Recently, I received my Black Belt in Kung Fu at Wushu Central Academy. I was thrilled to achieve this honor, as this was my seventh year of training. Also, I had just become one of the elite few to achieve this rank in my institute. One of the requirements to pass the test was writing a research paper about Wushu (popularly known as Kung Fu). I’ve shared mine below. Please make sure to read it till the end, and don’t forget to watch the video of me becoming a Black Belt!
Evolution of Wushu
Wushu is an ancient martial art that was passed on from generation to generation for hundreds of years. Where did this tradition begin? Who came up with it? Lastly, what is the future of Wushu? These are some of the questions I’ll be attempting to answer.
Origin of Wushu
There are several different dates attributed to the beginning of Wushu. The traditional date of Shaolin Kung Fu’s creation is in the 6th century CE, about 1500 years ago. However, other records say that Wushu was practiced up to 4000 years ago, around 2000 BCE.
Early forms of what is now Wushu, was first practiced in the Qin dynasty’s army about 1850 years ago. The concept of training monks in martial arts was brought to China around 500 CE, coming from Northern India. Wushu was first taken to China by Bodhidharma, a semi-legendary Buddhist monk coming from India.
Bodhidharma was well-educated in martial arts, which was strange for a Buddhist monk. The Buddha was one of the greatest advocates for non-violence, so most Buddhists were peaceful. However, Bodhidharma was a prince who believed in learning how to defend himself. He also taught other monks about martial arts. These monks formed a Buddhist monastery known as the Shaolin Temple. The monks of this temple saved China so many times that the emperor allowed the monks to eat meat and drink alcohol, a privilege they retain to this day.
Shaolin Kung Fu
The monks of the Shaolin Temple soon changed the martial art that Bodhidharma taught them. It was adjusted to their styles, creating what is now known as Shaolin Kung Fu. Shaolin Kung Fu was a deadly combination of beautiful movements mixed with fatal strikes. It was genuinely lethal, and Shaolin monks could often destroy enemies in battles. However, it was against a Buddhist’s principles to kill another person. So, the monks referred to it as “liberating the soul” of the enemy before they could do more evil.
Fast forward to 1949, when China was a newly independent country. By this time, there were hundreds of styles of Wushu, so the government attempted to do a standardized sport out of it. Wushu became a competitive sport. Performed competitions were introduced, and the styles or forms of Wushu were categorized. Contestants often performed some of the many forms known as the Long Fist and Southern Fist.
While Wushu’s primary weapons are the staff, spear, broadsword, straight sword, saber, and pu dao, there are several others as well. The Dragon Phoenix sword is a slight variation of the traditional straight sword. It essentially is a straight, double-edged katana.
The three-section staff, nine-section whip, and nunchucks are also important Wushu weapons. These are essentially weapons that can be swung extremely fast at the opponent and then quickly retracted. These take extraordinary skill to wield.
The meteor hammer and rope dart are flailed weapons used in Wushu. The meteor hammer is a 6.5-foot long rope with two massive spheres attached on either side. It is quite dangerous to use. It must be swung around the body several times to generate the amount of speed required to kill the opponent.
The rope dart is a long rope with a sharp metal piece connected to it. It should be swung or thrown in such a manner that the tip can pierce an enemy’s skin. It takes great focus to handle.
Future of Wushu
Wushu has evolved several times over in the last millennia. It has transformed from an effective combat technique to a sport that can be choreographed and performed. Wushu may add more styles to its vast repertoire. The moves may become even less combat-oriented and more like a ballet. Weapons techniques might no longer be made to kill but to perform elegantly. Wushu might become a major Olympic event!
So, what does the future hold? Will Wushu stand the test of time, or will it fall like so many other secrets have? Only time will tell!
As I had mentioned earlier, I became a Black Belt recently. Some of my best moments can be found in this video. Please have the audio on for a better viewing experience!