Black Belt's Asia correspondent tries his hand at san da while studying at Shanghai University of Sport. See the "Brooklyn monk" in action!

“Strictly speaking, san da is a Chinese martial arts amalgam composed of kickboxing and wrestling-style takedowns,” Antonio Graceffo says. “Some writers have referred to san da as ‘Chinese MMA,’ but that’s inaccurate because it normally doesn’t include ground fighting or submissions. Furthermore, in competition, san da fighters are permitted to clinch, but they’re not allowed to hit while doing so.


"Some people have dubbed san da ‘Chinese muay Thai,’ but that moniker doesn’t do it justice. Why? Because in general, muay Thai stylists rely on just two leg attacks: the roundhouse kick and the push kick. Although other leg strikes exist in Thai boxing, most of the emphasis — and the scoring in the ring — can be attributed to those two moves. In contrast, san da encompasses an arsenal of kicks not unlike what you’d learn in wushu. Unbeknownst to many martial artists in the West, most san da fighters in China earn their chops in wushu.”

Saying what a fighting art isn’t certainly can be helpful, but it will take you only so far along the path to understanding. For that reason, Black Belt asked contributing editor Graceffo to shoot some video footage of san da, which is one of the arts he’s studying as he pursues his Ph.D. at Shanghai University of Sport.

For more information, read “San Da: An Introduction to the Chinese Art of Kickboxing With Takedowns” in the April/May 2015 issue of Black Belt. It hits newsstands and bookstores on March 31, 2015. Antonio Graceffo's book Warrior Odyssey is available here.

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