A Look at Sanshou

The Sanshou Exercise is the highest level of structured practice in the Yang Curriculum. Although it resembles simply another version of the myriad of two-person fighting forms found in so many other martial arts, and is eagerly embraced by many martial artists as an addition to their repertoire of such “fight dances,” it is different in one very important respect. Each exchange in its eighty-eight movements is completely consistent with the so-called civil aspect of the art, which means that each is derivable from the mutual adherence of the players, adherence defined by a continuous evolution of literal taiji relationships between the combatants.  In other words, there is a level of perception present that has no relation whatsoever to fighting. The creation of taijis is perceived by the players as a continuous contact of constant pressure, spread over a line or surface between them, hence the name adherence. The fact that such behavior gives rise to elegant classical martial relationships is one of the most appealing mysteries of the art.

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