Wushu is a modern derivation of traditional Chinese martial arts such as kung-fu. It was first created as a sport by the government of the People's Republic of China in 1949 as a way to nationalize the traditional Chinese arts within a modern population.
Like kung-fu, wushu is comprised of two disciplines: Taolu (forms), and Sanda (sparring). The Taolu can be performed either barehanded or with weapons such as the single-edged sword, double-edged sword, staff, or spear. In Taolu, the emphasis tends to lean more toward fluid movements and acrobatics. in Sanda, those same aspects are combined with the grappling techniques that are often seen in such combat forms as Shuai Chiao and Qin Na (Chinese wrestling arts) and kickboxing styles reminiscent of Muay Thai.
Wushu is practiced at competitions around the world, and in 2008 the Chinese government petitioned for its inclusion within the Olympic Games in Beijing. Although the petition was denied, the Olympic Committee agreed to hold a separate international wushu event during the games. It was referred to as the 2008 Olympic Games Wushu Tournament.
More than its inclusion within the Beijing Olympic events, wushu has benefited from the fame of some of its practitioners. Arguably the most famous practitioner of wushu is five-time National Wushu Champion of China, Jet Li. Originally a member of the Beijing Wushu Team, Jet Li has showcased his talents in many films, including "The one" and "Shaolin Temple". Another famous wushu practitioner is Ray Park, best known for his performances as Darth Maul in "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" and as Snake Eyes in "G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra".
In spite of criticism from traditionalists for its tendency toward acrobatics and showmanship over function and technique, wushu continues to draw enthusiasts and practitioners worldwide.