March 20, 2023

Not too long ago, wushu was a martial art foreign to many people all over the world.

But with the influx of athletes breaking into the mainstream world of mixed martial arts coming from wushu, the discipline has finally been recognized for its impressive form.

Wushu branches out into two major disciplines: sanda (sometimes called sanshou) and taolu.

Mark Sangiao, founder of Lakay Wushu in Baguio and one of the modern-day wushu practitioners in the Philippines, explained the difference.

“In sanshou, we have sparring – it’s full contact,” he says. “Taolu, on the other hand, is basically the form, pattern, and technique, without contact.”

In a traditional wushu sanda competition, athletes compete on an open mat with eight-ounce gloves, body protection, mouthguards, and headgear. Strikes from other martial arts, like kickboxing and boxing, are allowed.

For former ONE lightweight world champion and three-time Southeast Asian Games wushu gold medalist Eduard Folayang, what makes wushu sanda different from other forms of striking-based combat sports is how it incorporates takedowns.

Contemporary taolu events branch out to three major fields of competition: barehanded, short weapons, and long weapons.

But how, exactly, did the martial art from China become a global sporting phenomenon?

In 1987, Filipino-Chinese businessperson Francis Chan formed the Wushu Federation of The Philippines in Binondo, Manila. Joining Chan was Julian Camacho, who has led the federation since 1988.

Camacho’s aggressiveness in expanding the sport in the country paid dividends. With boxing and kickboxing in the Philippines getting overcrowded, wushu opened doors for other athletes (some who would later become heroes in another sport altogether – mixed martial arts).

But a defining moment came for wushu at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, China. It was the first time the martial art was demonstrated in the quadrennial meet.

A student by the name of “The Prince of Wuhsu” Yuan Wen Qing mesmerized spectators with his ability to blend all traditional Chinese martial arts into one modern discipline. With Yuan getting all the attention and winning all the medals, other countries began to practice wushu.

As for the Philippines, it became one of the hotbeds for wushu outside of China. The martial art hit at just the right time.

Wushu in the Philippines gave Filipinos another international sporting event that they could get behind, and it opened the doors for many of the  MMA stars that we know today in ONE Championship.

Though Sangiao does not compete anymore, he was one of the pioneer wushu coaches in MMA and produced five ONE world champions who had a wushu background.

They include Folayang, Kevin Belingon, Geje Eustaquio, Honorio Banario, and Joshua Pacio, who currently reigns as the ONE strawweight world champion.

Also, a determined man from Iloilo City named Rene Catalan became one of the best wushu practitioners in the country.

Catalan’s love for wushu may have come by accident, but it is a sport that he is thankful for, nonetheless.

Today, wushu continues to grow. The martial art will appear in the 2022 Youth Olympic Games in Dakar, Senegal – the first time it will be included as an Olympic sport.

World Wushu Championships, the Asian Games, and the World Games, among others, also promote wushu competitions all over the globe.

In the Philippines, the martial art could not be stronger, which is evident by the recently concluded 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the country.

For Folayang, this is the reason why the Philippines should invest more than ever into the sport.

“I hope our officials are more open in strengthening the sport,” he says.

“Right now, I am slowly seeing it. I think they are trying to include it in Palarong Pambansa, and that’s a very big thing because you will already see potential in the grassroots level.

“This sport is a goldmine for us, particularly in the last SEA Games. I think in sanshou, almost 80 percent of us got the gold medal. I think four out of five got gold, so that’s a big percentage.

“Now that we’re getting recognition, I hope the country will take up more interest in wushu.”

Wushu may have started in China, but its spread across the world is proof that the sport will continue to grow over the next decade. – ONE release