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“324B???”: How to Read Nandu Codes

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“324B???”: HOW TO READ NANDU CODES

By: Matthew Lee

Written June 3rd, 2019

“The purpose of this write-up will be to cover exactly how to read nandu codes.” —Quote taken directly from the write-up

Abstract: One of the crucial components of the sport of modern Wushu Taolu (forms) is nandu (degree of difficulty).  As part of competition regulations, modern Wushu competitions require Taolu athletes and competitors to fill out and submit documentation of nandu in their individual routines, with coded language for standardization and judging purposes.  It is interesting to note that the standardization of a sport based in traditional Chinese martial arts, is being codified with new modern sport elements and language.  The purpose of this write-up will be to decipher and inform readers on how to read the codified language of nandu codes.

If you’re a Wushu athlete or competitor, chances are you’ve had to fill out documentation for a modern Wushu Taolu (套路; tàolù, forms) competition.  Two specific pieces of documentation are forms for compulsory movements, which document specifically what order the required movements for a given competition event will be in an individual routine, and forms for nandu (难度; nándù, difficulty movements).  In particular, the documentation for nandu is a subject of its own in the sport of modern Wushu.  When you started filling this out for the first time (hopefully with the help of the old article “Filling out a Nandu Format” by American Wushu athlete and champion Samuel Montalvo), you were probably bombarded by combinations of numbers of letters, which apparently signified specific nandu, but you didn’t understand at all.  Ever wonder what those weird alphanumeric combinations mean, when you’re filling out those Degree of Difficulty forms for competition?  Most likely, for the sake of your own personal time, you forwent this mental exercise to try and understand these codes, and simply relied on memorization of whatever movements and techniques you were doing in your Taolu.  Well, believe it or not, there is an actual logic to reading these.  The purpose of this write-up will be to cover exactly how to read nandu codes.

For those unfamiliar with Wushu, or Chinese martial arts, let me provide some context.  Modern Wushu, also known as sport or contemporary Wushu, is specifically a standardization of Chinese martial arts for sport and competition.  Modern Wushu today has been standardized into two disciplines; Taolu, the practice of forms and sequences, and Sanshou (散手; sànshǒu, free hand), the practice of freestyle sparring and scientific martial applications, also known as Sanda (散打; sàndǎ, free fighting).  Because this write-up is concerned with one specific aspect of modern Wushu Taolu performance, we will solely be focusing on Taolu.  For context of this write-up, nandu refers to the completion of jumps, sweeps, balances, and the connection points in between, all of which must add up to a minimum total of 2.0 points (out of a maximum performance-based score of 10.0).

So, let’s get right down to it.  How exactly do you read those numbers and letters that represent the crazy jumping kicks, spins, sweeps and balances that occupy our Taolu?  Well, let’s look at an example below.  For the sake of convenience, we will also include a key/table courtesy of the IWuF (International Wushu Federation), to help you decipher nandu codes:

324B (main movement) + 1B (connection)

2019_IWUF_Rule_about_Degree_of_Difficulty-1

As we can see, the reading of nandu can be broken down into two parts, before and after the “+”: the main movement (in most cases a jump) itself, and the connection (in most cases a landing), hence the “+” symbol between the former and latter parts.  Let’s focus first and most appropriately on the former part, the main movement.  This first part of the nandu code is made up three numbers, followed by a letter.  The three numbers break down the physical movement, first by whether it is categorized as a jumping or tumbling technique, second by state (of jumping rotation), and thirdly by leg direction (of kick), respectively.  The letter which closes this first part, signifies the exact degree of difficulty that this movement falls under.  Nandu jumping movements and techniques are separated into three degrees of A, B and C, each having their own set worth of points, ranging from least to greatest, respectively; degree A consists of many of the original jumping techniques of Wushu and 360° degree jumps, degree B includes twists and 540° jumps, and degree C includes 720° jumps.

Now let’s focus on the latter part of this example, the connection.  Given the established observation that the majority of nandu is based on jumping movements and techniques, the connection in most cases is the landing after the jump itself, indicating the completion of the nandu.  The singular number refers to the specific position that will complete the nandu, again in most cases, the stance in which the jump would be landing in.  And as before, the letter signifies the exact degree of difficulty of the main movement, which is an exercise in repetition.  In summary for this example, “324B”, reading from left to right, can be read as “jumping vertical rotation, outward/right kick into mabu (马步; mǎbù horse stance) 540°”, or as it is colloquially known, tengkongbailian (腾空摆莲; téngkōngbǎilián, lotus kick) 540° in Chinese Mandarin, and is also translated as “jump outside 540°.”

However, the idea of connections is not simply restricted to landings; they can also be attributed to literal connections from one maneuver to the next.  An example of this is “312A + 335A”, which symbolizes a combination of tengkongfeijiao (腾空飞脚; téngkōngfēijiǎo, jump/flying front kick) into cekongfan (侧空翻; cèkōngfān, aerial).  Such combinations are awarded extra points when performed successfully in a routine, of which there is an official list of approved connections under modern Wushu Taolu competition regulations.  This allows for a fluid and logical progression biomechanically, which contributes to the flow of a Taolu performance, and allows nandu to not be restricted solely to singular jumps with landings.

There you have it!  Try it out for yourself!  Look at other examples of nandu codes to read and use the table above to see if you’re correct!  Hope this write-up helps you better understand how to read nandu codes! 😊

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Matt began practicing Wushu at the age of 7 under US Wushu Academy, and is a coach of the UMBC Wushu Club. He has held positions in national, international, and local modern Wushu competitions, and is currently training in Sanshou/Sanda, traditional Chen Style Taijiquan and zhanzhuang. He is a four-time consecutive US Wushu Team member, former Pan American Champion and multiple times Pan American Championships medalist, and is continually trying to improve himself both as a competitive athlete and as a real martial artist. If you have any questions you would like to ask Matt, please email him at matthewlee@jiayoowushu.com.