Traditional VS Modern : Which to Start With ?

The purpose of this article is to help people that are new to Wushu to chose the style that will suit their needs best. It is also a helping hand for people that would like to switch at some point in their career or just discover another side of the rich Chinese Martial Arts.

However, there is no perfect answer to that. Basically you can do both.

Pure traditional Wushu players will say that their Wushu makes more sens, and same the modern Wushu players will say modern is the best. But it’s more complicated than an ego battle inside the same Martial Art (guys, stop that). Anyway, we will get back to that in other articles.
One thing is for sure, you learn by doing. Experience both yourself then make your own opinion ! You can’t know which one’s better if you only know part of the subject.

Thanks to my experience in teaching and learning in different countries, having started my training and competing career in traditional, followed by a long career in modern to now come back to traditional, all that in Wushu only, I can give you hints for you who want to start your journey into Chinese Martial Arts. I really love both and am still enjoying practicing, competing in both styles, so you can too !

Take your physical abilities into account

A question I always get from my future students is : “I’m X years old, am I too old to practice Wushu?”. The answer is NO : Wushu has so many styles that you can train at any age. And by that I do not mean that once you’re “old” (a term which everybody has a different understanding of), you can only do Taiji. That’s something we absolutely need to demystify ! Taiji Quan can be practiced at any age just like external styles. Taiji Quan is not only for old folks, just as external styles are not only for young people.

Look at all these very “old” masters still practicing Tanglang Quan (Praying Mantis), Hung Gar, or other styles. The only thing that distinguish them from you is not the age but the level, and the years of practice they’ve put into it. You could totally learn praying mantis at 70 or 80 if you wish to ! If your thing is modern Wushu, then learn it. You won’t be able to do all the jumps, and other difficult movements after a certain age of course. But learning a Taolu, yes sure you can, won’t be easy, but not impossible either.
All Wushu styles are basically good for your health, but it depends on how you train, not on the style. That, your teacher should manage.

Young people can do anything, and most of them will find more interest in modern Wushu as it’s often more spectacular and requires more stamina than traditional styles.

If we really had to choose which style to start with, for a child or a young adult, we would recommend to start with Modern Wushu.

Why ? Because the basics are the same than traditional styles, it’s great to build strong basics, flexibility, stamina, spring, and speed, then from there once you can’t jump that well and want to prevent yourself from injuries, you can start practicing one or more traditional styles. With traditional styles you will keep preserving your health and avoid injuries, get more into the cultural aspects of Chinese Martial Arts, train your energy, breath, and your whole body to the core. Traditional styles being not only forms and sparring techniques, but also a real culture, each having its characteristics.
Traditional can be started and practiced at any age, but if you really want to do both at different stage of your life, we wouldn’t recommend to start from traditional to then switch to modern, as the change is way more difficult this way, except if you started with traditional at a very young age and switch to modern before 16-18 years old.

Let’s just say that modern Wushu is a standard form of Wushu very demanding in terms of physical abilities. Traditional is not standard but very specific, each style having its own specifications, and more demanding on core techniques and coordination of internal and external power. Going from standard to specific is easy. You have all the basics, and your abilities are good enough to switch to any specificity afterwards. It works like school or anything related to learning : it’s easier to learn specific fields once you’ve already been through the standards (junior high, high school).

However, this is only a recommendation. You have the liberty to choose to start from wherever you want, depending on your goals and abilities.

Traditional VS Modern : Comparative Charts

Below is a little summary to help you see what traditional and modern Wushu share, and where they differ, at least the main points !

Wish you all a great Wushu journey, whatever you choose to start with ! You can also do both if you want 🙂