A military history of Chinese martial arts

Sifu David Ross

Chinese martial arts can never truly escape history and politics. The term “Wu Shu” (武術) has been avoided by most traditional Chinese martial artists because of its association with the contemporary Wu Shu movement based in Mainland China. While the initial movement was based upon traditional teachings and in many ways similar to the Kuoshu (國術) program the Nationalists (KMT) had engaged in during the Republican period, the contemporary Wu Shu movement’s association with Communism was enough reason for many to avoid the term. As contemporary Wu Shu became more and more performance based, it indeed merited some differentiation.


For our purposes, we will put aside these more modern issues and remember that “Wu Shu” (武術) as a term meaning “martial arts” first appeared in the early sixth century during the Liang Dynasty (502-557 CE) (Lorge p 10). It also appears later in Ming Dynasty sources. It is instructive to…

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