Tai chi as art and sport

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By LINDA DENG in Seat­tle

My goal is to help build up the stan­dard of train­ing for the fu­ture.”

In the 1960s, the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment gath­ered to­gether masters of var­i­ous styles with the ob­jec­tive of syn­the­siz­ing the var­i­ous styles into one uni­form style, which is to­day’s mod­ern wushu. Prior to that, there were nu­mer­ous kung fu styles like Lo­han, Pray­ing Man­tis, Ea­gle Claw, Wing Choon, Hs­ing Yi, and so on. Af­ter that, there was to be only wushu.

Wushu was in­vented solely for sport, and never as a mar­tial art. For the pur­pose of com­pe­ti­tion, wushu was di­vided into seven cat­e­gories: changquan, or long fist, nan­quan or south­ern fist, daoshu or knife tech­niques, jian­shu or sword tech­niques, kun­shu or staff tech­niques, chi­ang­shu or spear tech­niques, and tai­ji­quan or tai chi.

The sole cri­te­rion for the award­ing of points in all wushu com­pe­ti­tions is how grace­ful and el­e­gant the per­for­mances are and never how well per­form­ers can de­fend them­selves or how much in­ter­nal force they have.

Dur­ing the last 30 years, Chi­nese mar­tial arts ( wushu) were mod­ern­ized, and the em­pha­sis has shifted from com­bat to per­for­mance. They are prac­ticed for achiev­ing heath, self­de­fense skills, mental dis­ci­pline, re­cre­ational pur­suit and com­pe­ti­tion, so there could be a uni­ver­sal stan­dard for train­ing and com­pet­ing. In essence, much em­pha­sis has been placed on speed, dif­fi­culty and pre­sen­ta­tion.

In or­der to stan­dard­ize tai chi for wushu tour­na­ment judg­ing, the gov­ern­ment of China spon­sored the Chi­nese Sports Com­mit­tee, which brought to­gether four wushu teach­ers in 1956 to trun­cate the Yang style hand form to 24 pos­tures. In 1976, they de­vel­oped a slightly longer form of 48 pos­tures.

As tai chi again be­came pop­u­lar in China, more com­pet­i­tive forms were de­vel­oped to be com­pleted within a six-minute time limit. In the late 1980s, the Chi­nese Sports Com­mit­tee stan­dard­ized many dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tion forms. They de­vel­oped sets to rep­re­sent the four ma­jor styles as well as com­bined forms.

Th­ese mod­ern ver­sions have since be­come an in­te­gral part of in­ter­na­tional wushu tour­na­ment com­pe­ti­tion.

In the 11th Asian Games of 1990, Chi­nese mar­tial arts were in­ducted as an of­fi­cial medal event with the 48-form cho­sen to rep­re­sent tai chi chuan. The In­ter­na­tional Wushu Fed­er­a­tion (IWUF) has ap­plied for the in­clu­sion of wushu in the Olympic Games, but not with medals awarded.

Yang Jun, tai chi in­struc­tor

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