Wushu Belongs to the World…

But the gold goes to China…: The international development of the Chinese martial arts

International Review for the Sociology of Sport

Marc Theeboom,Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Dong Zhu, Shanghai University of Sport, China

Jikkemien Vertonghen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

published 28 April 2015, 10.1177/1012690215581605.


Since the mid-1980s, China has been promoting wushu (also known as kung fu) as an international competitive sport towards Olympic recognition. But despite the efforts of the International Wushu Federation, to date, wushu has not entered the Olympics. Data were collected of countries’ medal winning performances at the World Wushu Championships since 1991. The findings of this study clearly showed China’s unchanged dominant position, thereby making it questionable if wushu has really turned into an international sport. This paper discusses two discourses that have been used to describe wushu’s international position: an enrichment discourse to emphasise the potential of wushu to deliver added value to global sports; and a compromise discourse highlighting the dangers of detraditionalisation in order to internationalise. It further attempts to analyse underlying mechanisms that may account for wushu’s current international status.



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