Most familiar with Chinese kung fu are familiar with the term Sanda, a form a free fighting that involves kicks punches and throws. Sanda was originally created in the 1920s by the Chinese military as a way to train the troops in quick and effective fighting, as well as developing a fighting spirt.

Shaolin Bo Ji Kickboxing

Shaolin bo ji kickboxing

Recently within the Songshan area outside of the Shaolin Temple where the author lives, a new word began to pop up Bo Ji. Bo ji’s literal translation is kickboxing. Perhaps because it is easier to compete on an international level in straight up kickboxing than it is to find avenues to compete in the purely Chinese style of Sanda, some Shaolin schools are adapting this practice.

The main difference in the two sports is one allows throws and one does not. Another noticeable difference is the striking area used during the round house kick. Where in Sanda the foot it used similar to many classical styles of martial arts, in Bo Ji the shin is used closely mirroring Thai boxing method of delivering a round house kick.

The author recently started training at a center in Songshan Shaolin were a portion of the students dedicate their fulltime efforts to Bo Ji kickboxing. The school’s students are divided into traditional skills and bo ji divisions.

Songshan Shaolin School for Bo Ji Training

Shaolin bo ji kickboxing

The school owns a good portion of land, and Monday through Saturday students can be seen practicing any of the common Shaolin kung fu practices, such as basics, forms, weapon and acrobatic skills. These students usually practice in the outside yard all year around which is common within the Songshan Shaolin region. Behind the main yard is an inside training facilities designed especially for Bo Ji training.

The facility is inside of a bunker type building and equipped with modern mat covered floors, a row of new hanging punching bags, as well as many pairs of boxing gloves, body and head gear and hand and kicking pads.

Chinese or Shaolin version of kickboxing is not much different than how other countries practice the sport. A good portion of the time is spent working with a partner hitting pads, working combinations on the bag, shadow boxing, sparring and conditioning.

Punching combinations are similar to those found in western boxing. Body movement is also taught in a similar many to western boxing with ducks weaves and bobs all being part of the fighter’s defense. There is at least one distinctly Shaolin movements in the hand combinations the author has noticed.

In the popular Shaolin form Xiao Hong Quan there is a recurring block that uses the palm to swipe down an incoming straight punch. This same block is used in Bo Ji and can be done with either the lead or rear hand. Bo Ji students also practice traditional Shaolin forms every morning the reason given by one of the fighters is that the forms help to stretch the hip muscles. Something that is important for the Bo Ji fighters that helps deliver kicks.

Sanda and Tau Lu

Shaolin bo ji kickboxing

There is a popular trend these days in and around The Shaolin Temple where the training consists of two major categories that are sanda and tao lu. The are many other skills of course taught here such as basics [ ji ben gong] kong fan[ acrobatics] and specialty skills such as strong man feats, but the traditional ways are being replaced with performance and fighting competitions as two main categories. In China were violent crimes are not a common occurrence there is little need realistically for self-defense.

In modern China Denfeng city, where Shaolin is located, children are sent to study kung fu professionally. From a more practical viewpoint the students can learn to be martial art performers or martial art fighting competitors. The culture has taken a big turn, and many of the traditional applications found in the forms are no longer being taught to the younger generation.

For the foreign students traveling to China or studying in their homeland this ideal doesn’t work. Most foreign student do not go on to make martial arts their livelihood and do live in an environment where violence can and does accrue. Therefore the foreign student of kung fu must learn the practical application of the system’s fighting techniques.

Bo Ji in Shaolin

Shaolin bo ji kickboxing

Kickboxing or Bo Ji as it is referred to by the Shaolin students does create practical usable fighting skill in a short period of time. These skills are largely associated with the young athletes being superiorly conditioned that follow a hard training regimen that is geared towards contact training. Whereas the traditional application were designed for defense against bandits and criminals, the strategy of the two differ greatly.

In Bo Ji the opponent is a singular well trained fighting athlete that will most certainly possess higher levels of fitness, speed and knowledge on how to fight within the context of the match. For the traditionalist that is not interested with fighting in competitions as a profession, he/she may not have the time and ability to train for such a high level of fitness.

Many conditions that would present themselves in a self-defense scenario are also quite different than those a competitor would face in the ring. Though the Bo Ji kickboxer will be facing a highly skilled fighter in the ring, he knows the rules and isn’t worried about surprises.

Shaolin bo ji kickboxing

For the kung fu practitioner that is facing a personal protection encounter many of the traditional movements in the Shaolin forms can be of extreme usefulness. Not worried about a fair fight techniques such as eye, throat and groin strikes as well as small joint manipulations and breaks can save one’s life. These dirty fighting techniques can give a small weaker less aggressive person a better fighting chance against a bigger more violent prone attacker.

Both methods work best when trained together. For maximum training benefits the Shaolin student would be wise to train in modern day Bo Ji training methods with their proven effectiveness, as well as the more obscure traditional fighting strategies and techniques for when the gloves are off and anything goes.

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