The Poem of Shuai-Chiao Unveiled

By chi-hsiu D. Weng Ph.D.

Dr. Weng Historically, Shuai-chiao has been a system of self-defense in the Chinese military program, and a national sport, which embodies tai chi - the philosophical root of all Chinese martial arts. Today, Shuai-chiao is a complementary system for san-shou (modern full-contact sport) competitors, and for all martial artists as a tool of evaluating their techniques' effectiveness.

"The Poem of Shuai-chiao" is a vital part of the Shuai-chiao heritage, passed on through the Shuai-chiao lineage from teacher to student for generations. This ancient poem, along with the ranking requirements set for the earlier in this century by Master Ch'and Tung-sheng, function like the left hand and the right hand of the Shuai-chiao art. Whereas the ranking requirements set forth the proper order and structure for progress through the ranks, "The Poem of Shuai-chiao" - comprised of rhyming stanzas each ending with either "a" or 'ao"-describes the principles, strategies and techniques. "The Poem of Shuai-chiao" was traditionally passed down through the line of practitioners, and became part of Ch'ang Tung-sheng's legacy. The first shuai-chia text, "Shin Wu-shu Shuai-chiao ko" published in 1916, was compiled under the leadership of General Ma-liang, commander of the security force of the capital of Shantung province by Master Ch'ang's teacher, Chang Feng-yen and contemporaries Li Yu-min and Ma Ch'ing-yun. General Ma and Master ch'ang's teacher as well as father-in-law, Chang Feng-yen were both disciples of Master Ping Ching-I, who was the most renowned master of Shuai-chiao in the lateCh'ing Dynasty.

Guidelines and Principles
The Shuai-chiao poem consists of 30 characters. The six main characters form the basic principles for timing, distance, force, angle, reaction and control. The next nine characters depict strategies and methods for balance, countering the opponent, footwork, had techniques, approaching methods, holds and grabs. The last 15 characters are the particular techniques of hand and foot combinations of punches, kicks, grabs and throws.

The poem's purpose is to condense Shuai-chiao's content along certain guidelines and principles, rather than the technical details of throws. Shuai-chiao techniques can be counted as 36 major throws; with minor detail variations, they could add up to 3,600 combinations. A favorite Shuai-chiao saying explains in a classical way, " Numerous techniques as many as the hairs of a cow."

Guidelines and Principles
Along with Shuai-chiao's principles and the guidelines, the poem covers some major methods commonly used with a few representative techniques. If you place the whole poem on a piece of paper, you will have a pyramid graph forming the main framework. The top of this pyramid graph of six main Chinese characters in the poem are as follows: Hsi(absorbing); Pa'n(mixing); Ch'ao(surpassing); Chuan (Turing); Tun (squatting); and Tiao (hopping). These characters represent the major principles emphasized in the Pao-ting style.

Method of Evaluation
In the 1970s, when I was serving as his assistant, Ch'ang Tung-sheng introduced "The Poem of Shuai-chiao" to me during a conversation, in order that I could completely evaluate students and fully understand the contents of the Shuai-chiao course. At that time, Master Ch'ang tung-sheng was the greatest living authority on the Shuai-chiao system. He had been fired by the Central Kou-shu Institute in the 1920s and completed his professional training. During those years he modified and analyzed Hsing-I-ch'uan and T'ai-chi-ch'uan before he graduated. He held an undefeated record in Shuai-chiao competition from 1933-1948, when he retired and moved to Taiwan. The brothers of Ch'ang Tung-sheng - Ch'ang tung-ju, Ch'ang Tung-p'o and Ch'ang Tung-ch'I- were also Shuai-chiao experts. Master Ch'ang and his younger brother Ch'ang Tung-ch'I were champions in different weight classes at the last national Shuai-chiao tournament sponsored on the Chinese mainland in 1948 - the 7th National athletic Meet. Master Ch'ang introduced and designed the ranking system for Central Police College of R.O.C. and in 1969 he authored the textbook "Shuai-chiao Shu" ("Method of Shuai-Chiao"). Since 1983, the Shuai-chiao ranking requirement has been revised to its current form.

I was judged by Master Ch'ang in 1970 and 1971 when I won the National athletic Meet in the Shuai-chiao division and also later on became a three-time collegiate champion. I also coached a team under the Head Coach Master Ch'ang which participated in the Taipei Municipal tournament. Out of the eight divisions, this team took six gold and two silver medals. It was during this period that the poem was first published. It was over time through my experience as his assistant that each symbol's large amount of meaning was explained to me.

Spreading the Word
If a person claims expertise in Shuai-chiao, or professes to have been a student of Grandmaster Ch'ang tung-sheng's lineage, that person should know the contents of "The Poem of Shuai-chiao."

On the other hand, the Pao-ting Shuai-chiao system - one of the four major styles of Shuai-chiao- is presented by this ranking system in a progressive scale, which can be used for examining and demonstrating techniques for levels. This ranking system is also important for standardizing and certifying instructors, coaches and teachers. The goal is to use this educational device to spread the Shuai-chiao art.

For example, recent proof of Shuai-chiao's spreading popularity was the Shuai-chiao National competition Chiang Kai-shek cup 1989 in Taiwan, promoting 200 black belts at that event alone. In two years, holding an eight degree black belt in Shuai-chiao, as the founding chairman of the Shuai-chiao ROC, I was able to certify 100 National judges, including judo competitors and their former national coach who held sixth degree black belts; and Master Hung Ch'ao-hsiung, currently president of the National Wrestling Association of Taiwan.

Source of Inspiration
The great wisdom of "The Poem of Shuai-chiao" made it a source of inspiration when Master Ch'ang developed the ranking requirements. The United States Shuai-chiao Association ranking requirements are the summation of knowledge adapted by the Central Police College of R.O.C.,Shuai-chiao committee, Kuo0shu federation, International Shuai-chiao Association, and other shuai-chiao groups from countries such as Germany, Italy, south Africa, and Yugoslavia.

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About chi-hsiu D. Weng Ph.D. :
Chi-hsiu d. Weng received his Ph.D. from the Ohio State University in movement arts. Currently he is a visiting professor at San Jose State University. He has written a Shuai-chiao textbook and coaches the University of California at Los Angeles (UNLA) kung fu club. President of the United States Shuai-chiao Association, he recently worked with TC Media on a series of tapes detailing the Shuai-chiao ranking requirements.

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