a full-contact sport. It was developed in China after 1949, in an effort to standardize the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts, although attempts to structure the various decentralized martial arts traditions date back earlier, when the Central Guoshu Institute was established at Nanking in 1928.

“Wushu” is the Chinese term for “martial arts” (武 “Wu” = military or martial, 术 “Shu” = art). In contemporary times, Wushu has become an international sport through the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), which holds the World Wushu Championships every two years; the first World Championships were held in 1991 in Beijing and won by Yuan Wen Qing.

Competitive Wushu is composed of two disciplines: taolu (套路; forms) and sanda (散打; sparring).

Taolu involves martial art patterns and maneuvers for which competitors are judged and given points according to specific rules. The forms comprise basic movements (stances, kicks, punches, balances, jumps, sweeps, and throws) based on aggregate categories of traditional Chinese martial art styles, and can be changed for competitions to highlight one’s strengths. Competitive forms have time limits that can range from 1 minute, 20 seconds for some external styles, to over five minutes for internal styles. Modern wushu competitors are increasingly training in aerial techniques such as 540-, 720-, and even 900-degree jumps and kicks, to add more difficulty and style to their forms.

Sanda (sometimes called sanshou) is a modern fighting method and a full contact sport. Sanda contains boxing and kicks (kickboxing) and wrestling. It has all the combat aspects of wushu. Sanda appears much like Kickboxing or MMA but includes many more grappling techniques. Sanda fighting competitions are often held alongside taolu, or form competitions.


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