Wushu is also known as "guoshu," "martial arts" or "kung fu." It is a sport encompassing combat techniques for attack and defense involving the use of bare hands and weaponry. It includes movements and skills in the form of routines and combat to strengthen the body, develop will and determination, and develop combat skills. Wushu has a long history and broad foundation among the people in China. It is part of the fine cultural heritage in China.
Wushu developed from the production activities of man in primitive society. Its weaponry originated from the primitive instruments used for production. The simple ideas relating to attack and defense were derived from the struggles against nature. The embryonic form of wushu was related to wars after the emergence of class and state. By the periods of the Qin and Han dynasties, hand combat and swordsmanship were already very popular. Imperial examinations specializing in military knowledge and skill were introduced in the Tang Dynasty and promoted the military exercises. In the Song Dynasty, there were demonstrations of fighting with fists, kicking, waving broad swords and, etc. In the imperial courts, there were “spear and shield” and “sword and shield” practices in pairs. From that period on, wushu was gradually and mainly practiced in routines. Different schools and different styles of wushu were formed one after another and the “skills in wielding the 18 kinds of weapons” and the various schools and styles of quan (boxing) became widespread.
The sport of Chinese wushu is deeply rooted in the fertile soil of Chinese traditional culture and encompasses the depth of Chinese philosophy. It has developed from simple hunting and combat techniques into a traditional Chinese sport with rich Chinese traditional cultural significance that has many functions, stresses exercises to both improve the internal organs and to strengthen the muscles and bones, and puts equal emphasis on skills and techniques.
Wushu contains many traditional forms of strengthening the muscles and bones, such as the Five-Animal Exercise (an exercise consisting of movements imitating the movements and expressions of tigers, deer, bears, apes and birds), Eight-Duan Jin (an eight-element exercise for improving internal organs, energy and blood), Twelve-Duan Jin (a 12-element exercise for improving internal organs, energy and blood), 22-Stance Muscle-Improving Exercise, 24-Seasonal Division Points Sitting Stances for Health Improvement Diagram, Taiji Exercise for Improving Internal Organs, and Nei Gong Quan (a style of boxing exercise for improving internal organs). Wushu exercises are easy to learn and to do. They require no special venue, and only simple equipment and little investment. Besides, wushu has many different forms, and can vary from person to person.
Wushu enjoys a great degree of popularity among the Chinese people. At the same time, as more wushu competitions and demonstrations are held abroad, and Chinese kung fu films are shown, wushu is gradually becoming a world sport.