Scandals involving wushu, or traditional Chinese martial arts, have hit the headlines recently. Some so-called wushu masters have even claimed that they have the ability to keep people in good health. They include "tai chi master" Yan Fang, "traditional Chinese medicine master" Zhang Wuben and "qigong master" Wang Lin, who were later exposed as frauds. The scandals and false claims of these "masters" have made many Chinese wary of wushu and its practice.
There is little doubt that practicing wushu helps a person keep physically fit. As an old saying goes, written characters are highly valued in peacetime while wushu skills are important during turbulent days. Even in these days of deadly weapons, martial arts are essential for military personnel, because they not only help them maintain physical fitness, but also teach them survival techniques on the battlefront.
Wushu developed with the changes in dynasties in ancient and medieval China. The late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), in particular, saw the emergence of many wushu masters - such as Dong Haichuan, founder of Eight Diagrams Palm, and Yang Luchan, a leading tai chi master - who glorified the spirit of "building up the nation and its people".
With the development of modern weapons, being highly skilled in wushu is no longer a sought after quality. As a result, less and less attack and defense tactics are used in wushu nowadays. After China introduced reform and opening-up, and the economy began developing at a rapid pace, people realized there was no longer any strong need to practice martial arts for self-defense.
Therefore, more people today practice wushu just as a form of exercise to keep fit. Since a person can become a skilled practitioner of wushu only through extremely rigorous practice, so we rarely come across a real martial arts master in today's society.
Martial artists who grew up in peacetime may have seen the real wushu skills from senior masters. Today's martial artists did not practice hard enough and never took part in a real battle, so they cannot be considered real wushu masters. Not surprisingly, many of them look down upon the art of attack and defense in wushu, and focus on performance styles for the stage, which is not what real wushu is about.
Moreover, some so-called masters have even used fraudulent tactics to fool the people by describing wushu as a mystic art like in fictional kung fu novels. No wonder, the noble art of wushu is embroiled in controversy today.