Wu Bin (吴 彬)大師 (Compiled and written by George Tsimpinoudakis amd Kenny Perez)
Wu Bin (吴 彬), was born in 1937, in the city Wuxing (吴兴), in Zhejiang province (浙江). Though later he excelled in Wushu, as a teenager he was involved in the sport of weight lifting, after a serious injury in the middle of his career he was not able to continue. After the urging of Zhang Guangde (张广德), to take up Wushu. He became a student of the famous Zhang Wenguang (张文 广). Although he did not start Wushu at an early age, with personal tenacity and persistence, he became well advanced and excelled in his new passion. Over time his accomplishments grew. Wu Bin (吴 彬), graduated from Beijing Tiyu Xueyuan (北京 体育 学院) Beijing Institute of Physical Education in 1963 and was appointed coach at Shichahai Yeyu Ti Xiao (北京市 什刹海 业余 体校) Shichahai Amateur Sports School. In 1965, he became Deputy Secretary General of the Beijing Wushu Xiehui (北京 武术 协会) Beijing Wushu Association .. During the Cultural Revolution, in China he was one of 30 people who did not cease to teach athletes. In November 1974, he and fellow coaches Li Junfeng (李俊峰) and Cheng Huikun (程慧琨), founded the Beijing Wushu Dui (北京 武术队). Wu Bin always believed that the future of Wushu belongs to youth. Originally he chose children from nearby elementary schools and help to integrate wushu into the education program. He visited Huang Cheng Gen Xiaoxue (皇城 根 小学) Huang Cheng Gen Primary School, the Chang Qiao Xiaoxue (厂桥 小学) Chang Qiao Primary School and many other schools, within five kilometers. From one primary school Chang Qiao Xiaoxue (厂桥 小学) Chang Qiao Primary School, he chose his future champion the now famous Li Lianjie (李连杰). During that time the economic situation was bad for many families master Wu's persistence paid off as he was able to persuade young Li Lianjie's mother to allow him to train in Wushu (武术),the rest is history.
Beijing Wushu Team consisted of 12 male athletes and 13 female athletes. The male team players were: Li Lianjie (李连杰), Li Zhizhou (李志洲), Wang Jianjun (王建军), Li Jinheng (李金恒), Yu Shaowen (喻少文), Wang Qun (王群), Yan Ping (严 平), dong Honglin (董洪林), Sun Jianming (孙建明), Tang Laiwei (唐 来 伟), Cui Yahui (崔亚辉) and Yang Yongli (杨永利). The female team athletes were: Li Xia (李霞), Hao Zhihua (郝致华), Ge Chunyan (戈 春艳), Zhang Hongmei (张宏梅), Lu Yan (吕 燕), Hui Xuna (回 旭 娜), Huang Qiuyan (黄秋燕), Zhou Jingping (周京萍), Zhang Guifeng (张桂凤), Jinrong Mi (米 金 镕), Wang Xiuping (王秀萍), Huang Xiaofeng (黄小凤) and Zhang Dehua (张德华). The team faced difficult situations and growing pains but managed thru many trials and errors and even discrimination to come out on top.
As manager and head coach of the team Wu Bin (吴 彬) was a staunch perfectionist. He stressed, that those athletes who excelled and became "stars"of the team, should have a strong sense of professionalism and responsibility and had to practice diligently and systematically daily to improve their technique and training . Also his stern coaching approach meant no slacking it was each athletes obligation to be prudent every day. The results were undeniably impressive. From 1975 to 1985, the historic competition team of male and female athletes won 40 gold medals.
From 1986 to 1992, Wu Bin managed to be appointed Dean of Beijing Renwen Daxue Wu Xueyan (北京 人文 大学 武 学院) Beijing Humanities University,
director of Guoji Wushu Lianhe Hui Jishu Weiyuanhui (国际武术 联合会 技术 委员会) International Wushu Federation Technical Committee and Yazhou Wushu Lianhe Hui Jishu Weiyuanhui Zhuren (亚洲 武术 联合会 技术 委员会 主任) Asian Wushu Federation Technical Commission. Appointed Dean of Beijing Wushu Yuan (北京 武术院) Beijing Wushu Institute and of course founded the Beijing Wushu Dui (北京 武术队) Beijing Wushu Team.
Master Wu was Honored with the ninth Duan and became the Vice President of the Zhongguo Wushu Xiehui (中国 武术 协会) Chinese Wushu Association and the Beijing Wushu Xiehui (北京 武术 协会) Beijing Wushu Association. These associations recognize and are composed of Wushu teachers who contributed to the visibility, and advancement of Wushu internationally.
From 1986 to 1992, Master Wu's other accomplishments include being appointed director of the Zhongguo Wushu Yan Jiu Yuan (中国 武术 研究院) Chinese Wushu Research Institute and working on the development of the state and international Wushu Duanwei Zhi (武术 段位 制) Wushu Duan System.
Master Wu was awarded the Rongyu Jianzhang (荣誉 奖章) Medal of Honor from the Guojia Tiwei (国家 体 委) National Sports Commission, for his work. Through out his career he has written a total of 18 important books.
His famous wushu students Li Lianjie (李连杰), Wu Jing (吴京) and Donnie Yen (甄子丹), managed to excel in cinemas and are now mega stars in that industry. Through all of this, the work of Wu Bin (吴 彬) has gained international visibility.
For all his contributions and accomplishments many consider him the reformer and pioneer of modern Wushu (武术).
Wu Bin Interview:
1. Can you please give us an introduction to you childhood?
I was born in 1937 in Wuxing district, Hu Zhou city, Zhejiang province, China. Because of the Japanese invasion, my father decided our family should move to Shanghai. I started school at the age of six. In 1949 I went to Shanghai high school, until I graduated. During this period I was exposed to Wushu but not as regular exercise.
2. How old were you when you started Wushu?
I first began training Wushu when I was 22.
3. Why did you start Wushu?
Though I liked Wushu, as a growing young boy I preferred gymnastics, swimming, boxing and wrestling. However, I was influenced by Wushu and inspired by its emphasis on the ways of righteousness, chivalrous spirit, respect of others and the development of other notable qualities. In college weight lifting was my sport of choice, but not my major. During this time I had gotten injured, though not badly. After my injury in 1959, when I was 22 years old and still in college, I decided to switch to Wushu, so began my “formal” college Wushu training.
4. Were your parents involved in Wushu?
5. Many elite athletes who have suffered injuries choose to retire, but you on the contrary didn’t stop but changed your training from weight lifting to Wushu, why is that?
Firstly, my injury was not serious or debilitating so I could continue but the risk of re-injury would be higher.
Secondly, I wasn’t yet a professional weightlifting athlete but still a undergraduate college student.
Thirdly, as Physical education was my focus of study and I had always liked Wushu I continued to train, switching to Wushu as my major study.
6. Who was the most profound Wushu master you have ever seen?
Zhang Wenguang. Master Zhang was a master of Cha Chuan style and was also a teacher at the historically significant Chinese National Guoshu Academy. Also significant in Wushu history was the fact that Master Zhang was a member of the 1936 National Wushu team that gained the world’s attention when they performed in Berlin at th 11th Olympic games.
7. Who was your first teacher?
My first formal teacher was Zhang Wenguang
8. What did you learn during this time?
In college, under Master Zhang Wenguang, I was required to learn the standardized Chang Chuan curriculum using the established textbooks as required by the National Sports Department and the Ministry of Educational development.
9. What style do you personally think is the best style of Wushu?
There are many styles of Wushu, but basically they can be classed into 3 divisions, competitive Wushu, traditional Wushu and Wushu for fitness. Competitive Wushu can further be divided into two categories Sanda and routines. These different types and styles vary in characteristics and emphasis of application. One can focus on one or the other or all three divisions, whatever fits their current needs and goals. For example, when one is young they may prefer to do Long Fist style but as the body matures one may find Tai Chi, Xing Yi and /or Ba Gua styles more suitable. Tai Chi, in particular, with its soothing, soft actions can be appreciated, practiced and beneficial to all ages.
10. Were you involved in Wushu during its modernization years in the fifties?
No, it was in 1959 when I entered into formal Wushu studies in the Martial Arts Department at the Beijing Institute of Physical Education. In 1960 I participated in the Beijing sports schools competition and the City of Beijing Wushu Competition.
11. In the previous era of Wushu, the great masters and teachers could fight. Now modern Wushu athletes don’t necessarily fight. What do you think of this?
I believe traditional and modern Wushu are the same thing. In the past fighting was the norm for Wushu Masters and practitioners. As the times changed Wushu’s emphasis changed. Now more people are into the fitness aspect. But this does not mean Wushu lost its fighting value. Even in the routines the “warrior spirit” is still alive. Within the routines the ability to make the movements have actual meaning and application is important. Even in the fancy ornamental Wushu routines. These skills still have strong combat functions if the emphasis of the movements is focused on the fighting application of the kicks, punches, grabs, throws, and takedowns etc. Ultimately one may not be able to fight if only practicing Wushu for fitness or for the performance aspect. But for improving combat and body conditioning skills one can also include hitting sandbags and punching bags etcetra, in their training regime. Actually “traditional” Wushu is continuously developing, so in that perspective, modern and traditional wushu are not able to be differentiated. Traditional Wushu emphasizes the fighting aspect and still uses the aspect of sport, competition and fitness etc. In fact Modern Wushu is based on the full range of traditional styles and theories. Traditional Wushu includes not only just “actual combat" techniques, it also includes “performance”, “competition”, and “body fitness” skills. Obviously Contemporary Wushu was created by traditional Wushu masters. For example Tai Chi is composed of the theory of becoming one with the universal flow of energy. This is thought to help one achieve longevity through its motions. However Tai Chi was originally intended and taught as a fighting based style. Combative fighting in Tai Chi was commonly practiced during the original days of its development as there was more need for emphasis on this part. Therefore, traditional Tai Chi practitioners were more adept at fighting. But as the times changed and it was introduced to the Nobles of that time it became more known as a health exercise. In the book “Tai Chi Chuan Theory” the author stated very clearly, that Tai Chi could also be for health andfitness.
Lastly, I just want to say that some people raise the importance of particular styles they study and make unrealistic statements Saying things like traditional Wushu is stronger in every aspect. these types of statements can be misleading.
12. What caused modern Wushu to be created into what it is today?
Because of the change of emphasis during the 20th century, particularly in the fifties, Wushu became more of a sport, for health and competition, it was reformulated and standardized so it could be promoted together as a single united sport. As a contemporary sport, it follows rules of fair competition, breaking old traditional “clan” mind sets, and invoked rules and guidelines to help all Wushu schools compete under a standardized format. However, because the wide varieties of forms in Wushu, there must be a variety of different divisions. Therefore we have the variety you see today.
13. Is the training of today’s Wushu athletes different from the training of the Wushu athletes of the 1980’s? How?
Wushu training of the 1980’s is not the same as now. In 1995 the rules and requirements of Wushu changed. It is a whole new generation now. Exercise technology and specifics of conditioning have progressed so the bar has been raised. For example some jumping techniques such as the Jumping inward kick- XFJ has changed from 360’ to 720’ turns. Before landing was on both legs now it is on one leg.
15. Can anyone become a Wushu champion or does it take a specific person?
Not anyone can become a Wushu champion.
16. What is the best method to produce a Wushu champion?
When I was the Beijing Wushu team coach at (Shi Sha Hai), (not the Beijing Sport School coach.) I did not just concentrate on those who were naturally gifted, I treated all beginning students the same. I selected the students very carefully during the try outs, and selected the athletes that were in the best shape to practice Wushu. I did my best to teach them and lead them to the best they could be. My personal method for selecting my students was the following: 1.They must love sports. 2. Body type- must be suitable to practice Wushu, 3. They must be smart and quick with their body. I usually tested them with 30 meter short runs, jumping abilities, and other stamina and coordination tests and then I would do an overall analysis. 3. I would have all the potential students in a camp for 1 to 2 months before I would pick the best ones.
Becoming a Wushu champion involves many factors. A great coach is important as well as a special determined athlete. In my personal experience each athlete must have a personal way of training that is conducive to their personal development. A good coach will help them achieve their best potential, and specifically, teach according to the students’ own different personality. I was also macro-inclusive and recruited help from the best teachers and champions, Jet Li, for example, on one hand, I was his main teacher but I also recommended - Tai Chi masters Wu Tunan, Sun Jianyun, Ba Quichang and master Li Zhiming to teach him, so he acquired a variety of knowledge from different “Traditional” masters. On the other hand, I also encouraged Jet Li to study from other “contemporary” masters such as Shu Qicheng (broadsword champion), Wang Jinbao (empty hand champion), and Zhang Fuyun (straight sword champion). Other aspects of well round training includes- facilities, scheduling of training, rest, diet, and ability to be unique.
17. Why were there 3 coaches on the Beijing Wushu team?
This was decided according to teams needs and coaches workloads. Each coach was different, but the underlying qualities of a good coach include- being a great leader, proficient in selection skills, great training system as well as the ability to implement great training skills and ideas. This is important when considering who has abilities. I personally think that a good coach must also possess the character of patience. First and formost pay attention to basic skills of teaching, do not rush progress hoping for a short cut to success. Gradual step by step improvement otherwise “haste makes waste”.
18. Do you believe diet and cross training in other sports is good for the Wushu athlete?
A good diet is very important. Cross training is conducive to good Wushu athletic training. But one must strive to keep the body from getting too big through certain cross training exercises as this will have an adverse effect on their Wushu training also one may train too hard and get injured.
19. At what age do you feel a Wushu athlete reaches their physical best?
This varies, for example jet Li began training at the age of 8 and he became a champion at the age of 10. This is different for other athletes. In Wushu the earlier one starts the better. The more proper training one has over time one will reach his best in due time. In sanda, it is best to start practice at the age of 13-15.
20. In your career you literarily had the world opened to you. For example you could have migrated to the United States and reaped great economic benefits but you chose to stay in China, Why?
You were right, I could have been more successful financially, however, I really wanted to promote Wushu and I believed and still believe I could do that best from China.
21. What year did you retire as a coach?
In 2002 I retired from formal coaching I was 65 years old.
22. Do you still enjoy teaching Wushu?
Yes I do, in fact I teach as a much as I can as long as my body will let me. I will continue to teach because I enjoy teaching immensely.
23. What was your job for promoting Wushu when you worked for the Chinese Wushu Research Institute? Firstly, let me say that director- master Su Cai did a great job on promoting Wushu internationally, he is the one who came up with the quote, “Wushu came from China, and belongs to the world”. As director of research and development my main job was to provide technical support, such as how to teach the coaches, athletes and referees. This I feel was integral to the development of good quality Wushu.
24. Do you think the embellishment of Wushu and its difficult movements over the course of its development has kept it from becoming an Olympic sport?
I understood the enhanced difficulties of jumping, jumping kicks, and tumbling skills are more appealing movements and have changed the rules. However, Wushu difficulties are not limited to just these; hands, eyes, body, and stance coordination skills are also difficult, especially in wushu, as well as its emphasis on the body and spirit combined as one. This is a psychological difficulty; it is called “flow”. I do think that if these rule changes are used in China, the coaches and the panel that created these rules should address this together to see if that would fit today’s athletes. If these rules are used in international competitions, then more discussions should be done internationally to see if they could be accepted by all. Also, after the new rules are in place, there should be a analysis during
“realtime” practice and then listen to feed back to agree on the rules. The Olympic Games always seeks to raise the degree of difficulties, such as higher, faster and stronger. Difficulties are not the reason why Wushu failed to get into the Olympics, the reason why it failed because there were too many categories, and not enough time to work everything out by prepare and minimizing its vast repertoire and repackaging it. Also there was a lack of a general audience.
25. Currently traditional routines like drunken, eagle, monkey, and others are omitted in the new Duan system why?
I haven’t put too much time into this so I can’t answer. There were too many categories, not enough deliberation so therefore cannot work everything out.
26. I personally like the original international compulsory routines, what do you think of the new routines?
This I cannot answer here without case studies.
27. Do you think now there are exceptionally good athletes capable of performing this routine at this new level?
Of course there is. They have developed to this level within the guidelines set by the current rules.
28. When do you think Wushu will become an Olympic sport?
I cannot determine when, but I can say it will undoubtedly become an Olympic sport one day. The spirit of Olympics is to bring mind and body together, striving for higher, faster and stronger. Competition Wushu is precisely like that. When Wushu will become part of the Olympic Games will depend on the Olympic committee and the effort of Wushu athletes.
29. How many students have you taught?
I am not sure this is too difficult to determine.
30. What do you think about martial arts movies? Do you have any favorites? What do you think about these movies?
I like martial arts movies that have a good story good acting and spark emotions. besides great martial arts skills and choreography. I like Bruce Lee Jacky Chan, Jet Li and other movie stars.
31. China developed Wushu and has excelled in its progress and direction. Do you think other countries can compete on the same level as the best Chinese athletes?
Firstly, with the same training conditions the best athletes from other countries and China can compete on the same level Secondly, the rest of the world does not have the same training conditions as the Chinese Wushu athletes.
32. Who do you think are the top Wushu athletes of all time?
Wushu is composed of many divisions and events for example Long Fist, Nan Chuan, Tai Chi Chuan, Broadsword, Staff, Spear, Sword, and so on. All have different rules and standards. Such diversity makes judging of the top athlete difficult. Jet Li, who won over 5 times , all around National championship, in my eyes is the top Wushu Athlete, at least during that generation and time and conditions of the time.
33. What words of inspiration can you give all the aspiring Wushu practitioners and athletes who are reading this and want to become champions?
You must love Wushu. In training, you must pay attention to every detail train systematically step by step otherwise one may get injured. Ankle and knees injuries are very common and this will take time to heal, delaying improvement time. Traditional Wushu should work with modern Wushu so they can both develop and benefit together. In competitive Wushu be sure of current rules and regulations be clear on all guidelines. Have a training program that helps meet these guidelines and targets the right training patterns. Also it is important to have the right teacher.