Shuai Jiao (The Chinese Art of Wrestling)
Shuai Jiao, commonly referred to as "Chinese Wrestling" is considered the oldest of all Chinese martial arts. Its origins date back more than 4000 years.
A form of wrestling known as "Jiao Di," literally translated as "Butting Horns," was practiced during the Zhou Dynasty (1122-256 BC). At this early stage of development, Jiao Di contestants donned horned helmets and attempted to butt each other while employing rudimentary grappling techniques.
From these crude early beginnings, the horned headgear was discarded and techniques continued to evolve into a new style called "Jiao Li," which translates as "Strength Skill" (probably intended to describe a test of one’s strength). Jiao Li is mentioned in writing in the ancient classical text, The Book of Rites.
It was during this period that Jiao Li became a required part of military training along with archery, chariot riding and other military skills. As the style continued to evolve, certain strikes and joint-locking techniques were incorporated in its repertoire of skills.
During the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), Jiao Li gained widespread popularity and large contests were held to entertain the Imperial Court and to choose the best wrestlers, who were then lavishly rewarded for their skills. It has been recorded that some contests had well over a thousand participants who wrestled for several days, and at times up to a week, (a feat that is yet to be matched in modern times). The best wrestlers would often be assigned teaching posts for the Imperial family, be hired as bodyguards or gain advancement of rank in the military.
There is no way to determine when the modern term "Shuai Jiao" came into use. We do know, however, that the term gained widespread acceptance after it was adopted by the Nanjing Central National Arts Academy (Zhong Yang Guo Shu Guan) as the official term for Chinese Wrestling.
The original translation for Shuai Jiao was "Throwing Horns." This term has ancient roots and is believed to have originated by watching two opponents grapple close in; it was said that the fighters resembled two wild animals locking horns. Today, a new Chinese character has been adopted for Shuai which represents "Leg Tripping" or "Leg Wrestling" and is perhaps more descriptive of the art.
It is thought that Shuai Jiao is the predecessor of Japanese Ju-Jitsu and Judo. Although the art consists primarily of throwing techniques, it also teaches kicking, striking, grabbing, and joint locking. Shuai Jiao is a practical and realistic fighting art, since the practice match is essentially the same as actual combat. Training in Shuai Jiao makes one better prepared for a street confrontation.
Shuai Jiao relies on highly developed sensitivity, the redirecting of an incoming force, and unbalancing tactics to apply throwing techniques. Since it does not rely on brute force, this is an excellent method for both men and women, and is especially fun for children to practice.
At our school I teach the Baoding Style of Shuai Jiao, which is known for its touch-and-go techniques. Because of this characteristic of quickly throwing the opponent on contact, it is sometimes called Kwuai Jiao, meaning "fast wrestling."
Shuai Jiao training is offered once a week and is intended to teach my students proper break-falling skills as well as familiarize them with close-in grappling and throwing techniques.
Note: Shuai Jiao differs from Japanese Ju-Jitsu and Judo as it does not employ any ground work. All throwing, sweeping and tripping techniques are executed while standing upright.