You may have heard of karate and taekwondo, but have you ever heard of wushu?
Kevin Yang, president and head coach of UConn Wushu, is dedicated to learning the sport and teaching others what he already knows to increase wushu’s popularity. Yang and other interested students started UConn Wushu in the fall of 2017. The club now has about 10-15 regular members who meet two times a week to practice basic movements, kicks, punches and jumps.
Wushu is a Chinese martial art that is similar to kung fu but less for combat and more for performance. Combat moves are used alongside acrobatic moves in routines. Yang described the sport as “routine-based with the combat aspect.”
Although the club practices together, Yang says that going to the gym and working out on one’s own is very helpful. Workouts allow club members to gain strength that they need for certain moves.
“Wushu is a full-body sport, so it’s not just like legs or arms,” Yang said. “Forearms and stuff like that would help, and of course, having a lot of leg strength would help with jumping. Jumps are pretty big nowadays in more modern wushu. Definitely the gym has helped I would say.”
Some of the most difficult yet most show-stopping moves are jumps. These can include aerials, aerial twists and butterfly kicks. Also impressive is the amount of degrees that a performer can spin after a kick. Yang himself says that he enjoys performing 720 degree kicks. Additionally, performers can incorporate weapons like broadswords, staffs and spears into routines.
UConn Wushu performs in showcases around campus. Some of Wushu’s biggest performances include International Night, Asian Nite and various events for the Japanese Student Association. These routines are often group performances, but they can sometimes be solo performances or choreographed combat.
Outside of Storrs, Wushu competes in various competitions. They attend the annual Collegiate Wushu Tournament and the University of Maryland’s University Wushu Games. Competition routines are typically performed solo and can earn a score of up to 10 points: four for technique, four for performance and two for jumps. These routines are usually only one minute to one minute and 40 seconds long.
“It’s pretty explosive,” Yang said. “So we typically keep it pretty short.”
While it’s more popular in Southeast Asia and Europe, the sport of wushu is growing in America. There’s about 20 universities with substantial wushu teams, mainly concentrated on the west and east coasts. Yang says that one of the difficulties wushu is facing as it grows is how to judge performances, since there are so many variations within the sport.
“It’s just kind of hard to judge because of all the different types of forms that we have,” Yang said. “There’s so many ways that you can do something that it’s kind of hard to judge. It’s getting more standardized worldwide with the organizations that are making the standard for everything.”
No matter what the worldwide wushu standards end up being, UConn Wushu has definitely set its own standards for excellence. Under the direction of Yang, club members strive to amaze their audience in each of their performances.
Students can contact UConn Wushu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.