Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: The Method Of Chinese Wrestling

In primitive times, unarmed combat was survived in two ways: running or wrestling. Wrestling is the natural way of dealing with an aggressor, perhaps more so than striking which is very specialized.
As legend has it, nearly all Asian martial arts came from India and spread throughout China to neighboring areas. There is much historical information to suggest that Chinese Wrestling is the basis for Japanese Jujitsu, Sumo, Hapkido and related arts-- From Tong Zhongyi:
"Wrestling arts were most popular among the Manchurians and Mongolians. Most of the northern martial artists are skilled at these wrestling arts. During the Ming Dynasty, the Japanese obtained a copy of a book on our comprehensive martial arts. This is the origin of Ju jutsu in Japan"
So begins "The Method of Chinese Wrestling" by Tong Zhongyi, translated by expert grappler and martial artist Tim Cartmell.

Culturally, in Northern China the climate is colder and heavier clothing is worn. This favored the grappling methods and the physically larger body types associated with the Mongols. My Korean Tae Kwon Do Master, the late Tae Hong Choi told me a story of his family traveling to a festival held by the Mongols when he was a very young boy. At night, they entered a large tent to witness this scene: Mongol warriors were wrestling everywhere. There were whole animals being roasted on spits over open fires. One huge Mongol approached young Choi; he was eating an entire leg of a sheep, grease dripping down the front of his chest and clothing...
This is the historical background for the type of wrestling favored by the Chinese, commonly called Shuai Jiao.
"The Method Of Chinese Wrestling" provides us with a fairly comprehensive view of the history, training methods, conditioning and techniques of this art.
For a reproduction of such an old book, the pictures are remarkably clear and the text is simple and readable. Tim Cartmell has done a very good translation, and the forwards by other masters provide context.
One thing that students of other grappling arts may find unique about Chinese Wrestling: they have solo forms, intended to be practiced by the individual. I have not seen other grappling arts use such form work. Additionally, conditioning methods use simple sticks, posts, weighted baskets and large barrels. Modern fitness buffs will be amused yet appreciate the simplicity of such training.
This book may also give Judo players another view of grappling, with variations of techniques such as entangling legs and knock-downs as well as common high throws.
Typically, Chinese Wrestling does not include ground fighting, so consider this strictly a book on takedowns.
From the historical aspect, elements of conditioning and use of techniques, this book will compliment the library of any grappling enthusiast, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

You can find "The Method Of Chinese Wrestling" and hundreds of other martial arts titles at the website for Blue Snake Books.


Sean C. Ledig said...

Great review, DR. I recently purged a lot of books from my personal library, but "The Method of Chinese Wrestling" was one I knew I had to keep.

I enjoy the training methods, including the use of ropes. I use old karate bets for the same purposes.

One comment - in terms of using solo forms to prepare for wrestling, I recommend "Karate's Grappling Techniques" by Iain Abernethy. It will change how you look at classical kata.

daniele.perkele said...

Isn't the techinque on the book cover similar to the push hands application of "parting the wild horse's mane"?

Dojo Rat said...

The training methods were similar to the book review you did on ancient training tools, like heavy clubs etc. What was the name of that book?

In my opinion, in parting wild horses mane you are facing the same direction as the opponent, tossing them over your thigh/leg to your rear.
In the technique on the book cover, he is facing the opponent directly and there is more space between the bodies. Diffferent technique, but good observation!

Sean C. Ledig said...


The book was "Hojo Undo." Yes, I noticed that, too. I bought both books because I liked their training methods.

daniele.perkele said...

Hmmm... DR. if I got it right, we have in mind slightly different applications for parting the horse's mane... I'll check if there are other applications which I don't know yet - and surely there are!

Dojo Rat said...


The thing I understand about parting wild horse is that you step behind the opponent.
In the wrestling throw depicted, it is more like the "crossing fist" in xingyi, but not quite the same either. The opponents are facing each other.
Of course, all of our form positions are archtypes that are open to many interpetations.