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To Fight and To Dance
One 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 martial efficiency.

Notes:
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.

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