Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wushu: The Rhythmic Gymnastics of the Martial Arts World

I have studied a number of martial arts over the years, one of which was Wushu. I had taken it up and trained in it for a year and a half to learn certain performance skills for the stunt world. I was in the Richmond area last night and dropped by to see my old Wushu teacher, Bruce Fontaine. He recently opened up his West Coast Chinese Martial Arts classes at a full-time location there.

As I watched his kids training for an upcoming event, painful memories flooded back of my old Wushu days when stretching resembled a torture practice. I related this to the friend who watched along with me to which Bruce replied, "Lori never did have the hips for Wushu."

"No, but I could kick hard," I replied, jokingly sulky.

"In Wushu, kicking hard is something more in the abstract," Bruce quipped back.

This is absolute truth. Wushu is a performance art that is only loosely based on practical martial arts. When I jokingly ask Bruce what the practical application is of a tornado kick that lands in the splits, he consistently replies, "None whatsoever." It is as I call it, the rhythmic gymnastics of the martial arts world. That being said, it can be a awesomely impressive.

You've seen Wushu in many of your favourite martial arts films. You've likely heard of Jet Li, of course, probably the most famous of the Wushu martial arts stars. But there also are many young talents in China doing spectacular shows, featuring crazy feats of agility and flexibility. Check out the following vid that Bruce sent me to see just how crazy.


turbotortoise said...

I was never quite sure what wushu was before. That's amazing!

Geez...and I struggle with butterfly stretches and shoulder rolls... :-P

Alan Yu said...

It’s funny as I have mainly focused in learning martial arts that are meant for self defense such as Wing Chun. Yet I was thinking of training in something over the top such as Wushu as I thought it would be a good way to build up one’s stamina, agility and coordination even though the techniques themselves don’t seem too practical in a fighting situation.

The only other one that I read is Capoeira where it looks like a dance routine and similarly it looked like it would achieve similar results to a certain extent. Although, I think with that one it was originally meant to be used as self defence.

Lori O'Connell said...

I believe you're right about the Capoeira in that it was originally meant for self-defense. Over the years, however, as with many martial arts, it's focus has changed. It is still a very cool performance art though.