Image credit: Ryan Ng/SportSG
The rich and varied historical roots of Chinese martial arts have led to the numerous competitive wushu events that a practitioner may choose to contest. Here is a list of some of the most common ones that feature in taolu tournaments.
Changquan (long fist)
A holistic style that involves not just fists, despite what its name suggests. Changquan also includes large movements such as kicks, leaps, and flips. It is characterised by fast-paced, vigorous motions such as ce kong fan (side aerial flips) and xuan zi (butterfly kicks), and requires a lot of strength, stamina, agility, and flexibility from the practitioner.
Nanquan (Southern fist)
This is a Southern martial art style derived from the Southern parts of China, such as the Guandong and Fujian provinces. There are a variety of schools for this style, such as the hung gar kuen, which was developed by the renowned Wong Fei Hung, and wing chun, which was popularised by contemporary martial arts icon Yip Man. Nanquan involves less action than changquan, with more emphasis being placed on stable positioning and legwork. Its powerful punches derive force from lower body stances.
Taijiquan (taichi fist)
Although technically similar to an exercise favoured by the elderly, competitive taijiquan looks nothing like that. It may seem slow, but a very strong core is necessary for a taijiquan practitioner to execute the measured and controlled moves involved. In fact, while performing these moves, the athletes also have to pay attention to accurate breathing techniques that will greatly aid their performance. Posture and stance are very important here, and the basis of the movements stem from the individual’s centre of gravity.
Daoshu and nandao (broadsword events)
Daoshu (broadsword technique) events are competed with one of the shortest weapons in the sport. Arm power, stable stances, good coordination, and quick movements typify this event. Daoshu is also known for transitions between high and low movements at swift speeds. Nandao (Southern broadsword technique) is similar to daoshu, but, unlike the latter, its martial artists often use two hands to wield the weapon because of its heavier weight. Nandao, along with nanquan, is usually complemented by verbal calls and shouts for a more impressive performance.
Jianshu and taiji jianshu (sword events)
The jian, or sword, is not as heavy as the other weapons, and forceful offensive moves are not as common in such events. Instead, jianshu artists engage in lighter and more elegant moves, demonstrating high levels of flexibility and agility. Taiji jianshu is, simply put, taijiquan with a jian.
Gunshu and nangun (cudgel events)
The gun (cudgel), a kind of long stick, is one of the more primitive methods of self-defence. Although the gun is long and may seem difficult to handle, let alone execute complicated leaps and flips with, gunshu practitioners are very strong and agile, and possess good coordination skills. This results in rapid and powerful movements. While wielding their weapons, gunshu martial artists also ensure that their lower limbs are constantly moving as well. The nangun, on the other hand, is a Southern-style cudgel. It is thicker than the regular gun, and this style involves fewer fancy flipping movements and jumps. Rather, the offence comes from powerful smashes made by both ends of the stick.
Qiangshu (spear event)
Qiangshu events necessitate the use of the qiang (spear). Like gunshu, this event involves complicated footwork and leaps. Hence, balance, coordination, and flexibility are essential. However, the main difference between qiangshu and gunshu is the type of upper limb techniques used. Where gunshu practitioners sweep and slice their cudgels, qiangshu is characterised by forceful jabs and pierces.
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