Bermuda’s qualifying process for events such as the Pan American Wushu Championships and the World Wushu Championships is slightly different from the larger countries.
Garon Wilkinson said, “Athletes who compete internationally for Bermuda San Shou Association have either been recruited by our coaches and other athletes or we are sought out by the athlete him/herself. In most cases the athlete has had some sort of experience competing or training in other combat arts however there are very rare cases where a very talented athlete shows up who is just a natural fighter. At the moment we do not have a National Wushu Championship to determine who qualifies to represent Bermuda at major championships. We have a number of athletes or students who train to stay fit and to learn the art of San Shou while others enter the program knowing that they want to compete. It is important for us to be able to differentiate between these 2 types of athletes as the training curriculum will vary based on when fights our scheduled”.
“The first thing that the coaches and fighter must ascertain is the weight category they will compete in. In international competition, each country is only allowed one fighter per weight category so it is important for us not to have 2 good fighters at the same weight. In total, there are 11 weight categories for men. The weight categories are <48kg (105.6lbs), <52kg (114.4lbs), <56kg (123.2lbs), <60kg (132.2 lbs), and then every 5 kgs (11lbs) up until 90kg. Anyone over 90kg falls into the open category. There are 8 weight categories for women that are pretty much identical to the men’s except that they go up until 75kg. Any female fighter over 75kg will compete in the open category. Based on this many athletes right away may have to adjust their diet to lose or gain weight, increase their cardio to lose weight or increase their weight training to gain weight. As the fight or tournament approaches, in some cases athletes may have to exchange weight categories based on their body’s reaction to the training. For some athletes, the intense training consisting of cardio, strength, technical, and sparring is a real shock to their system and they end up losing weight very rapidly. This is very common amongst athletes who have been out of action for a while and then decide to get serious about their training”, continued Wilkinson.
Wilkinson went on to say, “A number of things are taken into consideration when selecting the final team. Firstly, the athlete’s dedication to training is considered. There have been cases where a fighter has not been allowed to compete, even locally because of a lack of dedication to the training program and their own development. Next, we ascertain whether the athlete has reached the minimum fitness level and whether or not they have improved since they started the program. Showing no improvement usually indicates that the athlete has not been serious with their training. Based on the sparring sessions the coaching staff determines whether or not it is safe for the athlete to fight or not. This is imperative as this is a full contact sport and unprepared athletes can get seriously injured. Lastly, the athlete must take part in the 8-10 week training camp leading up to the championship”.
“For this year’s Pan American Championships we intend to have participation in taolu (forms) for the first time. There are 11 different forms divisions including Long Fist (open hand, straight sword, broadsword, staff, spear), Southern Fist (open hand, broadsword, staff), Taiji (open hand, straight sword), and 2 or 3 person fighting sets. Bermuda will likely field an athlete or athletes in a Long Fist division as it is in the long fist style that most of our eligible athletes have their traditional wushu (kung fu) training”, concluded Wilkinson.