Fight and To Dance
of the most respected Chinese fighters, the late Wan Laisheng,
writes about the essence of Wushu.
Wan Laisheng (1902-1992) was born in Hubei province. Graduated
from Beijing National Agricultural University (Forestry department)
and worked as an assistant professor at the same institution. Wan Laisheng
was well know for his ability as a fighter, although he also had
vast knowledge in medicine and literature. Wan Laisheng was a third
generation Ziranmen disciple of the famous Du Xinwu. In 1946 he
moved to Fujian province where he lived until he died,
at the age of 91. This article was written by Wan Laisheng, translated
from the book "Military
teaching of Wushu" (Wushu Jiaofan), and published in 2003
by the Shanxi Scientific Publishing House.
To Hit and to Dance (1)
Nowadays the martial arts community is discussing about the origins
of Wushu, if in its early beginning it stressed "fighting" or "dancing".
I believe that our ancestors were concerned about self-defense
and self-preservation (resisting invaders) and that was the reason
why they have developed empty-handed or armed (with stones, bones
or weapons) fighting methods. In those ancient times Wushu wasn't
invented as a method of exercise, wasn't invented as a way to keep
people healthy, but rather as a way to provide people with a self-defense
system so that they could survive; its main objective was "to
fight". The so called "dancing" is
just what I talked about in the last article: at times when a person
is practicing this technique (Wushu) he/she could easily be impressed
by its beautiful movements, thus paying more attention to them
then he was really supposed to. If "fighting" is not
among the elements that form Wushu, than what is being practiced
is not martial anymore, is not Wushu. If a practitioner doesn’t
know and understand the nature and the applications of every movement
he's executing, then even if he practices very hard for a long
period of time (many years), he still won't be able to express
the art of Wushu in it's purest form, "ingeniously using circular
techniques" and "raising like a rabbit and descending
like a Gu". (2)
When Wushu is used to make a performance it isn't based on the
regular dance standards that say that a movement needs to be beautiful.
I am not saying that there is no Gongfu (3) in dancing, but rather
that the difference between "Wushu" and "dancing" has
to be very clear. The real Wushu is natural, "precisely penetrating
and pure like the blue fire from a furnace", it shouldn't
be something performed in an unnatural manner. Dancing has its
value, it's own characteristics and people enjoy watching it, but
Gongfu will always be Gongfu and (after all) dancing will always
be dancing. "Fighting" is the essence of Wushu and "performing" is
(just) one of its aspects. Fighting can't be separated of performing
(4) but it is a kind of performance formed by fighting movements
(and not by empty movements). All movements of Wushu are executed
having in mind attacking or defending and even the acrobatic actions
are executed in order to attack the opponent or to avoid his attack,
they have a meaning and an objective. Continuous Wushu practice
brings several benefits to a person, such as promoting and maintaining
good health or increasing a person's enthusiasm for sports, but
these benefits have to be acquired through practice that emphasizes
1. In here the verbs "to hit" and "to dance" are
expressing "To train for martial efficiency" or "to
train only the movements without having any martial intention"
2. When writing, Chinese use a great number of "fixed" sentences
that have one or more meanings. Sometimes these "structures" are
composed of characters that express an idea rather than a fixed
meaning and this is the case with the 2 structures above. "Ingeniously
using circular techniques" means being able to use the fighting
methods of a certain style in a very skilled way and "raising
like a rabbit and descending like a Gu" means being able to
move your body according to the "Shenfa" (body-methods,
bio-mechanics) of a certain style.
3. "Gongfu" here means "virtue" and "achievement."
4. That is because there is a kind of beauty when Wushu is skillfully
performed, a beauty that resembles dancing, but is different than
dancing because Wushu has a martial essence.
Written by: Wang Laisheng
Translated by: Tadzio G.
Copyright © by Song Shi Xingyiquan All Right Reserved.