Wushu is the branch of martial arts originating in China. It is a modern art that is mainly sport or demonstration. Not an art dating back centuries, but it really has its roots in the circus. Wushu was not practiced by the Shaolin Monks. The most famous Wushu student is Jet Li. He has his roots in Wushu competitions and was Champion for many years. He got his big break in movies and has since made many Hong Kong and American Films.
Brief Wushu History
First systems of wushu arise even before the appearance of Chinese state, but before III-IV centuries there was not wushu in full volume - there existed only military preparation, "war craft". In the beginning it had a form of dancing-military exercises, later became a military subject in special schools.
At the end of II century all individual preparation of warrior got the name wuyi. This term kept during centuries and became a synonym to wushu. Wuyi contained juedi (wrestling), shoubo (hand-to-hand combat), methods of weapon combat. Sets imitated hand-to-hand combat, weapon combat, defense from weapon attacking. Teaching was based on sets of formal exercises - taolu - which can be executed as solo, as with partners.
During the "Springs and Autumns" period (770-476 B.C.) and "Fighting Kingdoms" period (475-221 B.C.) greatest Chinese philosophers lived and worked: Konficiy, Lao-zi, Meng-zi, Zhuang-zi. China received spiritual impulse, which had influence on the developing of all East Asia during the next two thousand years. In I century Buddhism began penetrate in China from India. Not only ordinary soldiers studied martial arts (even some emperors fought on platforms), and by this reason Chinese martial arts gradually began merge with philosophical systems and overgrow the level of simple collection of methods of hand-to-hand combat. Possibly, it was the reason due to which they didn't wither during centuries but developed and are still alive.
Approximately in VI century indian preacher Bodhidharma came to China and preached buddhism in Shaolin temple near Loyang. Due to legend it was he who founded famous shaolin style of wushu. Due to legend later shaolin monks helped to the second emperor of Tang dynasty - Li Shimin - in returning the throne. Li Shimin allowed to the temple to have its own monk troops. Special term appeared - wuseng (monk-warrior).
During the Song dynasty (960-1279) many monks (including wusengs) went out from temples and became common people. In XIII century shaolin wushu declined due to numerous persecutions on Buddhism and Mongolian invasion. In 1224 a young man came into Shaolin temple and took monk's name Jueyuan. He had seen a pitiful state of temple's wushu and decided that true tradition is lost. Jueyuan became revive temple's wushu and, actually, created a new style, which is still alive.
In 1219 when after capturing China Chingiz-khan went to the west many arabians and persians became moved to China. Such people were called "semu" ("men with colored eyes"), they had less rights than mongolian but more than chinese. In official documents of Yuan dynasty they were called "huihui". Moved on the east moslem infantrymen and artillerymen in 1275, due to order of founder of Yuan dynasty "in all places entered in communities of border inhabitants", became peasants. From these people, arabian immigrants (came to China on ships during Tang and Song dynasties), and chinese men converted to islam the "huizu" nation ("moslems") was formed. During more than seven hundred years huizu was indissoluble connected with wushu. They considered wushu as self-defense and as holy action, stimulated moslem's spirit.
In 1351-1368 peasant's rebellion of "red bandages", headed by Zhu Yuanzhang (who also was a big wushu master), finished mongolian Yuan dynasty and founded Ming dynasty. Zhu Yuanzhang became its first emperor (dynasty name "Tai-zu"). "Golden age" of wushu began.
In XVI century seaside provinces of China exposed to devastating raids of japanese pirates. It was Qi Jiguang (at this moment he was 27 years old) whom was ordered to "punish the bandits and guard peoples". He was in hard situation: local troops were small, well-prepared Japanese samurais easy defeated bad organized groups of resistancers. Qi Jiguang, wushu master, decided to attract detachments of local home-guard from wushu fighters. In 1561 japanese was defeated in Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong provinces. After promoting to general, Qi Jiguang ordered for all soldiers and officers to study wushu. On the base of various systems of military preparing he wrote a treatise "Jixiao xinshu" ("New book of records about advantages [in war craft]"). Due to Qi Jiguang XVI century is considered as turning-point in wushu history.
Ming dynasty is a time of stable systematic developing and of peaceful coexistence of different schools. But nothing is forever.
1644, june, 6. Beijing is captured by manzhu troops. Last emperor of Ming dynasty hang oneself on the fortress wall. Founded a new dynasty - Qing. This dynasty existed during more than two hundred years, up to 1911. Center of wushu trainig was moved to secret societies.
During XIX century China was shaked by many rebellions against manzhu ruling and dominant influence of foreigners. Secret societies, cultivated different styles of wushu, were targets for striking in the rebellion of "Eight trigrams", in Opium wars, in great people's war of Taipings. Rebelion of ihetuans (1899-1901), also known as "Boxer's rebellion", became an apotheosis of activity of secret societies.
Rout of Yihetuan rebellion followed to death of many wushu masters. But traditions of martial arts could not lose without leaving a trace. During Xinhai revolution (1911-1913) and later, during Warlords Period activity of secret societies resumed with new power.
Goverment of Chinese Republic rendered a great assistance to wushu developing. First president of China - Sun Zhongshan (also known as Sun Yatseng) - studied taijiquan from Cai Guiqin. His successor - generalissimus Jiang Jieshi (also known as Chang Kaishi) also didn't avoid martial arts, he visited Guokao ("State test" - something like all-China wushu championship), which were organized in Nanjing (in that time - capital of China) Central guoshu institute ("guoshu" means "national art", during Gomindang ruling it was an official name for wushu), founded in 1928. General Zhang Zhijiang was a rector of this Institute, he was supported by general Feng Yuxiang. Another big organisation, developed and spread wushu, was Jingwu Association ("Assotiation of true martial arts") founded in 1909 in Shanghai. Two organisations had branches in all provinces of China (Jingwu Assotiation - also in other countries among local chinese communities: in Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Phillippines etc), great masters worked as teachers. During World War II many wushu masters fought in army or partisan detachments, made theirs contribution in defeating of Japan.
When Communist Party come to power, government called wushu masters to go out from underground. In 1953 since 8 till 12 of November First All-China Sport Games took place in Tianjing, 75% of it was wushu exhibitions. 139 styles were demonstrated, competitions in hand-to-hand combat (without any gears), weapon combat (on long and short weapon) and lifting of heavy weights (ancient chinese sport) were held. After seeing such a power government got frightened. Secret societies were dispersed. Simultaniously a Committee of wushu reforming was organized. Famous wushu master Cai Longyun on the base of huaquan (blossomed fist), zhaquan (fist of Zha), paoquan (cannon fist) hongquan (fist of stream), piguaquan (fist of chopping and hanging), shaolinquan (fist of Shaolin temple) and some others created a new sport competitional style changquan (long fist). On the base of five style of Guangdong province (styles of Hong, Cai, Li, Liu and Mo families) it was created new sport competitional style nanquan (southern fist). Names of movements were changed, as a result movements lost mental contents: realy, "crushing mountain strike" is different from "fist bang on a palm". During "Great Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976) wushu lovers were repressed for "indulging of feudal survivals". But in this time popularity of wushu un foreign countries began increase due to kungfu movies. For in admission of decreasing of international prestige wushu was let alone.
The greatest wrestler of the modern Olympics is Alexandr Karelin of Russia. Before his Silver medal win at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Karelin was undefeated.