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Sanshou (aka sanda; “unsanctioned fighting”) is a Chinese martial art that arose in 1924 because of the superior close-quarters-combat skills of the Japanese soldiers over their inadequate Russian counterparts during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). The new Soviet power developed intense hand-to-hand combat training methods for its military, resulting in the effective art of sambo. This strategic mindset resonated with the Chinese Nationalist government. In 1924, it built the Whampoa Military Academy in Canton to create the combat sport of sanshou, which combined traditional Chinese kung fu with modern training methods and sports medicine.

Sanshou is not a style but a form of military training that has evolved into a combat sport. In addition to self-defense applications, sanshou philosophy dictates that by participating in combat sports, one can attain good health, fitness and well-being.

The martial competitive aspect of sanshou evolved from lei tai: ancient Chinese martial duels that were fought on raised stages. Originating during the Song dynasty (960-1279 B.C.), tournament winners would win coveted positions as the emperor’s bodyguard or as a martial arts instructor to the Imperial army. Today, they win money, fame and belts.

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