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History Of Chinese Wrestling


Shuai Chiao (Chinese Wrestling) is the most ancient of all Chinese martial arts with a history of over 4,000 years. Its first recorded use, in a military engagement, was when the Yellow Emperor of China fought against the rebel Chih Yiu and his army, 2,697BC. They used horned helmets and gored their opponents while using a primitive form of grappling. This early style of recorded combat was first called Chiao Ti (butting with horns). Throughout the centuries, the hands and arms replaced the horns while the techniques increased and improved.

The original Chinese Martial Arts, a combat wrestling system called Chiao Li (Strength and Endurance Skills), was systematised during the Zhou Dynasty (1122-256 BC). This military combat wrestling system, the first combination of fighting techniques historically employed by the Imperial Army, consisted of throws, hand and foot strikes, seizing joints, attacking vital parts and breaking joints in context of throwing.  All of these elements of fighting skills were practised in training during the winter months and used in hundreds of battles in ancient China.  It is the root and the foundation of Chinese martial arts. Used primarily in military engagements, Chiao Li gradually became a sport in the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC) during the reign of the Emperor Shi Huangdi. Even as a sport practiced on the Lei Tai (Sparring Platform) exponents would aim to prove that their skills were superior to that of their opponent. Only the very best of Chiao Li exponents proven in battle and on the Lei Tai would be selected to become bodyguards to the Emperor. As the martial arts of choice for the Emperor’s bodyguard, Shuai Chiao training was considered to be the most effective of the Chinese styles. Over many centuries the art was taught to the Imperial Military, and in this century is taught in the police and military academies of China and Taiwan (ROC). Shuai Chiao embodies the principles of both Internal and External styles and the vast majority of martial arts have their roots in Shuai Chiao.

Chen Yuan-Ping was a Monk who escaped China in 1650 during the fall of the Ming Dynasty and the formation of the Ching Dynasty by the Manchu’s. Chen Yuan-Ping settled at the Kokushoji temple at Edo where he taught 3 Ronin (master less Samurai) the arts of Chinese Wrestling and Kung Fu. History tells that these three Ronin then formed the art of Ju Jitsu.  Judo later developed out of Ju Jitsu in the late 1800’s.

In ancient times, practitioners of Shuai Chiao competed against one another bare-chested. Shuai Chiao does not depend on the opponent’s clothing in order to throw them.  The priority is to grab the muscle and bone through the clothing in order to control and throw down the opponent.  Fast footwork using sweeps, inner hooks and kicks to the opponent’s leg are combined with the controlling-striking arms that create a two directional action making a powerful throw. 

Accordingly there are many other major styles of Shuai Chiao such as Beijing, Tien Chin, Mongolian (Boke) and Bao Ting, which are also referred to as Kuai Shuai (Fast Wrestling).

When the Nationalist Government established itself on Taiwan (ROC) in 1949, a few champions of Shuai Chiao migrated to Taiwan (ROC) and introduced Shuai Chiao.  The most famous Master was Chang Tung-Sheng. Ch'ang was born in 1905 in Hopei and began his training at an early age. His instructor was the renowned master Ch'ang Fen Yen who was noted for his BaoDin style of shuai-chiao, the most famous of the three styles in China.  Ch'ang Tung Sheng quickly worked his way up to become the master's number-one student and later married his teacher's daughter.


After becoming proficient in fighting skills, he travelled to Peking where his reputation preceded him. There he fought and defeated all challengers. His victories gained recognition in China and his combat experience increased. Ch'ang then left the Peking area and travelled throughout Mongolia, challenging the best fighters in that part of the country. Ch'ang defeated them all and garnered unanimous acclaim by defeating the heavyweight Mongolian champion Ke Lee.

In the early 1930s. Ch'ang taught at the Central Kuo Shu Institute in Nanking, which had been established by the government to preserve the national martial arts. Ch'ang never retired from the combat arena even while teaching. In 1933 Ch'ang emerged number one in the Fifth National Athletic Meet, a very popular event in China. He also captured the championship at the Seventh National Athletic Meet held in Shanghai in the 1940's

In Taipei, Ch'ang taught at the Central Government Police Academy for nearly 30 years. His defence techniques are now being utilized by police agencies throughout the world. They are also standard curriculum in law enforcement academies in New York and in Texas.