Shuai Jiao is the term referring to the jacket wrestling style of Beijing, Tianjin and Baoding of Hebei Province in the North China. In modern usage, this term is also the general Mandarin Chinese term for any form of wrestling, both inside and outside of China. As a generic name, it may be used to cover various styles of wrestling practised in China in the form of a martial arts system or a sport. The art was introduced to Southern China in the Republican era after 1911.
In modern Chinese Shuai Jiao is always written using the more recent characters, and should be translated as “to throw onto the ground through wrestling with legs”. The term Shuai Jiao was chosen by the Central Guoshu Academy – Zhong Yang Guo Shu Guan of Nanjing in 1928 when competition rules were standardized. The art continues to be taught in the police and military academies of China. Where various forms of wrestling are popular worldwide, this particular form of wrestling is largely unknown outside of Asia.
Chinese wrestling or Shuai Jiao has more than 5000 years of history to its development. The earliest Chinese term for wrestling, Jiao Di – horn butting, refers to an ancient sport in which contestants wore horned headgear with which they attempted to butt their opponents. Legend states that Jiao Di was used in 2697 BC by the Yellow Emperor’s army to gore the soldiers of a rebel army led by Chiyou. In later times, young people would play a similar game, emulating the contests of domestic cattle, without the headgear. Jiao Di has been described as an originating source of wrestling and latter forms of martial arts in China.
Jiao Li was first referenced in the Classic of Rites during the Zhou Dynasty. Jiao Li supplemented throwing techniques with strikes, blocks, joint locks and attacks on pressure points. These exercises were practiced in the winter by soldiers who also practiced archery and studied military strategy.
Jiao Li eventually became a public sport held for court amusement as well as for recruiting the best fighters. Competitors wrestled each other on a raised platform called a Lei Tai for the potential reward of being hired as a bodyguard to the emperor or a martial arts instructor for the Imperial Military. Jiao Li was taught to soldiers in China over many centuries and its popularity among the military guaranteed its influence on later Chinese martial arts through the end of the Qing dynasty.
There are many styles of Shuai Jiao, the most popular styles are Beijing style, Tianjin style, Baoding style, Shanxi style.
Sanda Shui Jiao – San Shou wrestling
The Sanda Shui Jiao’s foundation and basic principles are based on traditional Chinese wrestling and adapted for combat training. San Shou Shuai Jiao techniques and principles are very simple, effective and, most importantly, they are quick. Because of its speed and effectiveness, an opponent often does not have a chance to fight back. Shuai Jiao is an art that does not just rely on muscular strength, skill and agility are key. It always emphasizes avoiding direct impact with an enemy’s power. It also emphasizes getting close to an enemy quickly and using the enemy’s power against himself. Because of its effectiveness, Shuai Jiao has been trained along with all styles of Chinese martial arts for thousands of years.
Although Shuai Jiao shares some similarities with traditional wrestling and other arts, from a technical point of view, Shuai Jiao’s technique construction, basic principles, applications and purposes are quite different from the rest. These differences are Shuai Jiao’s distinctive characteristics.
A general summary of these differences are as follows:
- First, compared to traditional Chinese wrestling, Jujitsu and Judo, San Shou Shuai Jiao emphasizes more speed when throwing. In contrast, traditional wrestling, Jujitsu and Judo emphasize obtaining good grappling position on an opponent’s body or uniform first, and then applying the throw. In this way, it takes more time to throw down an opponent.
- Second, San Shou Shuai Jiao incorporates kicking and punching techniques, always combining hand and leg techniques. However, traditional wrestling, Jujitsu and Judo, especially the sport varieties, do not emphasize these techniques.
- Third, unlike Greco-Roman and free-style wrestling, Jujitsu, and Judo, San Shou Shuai Jiao generally avoids falling to the ground and grappling too long with an opponent. One simple reason is that it is dangerous to tangle with an opponent on the ground in a real fight, especially if you face multiple opponents.
These differences do not imply that one style is superior to another. Fighting is a very complicated subject. There are many factors behind victory. Winning a fight depends on situation, timing, location, skills, strength, and the spirit of the individual. It does not depend on the style itself.
As a martial artist, keep an open mind to accept and absorb the effective elements of other styles. In turn, it will help to bring your skill to a higher level.