The Story of USA Wushu Kung Fu Federation (USAWKF)
History of Wushu in America
The. U.S. has enjoyed a rich and more unique history of kungfu for more than a century. The California Gold Rush brought Chinese miners, laborers and merchants to the "Gold Mountain" in the 1850s and 60s, and along with it the early roots of Chinese martial arts which were kept secret within the Chinese community. The influx of Chinese to Hawaii in the 1870s and 80s also brought a martial arts culture which blossomed and continued to grow into the 1920s, but it was not until the 1960s that kungfu was slowly opened up to the non-Chinese community. By the 1970s its popularity exploded as Bruce Lee (who was born in San Francisco) became a national hero and international star, and kungfu became firmly ensconced in American culture.
By the 1990's the U.S. had witnessed not only a significant development of Chinese martial arts on its native soil, but it was also experiencing a continuous revitalization of martial arts talent arriving from overseas. A complex mixture of politics, economics and family ties brought masters and students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China and Southeast Asia. Along with traditional stylists came some of China’s best wushu competitors and coaches. The richness of Chinese martial arts here was immense by 1992, but the diversity itself - both stylistic and cultural - was one obstacle to organization.
However, by 1993 it was time – and during that eventful year the United States Wushu Kungfu Federation (USAWKF) was born. Twenty years, 11 world championships, and one still-burning Olympic dream later we celebrate the many accomplishments of this remarkable group of wushu leaders and athletes who are driving the sport forward into the 21stcentury.
Organizing the Sport of Wushu in the U.S.A.
The compelling story of USAWKF reflects the dramatic ways in which we have grown and connected through our sport around the world. After centuries of wushu history, China initiated the creation of the international wushu federation in 1990 – the International Wushu Federation (IWUF.) From that moment, wushu would be developed globally as an international sport with federation memberships and worldwide events. Finally, national organization was essential if the United States was to compete in these wushu-kungfu events on an international level and have an official presence. The establishment of an infrastructure to manage a previously unorganized sport is dispensable. With this agenda, discussions among America’s martial arts leaders at a tournament in San Francisco in 1992 led to the election of a preparatory committee with a nine member executive committee. The dream was born – but the struggle to make it live would be a tough one.
This was the first step towards unifying the Chinese martial arts community in America. The members of the committee networked, corresponded with and talked to martial artists from all over the country to ask for their suggestions about how this proposed national organization should be formed and how it should operate. Following this process, meetings were held in Baltimore, Maryland and Orlando, Florida and San Francisco with the executive committee to synthesize this information.
Discussions surrounding the new organization were not without controversy – even conflict -- that drove some prominent traditional masters away for good to create a rival organization that was hostile to China’s newly developed sport of contemporary wushu. Talks stalled. This both angered and saddened many in the community who tried to bring everyone together, but politics – even wushu politics – can be a slippery slope. However, a core group of martial arts leaders persevered and the meeting resumed. Most felt the vision had to be seen to completion.
As meetings continued, the group discussed bylaws, national and regional structures, membership, national competition ratings, fundraising, publications, national team selection, certification of judges and officials and other topics. A national advisory council was also nominated. After some stormy controversy the skies finally cleared, and though some clouds remained the prize was ready.
The United States of America Wushu Kungfu Federation was brought formally into being during celebrations held in Baltimore on August 21, 1993. During the ceremonies the USAWKF's first officers and Executive Committee assumed their duties and responsibilities. It was a new dawn, and a new era for wushu/kungfu in America. Within 20 years the USA would go from organizing an unorganized sport, to becoming one of the world’s strongest proponents of supporting wushu ultimate goal for the inclusion into the future Olympics.
From its inception, the USAWKF has been dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and promotion of traditional and contemporary wushu-kungfu in the United States. By coordinating wushu-kungfu competitions and activities, and acting as a governing body for the sport in this country, the Federation seeks not only to make national progress in organizing wushu-kungfu but also to represent the U.S. and develop the sport on an international level.
America Takes the World (Wushu) Stage
The 1995 World Wushu Championships stands as a testament to the dedication of the USAWKF to developing wushu in the West. Two years after its formation, the USAWKF organized and hosted the Third World Championship in Baltimore, Maryland. With nearly 800 athletes and officials from 54 countries, this was the first time the Championship was held outside of Asia, and it was the largest ever. The USAWKF was proud to offer hospitality and friendship to the many athletes from around the world.
USAWKF to the World
The USAWKF has since brought its U.S. Team to every World Wushu Championships since its inception -- Malaysia (1993), USA (1995) Rome (1997), Hong Kong (1999), Yerevan (2001), Macau (2003), Hanoi (2005), Beijing (2007), Toronto (2009), Ankara (2011), and Kuala Lumpur (2013).