Sanda / Sanshou
(散打 / 散手)
A Sanda match in Brazil
Also known asSanshou, Chinese boxing, Chinese kickboxing, free combat
Country of originChina
ParenthoodChangquan, bajiquan, Northern Shaolin, shuai jiao, Chin Na, wushu, Choy Li Fut, Tai Chi, Ang Quan
Literal meaningfree fighting
Literal meaningfree hand

Sanda (Chinese: 散打; pinyin: Sǎndǎ), formerly Sanshou (Chinese: 散手; pinyin: Sǎnshǒu), is the official Chinese boxing full-contact combat sport.[2] Sanda is a fighting system which was originally developed by the Chinese military based upon the study and practices of traditional Chinese martial arts and modern combat fighting techniques; it combines boxing and full-contact kickboxing, which includes close range and rapid successive punches and kicks, with wrestling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, kick catches, and in some competitions, even elbow and knee strikes.[3][4]

As part of the development of sport wushu by the Chinese government, a standard curriculum for Sanda was developed. It is to this standard curriculum that the term Wushu Sanda is usually applied. Sanda may also involve techniques from any other fighting style depending on the teacher's mode of instruction.[5]


Sanda's competitive history is rooted in barehanded elevated arena or Lei Tai fights in which no rules were observed.[6] However, Sanda as a competitive event developed in the military as these bouts were commonly held between the soldiers to test and practice barehanded martial skills, ability and techniques. Rules were developed and the use of protective gloves etc. was adopted. It was originally used by the Kuomintang at the first modern military academy in Whampoa in the 1920s.[7][failed verification] Later it was also adopted as a method by the People's Liberation Army of China. Sanda's curriculum was developed with reference to traditional Chinese martial arts. This general Wushu Sanda curriculum varies in its different forms, as the Chinese government developed a version for civilians for self-defense and as a sport.


The generalized modern curriculum practiced in modern wushu schools is composed of different traditional martial arts fighting styles from China and Western Boxing, but mainly based on scientific efficiency. Wushu Sanda is composed of Chinese martial arts applications including most aspects of combat including striking and grappling, however when Wushu Sanda was developed as a sport, restrictions were made for safety reasons as well as to promote it as a non-violent sport. Examples of such restrictions included no blows delivered to the back of the head, throat, spine or groin and the discontinuation of the combat when any of the fighters fall to the ground. However many schools, whether traditional or modern, practice it as an all-round martial arts system with no restrictions, only adapting their training in relation to competition rules prior to the event.[8] Sanda tournaments are one of the two disciplines recognized by the International Wushu Federation.

Hand Strikes

Two Dutch fighters in a sparring session of Sanshou.

Elbows and Knees


Sanda fighter attempts a double leg takedown on his opponent


One can see Sanda as a synthesis of traditional Chinese fighting techniques into a more amorphous system and is commonly taught alongside traditional Chinese styles, from which Wushu Sanda techniques, theory and training methods are derived. The emphasis of Sanda is on a more amorphous fighting ability.

A Sanda kick

Sport variation

Yundong Sanda (Chinese: 运动散打; pinyin: Yùndòng Sàndǎ) or Jinzheng Sanda (Chinese: 竞争散打; pinyin: Jìngzhēng Sàndǎ): A modern fighting method, sport, and applicable component of Wushu / Kung Fu influenced by traditional Chinese Boxing, of which takedowns & throws are legal in competition, as well as all other sorts of striking (use of arms & legs). Chinese wrestling methods called Shuai Jiao and other Chinese grappling techniques such as Chin Na. It has all the combat aspects of wushu.

Sanda appears much like Kickboxing but includes many more grappling techniques. Sanda fighting competitions are often held alongside taolu or form competitions. Sanda represents the modern development of Lei Tai contests, but with rules in place to reduce the chance of serious injury. Many Chinese martial art schools teach or work within the rule sets of Sanda, working to incorporate the movements, characteristics, and theory of their style.

Chinese martial artists also compete in non-Chinese or mixed combat sports, including boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts. Sanda is practiced in tournaments and is normally held alongside taolu events in wushu competition. For safety reasons, some techniques from the self-defense form such as elbow strikes, chokes, and joint locks, are not allowed during tournaments. Competitors can win by knockout or points which are earned by landing strikes to the body or head, throwing an opponent, or when competition is held on a raised lei tai platform, pushing them off the platform. Fighters are only allowed to clinch for a few seconds. If the clinch is not broken by the fighters, and if neither succeeds in throwing his opponent within the time limit, the referee will break the clinch. In the U.S., competitions are held either in boxing rings or on the raised lei tai platform. Amateur fighters wear protective gear.

"Amateur Sanda" allows kicks, punches, knees (not to the head), and throws. A competition held in China, called the "King of Sanda", is held in a ring similar to a boxing ring in design but larger in dimension. As professionals, they wear no protective gear except for gloves, cup, and mouthpiece, and "Professional Sanda" allows knee strikes (including to the head) as well as kicking, punching and throwing.

Some Sanda fighters have participated in fighting tournaments such as K-1 and Shoot Boxing. They have had some degree of success, especially in Shoot boxing competitions, which is more similar to Sanda. Due to the rules of Kickboxing competition, Sanda fighters are subjected to more limitations than usual. Also notable competitors in China's mainstream Mixed Martial Arts competitions, Art of War Fighting Championship and Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation are dominantly of wushu Sanda background. Sanda coach, Zhao Xuejun played a significant role in helping transition Sanda fighters to MMA.[9] Although it is less common, some Sanda practitioners have also fought in American Mixed Martial Arts competitions such as the UFC and Strikeforce. Sanda has been featured in many style-versus-style competitions. Muay Thai is frequently pitted against Sanda as is Karate, Kickboxing, & Tae Kwon Do.

Military variation

Junshi Sanda (Chinese: 军事散打; pinyin: Jūnshì Sǎndǎ): A system of unarmed combat that was designed by Chinese Elite Forces based upon their intense study of traditional martial arts such as traditional Kung Fu, Shuai Jiao, Chin Na and modern hand-to-hand fighting and combat philosophy to develop a realistic system of unarmed fighting for the Chinese military. Junshi Sanda employs all parts of the body as anatomical weapons to attack and counter with, by using what the Chinese consider to be the four basic martial arts techniques:


The International Wushu Federation (IWUF) promotes wushu and is the governing body for wushu in all its forms worldwide. Sanda and taolu (forms) are the two categories of competitive sport wushu . The IWUF is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

World Wushu Championships

Main article: World Wushu Championships

Number Year Host City, Country
1 1991 China Beijing, China
2 1993 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3 1995 United States Baltimore, U.S.
4 1997 Italy Rome, Italy
5 1999 Hong Kong Hung Hom Bay, Hong Kong
6 2001 Armenia Yerevan, Armenia
7 2003 Macau Freguesia da Sé, Macau
8 2005 Vietnam Hanoi, Vietnam
9 2007 China Beijing, China
10 2009 Canada Toronto, Canada
11 2011 Turkey Ankara, Turkey
12 2013 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
13 2015 Indonesia Jakarta, Indonesia
14 2017 Russia Kazan, Russia
15 2019 China Shanghai, China
16 2021 United States Dallas, United States

Sanda World Cup

No. Year Host City, Country
1 2002 China Shanghai, China
2 2004 China Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
3 2006 China Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
4 2008 China Harbin, Heilongjiang, China
5 2010 China Chongqing, China
6 2012 China Wuyishan, Fujian, China
7 2014 Indonesia Jakarta, Indonesia
8 2016 China Xi'an, Shaanxi, China
9 2018 China Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
10 2020 Australia Melbourne, Australia

Notable practitioners

For practitioners of Sanda, see Category:Sanshou practitioners.

This is a dynamic list and may never be able to satisfy particular standards for completeness. You can help by adding missing items with reliable sources.



Mixed martial arts


Professional boxing

See also


  1. ^ "The Professor of Sanshou". Kung Fu (fighting Technics) Magazine. Retrieved 2010-05-30.
  2. ^ "Journal of Chinese Martial Studies 01.2009". Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Black Belt". Black Belt Magazine. Active Interest Media, Inc. 1 October 1998. Retrieved 11 March 2019 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Casarella, Antonello; Ghetti, Roberto (15 July 2017). A Complete Guide to Kung Fu. Enslow Publishing, LLC. ISBN 9780766085428. Retrieved 11 March 2019 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Cheng, Mark (October 1998). "Sanshou". Black Belt Magazine. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  6. ^ "About Sanda".
  7. ^ Marian K. Castinado. "Full-Contact Kung Fu". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on March 14, 2013. Retrieved 2010-05-30.
  8. ^ Matuszak, Sascha (October 21, 2015). "Sanda:China's most popular combat sport". Vice. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  9. ^ "MMA fighters in struggle for recognition in China - People's Daily Online". Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  10. ^ 白云. "人物·张伟丽:走上国际赛场的"格斗女孩"". 河北新闻网. Archived from the original on 2019-04-04. Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  11. ^ "邯郸少林智勇武术院毕业生张伟丽"打"破中国UFC纪录!". 河北新教育. Retrieved 2019-07-19.