Popularizing and Spreading of Shuai Jiao

During the Qing Dynasty, to become a wrestler in Shan Pu Ying was the dream of many people (In the beginning,
only Manchurians could be selected to join the Shan Pu Ying. Later some regular Han Chinese were allowed to join
as well.).  They practiced hard so they could pass the Shan Pu Ying’s tough entrance exam.  So practice of Shuai
Jiao was very popular, especially in the North.  There were many Jiao Chang, private Shuai Jiao training schools, at
this time.  These places offered basic training for the common people, but also gave intensive training to those
people wishing to join “Shan Pu Ying”.  Compared to Shan Pu Ying’s training, maybe these places could only offer
low level training.  They usually developed a good foundation for the young guys, and the most important thing is
that they made Shuai Jiao much more popular.  In some northern cities of China, like Beijing, Tianjin, and Baoding,
Shuai Jiao became the most popular martial arts training group.
After the Republic Revolution in 1911, the Qing Dynasty was overthrown and
Shan Pu Ying disbanded.  Since most of the Shan Pu Ying wrestlers did not know
any other skill to make a living, many of them either set up their own private
schools or joined other organizations.  Now the highest level skills were brought to
the masses.  From 1910 to the 1930’s, the most famous of these Jiao Chang’s in
Beijing was the Hong Miao (Red Temple) Jiao Chang.  It was run by Master Wan
  Yongshun, a former Shan Pu Ying wrestler.  He was assisted by other former Shan Pu Ying wrestlers.  During that
period, the most famous wrestlers, like Shen Yousan, Bao Shanlin, Zhang Wenshan, and Xu Zunqing etc., all came
from this Jiao Chang.  So the disbanding of Shan Pu Ying had two affects on Shuai Jiao: one was that the best
environment for development was gone, and the other was that more people had the chance to learn the high level

Shuai Jiao became popular not only for practice but also for entertainment.  More and more people got into
watching Shuai Jiao.  So Shuai Jiao performance became popular too.  Since most of the Shan Pu Ying wrestlers
didn’t have any other skill besides Shuai Jiao, when they lost their jobs their life became very difficult.  So the other
thing they did to make money was to perform Shuai Jiao on the streets.  In the beginning, some thought this art
should only be performed for the emperor, those who performed on the street lost the respect of their peers.  
There was fierce resistance to this.  But over time most people came to accept the new way.  Although not many
old masters did this themselves, a lot of their students did it.  It had become a new job opportunity for the younger
generation of Shuai Jiao practitioners.  Since more people liked to watch the performance, business was good
enough.  Shuai Jiao business started in Beijing and soon spread to many places throughout the country.  This
growth also brought high-level skills to many places, so Shuai Jiao became more popular all over China.
Performing Shuai Jiao on the streets was not an easy job.  Teachers of Shuai Jiao had many
challenges.  According to traditional rules, if one lost in a challenge, he could not stay to
perform in the same area. He had to move to a new place but even this was difficult. These
teachers had to practice hard everyday to keep their skill level high.  The picture on the left top
shows Master Zhang Wenshan (left) was performing on the street. He won the second place of
the heavyweight division in 1935 the national championship. Although these teachers made
many false skills for beautiful or humorous performances, please do not think that they didn’t
have real gongfu.  
Secondly they had to make the people
enjoy their performances.  So they
could not just perform real Shuai Jiao
skills.  They needed to mix real skills,
talking, and circus demonstrations all
together.  Usually they had to tell a lot
of funny stories like a comedian,
demonstrat special skills, like hard
qigong, and then perform Shuai Jiao
skills. The picture on the left bottom
shows a hard qigong demonstration -
breaking bricks over the head with a
large hammer.

One of the most famous performances
in Beijing Shuai Jiao place was Zhong
Fan – the long post. Bao Shanlin,
known as Bao Saner, was the best at
performing this feat. The demonstration
involved a post 25 feet long decorated
with bunting, flowers, and flags. The
performer carried the post vertically on
different parts of his body, arm,
shoulder, head etc. He then threw it up
and used his hand, arm, shoulder,
back, forehead, or even the top of his
head to catch it. The post was kept
vertically the whole time.  The picture
on the right shows the Zhong Fan
performance by Bao Saner.  Generally
this kind of performance became very
Yingqigong - Hard Qigong
Usually a group would be comprised several good friends and their students.  They
would either travel or stay in one place to perform.  Besides different shows, they
also sell special medicines.  Since Shuai Jiao always causes injuries, the wrestlers
Zhong Fan- the long post
  usually have some very good medicines to treat themselves.  They got a reputation for these medicines and many
people would buy them. Besides performing, masters would teach their students.  So the performance place
became the training place. From the 1920’s to the 1960’s, most great Shuai Jiao wrestlers either worked in these
groups, or came from these groups.  In Beijing the most famous place for Shuai Jiao performance is in Tianqiao
area. Below picture show some street performing masters.
  From left, the first line: 2nd - Man Baozhen, 3rd - Bao Shanlin (Bao Saner); the second line: 1st - Zhang
Yingjie; the third line: 3rd - Han Jinduo, 9th - Shen Yousan (Shen Saner); the forth line: 1st - Zhu
Guoxun, 2nd - Zhang Baozhong.
       Bao Saner's grandstudents perform Zhong Fan in Beijing Shuangmiao Jiao Chang
Bao Saner's grandstudents practice Shuai Jiao in Beijing Shuangmiao Jiao Chang
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