Also known asKung fu, CMA, WS
FocusStriking, Grappling, Throwing, Performance Martial Art
Country of originChina
Famous practitionersSee: Category:Wushu practitioners
Highest governing bodyInternational Wushu Federation
First playedChina
ContactDependent on type of Wushu
Team membersIndividuals or Team
TypeMartial art
VenueTaolu Carpet or Lei Tai (fighting arena)
Country or regionWorldwide
Olympic(Unofficial Sport) 2008
World Championshipsinaugurated 1991
World Games(Invitational Sport) 2009, 2013, 2022
Traditional Chinese武術
Simplified Chinese武术
Literal meaning"Martial arts"

Wushu (traditional Chinese: 武術; simplified Chinese: 武术; pinyin: wǔshù) (/ˌwˈʃ/), or kung fu, is a competitive Chinese martial art. It integrates concepts and forms from various traditional and modern Chinese martial arts, including Shaolin kung fu, tai chi, and Wudangquan.[1] "Wushu" is the Chinese term for "martial arts" (武 "Wu" = combat or martial, 術 "Shu" = art), reflecting the art's goal as a compilation and standardization of various styles.[1]

Wushu is practiced both through forms, called taolu, and as a full-contact combat sport, known as sanda.[2][3] It has a long history of Chinese martial arts and was developed in 1949 to standardize the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts,[4] though attempts to structure the various decentralized martial arts traditions date back earlier when the Central Guoshu Institute was established at Nanjing in 1928.

In contemporary times, wushu has become an international sport under the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), which holds the World Wushu Championships every two years. Wushu is an official event at the Asian Games, East Asian Youth Games, Southeast Asian Games, World Combat Games, and in various other multi-sport events.


The word wu (武; wǔ) means "martial". Its Chinese character is made of two parts; the first meaning “walk” or “stop” (止; zhǐ) and the second meaning “lance” (戈; gē). This implies that wu is a defensive use of combat.[dubiousdiscuss] The term wushu being used for 'martial arts' goes back as far as the Liang Dynasty (502–557) in an anthology compiled by Xiao Tong (蕭通), (Prince Zhaoming; 昭明太子 d. 531), called "Selected Literature" (文選; Wénxuǎn). The term is found in the second verse of a poem by Yan Yanzhi titled: Huang Taizi Shidian Hui Zuoshi (皇太子釋奠會作詩).

The great man grows the many myriad things . . .

Breaking away from the military arts,

He promotes fully the cultural mandates.

— Translation from Echoes of the Past by Yan Yanzhi (384–456)

The term wushu is also found in a poem by Cheng Shao (1626–1644) from the Ming dynasty.

The earliest term for 'martial arts' can be found in the Han History (206BC-23AD) was "military fighting techniques" (兵技巧; bīng jìqiǎo). During the Song period (circa 960) the name changed to "martial arts" (武藝; wǔyì). In 1928 the name was changed to "national arts" (國術; guóshù) when the National Martial Arts Academy was established in Nanjing. The term reverted to wushu under the People's Republic of China during the early 1950s.


In 1958, the Chinese government established an organization for martial arts training. The Chinese State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports led the creation of standardized forms for most of the major arts. During this period, a national wushu system that included standard forms, teaching curriculum, and instructor grading was established. Wushu was introduced at both the high school and university level. This new system sought to incorporate common elements from all styles and forms as well as the general ideas associated with Chinese martial arts. Stylistic concepts such as hard, soft, internal, and external, as well as classifications based on schools such as Shaolin, tai chi, Wudangquan, and others were all integrated into one system. Wushu became the government-sponsored standard for training in martial arts in China.[1][5] The push for standardization continued leading to widespread adaptation.

In 1979, China's State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports created a special task force for teaching and practice of Wushu. In 1986, the Chinese National Research Institute of Wushu was established as the central authority for the research and administration of wushu activities in China.[6] Changing government policies and attitudes towards sports in general led to the closing of the State Sports Commission (the central sports authority) in 1998. This closure is viewed as an attempt to partially de-politicize organized sports and move Chinese sports policies towards a more market-driven approach.[7] As a result of these changing sociological factors within China, both traditional styles and modern wushu approaches are being promoted by the International Wushu Federation.[8]


A jian dual event (choreographed)

Wushu events are performed using compulsory or "individual routines" or taolu (套路) in competition. Throughout the 1990s until 2005 for international competitions, athletes competed with routines that were choreographed by IWUF assigned coaches or athletes. In November 2003, a major revision in the taolu competition rules occurred: deduction content was standardized, judges' roles were organized and expanded, and the degree of difficulty component, also known as nandu (難度; difficulty movements), was added. This category is worth 2 points of the 10 total. The quality of movements category is worth 5 points, and the overall performance category is worth 3 points. These changes were first implemented at the 2005 World Wushu Championships, and individual routines have become standard where an athlete creates a routine with the aid of his/her coach while following certain rules for difficulty and technical requirements.[9] Only the age group C and B athletes at the World Junior Wushu Championships still compete with compulsory routines at an international level. All junior events including group A athletes (which compete with individual routines), all traditional events, and all non-standard taolu events (ie. Shuangdao, baguazhang, etc.), are judged without the degree of difficulty component.

In addition to events for individual routines, some wushu competitions also feature dual and group events. The dual event, also called duilian (對練), is an event in which there is some form of sparring with weapons or without weapons. The group event, also known as jiti (集體), requires a group of people to perform together and smooth synchronization of actions is crucial. Usually, the group event also allows instrumental music to accompany the choreography during the performance. The carpet used for the group event is also larger than the one used for individual routines. The 2019 World Wushu Championships was the first international wushu competition to feature such an event.


Short weapons

A dao

Long weapons

The majority of routines used in the sport are new, modernized recompilations of traditional routines. However, routines taken directly from traditional styles, including the styles that are not part of standard events, may be performed in competition, especially in China. Many of these styles though are events in the World Kung Fu Championships, another IWUF-run event that is exclusively for traditional styles of wushu. The more commonly seen routines include:

Traditional weapons routines

There is also a traditional weapons category, which often includes the following:


Main article: Sanda (sport)

A wushu sanda match in Brazil

The other major discipline of contemporary Chinese wushu is known as sanda, yundong sanda (运动散打; yùndòng sǎndǎ, Sport Free-Fighting), or jingzheng sanda (竞争散打; jìngzhēng sàndǎ, Competitive Free-Fighting). Sanda is a fighting method, sport, and applicable component of wushu/kung fu influenced by traditional Chinese boxing, of which takedowns and throws are legal in competition, as well as all other sorts of striking (use of arms and legs). Chinese wrestling methods are called Shuai jiao and other Chinese grappling techniques such as Chin Na. It has all the combat aspects of wushu.

A takedown at a sanda match

sanda appears much like Kickboxing or Muay Thai but includes many more grappling techniques. Sanda fighting competitions are often held alongside taolu or form competitions. Sanda represents the modern development of lei tai contests but with rules in place to reduce the chance of serious injury. Many Chinese martial arts schools teach or work within the rule sets of Sanda, working to incorporate the movements, characteristics, and theory of their style.

Chinese martial artists also compete in non-Chinese or mixed combat sports, including Boxing, Kickboxing, and Mixed Martial Arts. Sanda is practiced in tournaments and is normally held alongside taolu events in wushu competitions. For safety reasons, some techniques from the self-defense form such as elbow strikes, chokes, and joint locks, are not allowed during tournaments. Competitors can win by knockout or points which are earned by landing strikes to the body or head, throwing an opponent, or when competition is held on a raised lei tai platform, pushing them off the platform. Fighters are only allowed to clinch for a few seconds. If the clinch is not broken by the fighters, and if neither succeeds in throwing his opponent within the time limit, the referee will break the clinch. In the U.S., competitions are held either in boxing rings or on the raised lei tai platform. Amateur fighters wear protective gear.

Amateur Sanda allows kicks, punches, and throws. King of Sanda, a competition held in China, is held in a ring similar to a boxing ring in design but larger in dimension. As professionals, they wear no protective gear except for gloves, cups, and mouthpieces, and "Professional Sanda" allows knee and elbow strikes (including to the head) as well as kicking, punching, and throwing.

Some Sanda fighters have participated in fighting tournaments such as K-1, Muay Thai, boxing, and Shoot Boxing. They have had some degree of success, especially in Shoot Boxing competitions, which is more similar to Sanda. Due to the rules of kickboxing competition, sanda fighters are subjected to more limitations than usual. Also, notable competitors in China's mainstream Mixed Martial Arts competitions, Art of War Fighting Championship, and Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation are predominantly of wushu background. Sanda has been featured in many style-versus-style competitions. Muay Thai is frequently pitted against sanda as is karate, kickboxing, and Tae Kwon Do. Although it is less common, some sanda practitioners have also fought in publicly viewed American Mixed Martial Arts competitions.


See also: List of international wushu competitions

Major international and regional competitions featuring wushu include:

Wushu is not a Summer Olympic sport; the IWUF has repeatedly backed proposals for wushu to be added to the Olympic program, most recently as one of eight sports proposed for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. However, it failed to reach the final shortlist, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ultimately voted for the re-inclusion of wrestling instead. Wushu was formally introduced into the Olympics as an exhibition sport in Berlin, in 1936, under Chancellor Hitler's request.[citation needed] In March 2015, IWUF executive vice president Anthony Goh stated that the Federation was planning to propose wushu again for the 2024 Summer Olympics.[10][11][12] As part of new IOC rules allowing host committees to accept proposals for new sports to be added to the program (allowing the addition of sports of local interest to the Olympic program under an "event-based" model), in June 2015, wushu was shortlisted again as part of eight sports proposed for inclusion in the 2020 Games in this manner.[13] However, it did not make the final shortlist of five.[14] On 8 January 2020, it was announced by the IOC that Wushu will be added to the 2022 Summer Youth Olympics (which has been rescheduled to 2026).[15]

Owing to its cultural significance in China, the IOC allowed the organizers of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to hold a wushu tournament in parallel with the Games as a separate event – the first time that the IOC has allowed such an event.[16][17][18]

Wushu was also a demonstration sport at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics at Nanjing, which featured events for Group A athletes who qualified at the World Junior Wushu Championships earlier that year.[19] Wushu was also part of the 2014 Nanjing Sports Lab along with skateboarding, roller skating, and sports climbing.[20]

Notable practitioners


Wushu has faced criticism as a competitive sport. It has been criticized by some traditional martial artists for being too commercialized, losing many of its original values, and potentially threatening old styles of teaching. Such critics argue that contemporary wushu helped to create a dichotomy between formwork and combat application.[31][32][33][34][35][36]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Lorge, Peter (2012). Chinese Martial Arts From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-87881-4.[page needed]
  2. ^ Liu, Melinda (18 February 2010). "Kung Fu Fighting for Fans". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 30 August 2008.
  3. ^ Wren, Christopher (11 September 1983). "Of monks and martial arts". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  4. ^ Fu, Zhongwen (2006) [1996]. Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan. Louis Swaine. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books. ISBN 1-58394-152-5.
  5. ^ "Jiuyou".
  6. ^ Wu Bin; Li Xingdong; Yu Gongbao (1992). Essentials of Chinese Wushu. Beijing: Foreign Language Press. ISBN 7-119-01477-3.[page needed]
  7. ^ Riordan, Jim (1999). Sport and Physical Education in China. Spon Press (UK). ISBN 0-419-24750-5. p. 15
  8. ^ "Minutes of the 8th IWUF Congress". iwuf.org. International Wushu Federation. 9 December 2005. Archived from the original on 14 June 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  9. ^ "IWUF Rules of Taolu Competition 2005" (PDF). iwuf.org. Archived (PDF) from the original on 31 March 2020.
  10. ^ Fetters, Ashley (13 August 2012). "The Summer Olympic Sports of the Future". The Atlantic. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  11. ^ "Wushu eyes slot for 2024". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  12. ^ Staff (14 February 2013). "IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics". ESPN. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  13. ^ "Olympic Games: Snooker misses out on 2020 Tokyo place". BBC Sport. 22 June 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
  14. ^ "Olympics: Skateboarding & surfing among possible Tokyo 2020 sports". BBC Sport. 28 September 2015. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Baseball5 and wushu added to Youth Olympic Games programme at Dakar 2022".
  16. ^ Madrid, Michael (21 August 2008). "Kung-fu makes Olympic showcase debut". USA Today. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  17. ^ "Rogge says wushu no "Olympic sport" in 2008". Xinhua. Archived from the original on 28 November 2006. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  18. ^ Baker, Andrew (8 August 2008). "Slower, lower, weaker: Wushu contest cuts a dash at the same time as Beijing Olympics". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  19. ^ "Nanjing 2014 Youth Wushu Tournament Takes Place Alongside the Youth Olympic Games". www.businesswire.com. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  20. ^ "Wushu joins the Nanjing 2014 Sports Lab". International Olympic Committee. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  21. ^ Reid, Craig. "Ray Park and Martial Arts: Part 1". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on 15 March 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  22. ^ Reid, Craig. "Ray Park and Martial Arts: Part 2". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  23. ^ Reid, Craig. "GI JOE – YO JOE, The Snake Has Returned". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  24. ^ "Wu Bin". US Wushu Academy. Retrieved 4 November 2023.
  25. ^ Jacky Wu's Bio Jacky WU Jing
  26. ^ "Donnie Yen Biography". Biography. Starpulse. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
  27. ^ Berwick, Stephan (23 December 2000). "Donnie Yen: The Evolution of an American Martial Artist". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  28. ^ "Donnie Yen: The Next Martial Arts Icon". Goldsea Asian American. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  29. ^ Burr, Martha. "China's Brightest Star". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  30. ^ "Welcome to KungFuMagazine".
  31. ^ Ching, Gene; Ching, Andy. "China Gets the Gold!". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  32. ^ Borkland, Herb. "Salute to Wushu". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  33. ^ Ching, Gene; Gigi, Oh. "The Tradition of Modern Wushu". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 March 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  34. ^ Ching, Gene; Gigi, Oh. "Where Wushu Went Wrong". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on 2 March 2010. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  35. ^ tianrong, An; Aiping, Cheng. "Wushu Needs Name Rectification". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  36. ^ Kuhn, Anthony (16 October 1998). "Chinese Martial-Art Form Sports Less Threatening Moves". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 November 2010.