Wu Shu versus traditional: 4 Phases

brianlkennedy

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In another thread there was some discussion of the terms kung fu, wushu and the differences between them. Below I have included a section from an article my wife and I did on the Jing Wu Association for Classical Fighting Arts magazine. It will appear in the next issue, which is due out in about a month. This is only a part of the article but I thought it might be of interest as there is a lot of confusion about how the Jing Wu Association, traditional martial arts and the Communist version of wu shu fit together.
Before turning to the excerpt from the article, let me mention some vocabulary:

Wu Shu ([FONT=&#26032]武術[/FONT]) literally War Arts simply means martial arts in common usage. This usage goes back well into the Qing dyansty.

Jing Wu Association :)[FONT=&#26032]精武体育会[/FONT]); depending on the romanization system used, the name can end up being spelled: Jing Mo, Ching Wu, Jing Wo, Chin Woo. A privately funded chain school in Republican era China. Kind of the Tracy Brothers of China so to speak.

National Guo Shu ([FONT=&#26032]國術[/FONT]) Guo Shu literally means National Arts, it was the phrase used as a generic term for Chinese martial arts during the Republican period from 1911 to 1949.

Jing Ji Wu Shu ([FONT=&#26032]競技武術[/FONT]) literally Competition Wu Shu; this is what westerners generally mean when they say wu shu; these are the routines developed in the Peoples Republic of China between the late 1950s to the early 1980s.


Having got the vocab straight here is the except (the footnotes are at the bottom of the post):

Four Phases
Chinese martial arts as they exist today are the outcome of four phases; all of which occurred within the last 100 years. These four phases were;
1.the original village-military phase of Chinese martial arts,
2.the Jing Wu Association phase,
3.the National Guo Shu phase,
4.the PRC wushu phase
leading to Chinese martial arts as it is today. Each of the four phases brought something new to Chinese martial arts development.
Up until about 1900 Chinese martial arts training was conducted either in the military by active duty military or in rural villages where martial arts was practiced as either a kids recreation or by adults who were involved in village defense as part of militias. Put simply if your were an adult training martial arts you were preparing to fight as part of some organized military unit. Martial arts were not an adult hobby, recreation or pastime; it was a skill. Martial arts training in this military-village militia sense placed a major emphasis on weapons use. Most of the time would be devoted to group formations using spears, staff, saber and shields. Empty hand training and long involved solo training routines were a very, very small part of this kind of training. Also too, training was closed door meaning a stranger did not just walk up with their checkbook and say to either a military or village militia martial arts instructor; I wanna learn your martial art, teach me, here is my moneythat is not the way it worked (fn. 5).
The first public martial arts school, where one could basically just walk in the door, pay the fee and sign up, was the Jing Wu Association which opened in 1909 and ushered in a new era in Chinese martial arts training. The Jing Wus day in the sun ran from about 1920 to 1925. The Jing Wu idea of public martial arts instruction was expanded in the late 1920s and 1930s by the government sponsored National Guo Shu project. The National Guo Shu project took the Jing Wu idea one step further; Jing Wu made martial arts available to the public, the National Guo Shu Project wanted to make Chinese martial arts widely available and to create a national standardized martial arts program that would be, in some senses, a tool of government ideals and policy. The Jing Wu was private, the National Guo Shu program was government run. The Jing Wu was basically a coastal cities project with a limited number of branches, the National Guo Shu program was envisioned (fn.6) as nation wide with branches in every public school in China. The National Guo Shu programs heyday ran for about a decade, 1927 to 1937.

Here is a photo of bayonet and sword training at the Jing Wu Association, taken from their 1929 yearbook

Jingwu_two-1.jpg




After the dust (and blood) settled from the Chinese Civil War and the Communist Peoples Republic of China emerged victorious, that government sought to continue the Republican governments National Guo Shu program (fn.7). The Communist government started work on a new National Wu Shu program. When westerners speak of wu shu they are generally talking about this project. What the National Wushu program sought to do was create more physically demanding routines that involved a lot more gymnastic moves and convert Chinese martial arts into a high level competition sport in line with such related sports as figure skating or gymnastics. The Communist wushu program also made a pointed effort to remove the fighting applications and combat aspect from the training. These changes took place in 1959 to 1961 and continue to this day. Wushu could perhaps be described as a very physically demanding type of folk dance or floor gymnastics with movements derived from traditional Chinese martial arts systems. Which brings us up to the 21st century.
The Jing Wu Assocations place in Chinese martial arts history is a pivotal one which marks the transition of Chinese martial arts from being from manual trade associated with the military, militias and bodyguards to being a form of cultural recreation. The reality is this change would have occurred whether there had ever been a Jing Wu Association or not, but the Jing Wu Association did come into existence and its brief existence does mark a major transition between the two fundamentally different approaches to Chinese martial arts; martial arts as combat versus martial arts as recreation.


Here are the footnotes to this page:
Fn. 5: In saying this we are not saying that martial arts was not a business in pre-modern China; it was very much a business. Which is one of the reasons martial arts techniques or training methods were not publically for sale; they were viewed as trade secrets which were shown only to those whom the teacher trusted with them. The idea that Chinese martial arts was not a business is very much a modern western idea that has no basis in reality.

Fn.6: We use the term envisioned because by the time the National Guo Shu project was coming to life much of China was already sunk into Civil War and/or being subject to the depredations of the Warlord Period, the result being that many Republican plans were stillborn, including to a large extent, the National Guo Shu program.

Fn.7 National Guo Shu ([FONT=&#26032]國術[/FONT]) Guo Shu literally means National Arts, it was the phrase used as a generic term for Chinese martial arts during the Republican period from 1911 to 1949. In contrat Wu Shu ([FONT=&#26032]武術[/FONT]) literally War Arts is a phrase most commonly associated with the Communist Chinese governement martial arts programs. Although it should be noted that wushu in a more general sense simply means martial arts.
 

Rabu

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Brian,

Nice post, thank you for logically laying that out. I will be referring people to this post.

I see you note the 'modern Wushu' project beginning in 1959. The information I have been given uses the year 1956 as the beginning of the modern Wushu movement.

For the USKF (many of whom belonged to the USCKF) the entry requirement for tournament or to be considered a 'traditional' art vs modern Wushu is that the art was developed or existing prior to the year 1956.

That would leave a gap from the year in your post of 3 years. I understand that history is a challenge and wondered if you had any insight into why which year would be used or chosen?

Best regards,

Rob
 

Flying Crane

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Interesting post, Brian.

I just wanted to point out that Jing Wu is still active, there are at least a couple of instructors here in San Francisco who are "jing wu". Perhaps they are just the remnants, and what happened in China is no more, I don't really know. But your article makes it sound like they are no more.

Wong Jack-Man comes immediately to mind, the man who is sort of famous for his fight with Bruce Lee back when they were both about 24 years old. My sifu studied under Sifu Wong for about 10 years, and describes him as a truly exceptional martial artist. He says that Wong is Jing Wu, or at least comes out of that school.

I have seen other references to teachers who are "jing wu", or representatives of such.

Anyway, I'll keep an eye out for your article. thx!
 

Rabu

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Shifu Robert Louie is still active and teaches individuals. He is a direct student of Wong Jack Man.

Here is a link to his Jing Mo website:

http://www.jingmo.org/homepage.html

He has several students who are also actively training and teaching that I am aware of.

Hope it helps in some way.

Best regards,

Rob
 

Flying Crane

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Shifu Robert Louie is still active and teaches individuals. He is a direct student of Wong Jack Man.

Here is a link to his Jing Mo website:

http://www.jingmo.org/homepage.html

He has several students who are also actively training and teaching that I am aware of.

Hope it helps in some way.

Best regards,

Rob


Yes, I was thinking of him too, but I could not remember his name. Thx!
 

Nobody

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Hey brianlkennedy i have posted a link of this thread on to another thread on here in Martial arts talk this is to help explain the words used an there similar meaning.

I was going to do a thread on words that are translated to English that are of Mandarin origin but after reading what you have done it worked just as well. Plus could not find a language trans that would show pinyin an show the Chinese characters either.

I have always wanted to study with Wong Jack man or one of his students. Or someone related to the school he came from.

That site for Jing Wu is excellent.
 

Rabu

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Hey Nobody,

Where are you located in the world?

I can ask around and see if there is someone teaching Bei Shao Lin in your area. (or WJM lineage)

Better yet, send me a PM so as not to detract further from the thread.

Best regards,

Rob
 

Em MacIntosh

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Isn't calling chinese performing arts wushu false advertising? I know it's a generalized term, at least in the west, but it's getting on my nerves like molten lava, of course it's molten otherwise it'd be rock. Organic vegetables? As opposed to what, plastic vegetables? So wushu is just a buzz word here in the west? I find it very misleading. Sure a bellerina could break your neck with a scisor lock. Argh. Pop culture is so frustrating. Call it what it is. Taekwan means to smash with hands and feet. What do you call foot tag in korean? Don't mind me. It just really bugs me.
 

MaartenSFS

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Isn't calling chinese performing arts wushu false advertising? I know it's a generalized term, at least in the west, but it's getting on my nerves like molten lava, of course it's molten otherwise it'd be rock. Organic vegetables? As opposed to what, plastic vegetables? So wushu is just a buzz word here in the west? I find it very misleading. Sure a bellerina could break your neck with a scisor lock. Argh. Pop culture is so frustrating. Call it what it is. Taekwan means to smash with hands and feet. What do you call foot tag in korean? Don't mind me. It just really bugs me.

Amen.
 
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brianlkennedy

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Rob, you were talking about when modern wushu started (and yeah, I had heard the 1956 cut off date being used) And I should mention my source for the history of modern wushu is Prof. Kang Ge Wu ([FONT=&#26032]康戈武[/FONT]). Although the bulk of his writings are in Chinese he did do one book in english, which I like a lot. It is called The Spring and Autumn of Chinese Martial Arts is published (and available) from Plum Publishing.

What you actually had was a series of events starting in 1951 where in true Chinese government fashion, they held endless committee meetings, conferences, drafted this and drafted that and over about a ten to twenty year period Jing Ji Wu Shu ([FONT=&#26032]競技武術[/FONT]) (Competition Wu Shu) was born.

If it had been up to me to set the cut off date I would have made it simple and done what most Chinese martial artists do when talking about modern Chinese martial arts history and talk about it in terms of before Liberation and after Liberation. (Liberation being Oct 1, 1949 when the Peoples Republic of China was formally declared). Normally they use three demarcation points: before and after Liberation and then they will talk about thing that happened in the years of unrest, being a euphimism for the Cultural Revolution.

So the Brian Wushu cut off date would have been 1949. As to why they may have chosen the 1956 date, according to Prof. Kang in 1956 competition wushu was introduced nationwide in primary and junior high schools. So 1956 kind of marks the big public unveiling. I choose the 1959-61 dates because those were the years when the rules and judging criteria kind of got settled down and the first big national tournament were held. Also too in 1960 was the big year for aerial moves. That was the year when a lot of the moves that I consider the trademarks of modern wushu were introduced into the sport. What I am talking about is things like the aerial cartwheels (made famous in America by Anthony Chan of San Francisco), the horzonal cannonballs (that move where you leap up and spin 180 parallel to the floor, I forget what they really call it) and all the rest of the high altitude stuff.


Michael; yeah, I did give the wrong impression that the Jing Wu Association was dead and gone. As you and Rob correctly point out that is not true. What I was trying to say is as a tightly unified nationwide movement it died long ago. Independent branches have survived and the modern day Jing Wu folks, both in Asia and in North America, do an outstanding job of preserving and spreading traditional Jing Wu teachings. A lot of fine people are involved in the modern day Jing Wu schools. If anyone has a chance to study with any of those people I recommend doing so.

Em, it used to kind of grate on me too, back when I was young and doing Hung Garbut the reality is Chinese martial arts has always (I mean going way back into the early dynasties) been part martial arts and part performance art; part fighting, part stage entertainment. That is particularly true in the southern provinces (including I might add, modern day Taiwan)

Let me close with a picture I took in front of my house a couple of months back. These guys are all serious martial artists but they earn their money doing performance martial arts in temple parades. It is legit, it is traditional. Oddly enough I am working on an article for Kung Fu Taichi Magazine on Chinese martial street parades.

Take care,
Brian

San Chung Street martial arts
R001-003.jpg
 

Steel Tiger

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Isn't calling chinese performing arts wushu false advertising? I know it's a generalized term, at least in the west, but it's getting on my nerves like molten lava, of course it's molten otherwise it'd be rock. Organic vegetables? As opposed to what, plastic vegetables? So wushu is just a buzz word here in the west? I find it very misleading. Sure a bellerina could break your neck with a scisor lock. Argh. Pop culture is so frustrating. Call it what it is. Taekwan means to smash with hands and feet. What do you call foot tag in korean? Don't mind me. It just really bugs me.

Don't be fooled. What the Chinese government calls wushu is not martial arts and never was. It is martial art-like performance, kind of like Beijing opera. So from a government point of view its not false advertising.

I'm with you, though, it is misleading to outsiders, and many non-Chinese have taken up Wushu thinking they are learning something of Chinese MA.

And organic vegetables. That has always annoyed me as all vegetables, even GM ones, are organic. Grrr!
 

Tames D

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What's in a name? I call the guy picking up my trash on Thursdays a garbage collector. He's actually a sanitation engineer. Sorry, I'm in a strange mood tonight.
 

Xue Sheng

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Don't be fooled. What the Chinese government calls wushu is not martial arts and never was. It is martial art-like performance, kind of like Beijing opera. So from a government point of view its not false advertising.

I'm with you, though, it is misleading to outsiders, and many non-Chinese have taken up Wushu thinking they are learning something of Chinese MA.

And organic vegetables. That has always annoyed me as all vegetables, even GM ones, are organic. Grrr!

Actually, if I remember correctly, and please correct me if I am wrong, although the Chinese governement uses the terminology to mean sports not fighting arts to many of the Chinese on mainland Wushu and Kung Fu are interchangable and the real term you have to look out for (and I apologize the Mandarin word escapes me for the moment) is "Flower Fist" that you have to watch out for and you don't want to be called if you are a CMA person. Or at least that is what it is like in Beijing and Harbin
 

kaizasosei

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when i began learning about ma, i automatically accepted the modern artistic wushu as wushu...however, the more i read and then actually intuitively understood better, also once knowing the chinese characters, came to understand that originally wushu was for battles and wars...like in rome total war..the highest art being strategy. from their anything else would also be vital for a complete army things like archers, swordfighters, spearfighters,etc...all working together as one army. that is what i think wushu originally was.
emmacintosh, are you saying that taekwon also may have undergone a similar transformation. if there is truth in that and i think there is some, then i would also add judo..but mabe the other way round-ie the art was partially lost to brute strength. i suppose that a special kind of balance is necessary in all ma to achieve effectiveness as well as graceful motion.

j
 

Steel Tiger

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Actually, if I remember correctly, and please correct me if I am wrong, although the Chinese governement uses the terminology to mean sports not fighting arts to many of the Chinese on mainland Wushu and Kung Fu are interchangable and the real term you have to look out for (and I apologize the Mandarin word escapes me for the moment) is "Flower Fist" that you have to watch out for and you don't want to be called if you are a CMA person. Or at least that is what it is like in Beijing and Harbin

Yeah, I suppose sports is a more accurate way of describing it. There is no doubt that the Chinese man-in-the-street means something completely different to the government when he says wushu.

By the way was the Mandarin you were looking for Hua Quan by any chance?
 

TaiChiTJ

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Speaking of history, does anyone know what year the Yang style 24 posture tai chi form was created? I am thinking 1955 or '56, and I may be wrong. I heard long ago that the actual design of it was created by a master who had strong hsing-i background. Anyone know?
 

Xue Sheng

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Speaking of history, does anyone know what year the Yang style 24 posture tai chi form was created? I am thinking 1955 or '56, and I may be wrong. I heard long ago that the actual design of it was created by a master who had strong hsing-i background. Anyone know?

It was created by the Chinese Government in the early 50s and it is based on Yang style (meaning the Yang family had nothing directly to do with it) and if it has anything to do with a Xingyi person it certainly is not evident in the form.
 
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brianlkennedy

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1956 seems to be the year the 24 Posture Yang style was "officially released". I say officially because apparently, according to Li De-ing's book on the 24 Posture (a great little book with an outstanding VCD by the way), the committee's original version was submitted to the Party's Sports Commission in 1954. The Party Sports Commission said "try again", so the committee did and submitted a second 24 Posture Yang form. The second version was accepted and had its big public release. In 1956.

Li Laoshi, in his book, does not say what was wrong with the first version. Knowing what I know about Chinese government agencies (be they in China or here in Taiwan) they normally reject the first plan simply to show they "are doing something".

And as to why the Yang family had zero input, that fits with (older) Chinese Communist Party thinking which is this "thing" (Yang style taiji) is not the "private property" of the Yang family and the "People" of China do not need the Yang family's approval or input.

Also too, it amuses me me that a few members of the Yang family in North America are trying to set themselves up as the final arbitrators of "all things Yang taiji". It is a joke. The Yang family is huge and a couple of dudes named "Yang" do not necessarily have any authority to speak for "The Yang Family". And anyway from a historical perspective most of the spreading of Yang style taiji has not been done by guys named Yang.
Take care,
Brian
 
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