Guest Author - Caroline Baker
Wu Shu has gained recognition and popularity over the years, especially thanks to movies and people like Jet Li. In fact, one of the first openings of China's doors to the West after the Cultural Revolution was through several demonstrations to President Nixon, including from the then ten-year-old Jet Li, forms competitor champion.
One of the forms of Chinese Martial Arts, Wu Shu comes from a very long history dating back to the early history of China. Some even believe that the term wu shu, which literally translates to "method of military" (aka fighting), is more a correct word for martial arts than kung fu, which could be used to describe "skill" or "accomplishment" in anything.
Regardless, the Wu Shu that is practiced today is referred to as the Progressive Wu Shu. It came about at the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
During the Cultural Revolution, all things of the "olden ways" were banned. That included the practice of martial arts. Many martial artists "disappeared" from society. Several went into various forms of entertainment or hid their arts by other means. As China emerged from the Cultural Revolution, there was a resurgence of interest in many of the old ways.
The Chinese government, known as the People's Republic of China, recognized that Martial Arts, while a deadly art, also held beneficial aspects. It was an effective means to train the body and a beautiful entertainment art.
Thus, the modern Wu Shu that we see today began to develop. This new style removed a lot of the combat and deadly aspects of the art and replaced it with a flare and beauty. It focused on highlighting the versatility and strength of the human body. Combining many of the traditional aspects of Chinese Opera, ballet and gymnastics, it became a style for performance as well as health.
Wu Shu artists today perform amazing feats with their bodies. They demonstrate a high level of acrobatics, leaping into the air and delivering fast snaps, punches, and kicks. Some are extremely flexible, able to bend their bodies in half and achieve amazing poses. Others have impressive balance, standing for hours merely on one foot, or even more impressive, on their heads.
The art of Wu Shu is a wonderful outlet for children with high energy and adults who want to work on their flexibility and body strength. While not a combat focus as some of the other martial arts styles, it does have a place in Martial Arts and shows us how versatile our bodies can be when we put our mind, body, and spirit to work.