New Rules for Taolu

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On February 27th, an excerpt of the new Wushu Taolu Competition Rules & Judging Methods was released by the IWuF (International Wushu Federation) for modern Wushu competition.  For those that are unfamiliar with the term Taolu, the Chinese word tàolù (套路) signifies the practice of forms and sequences in Chinese martial arts, which has long been the popular image of Wushu, or Chinese martial arts.  In the sport of modern Wushu, also known as sport or contemporary Wushu, a standardization of Chinese martial arts for sport, Taolu refers to the practice of forms which are standardized from various traditional Chinese martial arts styles and trained for performance and exhibition purposes based on a certain set of competition rules and standards.  Originally, modern Wushu’s sole competition category as a sport was only Taolu, then simply called “Wushu”, until the introduction and standardization of Sanshou (散手; sànshǒu, free hand), also known as Sanda (散打; sàndǎ, free fighting), which is the practice of full-contact sparring and fighting, in the ’80s; today, the sport of modern Wushu is divided into these two competition categories of Taolu and Sanda.

In the Wushu community, the rumor of new rules and regulations being written for Taolu were heard early as 2016, to replace the then-current rules of the IWuF since 2005 (for a link to the new rules, courtesy of  Those who are officials, in the know and have had a look at the regulations, have had a consensus of “more [Panel] A deductions.”  This refers to Panel A of scoring Taolu performances, which is separated into three judging categories of Panels A, B, and C.  Panel A refers to the judging of “Quality of Movements”, which refers to the execution of compulsory or required martial arts basics based on the specific set of rules and standards in modern Wushu Taolu.  Panel B refers to the judging of “Overall Performance”, which refers to the actual performance aspects itself such as choreography and coordination.  And finally, Panel C refers to “Degree of Difficulty”, which refers to nandu (难度; nándù, difficulty movements), the set of movements and techniques, namely jumps, sweeps and balances that are scoreable based on certain eponymous degrees of difficult execution, and consists of a minimum 2.0 points out of a total 10.0 points.

Perhaps first and foremost apparent are the changes in compulsory requirements for optional Taolu events.  Compulsory requirements in optional Taolu events, including the apparatus events, were formerly very limited in nature, especially in terms of stances.  Although many of the previous requirements remain the same for optional (自选; zìxuǎn, individual) events, which, the requirements for the Changquan (长拳; chángquán, Long Fist) style have the most noticeable changes, which are no longer restricted to specific movements or techniques, yet simultaneously more inclusive of more basic Wushu techniques, making it more potentially complete as a modern martial arts style.  For example, the current rules stipulate that the optional Changquan (长拳; chángquán, Long Fist) event shall contain “at minimum”, “Three (3) techniques employing a fist.”, “Two (2) techniques employing a palm.”, “One (1) offensive elbow technique.”, “Five (5) stances comprising of Gōng Bù (Bow Stance), Mǎ Bù (Horse Stance), Pū Bù (Crouching Stance), Xū Bù (Empty Stance), Xiē Bù (Cross-Legged Crouching Stance).”, “Three (3) leg techniques comprising a leg swinging techniques/methods with the leg straight, flexion to extension, and sweep.”, and “One (1) extended balance technique.”  The specific requirement of multiple fist techniques is especially interesting, which addresses the criticism that there are hardly any proper punches in modern Wushu Taolu routines today.  The simple requirement of only having one “offensive elbow technique”, rather than the previous specific requirement of dingzhou (顶肘; dǐngzhǒu, piercing elbow strike), also opens up an arsenal of elbow techniques that can be used in Changquan routines, but because elbow techniques are not as emphasized in general practice, this could be a gray area; would other elbow techniques such as panzhou (盘肘; pánzhǒu, coiling elbow) and yazhou (压肘; yāzhǒu, pressing elbow), which have variations of executing a movement under the same name, count as “offensive” according the rules and be accepted by the judges?  This is simply an issue of vagueness that can easily be resolved with some clarification.  Previously, all optional Taolu events only required gongbu, pubu and xubu, with the required inclusion of mabu was not explicitly clear in some competitions until now, and the addition of the previously missing xiebu completes the five basic stances of not only Changquan as a more complete representation of basics from northern Wushu styles, but of Chinese martial arts in general.  On the added emphasis of stances, former Argentinian Wushu Team member Luciano Cassarino says, “Finally they added the 5 stances to changquan (should be added to weapons too), can’t believe it!  Overall I like the new requirements for optional routines, more technical will be seen (I hope).”  There is also a choice of balances to choose from, rather than the previous specific requirement of koutuipingheng (扣腿平衡; kòutuǐpínghéng, cross-leg balance), as in the jianshu (剑术; jiànshù, straight sword event) event, and is similar to the freedom of choice in balances for optional Changquan and jianshu Taolu events for Chinese national Wushu Taolu competitions under the CWA (Chinese Wushu Association).  In general, these kinds of new requirements, which allow for a choice of movements, simultaneously eliminates the excuse of limiting an athlete’s creativity in optional events and allows for potentially seeing differences and something unique in performances, and is akin to Ryan Tang’s suggestion on changes to modern Wushu Taolu competition requirements in his “Athlete of the Week” interview with, where he says, “I…would like to get rid of the required movements, maybe, you know, required balance or something, but honestly everybody’s forms start to look similar when we have a limited number of required movements.  Maybe we should do something like…require a person to have, you know, X number of unique movements so it’s not just like slap kick, hammer fist, slap kick, hammer fist all the time.”  This is also in direct contrast to the CWA, incorporate the requirement of compulsory movement combinations (规定动作组合; guīdìngdòngzuòzǔhé) into their national rules of Taolu, where Each solo event, including the apparatus events of each of the three main competitive styles, have specific pairs of combinations, all of which pertained to actual traditional, “old school” Wushu movements.

For Taijiquan (太极拳; tàijíquán, Grand Ultimate Fist), the rules state, “All…techniques performed in Taijiquan routines must be derived from the Taijiquan technique tables.”  Unlike Changquan and Nanquan (南拳; nánquán, Southern Fist), which are not real styles in and of themselves, Taijiquan is recognized as a style of Chinese martial arts.  Modern Wushu Taijiquan has been heavily criticized by traditionalists, including traditional Taijiquan practitioners themselves, for lacking the other training aspects of traditional Taijiquan aside from Taolu, being trained specifically for performance based on a certain set of rules as with all other modern Wushu Taolu events, only having the external “appearance” of Taijiquan with none of the internal content apparent in traditional Taijiquan, and has even been called “Changquan with slow movements.”  Part of this is due to fact that optional Taolu events, including modern Wushu Taijiquan, have allowed for liberal creativity in choreography of routines, resulting in superficial, often self-created movements.  But whereas modern Wushu Changquan and Nanquan inevitably allow for some degree of creativity in choreography of optional events due to not being real styles, modern Wushu Taijiquan being associated with a specific style, fell into the inevitable risk of deviating from the original style’s principles and movements.  In the words of former Henan Wushu Team member and Taijiquan practitioner Wang Erping from the Kung Fu Magazine article “Cultures of China” by Gigi Oh with Zhao Xiaohu, “‘When Taiji movements deviate from Taiji principals, it is a very dangerous thing.  Gradually, it won’t be Taiji anymore.’”  However, this new regulation should address this shortcoming.

For nandu, there are also added jumps and landings for connection points.  In optional Changquan, there is the tengkongshuangfeijiao (腾空双飞脚; téngkōngshuāngfēijiǎo, jump/flying double front kick).  But most notably for Nanquan, there is now the cekongfan (侧空翻; cèkōngfān, aerial) as a scoreable nandu jump with the jianshi (剪势; jiǎnshì, scissor position) landing for nandu connection points, the xieshi (蝎势; xiēshì, scorpion stance) landing for nandu connection points for dantiaohoukongfan (单挑后空翻; dāntiāohòukōngfān, single step back flip), and finally allowing the mabu landing and nandu connection points for xuanfengjiao (旋风脚; xuànfēngjiǎo, tornado kick) 360° and 540°, where it previously was not scoreable.  These newly recognized nandu jumps and landings open up a lot of options for Nanquan athletes, where there were previously very few, and serve to lighten the burden of the nandu requirement and training of Nanquan athletes.  Whether these new jumps or connections will be used by athletes remains to be seen.

There are also new regulations for (对练; duìliàn, choreographed fight sets) and jiti (集体; jítǐ , group sets) events, similar to the requirements optional Changquan; in the same vein, this allows for a choice of techniques under the different sets of required movements, simultaneously allowing for some variety in performances and more complete representation of overall techniques.  In other news, there is the addition of a “Creative Group Event” in the 15th World Wushu Championships Regulations.  This event is judged on a total of 20 points with three panels of judges; Group A of an “Audience Panel” awarding a maximum of 5 points, Group B of “Celebrity Judges” awarding a maximum of 10 points, and Group C of IWUF Taolu Judges awarding a maximum of 5 points, with virtually no specified regulations for judging, only vague statements of “overall feel”, “‘artistic expressiveness’, ‘choreographic innovation’”, unlike all other Taolu events.  This appears to be the culmination of “Establishing a ‘Creative Artistry Division’ for 2019 Shanghai World Wushu Championships”, as per news of “Key Decisions From The 35th IWuF Executive Board Meeting” released from ( in August of 2018, to “encourage the creative artistic growth of our athletes and coaches reflected in choreographed routines, resulting in more visually spectacular and accessible performances, improving the Championships as a spectator event.  The idea of an “Audience Panel” and “Celebrity Judges” evokes the feel of a talent show.  Also, should the scoring of “Celebrity Judges” outweigh the scoring of actual, qualified IWuF Taolu judges?

In the past decade, the sport of modern Wushu Taolu has seen various changes and additions to its practice and protocols.  However, these new rules are perhaps the biggest set of changes yet, with a major overhaul of requirements of optional Changquan, adding new nandu movements and connections to landings, as well as new divisions to be graded and scored.  The question remains of how well these regulations will be implemented and enforced.  No one really knows what will happen when these rules are implemented in modern Wushu Taolu competitions, and it’s anyone’s guess how the judges will enforce these regulations.


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 former 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