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The Oldest Chinese Martial Art

When diving into the history of Chinese martial arts, there are too many styles to keep track of. It is also important to whether it is contemporary styles or not that you are looking for. Contemporary styles are those that have forms, or a set of movements put together, like northern Shaolin and Hung Gar. But we're not here for those styles. What we are going to talk about is the famed Shuai Jiao which is over 4000 years old.

What is Shuai Jiao?

Shuai Jiao when translated means Chinese wrestling. Everything you see in Judo and wrestling came from Shuai Jiao. The throws include using the opponents energy and momentum against them rather than physically overpowering them. In the sport you wear a specialized jacket in order to grab the opponent to get a better position, however this does not mean that you cannot use Shuai Jiao for self defense. There are still many techniques that don't require you to grab a piece of clothing like diagonal throwing and hip throwing.

History of Shuai Jiao

There are many stories of early Shuai Jiao. Like most Chinese martial arts styles, it was created during war times. That is why there is a weapon form in a wrestling specific style called the Miao Dao (Me-Ow D-Ow). However it was not created for the same reason most arts were created for. During times when there were no battles going, for fun the soldiers would play a game. This game included them putting on a helmet with a sharp point at the top of it and they would charge at each other. In order to not get impaled they would have to move around and wrestle with the other person until one could not go on anymore. Quite the extreme game for nowadays standards.

According to, "The first record of its use, which was called Jiao Ti at the time, dates back to 2697 BCE when the legendary Yellow Emperor fought against Chih Yiu.

Jiao Ti eventually evolved into a combat wrestling system called Jiao Li that was systematized for the military during the Zhou Dynasty (1122 – 256 BCE).

Jiao Li eventually became a popular sport during the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207 BCE) and the best Jiao Li fighters were chosen to become the Emperor’s bodyguards."

How is Shuai Jiao Important?

If you look at most Chinese styles now like sanda, Shaolin, Wing Chun, etc., they all include strikes but will always lead to a grappling scenario. Sanda is the Chinese equivalent to MMA, Shaolin is all about defense and seizing which is most effective when grappling, and Wing Chun uses grappling strategies to set up a good strike. A lot of people will say that 90% of chinses martial arts is grappling. When you have a style like Shuai Jiao to work with, any other style that includes grappling techniques will come much easier and will expand your knowledge to an even higher level than most that only see the striking purpose of whatever they are doing.


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