Before I launch into this article, I would like to say that although bodybuilding has never been of great interest to me personally, I respect the dedication, scientific methodology and perseverance of bodybuilding athletes. I have invested a great deal of effort into my own chosen discipline and I admire the dedication of others even though I may not share their passion for their preferred path.
Traditional Wushu can be a very demanding occupation. The physical requirements are many and varied. A great deal of strength, flexibility, stamina and physical resilience is required to practice traditional Wushu. And yet, not many of the top practitioners of traditional Wushu are big and bulky although they are very strong.
Why is this so?
Is bodybuilding of use to a traditional Wushu practitioner? Let’s examine some of the pros and cons.
What are the advantages of bodybuilding?
What are the disadvantages of bodybuilding?
An interesting concept which would be a matter for future experimentation and investigation would be to see whether a traditional Wushu practitioner who is competent with the internal training methods and is developing their internal force generation structures could adopt some of the bodybuilding methodology into their training. I would predict that there would be an effect although exactly what it would be, I cannot say, because internal training appears to evolve in a very individual way within practitioners to meet the needs of that individual.
One need only look at the accounts of the exploits of historic martial artists who trained in Shaolin. There seemed to be a very high degree of specificity and individuality in the effects that these practitioners could generate. Some were exceedingly fast in their movement. Some were exceedingly strong. Some could climb walls using advanced subcutaneous muscle control. Some could move as though they had almost no weight at all (as an aside, Jackie Chan demonstrates some of the incredible effects of the same lightness training that the old masters practiced). Some could smash cobblestones under their feet as though they weighed tonnes. Some were very resistant to damage.
In short, the reason there are not many big and bulky traditional Wushu practitioners is that the training does not favour muscle growth on the scale that you would expect from a strict bodybuilding approach to training. In addition, some of the aspects of bodybuilding are at odds with the central principles of traditional Wushu.
Always remember that the practitioner is a product of the training, whether bodybuilding or traditional Wushu. If you want a bodybuilder’s physique, traditional Wushu internal training is probably not for you.
Written by Lester Walters, head of the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia
Photo Credit: Lin Mei - https://www.flickr.com/photos/leomei/2651904068
© Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia 2017. ABN 12 792 347 015