Translation by Tony Dowman (1/13/00)
[Note from Webmaster: This is two thirds of an article which appeared in the January 2000 issue of Wu Lin Magazine, published in China. It discusses the recent World Games and the new compulsory routines. I would like to extend a special thanks to Tony for translating it and sharing it with all of us].
From the 3rd to the 7th of November the 5th International Wushu Competitions were held in the "Pearl of the East", Hong Kong. This event provided the meeting place for first distinguished gathering of the International Wushu Federation since becoming a part of the Internatioanl Olympic Confederation, and it's last for the century. So, how has the pattern of the great powers of wushu changed? How will the IwuF move into the new century? To record the event, this writer, during the course of the competition rushed from meeting to the compeition arena to the athletes quarters.
The Taolu competition at the 5th International Wushu Competitions consisted of ten events: Changquan, Broadsword, Straight sword, Staff, Spear, Taijiquan, Taiji sword, Nanquan, Southern Broadsword (Nandao) and Southern Staff (Nangun). The Sanda competition had 11 weight divisions: 48kg, 52kg, 56kg, 60kg, 65kg, 70kg, 75kg, 80kg , 90kg and the 90kg and over division. The Chinese team fielded 8 taolu and 5 Sanda athletes. Over four days of contension, China clained 11 gold medals, and overall first place. Amongst the taolu events, China took gold in men's taiji sword, nanquan, taijiquan and broadsword, and in women's taijiquan, broadsword, straight sword and nandao. First places in Sanda came in the 48, 52 and 56 kg divisions.
The other golds in the taolu competition were bagged by the great Asian powers. Amongst them, the Hong Kong team has improved amazingly quickly, taking an aggressive stance on the world stage: Ng Siuqing's dominance in nanquan continued as she got her third successive gold in the event; and a group of fearless youngsters: Du Yuhang, Zhou Dingyu, Zheng Jiahao and Zhang Wanqiang took the men's changquan, spear, nangun and straightsword gold medals respectively. Li Hui (Li Fai), women's changquan and staff gold medallist at the 2nd International Wushu Competitions, having faded from the world of wushu in 1993 and getting married and having children, made her comeback three years ago. Having changed events, she relied upon her solid grounding in wushu basics and understanding of technique, as well as a tenacious martial spirit, and was, as before, able to win gold and silver medals in taiji sword and taijiquan. Vietnam had three gold medals (women's nangun, staff and changquan) to take 3rd place overall. Malaysia, Macau, South Korea took the gold medals in men's nandao, women's spear and men's nangun, respectively.
Whilst the difference between the level of taolu competitors from Asia and those from countries outside of Asia is relatively large, compared with the last competition held in Rome they have both improved to a different extent [that is, the author believes the countries outside of Asia have improved at a greater rate than asian countries have - ed.]. Holland in men's staff and broadsword, Canada in women's staff and the USA in women's spear all had competitors that made it into the top 3 places. In the taolu arena, two figures are especially notable. The first is Fei Baoxian, the Dutch-Chinese athlete born to a well known wushu family, who when he was only 8 years of age competed at the 1st International Wushu Competitions and has already placed 3rd in changquan and 4th in broadsword at the 4th world games in Rome. In Hong Kong he moved up a level, taking the silver medal in staff and bronze in broadsword. The other is Russia's youngster Ajigirei Djamal, whose strong, vigourous, energetic and masterful performance of nanquan won applause from all round and was unluckily only 0.08 points short of a medal.
Sanda competition marked the phase of the young princes usurping the emperor. The remaining 8 medals in sanda were carved up amongst Iran (75kg, 90kg and over), Russia (65kg, 80kg), South Korea (60kg), Azerbaijan (70kg), Turkey (85kg) and the Ukraine (90kg). Looking at the athletes who competed and those who made it into the finals, athletes from east Asia were able to secure the lower weight divisions but had difficulty matching competitors from Europe, America, central and western Asia in the middle and heavy weight divisions. What is the reason for this? According to expert analysis, one reason is that in the smaller divisions, east asian countries have the upper hand when it comes to finding suitable competitors, whilst these other countries have a better choice of suitable competitors in the middle and heavy classes. The second is that in terms of build, the competitors of these other countries are superior, being tall and strong without losing flexibility. This is something difficult for east Asian competitors to hope to attain. Worth raising is the new force suddenly coming to the fore in Sanda, the team from Turkey. They had five athletes that made it into the semi-finals, and 3 into the finals, overall winning the 85kg division.
The second of competition routines have been in the works for a long time, and at the convening of the 5th IWuF Assembly in Hong Kong they were passed through. Compared with the routines currently in use, what stands out about the new routines is that the difficulty of technique and athletic intensity has all increased.
Reactions to the introduction of the new routines are varied. The majority of asian countries favor their adoption. At the 4th International Wushu Competitions held in Rome, the calls of many Asian coaches and athletes to raise the difficulty and intensity of the routines were already being heard. Because in recent years many Asian countries have invited coaches from China to come and teach, and some athletes go so far as to go to China to get coaching, there is not much difference between the level of these athletes, no matter whether you judge it from the point of view of basics or standard movements, and they are difficult to separate. In this situation judges' impression [previous knowlege, an athlete's renown etc - ed.] will easily emerge in the scoring, with the result that the athletes will refuse to accept the final score. Only by increasing the difficulty of the movements and the intensity of the routines can the distance between the competitors be widened and the difference between them be told.
The coaches and athletes of some countries outside of Asia are full of anxiety at the prospect of this measure. On the basis of their accounts, they train part-time only and their training is unsystematic, with insufficient athletic intensity. If this is the situation, then increasing the difficulty and intensity of the routines without careful consideration might easily see an unexpected influence on training, dampening the enthusiasm of competitors. They believe that the introduction of the new routines has use for raising the athletic level of wushu, yet it may have a negative influence upon the world-wide popularisation of the competition routines.
With the adoption of the new competition routines and in consideration of the reaction of coaches and athletes from around the world, this writer specially interviewed the Chairman of the IWuF Technical Committee, Mr Wu Bin.
To start with, Mr Wu analysed the reasons for the introduction of the new routines. Firstly, the present routines have been in use since 1989, already 10 years, and the skill of the stronger countries has reached a relatively high level. This makes it difficult to seek new heights in the sport. The second reason is that whilst athletes may change, what they confront, year in year out, is still the same "old face" of the existing routines; there's a lack of freshness. Thirdly, from the perspective of the many wushu enthusiasts, they must learn more. Within wushu there is great richness and variety, following he development of wushu we should continuously bring forth the new from the old. In this way only can wushu retain it's vitality.
Later, Mr Wu talked about how the use of the new routines was envisaged. He believes in order to determine when the second set of competition routines come to be in use, they have to be especially prudent, keeping an eye on the growth and training of the routines across the world. For better understanding and to push forward the development of wushu world-wide, the IWuF Technical Committee increased the it's membership from an original 9 to 13 at the recent Hong Kong tournament. If fully prepared, then the new routines may be put into practise at the next competitions; if not, then their use will have to be post-poned. In light of the unbalanced development of wushu around the world, the larger IWuF Technical Committee believes there needs to be a transition period, during which time competitors can choose from all routines, old and new. But using both sets of routines simultaneously may mean that the marking scale will be comparitively difficult to grasp.