Wushu events are performed using compulsory or individual routines in competition. Compulsory routines are those routines that have been already created for the athlete, resulting in each athlete performing basically the same set. Individual routines are routines that an athlete creates with the aid of his/her coach, while following certain rules for difficulty.
In addition to events for individual routines, some wushu competitions also feature dual and group events. The dual event, also called duilian (对练), is an event in which there is some form of sparring with weapons, or without weapons or even using bare hands against weapons. The dual event is usually spectacular and actions are choreographed beforehand. The group event, also known as jiti (集体), requires a group of people to perform together and smooth synchronization of actions are crucial. Usually, the group event also allows instrumental music to accompany the choreography during the performance. The carpet used for the group event is also larger than the one used for individual routines.
Previously, international wushu competitions most often used compulsory routines, while high-level competitions in China most often used individual routines. However, after the 2003 Wushu World Games in Macau it was decided to opt for individual routines in international competition with nandu (难度; difficulty movements) integrating a maximum 2 point nandu score into the overall maximum score of 10.
There is some controversy concerning the inclusion of nandu in wushu because many of the movements created for the specific events are not originally movements used in those styles. In addition the number of injuries which have resulted from the inclusion of these nandu have caused many people to question their inclusion.
Those who support the new difficulty requirements follow the assertion that they help to progress the sport and improve the overall physical quality of the athletes.
Chángquán (長拳/长拳 or Long Fist) refers to long-range extended wushu styles like Chāquán (查拳), Huaquan (華拳/华拳), Hongquan (洪拳; “flood fist”), and Shaolinquan (少林拳), but this wushu form is a modernized style derived from movements of these and other traditional styles. Changquan is the most widely seen of the wushu forms, and includes speed, power, accuracy, and flexibility. Changquan is difficult to perform, requiring great flexibility and athleticism, and is often practiced from a young age. All nandu movements must be made within 4 steps or it will not count for nandu points.
Nanquan (南拳 or Southern Fist) refers to wushu styles originating in south China (i.e., south of the Yangtze River, including Hongjiaquan (Hung Gar) (洪家拳), Cailifoquan (Choy Li Fut) (蔡李佛拳), and Yongchunquan (Wing Chun) (詠春拳/咏春拳). Many are known for vigorous, athletic movements with very stable, low stances and intricate hand movements. This wushu form is a modern style derived from movements of these and other traditional southern styles. Nanquan typically requires less flexibility and has fewer acrobatics than Changquan, but it also requires greater leg stability and power generation through leg and hip coordination. This event was created in 1960. All nandu movements must be made within 4 steps or it will not count for nandu points.
Taijiquan (太極拳/太极拳, T’ai Chi Ch’uan) is a wushu style mistakenly famous for slow, relaxed movements, often seen as an exercise method for the elderly, and sometimes known as “T’ai chi” in Western countries to those otherwise unfamiliar with wushu. This wushu form( 42 form) is a modern recompilation based on the Yang (楊/杨) style of Taijiquan, but also including movements of the Chen (陳/陈), Wu (吳/吴), Wu (武), and Sun (孫/孙) styles. Competitive contemporary taiji is distinct from the traditional first form for styles it draws from, in that it typically involves difficult holds, balances, jumps and jump kicks. Modern competitive taiji requires good balance, flexibility and strength. The traditional second forms however like cannon fist, are more difficult than the modern forms, But less known and usually taught to advanced students.
Nandao (南刀 or Southern Style knife) refers to a form performed with a curved, one sided sword/blade based on the techniques of Nanquan. The weapon and techniques appears to be based on the butterfly swords of Yongchunquan, a well known Southern style. In the Wushu form, the blade has been lengthened and changed so that only one is used (as opposed to a pair). This event was created in 1992.
Gun (棍 or staff) refers to a long staff (shaped from white wax wood) as tall as the wrist of a person standing with his or her arms stretched upwards, but this wushu form is a Changquan method of using the white wax wood staff.
Nangun (南棍 or Southern cudgel) is a Nanquan method of using the staff. This event was created in 1992. A Nangun should be as tall as a person holding a fist above his head. There are several basic steps and techniques that must be included in an Optional Southern cudgel event. The basic steps are bow stance, empty stance, dragon riding stance (弓步、虚步、骑龙步). The basic techniques in Southern Cudgel are cleft stick, collapse stick, twisted stick, roll press stick, defend stick, hit stick, uphold stick, throw stick (劈棍、崩棍、绞棍、滚压棍、格 棍、击棍、顶棍、抛棍).
Other taolu routines
The majority of routines used in the sport are new, modernized recompilations of traditional routines. However, routines taken directly from traditional styles, including the styles that are not part of standard events, may be performed in competition, especially in China. These routines generally do not garner as many points as their modern counterparts, and are performed in events separate from the compulsory routine events. Among these, the more commonly seen routines include:
- Baguazhang (八卦掌) – Eight-Trigrams Palm
- Bajiquan (八極拳/八极拳) – Eight Extremes Fist/Boxing
- Chāquán (查拳) – Cha Fist/Boxing
- Chuōjiǎo (戳腳/戳脚) – Poking Feet
- Ditangquan (地躺拳) – Ground-Prone Fist/Boxing
- Fānziquán (翻子拳) – Tumbling Fist/Boxing
- Houquan (猴拳) – Monkey Fist/Boxing
- Huaquan (華拳/华拳) – Hua Fist/Boxing
- Nanquan (南拳) – Southern Fist
- Pào Chuí (炮捶) – Cannon Punch
- Piguaquan (劈掛拳) – Chop-Hitch Fist/Boxing
- Shequan (蛇拳) – Snake Fist/Boxing
- Tán Tuǐ (弹腿) – Spring Leg
- Tang Lang (螳螂拳) – Praying Mantis Fist/Boxing
- Tongbeiquan (通背拳) – Through-the-Back Fist/Boxing
- Wing Chun (詠春拳/咏春拳) – Eternal Spring
- Xing Yi Quan (形意拳) – Shape-Intent Fist/Boxing
- Ying Zhao Pai (鷹爪拳/鹰爪拳) – Eagle Claw Fist/Boxing
- Zui Quan (醉拳) – Drunken Fist/Boxing