When Westerners think of Kung Fu, it is often cinematic images full of acrobatics that come to mind. This image has not only been significantly influenced by Wuxia films, but also by Modern Wushu (what in turn, of course, also brings interaction.) Modern Wushu, as the name suggests, is not traditional Kung Fu and has its roots in the twentieth century during the time of Mao Tse Tung.
In the West of the twentieth century, Chinese were considered small and weak. No wonder, since the people of Western empires were generally tall and muscular in their physiology. The Chinese government under Mao Tse Tung therefore sought to change this reputation and turned to the old, romantic tradition of martial arts. However, the true arts were jealously guarded by the traditional masters, who knew from the history of Kung Fu that persecution and rejection had always been repeated. They were often educated and had a more independent and progressive way of thinking than much of the largely impoverished population. Not for nothing had many masters fled to British-controlled Hong Kong and enjoyed Western rights there.
Accordingly, the government knew little about the martial arts. To counteract this, it founded a sports association and organised tournaments. The best masters were then supposed to bring their arts into this association. (Among others, Chiu Kow won the tournament in more than one year).
The sport, which consisted of bringing these arts together, was officially recognised by the Chinese government in 1959 and also received financial support. Modern Wushu is still the official Chinese popular sport today. It is accessible to everyone, unlike the often expensive lessons in the schools of traditional Kung Fu.
While traditional arts focus on producing efficient fighters, Modern Wushu practitioners demonstrate athleticism, elegance, body control and strength. The focus of the developed forms (Taolu) has been on beauty and aesthetics, while efficiency has been neglected. Meditation, qigong and philosophical or religious aspects also have no place in the public demonstration of Chinese strength.
In addition, Modern Wushu knows the discipline of full contact (Sanda, often also Wushu Sanda). The rules in this respect are very similar to those of the sporting Lei Tai competition.
Unlike in the traditional arts, a clear structure of graduations has been defined for Modern Wushu. This divides the training into:
1st-3rd Duan: This is how students with several years of experience are graduated. These are the so-called basic level Duans.
4th-6th Duan: These ‘intermediate level Duans’ are intended for practitioners who have already been teaching, learning and training for at least ten years. In addition, students from the fifth Duan onwards must also work academically, for example, provide evidence of publications.
7th-10th Duan: From the seventh Duan onwards, practitioners may call themselves Grandmasters. These graduations are the ‘upper level Duan’ and are reserved for very experienced teachers / masters with above-average achievements.
I am not a Modern Wushu practitioner myself and what I write here is based solely on textual research. This article serves as a rough overview. I am happy to be instructed or corrected by practitioners.