Australasian Shuai Jiao Union

Shuai jiao is the Chinese version of traditional wrestling and is now at long last being taught in Australia. Competitors wear a type of short sleeved jacket called a jiao yi and it is believed by many historians that shuai jiao may be the ancestor of Japanese jujitsu/judo, brought over from China in 1638. A Japanese martial arts ecyclopedia called the 'Huncho Bugei Shoden' was written in 1714 and in it mentions one Chin Gempin, a Ming Dynasty scholar (a.k.a. Chen Yuan Ping) who migrated to Japan, teaching some ronin or masterless samurai the Chinese methods of unarmed combat. One of these ronin named Fukuno began a school of combat called Kito Ryu that later heavily influenced the development of Kodokan Judo, as taught by Jigaro Kano in 1882, and most of the throws of modern judo come directly from the Kito Ryu system of jujitsu. Shuai jiao is a stand up style of grappling utilising powerful throws to bring the opponent down and although national tournaments have been arranged in China since the 1920s, it is only recently that international championships have been  established.


In the philosophy of Wushu or Chinese martial arts, otherwise known as Kung Fu, there are three ranges of unarmed combat, ti (leg strikes), da (hand strikes), shuai (throws) and na (locks), it is the last two that are emphasised in shuai jiao. Unlike the Chinese boxing styles that all trace their lineage to the Shaolin Temple, Chinese wrestling has a more ancient heritage and is very divergent in its origins. Up until present day the Chinese martial arts taught in Australia have focused only on the striking techniques or weapons systems but with the inclusion of shuai jiao, a complete inventory of Chinese combat techniques can now be taught. Shuai jiao tournaments will be held alongside other wrestling events in Australia and it is hoped we can have a team ready to compete in the next world championships in Taiwan in 2014. 


The history of Chinese wresting is very ancient. Chronicles mention that the Yellow Emperor wrestled a horned monster called Chih Yu in 2697BC and this may indicate the mythological origin of live stock domestication in China. In honour of this event, for many generations Chinese wrestlers wore a horned headgear and tried to headbutt each other as well as grapple to achieve victory in a style of wrestling called jiao ti. In later dynasties Chinese wrestling evolved along a different path and during the Chin Dynasty (206 B.C.) depictions of the sport made it seem very similar to Japanese sumo, with near naked wrestlers not only wearing large belts but also top knot hairdos like modern rikishi. During the T'ang Dynasty (618-906 A.D.) this style of wrestling was incredibly popular, although it was most often referred to as xiang pu or mutual beating because of the use of the big drums banged to call spectators to tournaments. Records state that tens of thousands of people watched these events held in the Chinese capital of Chang An, modern Xian. In the period of the Yuan Dynasty, after the Mongol invasion of China in the 13th century, Chinese wrestling followed the pattern of Central Asia and the wrestling jacket was added. Today Mongol wrestling or bukh is still closely connected to shuai jiao in China, with many Mongol ethnic people holding national shuai jiao titles.


During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) the Jurchen or Manchu people, who were closely related to the Mongolians, became masters of China and through this dynasty shuai jiao was made an important royal sport. Officers were selected for the royal guard based on their performance at tournaments held before the Emperor and a painting called "Autumn in Chengde" is held in the Forbidden City Museum in Beijing shows such an event with the Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796) watching intently. At the beginning of the Chinese Republic these former royal wrestlers were forced to earn a living by giving public performances of shuai jiao and as early as 1914 a private wrestling school was established in the Tianqiao neighbourhood of Beijing by a famous wrestler named Wan Yong Shun. Soon other schools were established in Beijing, Tianjin and Baoding creating the foundation of what was to become a national sporting organisation. 


The most famous shuai jiao competitor was Chang Tung Sheng, a Hui or Chinese Muslim from Hubei Province who won the national heavyweight championship in 1933 and was thereafter called "Iron Butterfly". He was recruited by Chang Kai Shek to be the poster boy for the nationalist Kuomintang Army and travelled around the country challenging kung fu practitioners of any style to stand against him on the lei tai (24 x 24m platforms) in which he was always successful. Later he became head shuai jiao instructor at the Nanjing Central Kuoshu Academy, the most prestigious martial art school in China at that time. When Mao's Communist Party took control of the country in 1949, establishing the Peoples Republic of China, Sifu Chang was force to flee with the Kuomintang to Taiwan, where he became instructor for the Taipei Police Force until his death in 1986. Thanks to his effort there are about 40,000 registered shuai jiao wrestlers in Taiwan, making it one of the most popular styles of kung fu practiced in the world.


Due to the political situation between the Peoples Republic of China and the Republic of China Taiwan, it has been difficult to build a world network in shuai jiao but the European Shuai Jiao Union has done much to foster good relations between Beijing and Taipei to try to establish a World Shuai Jiao Union under the auspice of the International Chinese Kuoshu Federation. Australia joined this union in principle in 2010, giving us the status of a continental board, to help spread the code around Oceania. Currently there is only one school specifically teaching this style of wrestling in Australia and Shuai Zheng, instructing from his club in Merrylands, is the head coach of the sport in Australia. However a new one is close to being formed in another part of Sydney under the instruction of the experienced Sanda Fighter Shawn Lim, who he is actively pursuing experienced instructors from the 100,000 or so Chinese Community living in Australia. Our friend Evan Chen is also teaching shuai jiao from his club at Wellington University in New Zealand and with his inclusion the organisation has taken the name of the Australasian Shuai Jiao Union. For any Chinese martial artists in Australia or New Zealand, or indeed any wrestlers wishing to learn more about this system of combat, please contact us at this site and we'll do all we can to link you with international community for Chinese wrestling. The website for the European Shuai Jiao Union is a helpful starting point for exploring this sport;  


There is also a Facebook page for the Australasian Shuai Jiao Union that might be helpful for getting up to date information about training venues and tournaments;




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