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Wushu championships return to US

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-11-08 14:13
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More than 500 martial arts athletes and 900 international delegates from about 75 countries and regions will gather in Fort Worth, Texas, next week to compete in the HYX 16th World Wushu Championships (WWC), marking the return of the event to the United States after almost 30 years.

The event is scheduled for Nov 16-20, said Anthony Goh, chairman of 16th WWC Organizing Committee, at a virtual news briefing on Monday.

Hosted by the International Wushu Federation (IWUF) and organized by the United States of American Wushu-Kungfu Federation (USAWKF), the championships were last held in Baltimore in 1995.

IWUF was established in 1990 and has held the biennial in various countries around the world since it was first held in Beijing in 1991. Goh said there are 158 member countries/regions in the federation, and about half will make it to this year's championships after the 2021 championships was interrupted by the pandemic.

"The scale of this year's competition is not the largest nor the smallest. The biggest challenges we have faced are the difficulties of obtaining visa to the US. In addition, due to the war between Russia and Ukraine and the recent violent conflict in Mideast, some are unable to leave their countries," Goh said.

Wushu is the encompassing term for all martial arts styles originating in China and known more colloquially as Kungfu. Many former wushu competitors have gone on to Hollywood careers as actors, stuntpersons, and fight coordinators.

While wushu varies widely in styles and forms, it has been standardized into two categories of taolu (choreographed routines) and sanda (full-contact fighting) for competition purposes.

According to Goh, wushu is most popular in Asian countries and some of the best athletes are from there. Outside of Asia, since the US is the No. 1 destination for Chinese wushu talents to immigrate to, it has benefited from the talent pool and the USAWKF was established as early as in 1993.

"The United States has the greatest number of wushu talents outside of China. Many are teaching martial arts here and they have helped to develop wushu here," said Goh, who is also the president of USAWKF Board of Directors.

Take San Francisco as example, said Goh. Starting from around year 2000, more and more wushu talents settled down here from China. Some started to call San Francisco the Kungfu city as a result.

Since most wushu talents chose to settle down in American cities where there are large populations of Chinese immigrants, and many young people with Chinese heritage are more interested in their own culture compared to other ethnic groups, there tends to be more wushu students of Chinese descent in the US, said Goh.

"A country with a larger number of Chinese immigrants tends to have better wushu talents because this is a sport that requires coaching. This is especially true with taolu. Sanda is easier to learn through video, therefore, we also see strong sanda players from Iran and some North African countries," said Goh.

Wushu has always attracted many non-Asians, said Goh. "You don't need language skill to learn wushu. It can be a life-long practice because it also helps promote good health," he said.

Goh said a new category "creative event" was recently added to the competition to make wushu more eye-catching and appealing to the general population. It combines top skills and creativity to showcase the best aspects of wushu. Not yet an official category in the championships, winners will be rewarded with a certificate instead of a medal.

The opening ceremony will be a feast to behold, said Goh. Champions from past competitions will display their mastery of martial arts. A professional martial arts team from Yunnan province will perform wushu in "creative event" style. Taiji will be performed by about 150 people. The event will be livestreamed on YouTube.

In welcome letters to the championships, Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote that martial arts, deeply rooted in the tradition of antiquity, "remain a powerful means of personal growth, social connection, and physical fitness in modern times".

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker acknowledged the "profound history and values" of wushu that embodying "physical prowess and the ideals of peace and virtue".

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