For the Hellenic Wushu Kung Fu Federation and its members, Parawushu is a fact, since it has been present in every National Championship since 2016. With this presentation, Parawushu Greece shows the way and the conditions under which an athlete may participate in it. We categorize, as much as possible, the athletes’ kinetic and mental disabilities with the aim to enable a fair competition classification. This is necessary as each disability’s kinetic profile has its own functionality and different abilities. For example, it is easily understood that someone in a wheelchair competes and is judged in a different way than someone who competes using an artificial part and is standing or someone with, what we call a, “hidden” disability.
Who can participate in the general Parawushu category of inclusive championships?
- Athletes with kinetic disabilities.
- Athletes with neuro-developmental disorders (autism spectrum disorder, high or low functioning autism, with, especially for children, an attendant called “wushu buddy”), mental disabilities.
- Athletes with sensory disorders (visual and hearing impairment).
- Athletes diagnosed with: Cancer, Diabetes, Juvenile Parkinson’s, etc.
Kinetic Disabilities Classification
Athletes with the following disabilities can compete in the Parawushu categories: Paraplegia (loss of movement and/or loss of feeling in the lower body and good use of the upper body and arms), quadriplegia ((loss of movement and/or loss of feeling in the lower body but medium to bad use of the upper body and arms), hemiplegia (all of which as a result of a spinal cord injury or other cause), upper or lower extremity paralysis, upper or lower extremity/-ies mutilation, as well as non-able bodied athletes with a kinetic profile matching the above (for example poliomyelitis). Athletes who, no matter if they are able-bodied, present ankylosis, lack of balance and instability as a kinetic result, who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis / autoimmune disease / congenital disease / cancer, etc. Also included are athletes with dwarfism, visual and hearing impairment.
Athletes with paraplegia/quadriplegia compete in a wheelchair (everyday/sports wheelchair), while athletes with upper and lower extremity/-ies paralysis and mutilation(s) can compete (if necessary) standing. Athletes compete standing if able to present their taolu in a standing position with or without an attendant. If that is impossible (for example, mutilation of both lower extremities) then the athletes use a wheelchair.
All the above-mentioned athletes can compete in the following taolu events:
- Traditional quanshu, all styles
- Traditional long weapons
- Traditional short weapons
- Traditional other weapons
- Traditional duilian with the participation or not of an able-bodied athlete
- Traditional internal styles (xingyi, bagua, taiji) quanshu and qixie)
- Modern wushu quanshu and qixie
General Judgement and Scoring Rules
Scoring criteria for Parawushu athletes with kinetic disabilities are the same as for the rest of the athletes. Here too the judge must be able to ascertain the balance, strength, look, spirit, flow, clean techniques, engagement or not of the whole body in the movement, hesitation and/or wavering, forgetting as well as other technical mistakes, the general quality of movement, the specific demands of each style, the correct relationship with each weapon if they are judging an armed taolu, etc.
Whether the athlete is in a wheelchair or has a mutilation, he/she can demonstrate balance or not, no matter the difficulty this may present, since a disability may lead to a certain imbalance. This means the athlete must not fall off the wheelchair, keep his/her hands constantly on his/her lap, take more steps than his/her disability allows if standing, sway uncontrollably and needlessly without trying for the opposite. Especially when at a taolu stop, the athlete is asked to be as steady and balanced as possible.
All movements and techniques must be demonstrated with strength, coming through the whole of the body, the strength must pass through the body’s “gates” – joints, with the pelvis loosely in control of the movement, shoulders down, not stiff and with the relative fluctuations depending on the style demonstrated. All these details are demonstrated in the measure that is possible and in balance with the disability (for example, if the left arm is missing, the athlete’s left side must be actively engaged, not be inactive and stiff).
3) Eyes / look
During the demonstration, the athlete looks where he/she strikes or defends, even the athletes with eye impairment must direct their faces towards the opponent. Let us not forget that taolu is shadowboxing after all.
By that we mean fighting spirit and mind concentration. The spectator-judge must feel like there truly is a fight going on in front of him/her, and it is in this context that we highlight that taolu is shadowboxing, thus we should be able to see defense and offence techniques bound together in harmony.
Therefore, there must be flow in these techniques whether the content be rich or complicated or the techniques are clean, basic punches and kicks. During the demonstration, it must be clear, as far as kinesiology goes, where a technique starts and ends and that is the foundation and definition of flow.
6) Clean techniques
The techniques must be clean, that means that one may understand when the athlete hits, kicks, blocks or deflects, locks his/her opponent, changes direction. A Taolu is like a bibliography of techniques and, especially in traditional wushu, it is the way one must follow in order to reach the wealth of their deciphering.
There must be no hesitation or wavering as they drastically lower the results (flow, strength, stability, etc.). The judges should apply the same score deductions as with the able-bodied athletes.
8) Quality of Movement
This is a point where one should pay attention. A result cannot be judged by the plain accumulation of mistakes and penalties. The judge should be able to globally see the quality of movement in a demonstration. It is very often true that athletes who sway or step out of the carpet or waver should win a competition. This happens because their spirit, flow and strength along with their harmony and confidence build a result that is rich in total. Judges should pay attention to athletes who, regardless of their kinetic profile and lack of harmony, overcome the difficulties and end up presenting a stronger, even result as compared to other athletes who may, at first, look more stable outside of the carpet.
9) Specific Demands of Each Style
The same is true here. For example, in the eagle style we expect, among others, to see something strong, light with grips and some locks, the same in shaolin but with faster stepping, in the southern styles the grips are different, and we also expect certain shouting, in the internal styles slow and harmonious movements and the empty-full principle, etc.
10) Armed Taolu
The same go here as for the able-bodied athletes, so the weapon must be the harmonious and, at the same time, dynamic extension of our body. We must be able to see the strength at the tip of the weapon; the weapon must not touch or hit the athlete’s body or the wheelchair, unless it is so in the technique, etc.
A1. Neurodevelopmental Disorders Category
ADHD = attention deficit – hyperactivity disorder. ADHD’s more characteristic symptoms are inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Often, ADHD occurs with other disorders, like: ASD, chronic anxiety disorders, depression, antisocial and conduct disorder.
PDD = Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Autism spectrum, Asperger’s Syndrome, Tourrette’s Syndrome. The disorders included in the Autism spectrum are characterized by severe deficits in many areas of development:
a. In the verbal or non-verbal communication, b. in social interaction, understanding of social relations, c. the imagination and thinking growth, accompanied by obsessive, ritual occupation with objects or situations, repetitive behaviors, reaction to change, etc. In Asperger syndrome, the individuals live in a sentimental bubble, go through prolonged periods of self-centeredness and literally interpret without metaphor processing. Tourrette’s syndrome is a hereditary neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood and is characterized by multiple motor and at least one vocal tic. An athlete with non-functional autism will always compete with his co-athlete attendant (wushu buddy) *.
OCD = Obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is characterized by obsessions or compulsions, or/and both, psychopathological expressions that generate distress to the person and take up an important part of his/her professional, social and sentimental life.
Age group 8-11 years old
Athletes in training as well as during competition have difficulties in maintaining their attention, thus arise problems and mistakes during the presentation of their taolu in the following parameters:
- look (gaze around),
- balance (difficulty in maintaining balance in movements from bottom up and vice versa, added support with hands or extra steps),
- coordination (difficulty in maintaining a steady muscle tone, especially in the low stances transitioning),
- grimaces (smile, grumble, tantrum, etc.),
- excessive anxiety (gritting teeth, restless torso and/or extremity/-es).
Age group 12-15 years old
The picture here is quite different, especially when we have in front of us an athlete who has already been training in a club for over three years, is properly supported by specialists and his/her family. We certainly pay attention to the parameters mentioned in the above age group.
A2. Common factors that affect the athletes’ quality of movement
- Reduced muscle level.
- Low cardio level.
- Neuromuscular coordination (motor control) problems.
- Self-image and body perception problems.
- Imperfect motor patterns (walking, running, bouncing, gripping, kicking, throwing).
- Lack of coordination (eye-arm, eye-leg).
- Limited balance ability.
- Flatfeet, due to hyperextension of the joints (Down Syndrome).
- Strength asymmetry, with the left side, usually, being stronger that the right one (Down Syndrome).
- Left-handedness at a higher rate of people with DS as compared to other people with ID without DS.
- Advantage in activities demanding flexibility and rhythm (Down Syndrome).
B. Sensory Disabilities Category
Β1. Athletes with partial or total vision loss (amblyopia-Blindness)
Athletes with vision impairment who participate in inclusion programs in typical groups, are divided into athletes with total vision loss and athletes with partial, but important, vision loss that is not considerably improved with the use of corrective lenses (myopia glasses, etc.). Depending on the condition, athletes with vision impairment can have different characteristic symptoms, varying from a simple incapacity to see objects up to not being able to calculate distance and spatial depth, inability to perceive color, etc. In any case, athletes with vision impairment can have different learning characteristics and educational needs and thus should be treated as different personalities.
About 80% of the people with vision impairment can distinguish light or some objects and shadows to some degree.
Regarding the athletes included in this category, we observe that their eyes do not always follow the strikes or blocks, and that is because they do not use their vision but their hearing; they turn their ears where their eyes should be looking. For the same reason, they may turn their heads more than usual. It is possible in some movements to be slower and interrupt their flow in order to make steadier steps and not lose their balance.
Β2. Athletes with partial or total hearing loss (Deafness)
Hearing-impaired is an athlete with limited sense of hearing who, with the right education, can articulate speech.
Deaf is an athlete with no sense of hearing who cannot attend to his/her communication needs with sound stimuli. Depending on whether his/her hearing loss is congenital or at the pre-linguistic years of his/her life (deaf-mute) or acquired at the postlinguistic years of his/her life (postlinguistic deaf), this athlete may be able to articulate speech and can speak (postlinguistic deaf) or may not be able to use speech and articulation for communication and need to communicate using the sign language (deaf-mute).
The motor behavior of these athletes is, basically, not very different than that of the hearing athletes, unless accompanied by other disorders. What is definitely different and must be paid attention to, is the way they train.
According to the above-mentioned symptoms of athletes with Neurobiological Disorders, Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome and Sensory Disorders, we take under consideration the following characteristics during the taolu demonstration:
so that the athlete who makes the fewer mistakes can be judged correctly and stand out in the Parawushu categories.
Here follows a summary of the most important characteristics that must not come as a surprise when judging Parawushu athletes:
Balance – Imbalances
The athletes have severe problems in their motor development, and it is only logical that they lose their balance more easily. Lower-level athletes will be more susceptible to support themselves with their hands or knees and/or stumble.
Look – Expressions – Grimaces
Athletes often look down, stick out their tongue, stare at different points or have a glassy look. That does not mean that they are not trying or do not care, they just concentrate in a different manner.
Increased anxiety, tremor, obsessive (compulsive) movements or rituals
The athlete may want, for example, walk around the carpet lines or enter the carpet to check it or come close to the judges’ table and have a look at it. An athlete may need some more time to familiarize him/herself with the space. He/She may have tremors due to increased anxiety. A percentage of the athletes may feel bad performing in front of a crowd. Another percentage may not pay attention to the crowd around them.
Interruptions / Stops
Interruptions during the taolu may be longer as athletes need more time to concentrate or remember the sequence of movements they must perform. They should have at least 5 to 7 seconds per stop allowed.
Uncontrollable Head – Extremities Movements – Stimming
In some disorders such as Asperger or ASD the uncontrollable head and/or extremities movements are usual. So, it is possible that during a taolu some athletes may bang their head and/or flap their extremity/-ies in a way that does not fit or even repeat these movements from time to time.
Familiar Person and Carpet
Some athletes have the need to see someone familiar near the carpet during competition, like their coach or parent, to feel safe (ASD – Asperger). There may also be need for the coach to enter the carpet to place them in the right spot or familiarize them with the space (in some categories the organizers should take under consideration that some athletes require more time than that estimated as usual).
Repeating Sounds / Words
Many athletes may repeat certain sounds/whistles and/or words during the taolu.
Flow – Stiff Movement
Athletes with Asperger syndrome may separate the taolu movements (thus making them look stiff or even more robot like) because that makes it easier for them to remember the sequence.
Strength – Speed
Athletes with Down Syndrome, due to their low muscle tone, have reduced muscle movement. Their strength and speed get better as the athletes spend more and more time training.
To conclude, the judges should keep the protocol and do their job as best they can, whether there are typical or non-typical athletes competing in front of them.
They should also find a balance between being strict and lenient as they will have to judge athletes with disabilities and that may cause them a feeling of sympathy or awkwardness. By being professionals, they will be objective and close to their sensitivities, as Parawushu athletes come to the carpet to compete after spending long hours training their wushu and need to be judged and given a score, just like anyone else, to be able to get better and develop in the sport they love.
Parawushu Greece Department
- Konstantinos Moukas: Head of the Parawushu Greece department (mobility disabilities)
- Konstantinos Athanasiou: Co-head of Parawushu Greece (sensory and neurodevelopmental disabilities).