Wushu: Striking the Balance of Life
Story by Chris Brooklier
Multimedia by Alissa Barry & Alicia Greenwell
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had never heard of Wushu, and Googling it doesn’t capture the full intensity of the sport.
I walked in to one of the University of Oregon’s Student Recreation rooms late one night and saw students ranging in height from 4’7” to 6’2” participating in wacky drills like air jump rope, a bit like a modified bunny hop. Athletes ranging from beginning to advanced levels were doing pirouettes, ground-shaking powerful hops, and lightning-fast high knees. Crazy high kicks and jumps are a big part of wushu. Flexibility and hip flexion are the biggest keys to perform these moves. Much of the martial art provokes optical allusions, and often routines build and build to culminate in one specific movement or action of importance such as hitting the ground or completing a kick.
“I love the feeling I get after a practice because I have a ton of endorphins and I feel very refreshed,” UO sophomore and team member Dana Maclanda says. “Although I have a busy schedule, I hate missing practice because I love getting that feeling after practice.”
The UO team practices modern wushu, a style based around attack moves more than traditional wushu. The main event of this style is changquan, or “long fist,” which incorporates the basic jumps and fighting style of the entire practice. All UO students, male and female, perform in both types.
“Nothing will train your body better than wushu,” UO senior and team co-caption Colin Cook says. “Wushu teaches you how to balance your life.”
Cook first became interested in the sport after watching Jet-Li movies as a kid. He found out that the UO had a club team during his first week on campus and decided to join it. Since then, Cook says, the sport has slowly “taken over my life.” He even studied abroad for a year in China to further himself in the sport.
Collegiate and Chinese Martial Arts Tournament (CMAT) are the two main wushu tournaments held throughout the year. Collegiate is held at a different site every year and is a precursor to CMAT, which is held at the University of California, Berkeley and is the biggest wushu tournament in the United States. Last year the team won ten medals at the 18th CMAT.