Today, Kung fu/gung fu are terms used to describe martial training systems of Chinese origin from Tai Chi to Tiger. The term Wu Shu, today, would more refer to the Wu Shu encouraged by the Communist party in China. Shortly after their take-over in 1949, they gathered together all the martial masters who would co-operate with them (the others having fled the country or been imprisoned). Together, they tried to boil these masters' knowledge down to one final, "perfect," fighting system. This system became the basis for the Chinese military's hand to hand combat training, and utilized only the most effective and deadly aspects of China's fighting tradition.

The rest, all the nice pretty spins and jumps and flips and stuff -- beautiful, elegant, and harmless -- was called Wu Shu and tought to civilians, especially children. Wu Shu practitioners often participate in international good-will events with demonstrations of their beautiful forms. They look especially good in groups.

While the term Wu Shu can refer to any Chinese fighting art, Wu Shu (as typically practiced in 2000) is beautiful but ineffectual as a real-life fighting style.

Wu Su, or Wu-Shu, is the true name for Chinese martial arts, which are usually regrouped under the name "Kung Fu" (or Gong Fu). Kung Fu, however, merely means skill through effort , and may represent anything regardless of martial qualities.

Alternate names for Wu Su are Wu Kung and Kuo Shu

Wu Su is also the name of an martial style practiced in the People's Republic of China (and, I hear, spreading around the world). True practitioners of Wu Shu tend to see PRC Wu Shu more as a performance art, because, while it certainly has its root in older traditions, it tends to favor flashy stuff over useful stuff, and emphasize quick advancement to attract the masses.

I feel some expansion on previous entries is necessary here. A more correct translation than previously offer for Wu Shu (or Wushu, depending on how you wish to anglicize it), is perhaps "martial dance". That is, Wu typically translates to "dance" in this context and Shu implies something "martial" in nature.

That said, one should keep in mind that modern Wu Shu, with its "pretty" spins, jumps, flips, etc. owes nearly as much of its heritage to Chinese opera as it does to the combination of martial styles that it attempts to encapsulate. Occasionally, when watching Chinese opera, it is entirely possible to identify movement sequences that are directly imported into Wu Shu sets.

It should be noted that Wu Shu as a performance art ranks amonst the most popular in the world. Currently, it is slated to be an exhibition sport at the Beijing Olympics. Within the United States, the yearly tournament held at Berkeley, California, ranks as our preeminent event.

In a typical competition, participants compete in a minimum of four compulsory forms, two empty hand and two weapon sets. The standard empty hand forms are "compulsory versions" of Changquan, a Northern Style(long fist) form, and Nanquan, a Southern Style(southern fist) form. In standard men's competition, compulsory weapons forms are typically broadsword and staff forms. Women's competition, on the other hand, focuses on straightsword and spear forms. Of course, there are myriad other forms that might be performed in competition, spanning the range of the Eighteen Arms of Wushu as well as all the internal and external arts.

In competition and demonstration, there exists no group as skilled as the Beijing Wushu Team, it being the national team of China. Having been in existance in one form or another since the late 1950's, many former members have emigrated from China, moving on to film and coaching careers that have precipitated the germination] of Wu Shu into a truly international sport.

Additionally, it is entirely likely that Wu Shu currently holds more sway over modern action films than does any other single martial arts system. Jet Li, arguably one of the most famous modern martial artists of our times, began his career as a member of the Beijing Wushu Team. Similarly, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Iron Monkey, and a plethora of other wire-fu movies derive a significant amount of style as well as performers from modern Wu Shu.

Historically, Wu Shu as sport was created as a result of the Great Cultural Revolution. In what is usually considered (outside of China, at least) to be an attempt to supress the ability of the citizenry to defend itself, the Northern styles of huaquan, piguaquan, zhaquan, shaolinquan, paoquan, and hongquan were condensed into modern performance Changquan. Likewise, Nanquan was created by combining the Cai, Hong, Li, Liu, Choy, Fut family styles.

The Beijing Wushu Team, essentially the first ambassadors of Wu Shu worldwide, was founded in 1974 as the successor to the orginal Beijing Wushu School, which was created during the Great Cultural Revolution. The first team consisted of 25 atheletes, 12 men and 13 women, including the aformentioned Jet Li.

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