Really Old Chinese Fighting Arts

Steel Tiger

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The oldest recognised Chinese fighting technique is Jiao di "horn butting" which is supposed to have been developed by Huangdi in 2697BC. Given that Huangdi is a legendary figure we might be able to discount this one.

The art called Shoubo was apparently practiced during the Shang dynasty (1766 - 1066BC). What it was like no one is quite sure but learned speculation suggests it may have been something like quanfa. It had a long life as it was a recognised art in the Han dynasty (206BC - AD220).

Jiao li was a grappling art of the Zhou dynasty (1122 - 256BC). It included striking, blocking, joint locking and pressure point attacks. It is also considered the oldest verifiable art practiced in China and may be the oldest systematic martial art in the world. Unfortunately, by the Qin dynasty (221 - 206BC) it had become a public sporting competition. Later in the Han dynasty there was a clear distinction drawn between Shoubo, a self defence method, and Jiao li, a sport.

During the 7th century BC (Zhou dynasty) another martial art arose called Xiang Bo. It was apparently quite simliar to Sanda.


A hard/soft hand-to-hand theory is expounded in the story of the Maiden of Yue in the Spring and Autumn Annals written in the 5th century BC.

The Zhuangzi, probably written in the 5th century BC, discusses philosophical practice and martial arts practice.

The Han Shu, or Book of Han or History of Han, includes six chapters on hand fighting. It is from the 1st century AD.

The oldest reference to Shaolin martial arts is from AD728. It refers to two incidents; the defence of the monastery against a bandit attack in AD610 and the participation by monks in the Battle of Hulao in AD621.

Bodhidharma probably arrived at the temple around AD527-528.


It is intriguing to see the development of systematic martial arts from the earliest times in China. I think there was a lot of material that became refined through places like Shaolin, Wudong, and Emei to give us the sought of Chinese arts we see today.
 

oxy

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According to legend, the famous physician of the Later Han, Hua Tuo, invented a system of exercise named after 5 different animals. He was the guy who scraped poison out of Guan Yu's upper arm. He was later executed for trying to remedy Cao Cao's stroke. His book of medicine knowledge was destroyed by the wife of the prison guard.
 

Rabu

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"The oldest reference to Shaolin martial arts is from AD728. It refers to two incidents; the defence of the monastery against a bandit attack in AD610 and the participation by monks in the Battle of Hulao in AD621."

Check out articles written by Stan Henning.

here is where you can locate some of his articles as well as references to his written works:

http://seinenkai.com/articles/henning/index.html

The truth as can be known, (seperate from historical fiction), is quite interesting. The two incidents mentioned above are specifically mentioned in articles which Henning wrote.

Best in all things,

Rob
 

Xue Sheng

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Jiao li was a grappling art of the Zhou dynasty (1122 - 256BC). It included striking, blocking, joint locking and pressure point attacks. It is also considered the oldest verifiable art practiced in China and may be the oldest systematic martial art in the world. Unfortunately, by the Qin dynasty (221 - 206BC) it had become a public sporting competition. Later in the Han dynasty there was a clear distinction drawn between Shoubo, a self defence method, and Jiao li, a sport.

Jiao Li became shuaijiao but you must take into consideration when you are talking sport in old China it still ain't pretty and it still is rather painful with few rules. Something to consider with things like shuaijiao of the old days the idea is to throw your opponent on the ground with a whole lot of force.

And there has been much speculation on the legitimacy of Bodhidharma being at Shaolin.

I have been working on CMA origins for a while now and it gets messy when you start getting into documented vs. legendary origins. Shaolin earliest documented is as you state but Bodhidharma is currently only legendary. Same goes for Taiji and Zhang Sanfeng. He is legendary and appears at multiple times (vastly far apart in years) in Chinese history and as the originator of arts other than Taiji first. The only documented origin at this time is the Chen family and their history is also a bit questionable too.
 

Taiji_Mantis

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I found that I was having a hard time coming up with anything concrete myself about six years ago when I tried to find similar information. When I asked a professor about this, he debunked the legitimacy of Laozi as well stating that the style of writing did not match the period the text was supposed to have originated in. At first I didnt get it. Later It became clear to me how that worked. Now I too am of the camp that Zhuangzi is probably more "Daoist" than Laozi :)

Its interesting. I will read what other people find and publish, but it was too much of a headache for me. Good luck and let me know how you fare :)
 

oxy

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I found that I was having a hard time coming up with anything concrete myself about six years ago when I tried to find similar information. When I asked a professor about this, he debunked the legitimacy of Laozi as well stating that the style of writing did not match the period the text was supposed to have originated in. At first I didnt get it. Later It became clear to me how that worked. Now I too am of the camp that Zhuangzi is probably more "Daoist" than Laozi :)

It's amazing how a lone professor is able to debunk the legitmacy of Laozi without the rest of the academic sinological world hearing about it.

Let's say Laozi is not legitimate.

You can't deny that a great deal of Daoist philosophy is still based on his writings. So how can you call it "less Daoist" than Zhuangzi?
 
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Steel Tiger

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Jiao Li became shuaijiao but you must take into consideration when you are talking sport in old China it still ain't pretty and it still is rather painful with few rules. Something to consider with things like shuaijiao of the old days the idea is to throw your opponent on the ground with a whole lot of force.

And there has been much speculation on the legitimacy of Bodhidharma being at Shaolin.

I have been working on CMA origins for a while now and it gets messy when you start getting into documented vs. legendary origins. Shaolin earliest documented is as you state but Bodhidharma is currently only legendary. Same goes for Taiji and Zhang Sanfeng. He is legendary and appears at multiple times (vastly far apart in years) in Chinese history and as the originator of arts other than Taiji first. The only documented origin at this time is the Chen family and their history is also a bit questionable too.

It looks like the name Shuaijiao was adopted around 1928 probably as part of the Nationalist government's reordering of the martial arts.

Given the nature of Shuaijiao and the fact that the Han considered it for competition gives a fair indication of how nasty Shoubo must have been. I figure more than one person successfully defended themselves with Jiao Li.

I'm pretty sceptical about Bodhidharma too. I included him in the chronology to give some perspective to all the stories about Shaolin and the possible truth. The legendary suggestion that he introduced a set of exercises (Yi Jin Jing) and this became the basis of all Shaolin MAs is clearly contradicted by the timeframe and the vast amount of material that was already being practiced in China. The earliest references to him in association with Shaolin are pretty obviously Shaolin propoganda - he was the son of a king, he said the monastery was the best, stuff like that.
 

Xue Sheng

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It looks like the name Shuaijiao was adopted around 1928 probably as part of the Nationalist government's reordering of the martial arts.

Given the nature of Shuaijiao and the fact that the Han considered it for competition gives a fair indication of how nasty Shoubo must have been. I figure more than one person successfully defended themselves with Jiao Li.

I'm pretty sceptical about Bodhidharma too. I included him in the chronology to give some perspective to all the stories about Shaolin and the possible truth. The legendary suggestion that he introduced a set of exercises (Yi Jin Jing) and this became the basis of all Shaolin MAs is clearly contradicted by the timeframe and the vast amount of material that was already being practiced in China. The earliest references to him in association with Shaolin are pretty obviously Shaolin propoganda - he was the son of a king, he said the monastery was the best, stuff like that.

Look at some of the modern Shuaijiao matches, they are still pretty rough and Shuaijiao is part of Police/Military sanda too.

You think Bodhidharma's chronology is questionable check this out

Zhang Sanfeng has been said to live in all of the following
Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Sung Dynasty (969-1126)
Southern Sung Dynasty (1127-1279)
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
And yet for any of the histories to work he can't be from the Ming Dynasty.

But he was not even mentioned in Chinese history until the Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan in 1669 (Qing Dynasty) and he was said to be the founder of Wang’s martial arts (which escapes me at the moment) but it was not Taijiquan and likely it was more of a political statement against the Qing since they were not Han people and certainly not Taoist
 

Taiji_Mantis

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It's amazing how a lone professor is able to debunk the legitmacy of Laozi without the rest of the academic sinological world hearing about it.

Let's say Laozi is not legitimate.

You can't deny that a great deal of Daoist philosophy is still based on his writings. So how can you call it "less Daoist" than Zhuangzi?

I think perhaps "debunked" was a poor choice of words. The issue I saw after being shown of course, came in the variations of style in the writings. Please bear in mind that (at least to my knowledge) no actual Laozi person has been identified. Well that's not entirely true, there are in fact several at several points in history that could be the author of this text. Admittedly I am now too far removed from my education to elaborate accurately, but now that this has been brought up again in my mind, I will attempt to relocate those sources amongst my books.

As to how I consider the Dao de Jing to be "less" daoist from my perspective, perhaps that was another poor choice of words. However, the Dao de Jing was written in great flowery poetic verse--sometimes difficult to translate, and sometimes more difficult to understand. It was from my point of view in the language of the scholar. Zhuangzi was written in stories of characters that everyday people could identify more with. More of an "everymans" kind of writing. My thought was the Way should be for everyone, not just those who could decypher the cryptic (albeit lovely) messages of the Dao De Jing.

Does that make sense? I really wasn't attempting to cause a controversy with my remark, simply expressing my opinion.
 

oxy

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I think perhaps "debunked" was a poor choice of words. The issue I saw after being shown of course, came in the variations of style in the writings. Please bear in mind that (at least to my knowledge) no actual Laozi person has been identified. Well that's not entirely true, there are in fact several at several points in history that could be the author of this text. Admittedly I am now too far removed from my education to elaborate accurately, but now that this has been brought up again in my mind, I will attempt to relocate those sources amongst my books.

I know that it's well understood that Laozi probably wasn't one person, as you say.

But the version of the DDJ we have today closely matches the ones found in old Han tombs (one of the oldest ones discovered so far).

As to how I consider the Dao de Jing to be "less" daoist from my perspective, perhaps that was another poor choice of words. However, the Dao de Jing was written in great flowery poetic verse--sometimes difficult to translate, and sometimes more difficult to understand. It was from my point of view in the language of the scholar. Zhuangzi was written in stories of characters that everyday people could identify more with. More of an "everymans" kind of writing. My thought was the Way should be for everyone, not just those who could decypher the cryptic (albeit lovely) messages of the Dao De Jing.

Does that make sense? I really wasn't attempting to cause a controversy with my remark, simply expressing my opinion.

I don't know how you can say the DDJ has flowery poetic verse.

Everyone I know who's read the book say that it is very spartan. It is Zhuangzi's works that are perceived as more verbose than the DDJ.

The language of the DDJ is written in the language of the time. Ancient Chinese is different from modern Chinese. It is as Latin is to English. The "cryptic" messages of the DDJ seem that way now, but back then, that was how everyone wrote.
 
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