Shuai Jiao (摔跤), commonly referred to as Chinese Wrestling has a long history when a type of wrestling known as Jiao Di was practiced during the Zhou Dynasty (1122-256 BC) and as the techniques continued to evolve they became known as Jiao Li (Strength Skill) (probably intended to describe a test of one’s strength). Jiao Li is mentioned in writing in the ancient classical text Li Ji (The Book of Rites). It was during this period that Jiao Li became a required part of military training along with archery, chariot riding and other military skills. As the style continued to evolve, certain strikes and joint-locking techniques were incorporated in its repertoire of skills.
During the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), Jiao Li gained widespread popularity and large contests were held to entertain the Imperial Court and to choose the best wrestlers, who were then lavishly rewarded for their skills. It has been recorded that some contests had well over a thousand participants who wrestled for several days, and at times up to a week, (a feat that is yet to be matched in modern times). The best wrestlers would often be assigned teaching posts for the Imperial family, be hired as bodyguards or gain advancement of rank in the military. The original translation for Shuai Jiao was “Throwing Horns.” Today, a new Chinese character has been adopted for Shuai which represents “Leg Tripping” or “Leg Wrestling” and is perhaps more descriptive of the art.
It is thought that Shuai Jiao is the predecessor of Japanese Ju-Jitsu and Judo (Outside Tokyo there is a monument in honor of Chen Yuanyun (1597-1671) who is thought to have brought grappling and wrestling skills (Shuaijiao) to Japan during the Ming Dynasty). Although the art consists primarily of throwing techniques, it also teaches kicking, striking, grabbing, and joint locking depending on the school and integration with combat skills taken. Shuai Jiao is a practical and realistic fighting art, since the practice match is essentially the same as actual combat. Training in Shuai Jiao makes one better prepared for a street confrontation. Shuai Jiao relies on highly developed sensitivity, the redirecting of an incoming force, and unbalancing tactics to apply throwing techniques. Since it does not rely on brute force, this is an excellent method for both men and women, and is especially fun for children to practice.
Different styles of Shuajiao have been developed throughout history and today the most popular are Baoding, Tianjin, Beijing and Mongolian styles. Each have there specific emphasis and characteristics. Additionally Shuajiao can be looked at from the Sports or Competitive Shuaijiao perspective (most common and follows a set of specific rules) and the Martial based Shuaijiao (no rules) that are incorporated into specific martial arts styles (especially those in the Northern Central plains such as Liuhequan, Tongbeiquan, Baguazhang and so forth).
The basic tenants of Shuaijiao are on dis-balancing, tripping, takedowns, grappling and throwing. Since the Sports Shuaijiao is prominent and based on bringing an opponent on a take down there is no follow up requirement on the ground. In traditional martial arts the integration of Shuaijiao Qin-na (Grappling/Locking) and Dishufa (Groundwork) are more prominent. The Foundations of Shuajiao are in a number of strengthening, flexibility and conditioning methods including with and without apparatus followed by the 36 Large Banzi (of which Small Banzi are the endless combinations and practical innovations from those foundations).
Although the roots are ancient, modern Shuaijiao practitioners have kept abreast of newer, more "sporting" methods. Where Shuaijiao was originally a brutally efficient art that considered breaking an opponent's bones or joints incidental to the throwing technique, the modern methods are more humane. However, when other martial artists talk about the importance of holds, chokes, and groundwork, for Shuaijiao practitioners it is the proper throwing technique on hard ground to be the finish of the fight, not the midpoint.