Shuai jiao

Shuai jiao

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.


The earliest Chinese term for wrestling, "jǐao dǐ" (horn butting), refers to an ancient sport in which contestants wore horned headgear with which they attempted to butt their opponents. Legend states that "jiao di" was used in 2697 BC by the Yellow Emperor's army to gore the soldiers of a rebel army led by Chi You. In later times, young people would play a similar game, emulating the contests of domestic cattle, without the headgear. Jiao di has been described as an originating source of wrestling and latter forms of martial arts in China.

"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.


The word "shuai," , stands for "to throw onto the ground", while "jiao" may be one of two characters: the first and older, , stands for "horns" and the second and recent, , stands for "wrestle or trip using the legs". In modern Chinese Shuai Jiao is always written using the more recent characters , and should be translated as "to throw onto the ground through wrestling with legs". The use of the character is due to the fact that in the earliest form of Shuaijiao, players wore helmet with horns and head-butting was allowed. This form of Shuaijiao is called 'Ciyou Xi'.

See also

Notes and references

General references

  • Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Chinese Language, entry 35831.82
  • Chinese Fast Wrestling for Fighting, Liang, Shou-Yu and Tai D. Ngo, ISBN 1-886969-49-3
  • Journal of Asian Martial Arts Volume 15, No. 1, 2006. Via Media Publishing, Erie Pennsylvania USA. ISSN 1057-8358

External links

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