Boxing and wrestling are complementary and necessary skills in martial arts.
The three ancient Chinese martial arts, according to historical sources, were wrestling, boxing and archery. Wrestling and boxing, although separate arts, usually were taught together.
Jiao Di was the first Chinese term for wrestling referred to an ancient sport in which the competitors were wearing a helmet with horns as they were fighting. The myth cites that the helmet “Jiao Di” was used at 2697 B.C. from soldiers of the Yellow Emperor against the army of rebels led by Chi You, in order to beat with it and disembowel their opponents.
Jiao Di refers to as the origin of wrestling as well as all the later various styles of martial arts in China.
During Zhou Dynasty, in classical war texts, it is mentioned as Jiao Li Ji, including throwing techniques, beating, avoidance, locking and attacks at pressure points. The soldiers were practicing those techniques during winter together with archery and strategic study.
Jiao Li became a public sport that was used for the amusement of the crowds as well as for the promotion and recruitment of the best fighters. The competitors were fighting in an elevated platform, Lei Tai, and the prize was their possible employment as emperor’s bodyguards or martial arts instructors in the emperor’s army. Women wrestlers were also attended such fights and there are references for some really skilled in wrestling, to the point that Confucianism imposed savoir vivre to prohibit them.
Jiao Li was taught during many centuries to soldiers and its publicity among military guaranteed its influence into posterior Chinese martial arts, until the end of the Qing Dynasty. Towards the end of Ming Dynasty, Chen Yuanbin taught those arts in Japan that were known by the name Ju Jutsu.
The term “Shuai Jiao” was chosen by the Central academy of martial arts, (Guo Shu Guan) in Nanjing in 1928, when the rules of the fights were standardized. Shuai Jiao in our days is popular among the Mongolians of Inner Mongolia, were it is termed “Bohke” and is regularly taking place in competitions during cultural events, but also in America, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and other countries.
In China, that art continues to be taught in police and military academies but also in parks and neighborhoods as well as in many professional clubs. The view that with the prevalence of Mao Tse Tung Wushu was stripped from its fighting techniques was right to an extent. In reality there was more emphasis in cultivation of health through practicing, an issue of equal importance. Wushu became a sport that was taught at schools and universities throughout China. That new sport is truly stripped from the practice in fighting ability and resembles the traditional Wushu only in form. That Wushu was mainly known to the West since it was the only one that whoever visited the ‘closed’ for many years China came in contact. It may come to our country disguised with monk’s uniforms, from temples or holy mountains, but in reality it still remains the program, the aims of practice, the kinesiology and the practicing routines that were develop in China’s universities of sports with basic purpose the athletics and demonstration but not the development of fighting ability.
Traditional Wushu however never stopped existing and developing. It continued to be taught in police and army services that were mainly practicing Shuai Jiao and Sanda. Modern Shuai Jiao has its roots in submission techniques tested in the battle field. Slowly however rules were made and modern athletes don’t use beating in order to avoid injuries.
The greatest advantage of wrestling is that it gives the trainee the opportunity to practice with an opponent who is not cooperative, in conditions that resemble reality. Over time, practicing wrestling is significantly superior for the attainment of durability, power and adjustment to the aggressiveness of the opponent, compared to most boxing forms.
In the style we are practicing in, Beijing style, the techniques have developed in depth, especially during the last 30 years and the teachers support the belief “we throw whatever doesn’t work” and as a result the style has been cleared from controversial fancy techniques, in order to be updated to the current wrestling conditions and its techniques to be simple and efficient. Shuai Jiao can be divided in the following styles.
Beijing style: is the line taken from the Manchu Buku style that emperor’s guards were practicing. Shan Pu Ying (Union of Wrestling Experts).
Tianjing style: is the line from Shuai Jiao of Ming Dynasty mixed with Manchu Buku style.
Baoding style: is the line called Kuai Jiao, quick wrestling.
The three abovementioned styles are called Hebei province styles.
Shanxi style: is the line from Shuai Jiao of the Song dynasty with emphasis in attacking the legs of the opponent.
Mongol style: is the line from Mongolian wrestling.
Xinjiang style: is the line from various Turkish wrestling styles.
Shuai Jiao consists of the use of twists in order to throw the opponent down. In order for the throws to be efficient, someone has to have very good basic kung fu. Basic kung fu comprises:
Hand techniques, since one should have strong and good grapple. Without a good grasp you can’t overthrow the opponent. Equally, you should be able to escape the grip of the opponent.
Leg techniques: since one should be able to move quickly, loosely and have a good footing and strong base. Every overthrow has a specific approach for the correct leg movements. Those movements should be practiced a lot before one can proceed to the overthrows.
Body techniques: related to gaining strength and understanding changes. How the trainee will gain strength from the whole body and how to be quick and agile. Comprehending different kinds of strength is important for one in order to achieve a higher level in this art.
Little circle techniques: are the small and sudden techniques aiming at misleading the opponent to make a mistake. One should be precise and agile.
Big Circle techniques: are the ones that use great strength. We use those techniques only when we have brought the opponent to the suitable position. Since our movement is bigger it is easier for the opponent to take advantage on a possible mistake. Strong grapples, quick and loose movements, good footing, quick reflexes and soft power from the whole body are prerequisites for someone to succeed in Chinese wrestling.
Apart from the basic kung fu however, the trainee should have a good understanding of the principles governing the art of wrestling. Some of the principles in order to succeed an overthrow are:
Confuse the opponent in order to cause his ‘wrong’ reaction.
You have to understand the alternations between Yin and Yang.
Coerce the opponent to move around you.
Secure a good grapple.
Coerce the opponent to move with you.
You have to understand how you can borrow the opponent’s power.
Your vision should be focused in order to take advantage of the slightest mistake of the opponent.
Your sensitivity should be good, so as to be able to feel the changes in strength and direction.
Your movement should be very quick, precise and coordinated.
Your vigor should be sudden, powerful and integrated.
Your base should be agile and stable at the same time.
In Shuai Jiao the knowledge was developed to a high level and every technique has been studied in great depth and as a result many variations exist.
In the beginning time should be devoted in practicing Ji Ben Kong because this method comprises the experience of all the previous generations and it is the only way to develop strength from the whole body.
In other words, their value has been already proved by many people in real fighting.
In Shuai Jiao culture in China, it is common for the wrestlers to practice and learn from different masters. It is also common to create their own variations in techniques in order to better fit in their personality or body type. Historically speaking, famous masters were always developing their own variations.
Someone should walk the road himself in order to find meaning, since there is not one single technique that guarantees success, other than how good is one’s ability to perform the technique.
In Shuai Jiao more than 300 techniques exist with more than 3 variations per each, but in the real wrestling one doesn’t use more than 3-4 techniques, in which he needs to be very good.
However when practicing, one needs to practice as much variations as possible not in order to use them but rather to learn how to defend against them. Practicing defense in Shuai Jiao is of equal importance and for each technique there is another one that inactivates it. In the highest level, Shuai Jiao shares the same principle with Taiji.
Master Liu Zu Guang Biography
Master Liu Zu Guang from Beijing practices martial arts and Chinese wrestling since his childhood. In 1990 he started practicing with the great Shuai Jiao master Li Bao Ru, who introduced him to the essence of Chinese wrestling. During the course as athlete he was champion crowned five times in Beijing and ranked third in the national championship. He was fighting in +100 category, but frequently wrestling with opponents weighted 20-30 kilos more than himself. He is well known for his unmatched ability in grapples and his excellent technique.
The combination of looseness, explosiveness and technique in the way he practices revealed through the years of continuous and careful practice. Liu Zu Guang is the Head of Guang Wu association based in Beijing and its purpose is the promotion of that art worldwide.
In 2007 he started teaching students in the university of Language and Civilization in Beijing. In 2008, Dimitris Doukas with his student George Divanis began practicing with him in Beijing. During practicing master Liu demonstrates great care in detail and is able to offer valuable answers as to how one can improve the way he/she wrestles.
He teaches all aspects of Chinese wrestling, basic technique and power, wrestling with the special wrestling vest and also without it. His students has been excelled both in local and international championships.
As master and trainer Liu believes and tries to communicate to his students all those wrestling qualities that he masters so as to improve their abilities.
The A.C. Kerameikos trainer Doukas Dimitris
…came in contact for the first time with Shuai Jiao art through master Lily Lau that taught him Tzi Ben Kong, basic Shuai Jiao techniques and positions, that she has been taught from her uncle, the famous wrestler Chang Tung Sheng in Taiwan.
Eagle claw style includes many overthrow techniques and this is natural since all Eagle great masters knew or had some contact with Chinese wrestling.
Shifu Doukas begun 2008 in Beijing, training in Shuai Jiao with master Liu Zu Guang. That contact gave him a deeper and more analytic perspective in the existing techniques and triggered a more intense occupation with the art of Shuai Jiao.
In summer 2013 we have opened a series of seminars that will take place in Greece with master Liu whereas in between, groups of trainees will visit the school in Beijing for intensive courses in the art of wrestling. From October 2013 we have opened a new specially designed place, where practicing Shuai Jiao and Sanda is taking place daily.
The same year we established the Panhellenic Shuai Jiao union under the purpose of forwarding that art in Greece.
Dimitris Doukas is the president of the union and representative of Guang Wu association in Greece.