San Shou is the official full contact fighting sport of modern Wushu. This versatile fighting method, also known as Sanda, appears much like a seamless hybrid of full-contact kickboxing and wrestling and includes many more grappling techniques than kickboxing or Muay Thai. San Shou is a very effective fighting system.
Definition and Etymology
Note that "Wushu" is the preferred term to designate all Chinese martial arts, so Kung Fu and Wushu were originally the same. However, in the last thirty years modern Wushu has become a more athletic competitive sport, in which much emphasis has been placed on speed, difficulty, and presentation, while "kung fu" or traditional wushu remains the traditional fighting practice. Literally translated, "wu" is military, "shu" is art. Wushu therefore means the art of fighting, or martial arts.
San Shou" translates as "unbound hand" and refers to free fighting where the rules are designed to most accurately simulate actual combat. San Shou matches are fought on a raised platform called the "Lei Tai". Historically, the Lei Tai dates back centuries in China where challenge matches were fought both bare handed and also with weapons with no rules often resulting in death or serious injury.
Principles and Techniques
San Shou combines all the combat aspects of wushu and addresses the three ranges of fighting: full contact kicking, punching, takedowns and throws derived from the traditional application of Chinese martial arts.
It would be a mistake to think of San Shou as just a variety of Kick Boxing, as the strategies of San Shou are quite different. Practitioners say Sanshou combines the punches of boxing, the specialized kicks of kung fu and the throws of Greco-Roman wrestling. It is a very fast paced, standing fight since there is never a break in the action and holding the opponent to submission like is in wrestling is not permitted.
This very effective fighting system is heavily influenced by traditional Chinese boxing, Chinese wrestling methods called Shuai Chiao and other Chinese grappling techniques such as Qin Na. Finishing hold (chokes, arm locks etc.) have been excluded from the rules which forces the fight to continue at a fast pace. A fighter can win by a knockout or by points, points are also awarded for the techniques according to effectiveness. In a tournament, a competitor fighst for 2 rounds of 2 minutes each, plus a third round in case the first 2 score even. Forcing the opponent off of the platform is also a major technique of San Shou.
As an unarmed self-defense, close combat system, Sanshou includes da (punches), ti (kicks), shuai (grappling), and na (throws, locks, chokes). San shou as a sport has a very great emphasis on throws. One of its most distinguished techniques is the "kick catch". This is when one person kicks and the person performing the throw catches the kick and then trips the person kicking when he's on one leg. While kickboxing styles, such as Muay Thai also allow this, the kick catch is emphasized in San Shou because of the importance it is given by the judges.