What is Chinese Traditional Wrestling (Shuai Jiao)

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm

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By Antonio Graceffo

After two weeks of living in the traditional wrestling school in Beijing, studying full time, this is my take on what is Chinese wrestling. Obviously, over the next three years of my study and exploration of China’s ethnic wrestling forms, my opinions about and understanding of the arts will hopefully become deeper. But here is a quick intro for the folks at home

Chinese wrestling is a competition to throw the opponent to the floor. If you throw him and remain standing, you get 2 points. If you throw him and land on him, you get 1 point. Each fight has five rounds. And the winner is the one with the highest score at the end. The wrestlers wear padded jackets and much of the style is based on the basic techniques of grabbing and pulling the jacket. The thing I find really interesting about the throwing, however, is that, unlike judo or modern wrestling, the throws are largely not done by using upper body strength, but by very unique sweeping techniques. By modifying the grip from jacket to head, shoulder or triceps, many of the throws could be used in MMA. The reason why I believe this training will help me for MMA is that these throws and the throwing mechanisms are things not normally seen in MMA. Fighters are not trained to anticipate them or to counter them.

As far as I can understand, it is legal to grab the legs, but not so common. It also seems to be uncommon to lift the opponent of the ground and throw him. When I spar, I often use these two methods, which the Chinese wrestlers don’t expect. But I am trying to force myself to learn and use the proper techniques.

The strength and flexibility for the throws comes from doing a series of exercises, countless thousands of times, each day. I see that some of these exercises are the same as top judo players use. One of my tertiary goals this year, once school starts, is to begin learning judo. So, I hope these exercises will help me prepare.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries. He is also a mixed martial arts fighter who often seeks to find ancient or ethnic martial arts which could lend techniques to modern MMA. Graceffo works as a university lecturer in Shanghai, where he is writing a doctoral dissertation on forms of ethnic wrestling in China.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at

See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on




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