Chinese Grappling: Shuaijiao
When it comes to grappling arts most people have heard of Judo, Ju-Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Sambo, and Sumo. The dynamic art of Shuaijiao, though it is not as well known as the others, should be.
Shuaijiao (also spelled Shuai-Chiao) is a Chinese martial art that is approximately four thousand years old. Shuaijiao was born in a time of warfare long ago when to fall on the battlefield meant likely to never get up, and in that spirit, the curriculum of Shuaijiao focuses on throwing in a variety of ways. It is a standup grappling style, meaning that although there are hip throws, leg sweeps, and hand techniques, like many other arts, there is no ground grappling. The goal of Shuaijiao is to end up in a dominant position standing.
I spoke with Jan-Yu Weng, president of the United States Shui-Chiao Association (USSA) about the goals of the organization as well as for the best definition of Shuaijiao, "It's a stand up grappling martial art from China that can be used as self-defense, a competitive sport, and like any other martial art, a life-long way to stay fit and exercise."When watching a Shuaijiao match, I think most martial artists familiar with any of the popular grappling styles mentioned previously will see some familiarity and even recognize similar techniques in their styles. As Weng explains, "If you're already a grappler where you're doing Judo or JiuJitsu or wrestling types, Shuaijiao is going to come relatively easy to pick up as those are all complementary systems." Anecdotally, years ago I learned some Shuaijiao techniques, and a decade or two later when I began learning Judo, I noticed some of the throws were remarkably similar.
Like any martial art, especially grappling styles, practicing with a partner is key. And while there is no substitute for a body, Shuaijiao has some unique solo practice drills that practitioners of other styles, whether grappling styles or not, may want to try, as Weng tells, "We use a lot of apparatus to do our training. One of the most basic ones is our belt, to do what we call belt cracking." The name comes from actually snapping the belt to build up the practitioner's grip and forearms, as well as overall conditioning of the body. "The solo forms, belt cracking, and other apparatus training are all dynamically linked to Shuaijiao techniques. You can train conditioning, timing, strength, with that connection to a technique."
Like other grappling styles, Shuaijiao is also a sport and there are national and international competitions. Traditionally, the top national competition for the last 25 years has been held every April in Cleveland Ohio. International competition is held through the World Shuai Jiao Federation (WSJF). The tournaments are held biennially in China and alternating between locations throughout the world including the US, and countries in South America and Europe. While the Covid pandemic has cast a shadow over national and international competition for 2021, check the website below or the Shuaijiao USA Facebook page for information and updates.
With the popularity of grappling styles growing it makes sense that Shuaijiao should have as good a chance as any at finding students and expanding their reach. That said, there are some challenges as Weng states, "We realize our limitation to growing Shuaijiao in the U.S. is the lack of qualified teachers and schools in more areas around the country. Our desire is to be able to use our digital framework that we're building, as well as have our coaches, begin to reach out and help, and not only build up coaches and teachers but build up healthy schools."
People interested in finding out more about Shuaijiao and how to start training in your area should make contact through the website and Facebook page for online seminars and/or a qualified teacher in your area.
Watch a Great Shuaijiao Match:2013 Shuai Jiao World Championships at Yixing, China.
Check out their USSA website and Facebook!