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 A Rare Treasure
 Life History: 1905-1986 Hua Hu Feh (The Fancy Butterfly)
 Training: Ch'ang Fen Yen; Discipline, Patience, and Perseverance
 Art Forms: Not Only Shuai-Chiao
 Shuai-Chiao: Styles, Techniques, and Principles
 The Real Ch'ang Tung Shen
 Ch'ang Shih Tai Chi Ch'uan: The Book

About Shuai-Chiao

Fighting is a part of human nature, and naturally humans as thinking animals have developed highly sophisticated techniques to compensate for innate differences such as strength and size.

Shuai-chiao, like wrestling styles popular in other cultures, evolved from the crude fighting tactics of our ancestors into a very advanced form of martial art. Shuai-chiao differs from most other wrestling styles in that its techniques are considerably more sophisticated and devastating, emphasizing the use of technique rather than raw power.

Unlike other kung fu styles that have difficulty in formal competition because rules have not been developed to prevent injury, shuai-chiao has adapted to the modern world; rules are applied today that lessen the chance for injury during competition without compromising the integrity of the art.

Styles of Shuai-Chiao

There are many styles of shuai-chiao, but the most prominent are Tientsin, Peking, and BaoDin.

Tientsin style uses the arms in a swinging motion to test the opponent and to feel when there is a chance to apply a holding technique. The movements in Peking style are smaller, emphasizing the hold position and keeping the opponent's hands at a distance. The tight-fitting uniform in Peking shuai-chiao also makes getting a firm hold more difficult.

Ch'ang was trained mainly in the BaoDin style of shuai-chiao, also known as kuai chiao (fast wrestling). which is the most famous of the three principal styles. BaoDin style is distinguished by its larger movements and the speed and power of its techniques. As soon as contact is made during a shuai-chiao match, the BaoDin competitor immediately tries to use a technique rather than tentatively grasping and testing the opponent.


Each shuai-chiao technique bears the internal composition of yin-yang; that is, a twofold element. The opponent may find his head and upper torso being slammed into the ground while his feet are swept out from under him. The opponent might find his leg captured or grabbed simultaneous with a strike to his throat.

Over the years Ch'ang learned to maximize the effectiveness of his technique. He became well known for his ability to perceive the weak as well as the strong points inherent in a technique. He attacked his opponent's weak-points and used the appropriate technique, focusing on the man's weakness in order to defeat him quickly and easily.

The tornado-like power which Ch'ang generated from shuai-chiao technique is derived from a combination of directness, precision, and the ability to entrap. The shuai-chiao moves are direct, quick and to the point.

The falls from shuai-chiao throws were usually so stunning and crippling that there was little need for judo-like groundwork; however, the ability to entrap an opponent must not be underestimated. When a shuai-chiao practitioner successfully applies a specially designed grab or lock, it is highly unlikely that his opponent will escape.

Any kung fu style consists of a number of techniques, too many to master them all. Even the greatest expert will usually become known for only a few techniques which have been perfected and almost always work for him during competition.

Ch'ang, however, was an exception to this fact. Although he has acquired many nicknames derived from specific techniques, his mastery of all shuai-chiao techniques was complete.

Normally a competitor can play his strategy for a shuai-chiao match around his opponent's strengths and weaknesses. Against Ch'ang this strategy was useless; he could use any techniques instinctively, easily adapting to the demands of any situation. That's the reason some people say that Ch'ang won the match before it started; his opponent was frightened from the start and overwhelmed by Ch'ang's unequaled skill and unexpected attacks.

Most martial artists know that leg movement is important in creating an opportunity to kick or to apply a throwing technique. But hand technique is the most important hidden aspect of shuai-chiao.

In the three major styles the main differences are in hand use: throwing techniques are all the same. If the correct ba (hold) can be made. there is a good chance that the technique will be successful and the opponent defeated. BaoDin shuai-chiao emphasizes the ba, and Ch'ang was well known for all his ba skills, especially one called szu (tearing).

This is the origin, in fact, of Ch'ang's nickname, Hua Hu Feh (Fancy Butterfly). The name describes both Ch'ang's perfect form and the beauty of his movements and the application of szu, in which the movement of bodies resembles the fluttering wings of a butterfly.

Ch'ang's Principles

Practitioners of shuai-chiao always wanted to know what Ch'ang's secret was, why his technique was so extraordinary. In fact Ch'ang was able to distill his almost 70 years of shuai-chiao experience into three basic principles.

The first, opportunity, involves assessing the opponent's strong and weak points and determining what techniques are suitable under the circumstances. The idea is to plan a number of moves ahead, creating a well-thought-out strategy as in a chess game.

The second principle, timing, means knowing when to execute the technique when the fruit is ripe for picking. No matter how well the technique can be done, if the timing is wrong, the technique will not be successful and the opponent will have a chance to attack.

The last principle, angle, refers to establishing the correct position and leverage from which a technique can be executed. Many times a technique cannot be successfully completed even if the opportunity is there and the timing is correct, because the angle is wrong. Since the opponent is always moving, the angle must be continually adjusted to maintain an advantageous position.

If these principles are followed, superior technique, not muscular force, will defeat the opponent.

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