With a haul of 19 South East Asian Games medals and increasing number of Singapore mainstream schools incorporating Wushu as one of their co-curriculum activity, Wushu is proving itself to be a burgeoning sport in Singapore.
However, despite numerous important international competitions and an Olympic parallel Wushu Competition held by Beijing in 2008, Wushu still falls short of a glamorous permanent placing in the Olympic Games. This makes Singapore Wushu unable to compete with other Olympic favorites such as Badminton and Swimming.
Tracing back to the past in the 1980s when most Singapore households are able to afford their own televisions, Wushu was probably made popular by a Chinese Martial Arts Action film ‘Wong Fei-hung’. The films depict the legend of a Chinese Martial Artist (Traditional Wushu practitioner) born in the 1840s during the Qing Empire. The films often shows the Wushu expert fighting one on many enemies, from gangsters and invading soldiers, and often emphasizes on discipline in life through Wushu. Common Chinese values such as hard work, integrity and loyalty are also illustrated in the films. The films, often shown during the golden hours, were very popular and the Wushu practitioner quickly became a well-known folk-hero among many Singaporeans. Even way into the 21st Century, ‘Wong Fei-hung’ continued to inspire many Singaporeans through new television series and old films.
In the recent years, Singapore Wushu continued to gain popularity through famous Wushu Hollywood and big screen action stars such as Jacky Chan, Donnie Yen and Jet Li. Donnie Yen inherited his interest in Wushu from his mother, a Wu Dang Quan Grandmaster, while Jet Li himself was a 15 gold bagger in Chinese Wushu Championships. Both gained fame through their authentic Chinese martial arts dexterity. Big screen Chinese Martial Arts Wushu movies such as Chen Zhen, Ip Man and Huo Yuan Jia gained vast numbers of followers and view ships in Singapore, a noteworthy trend as Wushu gained more and more attention and large scale stage performance opportunities such as Singapore Chingay and the Singapore National Day Parade in recent years.
Although its popularity is now wide-spread in Singapore, Singapore Wushu is generally spilt between two forms – The traditional form and the Wushu sports form. While the Wushu sports form is highly standardized in its movements and provides a hopeful path into the Olympics, the more modern form of Wushu is often criticized as diluting the ancient art, taking away individuality and traditional values.
While the debate has been going between Traditional Wushu clans and Sports Wushu organizations for a long while now, should Wushu ever want to gain a foothold as a worldwide recognized sport, it is clear that the sport has to have a placing in the Olympics first. That being said, it is also important to find a balance between the two forms and retain its traditional roots. It is heartwarming to know that the film industry is doing a part in showcasing the tradition forms, while thriving on it. This may be a effective form of retaining Wushu’s traditional roots in Singapore.
What do you think the future holds for Singapore Wushu?