I am new to martial arts. I started taking Wushu about a month ago. My long term goal is to compete in the U.S. Open World Martial Arts Wushu competition. Is it possible for me to get to that level in one years’ time? If so, what amount of training needs to be done? Also, I’m currently 29 years old and in good shape, am I starting too late? In general I still feel pretty athletic, but will that limit my capabilities in a professional competition?
You're asking the wrong question.
You should be asking if there's strong enough competition out there for you to begin taking it seriously, not whether you're good enough. Let me explain.
I introduced my then girlfriend, who was 23 at the time, to contemporary wushu. She did that along with adult gymnastics probably until about age 30. I watched her compete. I watched her older friends compete as well. And I'll talk about that in a bit.
She took it seriously. But she realized there was only so much time she could devote to it, since she had a career job during the day. And so she decided early on that when she trained, everything had to be done correctly. It fit with her personality. She didn't like being told to "play" with anything. She wanted to be shown the right way to do it, and every attempt she made, she tried to get closer and closer to the right way.
She made sure to seek out the best teachers she could find and not stick with just the one she found locally. Her local teacher was good, but his focus wasn't on contemporary wushu. When she was at his school, she rejected repeated attempts by him to steer her towards traditional wushu. This was actually quite rude of her, because she actually refused to join in and do the exercises that all the other students were doing, because they weren't going to help her learn contemporary wushu. I'm sure all the other students thought she had a bad attitude. But her teacher tolerated it, because she was very honest and direct from the beginning about what she wanted to learn. Still, I know for a fact that he was irritated by it at times.
She would go away for a weekend every month to train with a more contemporary wushu oriented instructor in a city 150 miles away. Then she'd go away for a week every 4 months or so to study with an elite level contemporary wushu instructor 500 miles away. She would frequently meet up with other competitors (not teachers) who were at a higher level than she was, and she'd ask them to teach her stuff (often for a fee or for dinner or something).
So for her, she never lost sight of her main goal, which was to get better at contemporary wushu. She wasn't loyal to a particular instructor, school, or style. She was in it for herself and had her own goals. If something wasn't helping her achieve those goals, she wouldn't do it.
She started adult gymnastics not too long after starting contemporary Wushu. She realized that some of the more acrobatic things in wushu were better learned from gymnastics coaches than from wushu people, or at least the local wushu teacher she had. Gymnastics teaches everything with very detailed focus on correct form. Martial arts teaches it often the wrong way, often with bad form. And gymnastics schools have better equipment and safer ways of practicing, with spotters, soft foam pits, and so on.
Keep in mind the local wushu teacher she had only did it a couple times a week, and his time was shared with traditional kung-fu. His school was run out of a middle school gymnasium, so the facilities weren't there for safely learning acrobatic kinds of things like the aerial, the back hand-spring, the back flip, the butterfly twist, etc. For those things, she rightly concluded that she needed to go to an actual gymnastics school.
Many of the gymnastics schools don't really have a decent adult gymnastics program. If you do manage to find one, they often only have a few adults in it. Good for you, because it means more one-on-one time with the coach. But it's also bad, because there might be days with just one student. When that happens often, the coach may decide to just shut it down due to lack of interest.
So what she often did was to do private lessons with gymnastics coaches once a week. And then she would also go to "open gym" for an hour or so every weekend. Open gym is for anyone for just $5 or $10 per hour typically, and it gives you access to all the equipment and the floor. It usually has enough skilled people to spot you as well. She made heavy use of the foam pits in particular, probably for the b-twist, aerials, and back flips. And she used a lot of the foam blocks to help her with her back hand-spring.
Now, as for actual Wushu competition, she went to various tournaments, but because of her age, there were usually just one or two others besides herself in her division. There were competitions which only had her and nobody else in the division. She won by default in those cases.
It was a bit of a let-down for her. She trained so hard and took it so seriously, but there just weren't many women her age competing.
She decided to do some national level competitions as well, thinking they would attract a larger number of competitors her age. And once again, the number of women competing in this age group was kind of pathetic. Once again, it was a let down. For example, one time it was just her and one other competitor.
But I don't know that she went to any of the really big tournaments. I forget.
Another thing I noticed was that in these competitions, because of the small number of women competing in this age group, they often just lumped together all the styles into one division. With the teen divisions, there's enough people to have just the northern styles or just the southern styles competing against each other, for example. In the biggest tournaments, they break each division down even further. That makes it more fair, because judges tend to be either from a northern style or a southern style. But in a mixed division with northern and southern competitors, the judges can often be biased towards a particular style. When you win in divisions that are mixed, you often wonder if you won on merit or just because the judges understood what you were doing more than the other people with other styles.
Of course, her experience is for someone who's not in a big city. She was in Austin, Texas. If you're in, say, Los Angeles or New York City, you'll probably be able to find more competition. You never know. I'm just telling you about one person. It would be good for you to connect with a large community of people online who compete in wushu as adults your age, if such a forum exists. See what they have to say.
Ultimately, though, the number of competitors doesn't really matter. If you have just one person you know that's better than you, that might be enough to motivate you to push your own limits. Or maybe just the "idea" that you might have to compete against someone who's much better, that might be what really motivates you. Or maybe you're not super interested in competition anyway. You might be the type that can be satisfied with seeing yourself on video and comparing it with others who are top competitors. When you get close to their level of performance, maybe that's enough.
So now getting back to your original question. You're worried you won't be good enough to compete. That's the wrong way to look at it. You should be worried there won't be good enough competition for you.
I recommend going to the tournament and preparing as seriously as you can for it. Then after you've competed, reassess. Ask yourself then if you need to work harder, or if you need to seek out better competition.
Hope that helps.
Let me first caveat this answer with the fact I have not been involved in wushu competition for a long time.
Assuming you are entering a forms event and not a fighting one, you can compete if you pay the entry fee and are willing to put your pride on the line. Lack of preparation is not going to result in a fighting injury. You can compete with whatever preparation you have. Wushu competitions usually include experience levels as well; you will be judged against other competitors in your experience level.
Regarding age: 29 is probably too old to compete at an international level unless you were a gymnast in your younger years. Don't let this stop you from learning and enjoying the experience.