Tournament: The Sad State of Southern

Third day of the tournament. We’ve seen divisions now in staff, spear, woman’s straight sword, San Shou and Southern Boxing

Many of the routines are standardized Wushu content from the weapons division. Of the three weapons shown the spear is probably representative of the highest skill level with some strong performances handed in by the Ukraine. Staff is competent with a few outstanding performances and a number of sticks not making it through the competition. There is a lot of kindling here! San Shou with the inflatable Lei Tai platform is interesting but the rules and judges’ calls, though obviously worked out and standardized, seem a little theoretical and difficult to understand, especially for the crowd. It’s as though there were loopholes that would allow a medium size football tackle to win everything.

Finally we have to speak of the Southern division. Now, we’ve already completed notes and suggestions for Wushu competitors which we’ll post in a couple of days. So these commments are specifically addressed to Southern Wushu judges and officials. They are not the product of tonights’ performances but have been reinforced by over twenty years of watching this problem. For a long time we’ve been bugged by the Wushu NanQuan division. To our mind some major errors in judgement have crippled the division. First is the obvious attempt to use the gymnastic “floor ex” pattern. Though some thought has been given to the NanQuan looking like its model style, Hung Gar, the idea that Southern practitioners have to run across the mat to hit their spots is completely at odds with the nature of Southern boxing. What works for Long Fist mismatches Southern Fist indeed. Then there is the mandatory addition of aerial kicks for Southern Boxing. Another half hearted attempt has been made to make things fit by choosing different aerial actions for the Southern boxers but they are inappropriate and require the Kung Fu to halt while the gymnastics interrupt. Stances, too, normally a pride of the South are represented more than performed. They look fine, sort of, deep and powerful but no one ever stays in one for more than five seconds and the waist turning and rotation of the stances are minimal and show very little of what Southern Boxing is good at. For example, the horse stance is often deep—too deep—with the buttocks actually lower than the knees creating what Chinese teachers call a Ci Suo Mah or Going to the Toilet Horse (and reminding you that Chinese toilets are ground level)

Hand forms, another southern specialty, have been reduced to the five major animal shapes but then assigned to postures and stances which have little to do with the classical beauty of the refined Southern styles. We have double snake hands straight down and tiger claws from positions higher than the cat. The closest thing we can think of for these kinds of performances is Karoake. The strength is there, sort of; the animals are kind of hinted at; the stances are posed interpretively; and, because some official thought of Southern Boxing as having vocalizations, there are random and meaningless yells throughout the performances, much as we would like to do.

Final note: This critical position, please remember, has nothing to do with the brave-hearted, lithe, athletic, and passionate performers themselves. We can only applaud their wonderful efforts.


Other posts in this series:
10th World Wushu Championship
On the Championship
Some Proposals

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