Chang Dong Sheng: Wrestler Extraordinary

Chang Dong Sheng (1905-1986 ) commanded great respect for his Shuai Jiao (Chinese Wrestling) in the 20th century. His main style was  of Bao Ding, one of the art’s  major branches such as TianJin and Beijing. Bao Ding is also known as Kuai Jiao or Fast Wrestling. Kuai Jiao with wide and powerful techniques immediately attempts to dominate the opponent on contact.

Chang, a muslim from Hopei province, trained under wrestler Chang Feng Yen ( a disciple of Ping Ching I) from an early age. There is a story that one day Feng Yen told young Chang to gather grasshoppers from the field to feed his pet bird. Chang dutifully went to the field and spent hours trying to grab any of the evasive insects. Returning to report his complete failure, Chang was escorted to the field by his teacher who then proceeded to demonstrate the right technique: sweep the grass with your foot and swing your arm to collect the startled Caelifera. In future years Chang would be the master of sweeps.

As Chang matured he travelled around the country training with people and seeking opponent’s to test his mettle. Though undefeated he still felt that he learned from each wrestler he encountered gradually  allowing him to master such skills as Ba, control, and Si, to rend. This latter action looks like the movement of wings and won for him the nick name Fancy Butterfly.  During this period Chang also acquired supplementary skills such as striking from Xing Yi.

Chang would fight in almost any circumstances, open matches, Lei Tai platform, no-holds-barred confrontations. He never met defeat. He won the All China Full Contact Tournament two times defeating all including the Mongolian Champion, KuLi. Due to the changing times and his own skills, Chang was invited to the new, important Martial Arts Academy in Nanking. Started in 1927 by Chang Chi Chiang, this was the premier center in the country for martial arts especially when it came to modernizing,  yet retaining traditional Chinese values. Chang, the youngest faculty member, took over the Shuai Jiao division, bringing more prestige and recognition than the sport had produced in decades.

Chang took the opportunity to study other arts outside his field such as Shaolin, Jiao Men Tan Tui, Bagua and Tai Chi. He was lucky enough to learn Tai Chi from Li Jing Lin, a top sword master and a student of Yang Chen Fu. Chang took what he learned and developed Chang style Tai Chi which uses the structure of Yang style Tai Chi to order its throwing technique and Xing Jing a distillation of Xing Yi striking technique. This further expanded Chang’s skills and in 1933 Master Ch’ang won the National Kung Fu Title, heavyweight division, as  Grand Champion of China. Other champions included Li Kun Shan and Wang Yu Shan both of the Preying Mantis school.

Chang considered that there were three major principles in his art.
1. Opportunity. You had to see and understand your opponent’s weaknesses.
2. Timing. Even a good opportunity would be lost if the time to attack misfired.
3. Angle. Each attack had to be modified to fit into the proper opening.


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