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Style descriptions: S

Some styles of martial arts that begin with the letter S.

Sado-mu-sool (Korea)

An ancient Korean martial art that used stone weapons.

Sanshou (China)

In Chinese, sanshou (loose hands) refers to the free application of all the realistic hand-to-hand combat skills of kung-fu. It is divided into three categories:
  • Sport (Chinese kickboxing)
  • Civilian
  • Military (AKA qinna gedou)

After fighting directly with the superior American forces during the Korean War, the Chinese government realized it needed a new way of fighting for its military forces. Army chief, Peng Dehuai, directed a great military training campaign (Da Be Wu) after the war. Martial arts masters from each of China's 92 provinces were brought together with medical experts to compare and evaluate their techniques.

A new hand-to-hand combat system was developed based on three criteria: simplicity, directness, and effectiveness against a larger, stronger opponent. This system of fighting was thoroughly tested in training camps throughout China and in border conflicts with Soviet troops. The Chinese military published manuals on sanshou in 1963 and 1972.

Because of the increase of violent crimes in China, civilian sanshou was created by the Chinese government so that Chinese civilians may learn self-defense skills. It is a complete system of striking and grappling, but without the lethal techniques required in the military. Along with military sanshou, civilian sanshou continued to be developed, but its development was by underground martial arts schools and individual martial artists in communist China. Civilian sanshou warriors sharpened their skills by street championships where they challenged each other. These kinds of challenges were very popular during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and usually were ended by the police.

In recent years, sport sanshou has been developed and promoted by the Chinese government. In the early years (1980s), there were no formal championships for Sanshou, but there were demonstrations available on national television. Most sanshou participants were military and policemen, so sport sanshou kept its links with military kickboxing and wrestling. Lately, the Chinese government has promoted sanshou into a nation-wide sport and held formal national and international championships every year.

Sanshou, as practiced by the Chinese military, is based upon the Chinese art of war, physics, anatomy, biomechanics, and human physiology. It is a complete system of realistic unarmed combat covering the skills of striking, grappling, wrestling, ground fighting, and weapon defenses took from various Chinese and foreign martial arts and hand-to-hand combat styles. It focuses on applying the principles of combat rather than upon techniques. The various divisions of the military and police forces have slight differences in technique, but they all employ the same principles.

Military and civilian sanshou training involves many punching, kicking, grappling, wrestling, ground fighting, and weapon defense drills with a partner. Contact sparring with protective gear is also emphasized. This is where the different skills are blended together into one fluid art. There are no patterns or formal stances, and no qigong exercises.

The sport of sanshou is rising in popularity all over the world. It is a kickboxing style that is fought on a platform called a "lei tai." Fighters wear boxing gloves, headgear, and body protectors. It is full-contact kicking and punching with throws and sweeps allowed. Knees, elbows, head butts, joint manipulation, and chokes are not allowed, but fighters may be thrown off the platform, a fighter is awarded 5 points for forcing an opponent off the platform. Sport sanshou training is like kickboxing training, except that throws and sweeps are also drilled extensively. Physical conditioning is also important in sport full-contact fighting.

SAMBO (Russia)

A modern Russian combat art that emphasizes throws, takedowns, and joint locks. It was first named "free-style wrestling", then "free wrestling," and in 1946 was renamed "SAMBO," as an acronym of Russian words "SAMozaschita Bez Orujiya" or "self-defense without a weapon."

It was created in the 1930s, with official recognition in 1938. Anatoly Kharlampfiev formed its ground rules although he saw SAMBO as an art of self-defense rather than the sport it became. Some claim it was heavily influenced by the Armenian art of khok; others say it is derived from indigenous folk wrestling and judo.

SAMBO is a compilation of techniques from many martial arts including Japanese and Chinese martial arts, national martial arts of USSR area natives (Georgians, Armenians, Mongols, Russians etc.), French wrestling, and other arts. During the time of World War II, the system was widely "tested" by the Soviet army. "Special" techniques were added at the time, for example fighting in cells, quick-and-quiet sentry killing, etc. Because of the number of criminals in the Soviet army at that time (during WWII each prisoner was "invited" to the front, with each year at the front worth two or so years of their sentence) SAMBO experts acquired many lessons on criminal Street fighting, and a number of these techniques were included in SAMBO. SAMBO continues to accept new techniques and modify old ones.

Three variations of the art are currently taught:
  • Sport. Includes mostly grappling techniques.
  • Self-defense.
  • Combat. Encompasses grappling and striking. 

The sport variation is like judo but with some differences in allowed techniques. Practitioners wear a unique uniform "kurtka", which is used for grabbing and throwing. SAMBO allows leg locks while judo does not, but judo allows choking while SAMBO does not. There are also more techniques in SAMBO than in judo.

The self-defense variation is similar in form to aiki-jujutsu because it is intended to be entirely defensive. There are many specific techniques for defending specific attacks, including escaping from grips and chokes, defenses against punches and kicks, defenses against weapons (knife, stick etc.), and ground fighting. The self-defense part of SAMBO is based on body movements and locks, with a few punches and kicks. The object is to allow defense but not to injure the opponent more than necessary because this variation was created for citizens. In the former Soviet Union, the law was that if you injure your opponent more than needed in a self-defense situation, you could receive a 5-year prison term. Some of the self-defense techniques are based on sport SAMBO.

The combat variation was created for the army and police. It is a very severe and dangerous system. It includes sport and self-defense techniques but uses them in different ways. For example, sport SAMBO uses the traditional shoulder throw of judo and jujutsu. In combat SAMBO the throw is done with the opponent's arm rotated up and locked at the elbow, and may be done to throw the opponent on his or her head. If the opponent attempts to counter by lowering his or her center of gravity and pulling backward (as is taught in sport SAMBO) the arm will be broken. Combat SAMBO teaches shoulder throw counters that might be able to deal with a locked arm, such as kicking out the opponent's knee and pulling back by the hair or eye sockets.

In addition to modified sport and self-defense techniques, combat SAMBO includes kicks, punches, "dangerous throwing" (throws that cannot be included in the sportive part because they cause injury), locks on the spine, things that are prohibited in sport wrestling (biting, for example), many "sadistic dirty things," working against weapons (with or without a weapon of your own), tricks like putting your coat on your opponent's head, floor fighting, fighting in closed space (small room, pit, or stairs), quick-and-quiet sentry killing, etc. Students also learn strategy and tactics of fighting alone or in groups against single or multiple opponents.

SAMBO is less popular today in Russia because of the influx of oriental martial arts in recent years. However, the development of SAMBO has continued and elements of it are incorporated into other modern combat systems.

Sarit-sarak (India)

Sarit-sarak is an art of bare-handed combat emphasizing evasive skills and offensive attack. According to its lore, the Dragon God, Lainingthou Pakhangba, ordered King Mungyamba to kill the demon Moydana of Khagi and taught him the ways of combat and presented him with a special spear and sword for this purpose. A local Indian dance known as the "manipuri" also finds its origins with this martial practice.

Savate (sometimes called Boxe Francaise) (France)

Savate is a martial art of foot and fist fighting that was developed in the 1800s. It may have been influenced by venous Asian martial arts after french sailors returned from voyages to Asian ports. The art began spreading to other countries in the 1960s. It encompasses kicking techniques somewhat similar to taekwondo, punching techniques from western boxing, and stick fighting techniques based on French rapier fighting.

It is renowned for its precision kicks to the body's vital points. Kicks were designed to integrate smoothly with punches. "La canne," a mostly defensive art using wooden sticks, is usually taught along with savate. Three types of savate are taught:
  • Assault.
  • Technical fighting. Where the opponent must not be hit.
  • Combat technique (fighting using semi-contact) and combat total (full-contact fighting). 

Savate is currently a popular full-contact ring sport in Europe.

Shogeri-jutsu (Japan)

Shogerijutsu is a compound word. "Sho," meaning essence, is combined with "geri," implying any leg strike, and with the traditional term, "jujitsu." "Naibu," meaning internal, and "karate," meaning empty hand, and "do," meaning way, are also used to help give a general understanding the purpose of shogerijutsu-naibu.

Shogerijutsu students first learn the basics, and then they develop their own training regime with the goal of becoming a complete, dynamic martial artist. Students combine both the fighting (internal and external) and healing arts into their regime.

Shogerijutsu adopts the basic self-defense techniques of jujutsu, karate-do, kung-fu, taijiquan, baguazhang, muay-tai, boxing, and qigong into a self-defense and combat fighting approach shared by all the styles. Jujitsu does not attempt to neutralize power with power, instead, it absorbs the force of an attack using light, quick parries, and centerline theory, and redirects the force of the attack to the attacker's detriment. The principles of jujitsu are like those of the traditional Chinese art of taijiquan, so many shogerijutsu techniques are adapted from these two martial arts. Shogerijutsu has a more internal approach to training than does traditional, external karate training.

Basic training focuses on the combative principles of moving in (never backward), evasive striking (instead of blocking and then striking), various striking and throwing techniques, and the study of qi (chi). Advanced principles include chi kung (from qigong), push hands (from tuishou), yang chengfu taijiquan concepts, Japanese strikes, jujutsu techniques, qi flow, qi transference, taijiquan, hua-quan (Chinese "cotton" boxing), and joint locks. Hsing-I would be the closest style to the principles being taught. Proper body mechanics, both external and internal, along with using blocks as strikes, pressure point striking, evasive maneuvering, using knees, palm, and elbow strikes, and with parrying (deflecting) techniques, add to the uniqueness of shogerijutsu.

Shaolin kempo (United States)

A modern American kempo self-defense style that combines karate, kung-Fu, and jujitsu. It uses the linear hard movements of kempo karate, the circular soft movements of Shaolin kung-fu, along with its 5 animals (tiger, leopard, dragon, snake, and crane), and the grapples, throws, and locks of jujitsu.

Shohei-ryu (formally known as uechi-ryu) (Okinawa)

A traditional Okinawan, Zen based style founded by Kanbum Uechi. Although it has become one of the main Okinawan martial arts and absorbed many of the traditional Okinawan karate training methods and approaches, it is historically, and to some extent technically, quite separate.

The name shohei-ryu comes from two Chinese characters, "sho" meaning “to shine brightly” and "hei" meaning “fairness”, “equality” and “peace”. The name also refers to two Japanese eras, a past one, showa, and the present one, heisei. Ryu (pronounced “roo”) is the Japanese word for “style” or “path.”

Grandmaster Kanbun Uechi was born on May 5, 1877, in Isumi, a small village in northern Okinawa. In 1897, at the age of 20, he fled to Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian province in China, to avoid being drafted into the Japanese army, which was occupying Okinawa at the time. For ten years, he studied the art of pangai-noon, meaning half-hard half-soft, under master Shushiwa, a Buddhist priest who had received his training in the Shaolin temple in southern China. Pangai-noon was derived from the interwoven movements of the tiger, crane, and dragon and it concentrates on the use of the single-knuckle punch, spear-hand strike, pointed kick, and circular block.

Uechi opened his own school in Nanchon, a city in Fukien Province, where he taught for three years, having the distinction of being the only Okinawan ever accepted in China as a teacher. Disheartened after one of his students became involved in a dispute and killed another person, Uechi vowed never to teach again, and, in 1910, he closed his school and returned Okinawa where he married and, on June 26, 1911, his son Kanei was born. Uechi still refused to teach his art and only once during the ensuing years did he reluctantly demonstrate his kata.

Absorbing some Okinawan goju-ryu over the decades, shohei-ryu still retains its original Chinese flavor, both in its technique and in the culture of the dojo. It is a "half-hard, half-soft" style very similar to such southern Chinese styles as fukienese crane (as still practiced in the Chinese communities of Malaysia), Taiwanese golden eagle, and even wing-chun.

Conditioning the body for both attack and defense is a common characteristic of both Okinawan karate and southern Shaolin "street" styles, and as such is an important part of shohei-ryu training. There is a strong internal component to the practice, including focused breathing and tensioning exercises like Chinese qigong.

Shohei-ryu, following its Chinese crane heritage, emphasizes circular blocks, low snap kicks, infighting (coordinating footwork with grabs, locks, throws, and sweeps), and short, rapid hand traps and attacks (not unlike wing-chun). The style incorporates the characteristics of the wushu animals. It uses circular motions and uses the phoenix eye single knuckle punch.

Unlike most karate styles, it uses grappling techniques.
Shorei-ryu is known for its heavy, powerful techniques, body toughening training, and its numerous stances. It is more suitable for a person of a heavy body structure. It strives to emulate the actions of the 5 traditional animals and teaches all the traditional Okinawan weapons, such as the bo, tonfa, and sai. Some characteristics of shorei-ryu are:
  • Stances. Stances are exceptionally low in kata form.
  • Seiken thrust. This blow is directed slightly downward and in center of the body. The rear leg moves slightly forward at the completion of the punch. The moving of the rear leg is automatic and is caused by the power generated by the force of the punch and the forward movement of the hips.
  • Fist. The index finger under the curled thumb.
  • Hips. The hips rotate with a definite forward movement.
  • Blocks. Blocks start spiraling at wrists and spiral until completion of the block.
  • Head snap. Head snaps around when turning.

Shootfighting (Japan)

Shootfighting is a modern Japanese eclectic martial sport. Its techniques were greatly influenced by the submission grappling skills taught by the legendary American wrestler Karl Gotch when he visited Japan.

A shoot is a fighting contest between two opponents. Variations include shoot wrestling, shoot boxing, and pancrase. All are taught primarily as ring sports, and their matches frequently draw large crowds in Japan. Rules permit kicks, hand strikes, takedowns, throws, and ground grappling.

Shorinji kempo (Japan)

Shorinji kempo is a Japanese karate style that is deeply rooted in Zen meditation. It was created by So Doshin who says it is based on traditional Shaolin teachings. In the 1970s, the Japanese courts forced So Doshin to change the name of his school to Nippon Shorinji Kempo.

Shorinji kempo stresses being calm in action. Students first learn its deep spirituality, and then they learn the fighting techniques. Because of its combination of Buddhism, philosophy, and martial arts, many consider shorinji kempo a religious sect.

Shorinji-ryu (Japan)

An Okinawan style of Shaolin karate. Shaolin influence is apparent in the fluidity of the circular attacks, and the karate influence is apparent in the powerful rigid strikes.

Shorin-ryu (Okinawa)

Shorin-ryu is an Okinawan soft style. It is known for its light, quick, and agile techniques that are suitable for a person with a light body structure. Because of its strict spiritual aspects, it is considered a religious sect.

Shotokan (Japan)

Shotokan is the "authorized" Japanese style of karate. It is an Okinawan style founded by Gichin Funakoshi. Shoto was the pen name of Funakoshi. He combined shorin and shorei to a style that would accommodate all body structures. According to Funakoshi "The art of karate strives neither for victory, nor for defeat, but for the perfection of the character of its practitioners.”

Shotokan is a "hard" linear style that is a true "empty hand" art; it does not include weapons training. Although originally known for its lethal attacks, dynamic entry techniques, and its theory of "one strike, one kill," similar to other martial arts, it has evolved into a sport.

Shotokan training emphasizes mastering a few techniques rather than learning many techniques.
Shotokai and shotokan are two names for the same thing. Shotokai is the name of the organization established in 1935 to raise funds for the building of Funakoshi's main training hall. Gichin Funakoshi held only two positions during his lifetime: one as head instructor of the Shotokan Dojo and the other as director of the Shotokai school. Shotokan is the name of the building finished in 1936 that was the result of the work done by this organization.

In time, people who trained in karate were not only known for practicing karate but also began to be related to different "styles," even though Gichin Funakoshi was against this. His students began to be known as of the "shotokan," the place where they trained, or "shotokan -ryu", the shotokan style.

After Master Gichin Funakoshi's death in 1957, shotokai was the heir of his symbol (O-sensei's tiger), the shotokan and shotokai names, and more importantly, all his documents and writings, which is why shotokai is in charge of editing and publishing his works. Shotokai's headquarters in Japan is still the Shotokan Dojo, although it has been reconstructed since the original one burned during a World War II bombing. The shotokan name has been misused by many groups with no respect for Master Funakoshi or his family's' wishes. For this reason, many uninformed people relate Gichin Funakoshi with sport karate, something he was strongly against.

Shuai jiao (China)

Shuai jiao is known as China's wrestling and throwing art. It is a northern Chinese martial art that was not well known in the south until the 1930s. It may be one of the oldest martial art styles in existence.

Shuiajiao emerged around 2,000 years ago and it was originally taught only to the military elite. Starting in the Qin dynasty, shuaijiao was demonstrated in tournaments for the imperial court. During the Qing dynasty, China maintained a camp of 300 full-time fighters who trained for competition with China's allies. Today, shuaijiao is still taught primarily to the military and police in China and Taiwan.

Modern shuiajiao was popularized by Chang Dungsheng, a Chinese master who fought many challenge matches in China before relocating to Taiwan to teach at the Central Police Academy. Shuaijiao was introduced to the United States in 1978 by Dr. Chi-Hsiu Daniel Weng, a master who studied shuaijiao for 20 years from Grandmaster Chang Dongsheng. Shuaijiao popularity has grown during the past several years. Major Chinese martial arts tournaments now include shuaijiao divisions. Shuaijiao fighters have also competed successfully in sanshou (full-contact fighting) competition.

Shuaijiao integrates striking, kicking, throwing, tripping, grappling, joint locking, and escaping methods. Shuaijiao fighting principles are based on taijiquan, but its techniques are applied with more force. It uses hand and foot strikes to soften up an opponent for a bone breaking throw. Unlike judo, where break falls are used to lessen the impact of a throw, shuiajiao teaches students to lock their limbs to intensify the impact. There are 30 theoretical principles of shuaijiao; the six major principles are absorbing, mixing, squatting, hopping, turning, and encircling.

Shuaijiao fighting strategy emphasizes maintaining balance and controlling the opponent. Tactics emphasize throwing the opponent while maintaining a joint lock, and then following with a vital point strike. There are 36 major throws in the system, with 3600 combinations. Shuaijiao is notable for joint attacks and hard throws. Shuaijiao styles are categorized by region. The four major regional styles are Mongolian, Beijing, Tianjin, and Baoding. The Baoding style is taught in the United States.
Competition is like actual combat, except that strikes and kicks are allowed only in conjunction with a throw and joint attacks are discouraged. A win is three falls, with points awarded upon completion of the throw when control is maintained over the opponent. There are no pinning or submission holds, since, in actual combat, the throw would be followed by a finishing strike.

There are a dozen stationary training stances to train strength and flexibility. Twenty moving patterns train the position and footwork used in approaching, joint locking, and throwing. Wushu type high kicking exercises train leg strength and flexibility. The kicks most often used in shuaijiao fighting are low kicks and sweeps. Unique to shuaijiao is "belt cracking", which uses the uses the uniform belt in exercises that train strength and proper position. Throws are practiced in drills and in sparring with a partner. Sparring is practiced at all levels, as soon as the student has mastered break falls.

Shuhaku (Japan)

A term used to refer to Chinese ch'uan-fa systems (kempo in Japanese), meaning to "beat by hand." Another term with the same meaning is hakuda.

Silambam (India)

The art of staff fighting has a long history in India. In the Vedic age, young men were routinely trained to defend themselves with staffs, and experts in their use were known to give them names, perhaps in much the same fashion that samurai named their katana (swords). The long staff was already highly organized as both a method of self-defense and competitive sport in the State of Tamil as early as the 1st century CE, and accounts in the 2nd century, such as Silapathiharam Tamil literature, abound with tales of the sale of silambam staffs, swords, and armor to foreigners. Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, as well as the Dravidian kings (kingdoms in southern India and Northern Ceylon that shared a common family of languages),  frequented the Madurai trading center where the silambam staff was considered a commodity.

It is believed that the silambum staff of Tamil was transported to Malaysia where its practice as a self-defense form flourished. The silambam staff two-hand technique makes use of swift and agile footwork allowing precision and momentum to be channeled into thrusting, cutting, and sweeping strokes. The silambam student develops defensive skills by learning to deflect stones thrown by groups of fellow practitioners with techniques called such things as the monkey strike, and the hawk strike, and the snake strike.

Competitors in silambam matches use staffs, the ends of which have been dipped in powder, to attempt to touch each other, with one point being awarded for touching below the waist and two for above. Three unanswered touches or a single touch to the forehead means victory, and the competitor who fails to maintain control of his staff also loses. Matches take place on firm ground in a circular twenty to twenty-five-foot area. Matches have a predetermined time period.

Silat (Indonesia)

An Indonesian and Malaysian martial art, dating to the 6th Century although probably not refined as a true martial art until the 14th Century. It has different styles and schools (over 400), but all the styles integrate weapons into their training.

The generic name "silat" is used throughout much of southeast Asia; in Malaysia, it is known as bersilat. Dutch-Indonesian silat is typically pentjak-silat and "pure" Indonesian styles pencak-silat. Since silat is an umbrella term covering many styles, it is not possible to give a single history. Some of the arts are very old and some were developed less than 50 years ago. The history of silat is unclear, it is a mixture of indigenous techniques along with techniques borrowed from Chinese arts and Indian arts such as kalaripayit.

Pencak-silat depends heavily on indigenous weapons and its animal-styles heritage. In the distant past, it was predominately a weapons system; empty hand techniques are derived from the weapons forms. It is still often said that there is no silat without the knife.
Silat emphasizes joint locks, sweeps, takedowns, and hand and foot strikes from unexpected angles and directions that are aimed at the body's weakest points. Instruction often involves the performance of traditional Indonesian dances. Most of the styles are indigenous, although some integrate Japanese and Chinese techniques and principles.

Techniques are quite varied, although kicks are not emphasized much. Footwork is sophisticated, and the development of stability is of major importance. The foot and hand techniques are so subtle and intricate that they are often taught separately and then integrated after the student has mastered them individually. There is a good balance between offensive and defensive techniques.

Different styles of silat use different terminology to describe a practitioner's ability: "guru" is frequently used to refer to a proficient instructor, "kang" for senior students, and "pendekar" someone who has developed a high level of skill and possibly spiritual development. However, the usage varies from style to style, and possibly even from school to school. Some variations include: mande-muda, serak (also spelled sera and serah), cimande (tjimande), cikalong (tjikalong), harimau, mustika-kwitang, gerakan-suci, and perisai-diri.

Sillum (China)

An alternative pronunciation of shaolin.

Ssireum (Korea)

Ssireum is a form of Korean wrestling that is one of the most popular spectator sports in Korea. It has developed into a major national sport for physical competition and entertainment. According to the literature, the contest of ssireum was called various other names such as gakjo, gakhi, sangbak, and gakgi. The name ssireum has been universally used since 1920.

In ssireum, two contestants wrestle and, if any part of a contestant's body above the knee touches the ground, the contestant loses the bout. Ssireum is practiced by grasping a strap that is tied around the waist and thigh. It requires considerable muscular strength and muscular endurance.

Suiba-jutsu (Japan)

A subspecialty of horsemanship (ba-jutsu) that specialized in horse techniques used in crossing streams, ponds, and bodies of water.

Sumai (Japan)

The original combat discipline from which sumo developed.

Sumo (Japan)

Sumo is a Japanese combative sport that pits one huge, loin cloth clad contestant against another in a sand-covered ring. The men push and shove each other while attempting to execute a trip or throw. There are no weight classes. The object of the match is to force the opponent to touch the ground with any part of his body other than his feet. Before a contest, referees consecrate the ring and there are many rituals before and after each match.

Experts claim sumo is derived from a more martially oriented art, but in its current form, it is purely a martial sport with little or no self-defense utility. It is perhaps the most popular spectator sport in Japan.

Sumo was originally a shinto divination rite and it is still performed as a religious rite during festivals where it is called shinji-zumo "god-service sumo." An ancient Japanese proverb says a crying child will thrive, so in children's contests the first child to cry—wins.

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