FORMS AND CLASSIFICATIONS OF WUSHUTraditionally, Chinese martial arts are classified by one of three methods:
- Internal or External styles.
- Southern or Northern styles.
- As "Shaolin" or "Wudang" or "Ermei."
Roughly speaking, the difference between internal and external styles can refer to whether the strength is from the torso and legs (internal) or whether the strength is derived from training of the more specific arm and leg muscles (external). The word "internal" often connotes a more pliable martial style. Southern or Northern styles naturally refer to the general origin, but finer distinctions are often made about style differences of these two schools.
Shaolin boxing styles are generally said to be derived from the form of fighting practiced at the Shaolin Temple in Henan province. Similarly, Wudang is the name of a mountain used by Taoists in Hubei province and Ermei is a significant religious mountain in Sichuan province.WEAPONS COMPETITION
Although there are more than 400 different types of ancient Chinese weapons and many usages of each, there are only about 18 standard weapons that you will usually see in Wushu competition. Sometimes a practitioner will combine two weapons in a form or do a variation involving two of the same weapons. Some instances of forms often seen in competition are: Broadsword, straight sword, spear, staff, Kwan-sword, double-swords, double straight-swords, double hook-swords, double-ended spear, nine-section whip, rope-dart, chained hammer, 3-sectional staff, 2-sectional staff, daggers, double short-staff, etc.
The category of Qigong involves demonstrations of internal power and strength. Practitioners of this esoteric art demonstrate the powers that internal strength training and breath-training have given them.
In recent years, many of China's excellent Wushu teams have demonstrated their skills in foreign countries. These displays of finely-honed martial ability have caused a stir wherever they go. Although these teams have exhibited the performance side of Wushu, many of the other beneficial aspects of Wushu have not been equally extolled. In fact, some detractors of Wushu relegate it to at best a form of gymnastic exhibition, having little to do with actual martial arts. Such thinkers usually assign the term "Kung-Fu" to what they believe contains true, functional martial arts, i.e., if a form is pretty, it is probably not useful.
In many North American martial-arts competitions it becomes fairly obvious that the distinction between "Wushu" and "Kung-Fu" is even less clear than in China. In reality, "Kung-Fu" is "Wushu," the major difference being that Wushu training has not only traditional fighting sets, but also difficult tumbling and rigorous basic training of skills. Wushu has some extremely competent fighters among its ranks, as well as those who are more interested in health or performance. Whatever it is called, modern martial arts are evolving and improving...the traditional basics give us a firm base upon which to build.