Tung-Sheng Ch'ang - Undefeated "Mixed Martial Arts" Legend of China


Tung-Sheng Ch'ang

Tung-Sheng Chang arose as one of the greatest Shuai Jiao experts of the 20th century. His teacher, Chang, Fong-Yen, taught him the Bao-Ting style of fast hands wrestling. After learning all he could, Tung-Sheng Chang  traveled throughout parts of China learning different styles of kung fu and Shuai Jiao. By beating many masters in practice, or combat, Chang would learn what he felt was useful and add that to his fighting style/concepts. In his fighting career, Chang went undefeated. Due to his graceful yet devastating techniques, he earned the name "Iron Butterfly" Hua hu die.

Born in 1908 in Baoding, Hebei, Chang was a Hui martial artist. He was one of the best-known Chinese wrestling (also known as Shuai jiao) practitioners and teachers. He was remarkably strong among his peers from his early life. Chang's family roasted chickens, and their business provided sufficient income to allow him private lessons with Zhang Fenyen a local businessman and Shuai Chiao master who practiced baoding shuai jiao as instructed by Ping Jinyi.

Chang distinguished himself early among Zhang's pupils as a promising martial artist. This led to close personal attention and training in areas normally reserved for more senior students. Zhang taught Chang unorthodox training drills and methods to aid him in developing his shuai jiao skill, including using leg sweeps to drive grasshoppers into the air where the correctly positioned hand could easily catch them.

Chang competed in 1933 in the 5th National Kuo Shu Tournament (also called the "All China Full Contact Tournament") and won the heavyweight division over several hundred other practitioners. Now nicknamed the "Iron Butterfly," Chang would go on to win numerous challenge matches before entering China's armed services - traveling across the Kuomintang controlled areas of China to seek out other shuai jiao practitioners in order to test his skills. He may also have first started learning xingyi in this period.

He taught as the youngest faculty member in the Nanjing Central Kuoshu Institute and exchanged knowledge with other martial arts experts. He created his own variation of Tai Chi and xingyi, Chang Tai Chi, based on Yang style tai chi chuan, xingyi and his shuai jiao knowledge.

During his time as student of Nanking Central Martial Arts Academy, Ch'ang Tung-Sheng was obliged to study other Chinese martial arts, including Shaolin, Tan Tui (the Muslim Springing-leg style), Pa Kua, and Tai-Chi. The style of Tai-Chi by Ch'ang was influenced during a martial art exchange with General Li Jin-Ling, a Yang style Tai-Chi master who was a generation earlier than Yang Cheng-Fu. This style of Tai-Chi also became part of Ch'ang's daily practice as Ch'ang style Tai-Chi Chuan. He was known to study a system and then assimilate and integrate its techniques and forms into his Shuai-Chiao. Ch'ang style Tai-Chi and Hsing Jing (Ch'ang's "essence of Hsing-Yi") were two results of this process, giving him the ability to kick and punch with the same confidence that he threw and locked.

Throughout the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II, of which China became a part, Chang instructed large numbers of Chinese Nationalist troops in Shuai Chiao (including the elite Red Wall paratroopers), while continuing to fend of numerous challenges. When not otherwise occupied, Chang visited several POW camps to test his Shuai Chiao against Japanese practitioners of judo, jujutsu and karate. Chang represented the Army in 1948 when he was victorious in a nationwide competition for shuai jiao, Chin Na, grappling and throwing.

Great-Grand Master Chang,Tung-sheng applying Deh Huh - Inner Leg Hooking

In February of 1982 Grandmaster Ch'ang began promoting the art of Shuai-chiao by traveling around the world. In the United States, Grandmaster Ch'ang gave demonstrations and workshops to kung-fu organizations, police departments,and universities. He also presided over three US National tournaments.

The unexpected death of Grandmaster Ch'ang on June 18, 1986, left the world with many unanswered questions about Shuai-chiao. With his passing, he took with him many secrets that have yet to be discovered by those who still practice the art.

"The extent to which Grandmaster Ch'ang was respected, revered, and feared by the Chinese martial arts community is incalculable. He was literally regarded as a national treasure by Taiwan and was the only Master to be granted Red, White, and Blue Belt, the national colors of Taiwan. The belt was buried with him and will never be awarded again. Since the knowledge and the caliber of men needed to train someone as Grandmaster Ch'ang was trained no longer even exist, the 10 Degree was retired upon his death. Some say that as much at 60% of all Kung-Fu knowledge that existed in the earlier years of this century went to the grave with Grandmaster Ch'ang.

"In perhaps all of Chinese martial arts history, no one ever went totally undefeated for well over half a century, certainly not if they accepted any and all challenges as Grandmaster Ch'ang did! Indeed, he was not only just one of a kind, but unfortunately for all of us, Grandmaster Tung Sheng Ch'ang was one the likes of which will never be seen again. Amid all of the competing and conflicting claims made by latter-day teachers as to whose styles or system is superior, no one except the disciples of Grandmaster Ch'ang can state that their teacher defeated the teachers from all styles at a time in history when the deciding factor in victory was who walked away.

As a competitor, Ch'ang Tung-Sheng was also undefeated. He fought countless Shuai-Chiao matches, as well as Lei-Tai full contact no-holds-barred matches and challenge fights. The Lei-Tai matches were the predecessors to today's combat-style Shuai-Chiao fights and modern Sanshou. Grandmaster Ch'ang won the All China Full Contact Tournament twice, defeating all comers from all styles. He also fought the Mongolian champion, Kuli. Their bout was filled with high-flying throws, all of which were issued by Ch'ang.


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