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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.