Sanda or Sanshou is a Chinese self-defense system and combat sport. Sanshou is a martial art which was originally developed by the Chinese military based upon the study and practices of traditional Kung fu and modern combat fighting techniques; it combines full-contact kickboxing, which include close range and rapid successive punches and kicks, with wrestling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, kick catches, and in some competitions, even elbow and knee strikes.
Not seen as a style itself, rather it is considered as just one of the two components of Chinese martial arts training and is often taught alongside with taolu (forms) training. However, as part of the development of Kung Fu the Chinese government, a standard curriculum for sanshou was developed. It is to this standard curriculum that the term “Sanshou” is usually applied.
This curriculum was developed with reference to traditional Chinese Kung Fu. This general Sanshou curriculum varies in its different forms, as the Chinese government developed a version for civilians for self-defense and as a sport.
The generalised modern curriculum practiced in modern Kung Fu schools are composed of different traditional Kung Fu fighting styles from China, but mainly based on scientific efficiency. Sanshou is composed of Chinese Kung Fu applications including most aspects of combat including striking and grappling, however when Sanshou was developed as a sport, restrictions were made for safety reasons as well as to promote it as a non-violent sport. Examples of such restrictions included no blows delivered to the back of the head, throat, spine or groin and the discontinuation of the combat when any of the fighters fall to the ground. However many schools, whether traditional or modern, practice it as an all round martial arts system with no restrictions, only adapting their training in relation to competition rules prior to the event.
Sanshou’s competitive history involved barehanded or allowing fights in which no rules existed. However, even sanshou as a competitive event developed in the military as these bouts were commonly held between the soldiers to test and practice barehanded martial skills, ability and techniques. Rules were developed and the use of protective gloves etc. was adopted.
One can see Sanshou as a synthesis of traditional Chinese fighting techniques into a more amorphous system and is commonly taught alongside traditional Chinese styles which Sanshou techniques, theory and training methods are derived from. The emphasis of Sanshou is on realistic fighting ability.