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Kung Fu Wrestling: Shuai Jiao (摔跤)

by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, April 5, 2010

Shuai Jiao is a Chinese fighting style with over 4,000 years of history. It specializes in countering against punching and kicking, using defense as the offense. Shuai Jiao is commonly used for short range fighting and throwing down an opponent. It is important to focus on practical shuai jiao defense techniques, with an emphasis on how to safely intercept, repel, and neutralize incoming strikes. These wrestling techniques are an excellent compliment to sparring skills, and can be easily incorporated into all fighting styles.

The word "shuai" means to "throw on the ground", and "jiao" means to "wrestle or trip with the legs."

The terminology "shuai jiao" was not used originally in ancient times. During the Qin Dynasty, between 255-206 B.C., shuai jiao was called "jiao di" and it was mixed with techniques which entangle the opponent. Jiao di was like two deer entangling their antlers with one another. You still see this in certain styles, especially Mongolian shuai jiao. You still see this entangling in judo and in sumo wrestling. Legend says that as far back as 2697 BC, soldiers wore horned headgear which they used to gore their opponents.

This art eventually evolved into "Jiao Li", a grappling martial art using shuai jiao throwing techniques, in conjunction with strikes, joint locks, and pressure point attacks (chin na). It is considered among the oldest martial styles, developed between the 12th and 3rd centuries B.C.

In the Han Dynasty, wrestling was called "pu", which means "falling down." The whole purpose was to take down the enemy. During the Han Dynasty, it was a popular competition to perform for the emperor. Even two thousand years ago, shuai jiao was common because it was an essential skill needed in battle.

In the Ming Dynasty it was commonly called "die", which also means "falling down." Different dynasties used different names. There are many Chinese words which mean the same thing.

During the Qing Dynasty, which began in 1644, Chen, Yuan-Yun travelled to Japan and passed down Chinese wrestling techniques to the Japanese. The Qing rulers invaded China from Manchuria in the North, and ruled China until 1912. This is when Mongolian shuai jiao became prevalent throughout China, and mixed with older techniques. The common terminology at that time was shuai jiao, chosen by the Central Guoshu Institute, when competition rules were standardized. This terminology is used today, and is often abbreviated to just shuai.

Shuai Jiao is one of the four main fighting categories of traditional Chinese martial arts: Kicking (Ti, 踢), Striking (Da, 打), Chin Na (Na, 拿), and Wrestling (Shuai, 摔). Almost every Chinese martial style has shuai jiao techniques inside. In order to teach the shuai techniques within a specific style, such as in the case of taijiquan, they would be referred to as Taiji Shuai Jiao. This name sounds like the creation of a new hybrid style, but in fact, it is just a way of pointing the student toward a specific aspect of a complete taijiquan curriculum. Many of the Tai Chi movements in all styles have shuai jiao applications, such as Diagonal Flying or White Crane Waves Its Wings.

Shuai techniques can be incorporated into all martial styles, and they are enjoying an increase in popularity as it pertains to street fighting and barehand combat, both popular subjects in recent years in the mixed martial arts (MMA) environment. The techniques are practical, fast, and effective, which has led to their wide use by police and military worldwide. Shuai Jiao are the culmination of time-tested wrestling techniques, based on real-life fighting experience.

Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, is a renowned author and teacher of Chinese martial arts and Qigong. Born in Taiwan, he has trained and taught Taijiquan, Qigong and Chinese martial arts for over forty-five years. He is the author of over thirty books, and was elected by Inside Kung Fu magazine as one of the 10 people who has "made the greatest impact on martial arts in the past 100 years." Dr. Yang lives in Northern California.


can you teach me how to learn kung fu restling ?
b-fordz – March 4, 2011, 6:19 am

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