Going back into pre-history our ancestors had to learn how to defend themselves from attack by enemy tribes and wild animals. It was from this background that people learnt and practiced basic forms of Wushu, meaning martial arts. They began contests of duels and sparring to train them, in anticipation of future fighting that they foresee. In the beginning, they only trained with weapons with shields like axes and swords. Wrestling and boxing also became important forms of training for warriors.
A famous physician Hua Tuo in the second century BC developed a series of moves which mimicked the movements of animals and produced a fighting style and fitness training. Tuo’s system incorporates various movements copied from tigers, bears, deers, birds and apes. These basic principles were to have far reaching influence for centuries to come. During the Ming and Qing dynasties systems of progression were also developed with Warrior of Agility and Warrior of Courage being possible.
Wushu developed into a style involving kicking, punching, striking, catching, pushing and stabbing for the purpose of self-defense and fitness training and incorporates either bare hands or weapons. Wushu was originally developed as a form of military training and body building but also became a spiritual base and sporting practice. Nowadays within China it is an important part of the military and police forces and once again has become an essential part of ordinary people’s lives. In the 60’s, Hollywood’s martial arts films contributed a large part to the popularity of Wushu and Kung Fu outside of China today.
Wushu is a collective term that includes many different styles of combat like long boxing, taiji boxing, sanshou and short and long weapon play. Other boxing styles have evolved teachings of their own according to their founders, like Yang’s Taiji, Wu’s Taiji and Chen’s Taiji to name a few. The weapon play styles include training in the use of spear, cudgel, broadsword and saber.
From their very basic, simplistic principles these wushu schools have become complicated systems of religion, training and combat and given rise to religions like Taoist, Confucians and Buddhist beliefs. These beliefs also encourage practitioners to focus on achieiving spiritual enlightenment and inner calm aside from physical well being.
Wushu lessons takes through rhythmical patterns or Forms, sparring with partners or shadow boxing, using traditional Chinese philosophies and medicine. All of these combine to give the student a peace in body and mind. As well as military combat and spiritual enlightenment Wushu lessons has branched out to become sporting events like Taekwondo and fencing, while certain aspects are now established as forms of performance dance and opera.
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