As one of the earliest and long-lasting sports, Wushu has developed its own characteristics over time. Major characteristics are listed below:
1. Because of its long history incorporating differences in culture, ideology, region and usages, Wushu has developed into a great variety of schools and styles. While some schools emphasize the use of fists and hand technique, others emphasize leg technique and footwork. Some take interest in the variation of acts whereas others prefer simplicity. Some focus on keeping opponents at arm's and leg's length while others like to fight in close contact. The assortment of schools and styles displays the colorful features of Wushu and gratifies the various needs of people.
2. Wushu includes the use of many weapons. Chinese ancients named the Wushu arsenal the "Eighteen Arms," but there are many more in use. Almost all fights are accompanied by weapon usage of one kind or another. The combination of fist fights and weapon usage allows for a fuller and more efficient application of Wushu skills while sh-arpening the insight of combat and control and enriching the program of Wushu exercise.
3. The combination of offence and defence is the essence of Wushu. Implications of offence and de-fence permeate the complete gamut of Wushu exercise. They are fully demonstrated in both practice and real combat. Even a solo practice implies the atmosphere of offence and defence against an imaginary opponent in time and space. Wushu masters have systematically summed up the con-tradictions of offence and defence and established a set of theories and techniques on combat.
4. The movement of the human body is only the external display of Wushu. Wushu is by no means limited to the external movement, but also emphasizes the full display of the internal temperament, mental attitude and potential of the human being. The practice of Wushu not only strengthens the bones and muscles but also the internal organs and intelligence. Coordination and cooperation are called for with each and every movement of the hand, eye, body, foot and form of movement. Wushu stresses that the mind directs the circulation of air flow within the body and that the inner circulation of air generates the external strength, so demonstrating the combination of external and internal forces. Cultivating air flows inside the body in order to improve the basic structures inside the body is an important purpose of Wushu exercises.
5. Ingenious applications of substantial and insubstantial blows are incorporated in the movements and forces of Wushu. Motion and stillness alternate with each other, while hardness and softness su-pplement one another, greatly enhancing the artistic expression and the practicality of Wushu, and de-monstrating its inclusive and equilibristic nature. Once in action, the movements can be as fast and forceful as a gust of wind, while being still, the body looks as steady as a mountain. Hard blows are like lightning and thunderclaps, whereas soft punches are like breezes delicately caressing willow twigs. Human feelings and abilities are clearly demonstrated through the rhythmic movements of opening and closing, and the emotions excited in doing exercises.