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Wushu in the Philippines (19th Asian Games)

Wushu: The Martial Art Carrying the Philippines’ Asian Games Medal Tally

A number of the Philippines’ medals at the 19th Asian Games come from Wushu, a sport that Filipinos have been excelling at for years.

The list of martial arts that exist all over the world could probably go on and on. In fact, there are probably a good number that haven’t yet hit the mainstream sports conversation. But, Filipinos have historically been very good at different forms of martial arts, such as Vovinam, Taekwondo, Karate, and Judo, among many others. One in particular that has gotten a lot of attention recently is Wushu.

The Philippines currently has a total of 11 medals in the ongoing 19th Asian Games (as of writing). While the bulk of these medals come from different sports, one sport in particular is carrying the bulk of this count — Wushu. The country’s Wushu representatives have won one silver and three bronze medals.

So what is Wushu exactly and how good is the Philippines at this sport?

What is Wushu?

You might know Wushu by another name — Kung Fu. Both these terms refer to Chinese martial arts (the word Wushu actually translates to ‘martial arts’), developed in the 1940s to standardize the practice of the sport.

Similar to many other martial arts, Wushu combines both performative and fighting elements which can include powerful movements such as striking, grappling, and throwing, as well as relaxed movements. There are two main Wushu disciplines: Taolu and Sanda.

Wushu (Sanda discipline)
(Photo credit: Kung Fu Wushu Association of PNG on Facebook)

The first discipline, Taolu, refers to a set routine, focusing on the technical movements of the sport. Athletes who compete in Taolu choreograph a pre-determined set of movements that include both stylistic principles of attack and defense, such as jumps, sweeps, throwing, and others. In competitions, judges give scores to Taolu routines based on a set of rules.

On the other hand, Sanda refers to the more combative side of Wushu. In this discipline, competition bouts involve two athletes who, wearing protective gear, make use of techniques such as throwing, kicking, grappling, and punching in combat with one another. An athlete wins the bout if they win two out of three rounds, or if they knock their opponent out.

These two main disciplines are usually the focus of Wushu competitions around the world, including the Asian Games, and Filipino athletes have been winning medals for both.

Wushu in the Philippines

The exact roots of Wushu in the Philippines cannot easily be determined, but one of the signs of its prominence in the country goes back to 1987 when Francis Chan established the Wushu Federation Of The Philippines in Binondo, Manila. Having started years ago, this gave many Filipino athletes an opportunity to excel at it, especially given the fact that many people in the country have strong interests in other forms of martial arts.

This is exemplified by the Philippines’ performances at the World Wushu Championships. Since 1991, Filipino representatives at the tournament have won medals in every edition except two, and one of the country’s best performances was when they brought home 15 medals in 2017.

Agatha Wong competing in a Wushu tournament representing the Philippines
(Photo credit: Agatha Wong on Instagram)

The Southeast Asian Games is another major wherein the Philippines has shown their skill in the martial art. In the 2019 edition of the regional Games, the country finished with the highest rank in the tournament, having won seven gold medals, two silvers, and two bronzes.

The Philippines has many successful Wushu athletes. One of the most well-known is Agatha Wong, who has won medals in the sport at the World Championships, the Asian Games, and the Southeast Asian Games. In fact, in the SEA Games alone, she has won seven medals in total, making her one of the country’s most successful athletes.

Even young athletes excel at Wushu. In last year’s World Junior Wushu Championships, the Philippine representatives won three medals, showcasing a bright future for the sport among Filipinos.

Most recently, at the Asian Games, the Philippines won four medals for Wushu, making it the sport that is currently carrying the bulk of the country’s medals in the competition.

Evidently, outside of China, the Philippines is one of the hotbeds in Asia for Wushu. And as it continues to gain more attention, it may only continue to grow from here.

Banner image from AFP.

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