Shuai Jiao-Chinese wrestling seminars-2013

Shuai Jiao - Chinese wrestling

Jiao Di was the first Chinese term to describe wrestling and referred to an ancient sport in which contestants wore a helmet with horns as they wrestled. The legend says that the helmet, “Jiao Di”, was first used in 2697 BC by the Yellow Emperor's soldiers against the rebel army, led by Chi You, to strike with it and disembowel their opponents.
Jiao Di is considered the basis of wrestling and later various styles of martial arts in China.
During Zhou Dynasty, in classical war texts Jiao Di is referred as Jiao Li and the main elements of it consisted of throwing techniques, shocks, avoidances, lockings and attacks on pressure points. The soldiers were practicing in these techniques during winter along with archery and strategy study.
Jiao Li eventually became a public sport for the amusement of the crowd, as well as for the enhancement and recruitment of the best fighters. The competitors wrestled on a raised platform named Lei Tai. The winning prize was a possible position as the emperor’s bodyguard or a martial arts trainer for the Imperial Army.
Jiao Li had been taught to soldiers for many centuries; its popularity among the military led to its great influence on later Chinese Martial Arts, until the end of Qing Dynasty.

Shuai Jiao
The term “Shuai Jiao” was chosen by the Nanjing Central Academy of Martial Arts, (Guo Shu Guan) in 1928 when the rules for the wrestles were established. Nowadays, Shuai Jiao is very popular among Mongolians of the Inner Mongolia, where it is known as “bohke” and they often organize contests as part of cultural events, in many countries such as USA, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and many others. “Shuai Jiao” is still being taught to the police and military academies of China.

Shuai Jiao can be categorized to the following styles:
Beijing style – follows Manchu Buku lineage practised by the emperor guards, Shan Pu Ying (association of wrestling experts).
Tianjing style - follows Shuai Jiao lineage of the Ming Dynasty mixed with Manchu Buku style.
Baoding style – a lineage also called as Kuai Jiao, fast wrestling.
The three styles above are called Hebei  styles
Shanxi style – Shuai Jiao lineage route of the Song Dynasty
Mongol style – Mongolian wrestling lineage
Xinjiang style – lineage of various Turkish wresting styles

Basic skills
Shuai Jiao is about using overthrows to bring down the opponent. In order for these overthrows to be implemented effectively a good knowledge of basic kung fu is required.
This basic kung fu relates mainly to:
hand techniques,
someone must have strong grip. If the grabbing is not the appropriate one then it is impossible to bring down the opponent. Getting away from the opponent's grip is also very important
feet techniques,
someone must move fast and light with a good stepping (strong basis). Each overthrow has a specific approach for the right feet movements. These movements must be well trained before someone proceeds to overthrows
body techniques,
is about gaining strength from the whole body, having a good understanding of changes and being fast and agile. To understand the types of forces in Shuai Jiao is very important to achieve high level of this art;
short circle techniques,
are the small and abrupt techniques aiming to mislead the opponent into a mistake. One must be precise and agile
large circle techniques
are those using great power. These techniques are used only when the opponent is brought to the appropriate position. Since the movement is big it is easy for the opponent to take advantage of a mistake

Strong grips, fast and light movements, good stepping, quick reflexes and soft power from the whole body are prerequisites for someone to succeed in Chinese wrestling.
Apart from the basic kung fu knowledge a trainee must have a good understanding of the art of wrestling principles.
Some of the principles to achieve a successful overthrow are:
1. Confuse your opponent to provoke his "wrong" reaction.
2. Understand the changes between Yin and Yang.
3. Force the opponent to move around you.
4. Ensure a good grip.
5. Force the opponent to move with you.
6. Understand how to use your opponent’s strength.

Your vision must be focused in order to take advantage of your opponent’s smallest mistake. Your sensitivity must be very good so as to be able to sense the changes in force and direction. Your movement must be very fast, agile, precise and coordinated. Your force must be sudden, powerful and integrated. Your basis must flexible but also stable.
In Shuai Jiao the knowledge was developed in a very high level and every technique has been explored in great depth, resulting to several variations for each one of them. In the beginning significant time should be devoted in practicing the Ji Ben Gong, since this method contains the experience of all previous generations.
In other words, the value of this method has been proved from several people in real battles.

In the Shuai Jiao culture in China it is common for the wrestlers to practice and learn from different teachers. It is also common to develop their own technique variations that are more suitable in their personality or body shape. It has always been that the famous masters develop their own variations.
To find the essence someone needs to walk his own path. Because, as it is said, there is no technique that can guarantee success, but only the ability that someone can perform the technique.
In Shuai Jiao there are more than 300 techniques with more than 3 variations for each one of them but while wrestling someone does not need more than 3-4 techniques, in which he will have to be really good. However, someone must practice as many variations as possible, not to use them but mainly to be ready to confront them and defend himself. In Shuai Jiao practicing how to defend is equally important and for every technique there is a respective one that can counteract it.

some thoughts from my personal journey to T.C.M.A
My first shifu, for more than 16 years, Lily Lau in Eagle Claw, introduced me to Chinese Wushu.
With her I visited different places in China and because of her reputation “doors” that in other conditions would have remained invisible opened up in front of my eyes. During seminars in Greece and travels in China I met several Wushu masters, some of them rather famous.
I visited the Saolin and Wudang monasteries (2004-06,08,10). I participated in 4 traditional Wushu world championships (2004-06,08,10) and in 2 international, in China. I visited, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Foshan, Fukien, Guangdong, Hengshan, Hongshan, Shanxi, Beijing, Shoonxien, Qingdao, Zhengzhou, Shiyan exclusively for the broadening of my Wushu knowledge. Through these travels and experiences my view about Wushu changed drastically.
From all the Chinese Wushu styles that I had the chance to experience during my travels and the whole time I have been practicing (since 1987), I finally distinguished two of them; the real Wushu and the fake one.
I also realized that it is not the styles that matter but the “way” the masters teach them.
In my return I  open the “door” to my students and friends so they can experience the “ways” of two masters that I distinguished. Those are Niu Sheng Xian, master of Nei Jia Quan - Xing Yi Tai Ji Ba Gua- and Liu Zu Guang, master of Shuai Jiao.
Why did I distinguish these two masters?
Because they have kung fu and this kung fu is real. It is not simply Chinese dance.
The Athletic Club Kerameikos have already organized two seminars with master Niu, in Xing Yi and Tai Ji, while this year in collaboration with the Martial Art Gymnastic Club Ilision of master Panayiotis Derventis and the Athletic Club North Eagle of shifu George Divanis, organize the first seminar with master Liu in Shuai Jiao.
Against the pessimism and depression that have been imposed in our everyday lives by our false choices of the past, by the politicians of our country and the “troika”, we have the willingness to continue organizing this kind of seminars, to learn and deepen our knowledge.
A knowledge that makes us better, wiser, stronger in body and spirit, more tolerant to our surrounding, more supportive for the weak.
The Wushu federation is supportive to these initiatives to the extent of their capabilities and of course it makes significant efforts to include Wushu in the martial arts map of our country.
The masters on the other hand must make a step beyond the styles they represent and the competition among them while the students must overcome the different conflicts with their masters so as altogether to create a family that will serve and promote the true values of Wushu.
Wushu costs a little but has impressive results for our mental and physical health.
As long as it is real Wushu.
Let’s use it against the difficulties of our lives.

Shifu Doukas Dimitris

A new round of  martial arts seminaries  started after the initiative of Keramikos A.C. "Wu Gong Xue Yuan"(Shifu Doukas Dimitris) in collaboration with Ilisia G.C. Martial Arts "Kunpeng Wuguan"(Shifu Derventis Panagiotis) and North Eagle A.C.(Shifu Divanis George) to organize  two seminaries on Chinese Wrestling - Shuai Jiao, that took place on 25-26 of May and on 1-2 of June. At the seminars taught Shifu Liu Zu Guang with his two American assistants Sunny and Brian.
Chinese wrestling is an ancient martial art with over three thousands years of history. It is still practiced, taught and developed in Beijing by Shifu Liu Zu Guang, apprentice of Li Bao Ru, a world-famous, eminent teacher.
Basic training starts with strengthening exercises known as Ji Ben Kong. These exercises are particularly hard and demanding but also necessary for physical fitness, co-ordination of every part of the body and mind concentration. For the execution of these exercises, accuracy and absolute concentration is demanded. In every repetition of these exercises the body comes one step closer to the proper execution until they are done naturally and effortlessly.

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."
(Bruce Lee)
Chinese wrestling is characterized by the subtle usage of power for overthrowing the opponent. Laxity and flexibility in motion without intense use of force from the muscles gives the necessary speed and the element of surprise, in order that  knocking down and overthrowing the opponent can be made possible.
In the opposite case, when someone performs the techniques while  being tense and using only hard muscle power, his intention becomes apparent and can therefore be easily controllable by an opponent experienced in fighting.
Another characteristic of Chinese wrestling is the directness in application.From the very first moment, as soon as the trainee learns the form of the external motion and this becomes imprinted in his mind and body, he  has to try its application with an opponent that initially is cooperating and afterwards, when this level is gained, with a resisting opponent (free wrestling). Trainees are taught overthrowing  techniques with the use of the special durable jackets but also without them so there is implementation in real conditions.
It is worth mentioning that in the first Chinese Wrestling seminar -Shuai Jiao in Athens, participated various trainees from different schools and approaches in Chinese martial arts. In spite of the fact that the paths followed by the various clubs in training differ, all lead to the same point.
Although every trainee has a different understanding and probably seeks different characteristics from his training, the  principles that rule all martial arts  have common elements, due to the fact that they all treat the most intricate tool in physical world, the human body.

"All martial arts converge in the highest level"           
  We all came to understand that adding new elements, training new techniques, even making contact with different conceptions can only be adding positively to the journey of acquiring the complete fighting skill.

"All knowledge ultimately means self knowledge"  Bruce Lee
Eventually, after four days of exhausting and intense training, we got to know Chinese Wrestling pretty well and we are eagerly awaiting for the next seminar. Yet, probably most important is the fact that the ones amongst us that were strangers  were acquainted to one another and the ones that already knew each other came much closer, discussed and argued and in the end all agreed to one thing: "Kung Fu unites us".

Vagelis K.