What Can BJJ Teach Us About Qing Dynasty Martial Arts? - Randy Brown - MAS Conference 2019

This podcast is an ‘audio-only’ re-recording of a talk I gave at the 5th Annual Martial Arts Studies Conference held at Chapman University in Los Angeles, California in May 2019. I do recommend viewing the full video version so you can see the slides.

The event was hosted by Dr. Paul Bowman, and Dr. Andrea Molle. A two day extravaganza of martial arts history, politics, and culture. There is amazing research into the martial arts taking place around the globe today. It was an honor to be a part of this significant event, and contribute in some small way to the Martial Arts Research Network. Below is a copy of the abstract submission for my talk at the conference to help lay context before listening.


What Can Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Teach Us About Qīng Dynasty Martial Arts?

The continually evolving art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) and the journey of this style throughout the 20th century can provide insights into key elements of the Qīng dynasty Chinese martial arts, helping to demonstrate similar developments in the ‘Chinese Boxing’ systems of that era. Specifically, by following the modern evolution of BJJ, it is possible to gain insights into the sudden appearance of totem styles or subsets across China, how these anomalies become styles in their own right, and how they survived and thrived for over a century. A martial arts cross-cultural comparison of style subsets within BJJ, which have developed since the early 1990s, can be juxtaposed with the pre-modern development of comparable ‘subsets’ within Qīng dynasty ‘Chinese boxing’. On the other hand, the survival and globalization of this stylization in China differs with how developments within BJJ propagate, where instead changes become rolled into a pool of common knowledge and do not take hold as independent systems or alternative styles outside of the core art. A question needs to be asked, did ‘Chinese boxing’ of the era, have a similar common pool of knowledge? Qī Jì guāng’s manual would hint at such. Within ‘Chinese Boxing’, attributes, feats, or skills defining one fighter over another became definitive styles of their own right due to events of the time, compared to a failure in modern times for these subsets to survive independent of BJJ, even though properly vetted in the crucible of worldwide tournaments. In the Qīng dynasty a confluence of events which included rebellions, opium wars, global humiliation and the collapse of a dynasty, began to solidify these subsets as styles in China. Eventually, cultural industrialization of Chinese martial arts, notably through the Hong Kong movies, ingrained these styles into popular culture with the result being securing their legitimacy to the public eye without any evidence of martial prowess.


Chinese martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Qīng dynasty, animal styles, Chinese boxing


Randy Brown

Randy is an owner and teacher at Randy Brown Mantis Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Acton Massachusetts. Randy has over 20 years’ experience with praying mantis boxing with additional cross-disciplinary training in various Chinese martial arts: eagle claw, Hung gar, long fist, Yang, xingyiquan. Randy has trained in 17 Chinese martial arts weapons and specializes in staff, saber, sword, and military saber and has seven years’ experience in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He has published a number of articles in martial arts journals, including Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine and Journal of 7 Star Mantis and has competed and placed in both the U.S. National Wu Shu Championships and the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. Randy holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science from Franklin Pierce University. In his spare time, he enjoys writing, drawing, painting, and hang-gliding.

Randy Brown

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