The Relationship between Shuai Jiao and Traditional Chinese Martial Arts

One common question people have is whether Shuai Jiao is a martial art and Shuai Jiao skills if can be used in a
fight.  Once you get a thorough understanding of Shuai Jiao, you will most likely answer the first question in the
negative and the second in the positive.

Looking at these questions from a historical perspective as we have mentioned in the beginning, Shuai Jiao has
been separated from the regular martial arts practice and developed many things in its own way.  However, the
relationship between Shuai Jiao and martial art is very close.  Skills from each have always influenced one
another. The feedback Shuai Jiao skills provide for the martial arts, especially the training methods. Also new
martial arts concepts led Shuai Jiao developments. For example the Taiji idea of Zhan – adhere up, Nian – stick
to, Lian – link and continue, and Sui – follow opened up many opportunities, especially for smaller wrestlers.  
These ideas made their skills very refined and detailed.  People always say there is Taiji energy in their Shuai
Jiao skills. Because of these relationships, sometimes people say Shuai Jiao and martial arts are cousins.

In competitions, Shuai Jiao has its rules and limitations.  Many Shuai Jiao skills and their variations are very
dangerous and can be used directly in fighting.  We know from history that people have been killed during Shuai
Jiao competitions.  In early times, all of the Shan Pu Ying wrestlers were the emperor’s bodyguards also.  It is
impossible that the skills they practiced everyday would have no relationship to their job or that these skills could
not be used to protect the emperor.  

From a technical perspective, most Kuai Jiao (quick throw) skills, for example, are very easy to use in a fight.  
Additionally many of the grabbing skills can easily be changed into locking skills.  Many of the small movements
that we use in Shuai Jiao can have a huge impact in fighting.  For example, instead of holding and pulling up
slightly at the end of a throw, if you sink and drop your hand slightly, it can cause very serious injuries.  

Keep in mind whichever aspects of skills are developed and the types of skills that are popular at the moment are
in large part determined by the current goals and interests of the practitioners.  If your primary interest is
competition, your skills will develop along the lines as dictated by the rules of the competition.  Here you will not be
practicing the complete Shuai Jiao system, since you’re ignoring the combat components.

On the other hand there is no denying that Shuai Jiao has been separated from traditional martial arts.  Although
there are many overlapping skills between them, Shuai Jiao is Shuai Jiao, it has its own ways and methods.  Shuai
Jiao is definitely not a pure fighting system.  Even Wushu Jiao, or Martial Art Shuai Jiao, which combines some
elements from martial arts, is not a pure martial art.  This distinction is very similar to the way we generally exclude
western-style boxing from being categorized as a martial art, even though many of its techniques are useful in

Combining Shuai Jiao with martial arts in training is very popular and useful.  In Northern China especially, just
about every martial artist practice Shuai Jiao.  For the martial artists, the practice of Shuai Jiao not only provides
useful skills but many other benefits as well.  The highly confrontational, close, and intensely physical nature of
Shuai Jiao provides both great physical and mental conditioning, hence the famous expression: “Martial arts plus
Shuai Jiao, the more you practice, the more you will succeed.”
Yin Cheng Gong Fa Association North American Headquarters
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