Shuai jiao is the modern Chinese term for wrestling. In a Western context, the term refers specifically to Chinese and Mongolian styles of wrestling. These styles have a long history and have undergone several changes in both name and form.
"Jiao li" (角力) was a grappling martial art that was developed in the Zhou Dynasty (between the twelfth and third century BCE). An official part of Zhou military's training program under the order of the king, jiao li is generally considered to be the oldest existing Chinese martial art and is among the oldest systematic martial arts in the world. Jiao li supplemented throwing techniques with strikes, blocks, joint locks and attacks on pressure points. These exercises were practiced in the winter by soldiers who also practiced archery and studied military strategy.
Jiao li eventually became a public sport in the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE), held for court amusement as well as for recruiting the best fighters. Competitors wrestled each other on a raised platform called a "leitai" for the potential reward of being hired as a bodyguard to the emperor or a martial arts instructor for the Imperial Military. Some contests would last a week or so, with over a thousand participants. Jiao li was taught to soldiers in China over many centuries and its popularity among the Manchu military guaranteed its influence on later Chinese martial arts through the end of the Qing dynasty.
The term "shuai jiao" was chosen by the Central Guoshu Academy (Zhong Yang Guo Shu Guan 中央國術館) of Nanjing in 1928 when competition rules were standardized. Today, shuai jiao is popular with the Mongols, where it is called "böhke," who hold competitions regularly during cultural events. The art continues to be taught in the police and military academies of China.
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