Bao Ding Kuai Chiao




Han Dynasty mural from 5 B.C.

Shuai Chiao is the oldest martial art of China. It has a history of over 2,000 years – although some claim that it dates back much further. According to legend, Shuai Chiao – which was originally called Chiao Ti (and thereafter many other names throughout history) – was first used in 2697 B.C. in battles between the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) and Chi Yu, who was a rebel and also a powerful wrestler. In the Chin Dynasty, which began in the year 221

Wall Painting from the Northern Dynasties (AD 420 - 581)

B.C., Shuai Chiao – which was still known as Chiao Ti – became part of the official military training program. Thereafter, Chiao Ti was known by various names throughout history until the central government of the Republic of China established the Central Kuo Shu Institute in Nanjing in 1928 and standardized the name to Shuai Chiao. David Chang, the grandson of Chang Tung Sheng, researched the history of Shuai Chiao for over one year in Taipei and discovered 87 different names used for Shuai Chiao.  


An illustration from a Ming Dynasty novel depicting a shuai chiao match .

                Shuai Chiao achieved its highest level of development between the Ch’ing and Ming dynasties. There was a common saying at that time, “The instant you are touched you are thrown”. This referred to the high level of skill that existed among fighters. At that time in history, Shuai Chiao was primarily known by the name of “Kuai Chiao” – which translates as “Fast Wrestling”. By the late Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), 4 styles of Shuai Chiao were dominant in China – Mongolian, Beijing, Tien-Tsin, and Bao Ding. In Hebei province, Bao Ding Kuai Chiao was the prevalent system. Although there were numerous Shuai Chiao masters in Hebei, the most famous was Ping Jing Yi, who was born in 1830. His top student, Zhang Feng Yan (born in 1875), defeated the top Hsing-Yi fighter Li Quan-Yi at a major army conference in the early years of the Republic of China and was therefore acknowledged as a champion fighter. Chang Tung Sheng (born in 1908) was originally a neighborhood kid who started learning Shuai Chiao from Zhan Feng Yan while still a very young boy. By the time he was 19 years old, Chang Tung Sheng himself was already famous for his Shuai Chiao. At age 25, he went on to win the 5th National Kuo Shu Tournament in Nanjing in 1933 before he joined the army. 15 years later he entered the 7th National Athletic Meet in Shanghai representing the army. At 40 years of age, he again won first place in the heavyweight division.  


A Ming Dynasty illustration of Chiao Ti as it was done during the Han Period.

            In China there are many regional dialects spoken (although written dialects all use the same Chinese characters). These dialects developed independently of each other due to China's long history, the size of the country, and geographic isolation of certain areas. In a similar fashion, regionally distinct styles of Shuai Chiao also evolved. As previously mentioned, the 4 primary styles of Shuai Chiao in existence by the late Qing Dynasty were Mongolian, Beijing, Tien-Tsin, and Bao Ding. However, within these primary styles existed variations of each. Bao Ding is a large city in Hebei province of Mainland China. At one time there were numerous Shuai Chiao masters there and consequently numerous variations of Bao Ding style Shuai Chiao developed. As David Chang explains, "Even in Bao Ding there were different variations of Bao Ding Kuai Chiao depending on which family system or Master you belonged to". Therefore, the Kuai Chiao of Grandmaster Chang Tung Sheng is unique from other systems that may go by the name of Kuai Chiao.

           Because Chang Tung Sheng was renowned for his outstanding Shuai Chiao, others were eager to learn from him in exchange for knowledge of their own special skills. By enhancing his already awesome Shuai Chiao skills with the best techniques from many other systems and testing them in combat, Chang was able to expand and hone his overall fighting skills to an incredible level. ‘Cross-training’ and ‘mixed martial arts’ are considered modern concepts and a must for any serious fighter today. In this respect, Chang Tung Sheng was the forerunner of today’s top martial artists - well ahead of his time. Even more impressive is the fact that, in Chang Tung Sheng’s day, learning other martial arts styles was no easy matter. No serious martial artist was willing to part with his own hard-earned knowledge easily. Certain information and techniques were guarded jealously and reserved only for top students and family. It was a skill in itself to be able to learn the essence of another fighter’s system while giving away as little as possible of your own knowledge in return. Certainly, it bears little resemblance to the situation today where schools offer complete and open training to anyone willing to pay the tuition. Because of the vastness of Shuai Chiao and the depth of Chang’s knowledge, he was able to obtain much from other martial artists while giving away only a portion of his skills in exchange.

                        Bao Ding Kuai Chiao incorporates strikes, joint locks, throws, and attacks to vital points. It appeals to grapplers who want to expand their grappling skills with Shuai Chiao and also add a striking dimension to their arsenal. It also appeals to those who specialize in striking and kicking but need to add grappling skills to their existing knowledge. Interestingly enough, Bao Ding Kuai Chiao does not seem to conflict with other martial arts styles. On the contrary, it integrates rapidly with other martial arts skills so students from other martial arts backgrounds do not have to forget everything they have already learned. As David Chang explains, "Shuai Chiao is the trunk of the tree and other kung fu styles are the branches". In fact, most instructors will attest that many of their students come from other martial arts backgrounds seeking to expand their existing skills.