It’s a simple yet funny-sounding word that when spoken resembles the sound of fast-moving air.
This simple word, however, has many meanings. It refers to a form of self-defense, a sport, an art and a cultural heritage of China, and when performed, wushu moves can sound like fast-moving air.
For the Oregon Club Wushu team, the word has translated into success and achievement. Focusing on wushu as a sport and a performance art, members of the club have brought home numerous medals and awards from two major tournaments this year.
The sport of wushu is “a performance based on the forms of kung fu,” sophomore club coordinator Keith Hillen said. The competitive atmosphere is like that of gymnastics, where athletes exhibit skills in front of judges, who then issue a score. Tournaments are divided into three skill levels. Each skill level allows athletes to compete in the “open hand,” “long weapon” or “short weapon” divisions.
Hillen referred to wushu as “Kung fu-ized rhythmic gymnastics.”
The club has participated in two major tournaments this year, the most recent being the California-Berkeley Chinese Martial Arts Tournament. The Ducks brought home four gold medals, two silver medals and four bronze medals. Hillen led the way with a pair of gold medals, winning the Intermediate-Adult Traditional Open Empty Hand and Intermediate-Adult Southern Fist events, along with a bronze in the Intermediate-Adult Long Weapon. Phillip Dang, one of the club’s top athletes, finished with a silver and a pair of bronze medals. Sophomore Jon Black, junior Lorelei Cortez and freshman David Ng combined for two golds, a silver and a bronze.
The Ducks also competed in the annual collegiate tournament in November, where Dang won the men’s all-around trophy, along with three golds and a silver.
Along with competition, the club likes to perform for entertainment purposes. The Ducks have performed during China Night for Oregon and Oregon State and performed at a Camp Adventure function at Washington Elementary two weekends ago.
The club was formed in 1994 by Daniel Wu, a part-time Hong Kong actor and model. Wu’s goal was to boost collegiate wushu popularity in America. Nine years later, the sport is still a relative unknown. Hillen said if he were to ask 25 people around campus if they knew what wushu was, one or two would know on a good day.
“It’s a pretty uncommon sport,” Hillen said. “Not too many people in America know about it yet.”
Despite its lack of popularity, Hillen said those involved with wushu take great pride in what they do, as athletes show high levels of coordination, strength and speed.
“The response from the crowd is the biggest pleasure of wushu,” Hillen said. “And showing others what wushu is.”
It’s a simple word with many meanings.
And darn funny sounding.
Jon Roetman is a freelance writer
for the Emerald.