When we were first training with Chan Tai San, we were sparring with no equipment. There are a few pics of it around…
At the time, we thought that was how we were supposed to train. A little later, and a lot of injuries later, we brought in some boxing gloves and Chan Tai San laughed and basically said to me “what took you so long”?
Chan Tai San taught us technique and theory, but structure and format were things we had to figure out as we went along. Some of that is just the nature of Chinese martial art, some of it a feature of Chan Tai San’s nature, but the end result was that we had a pretty sharp learning curve.
I had met Jason Yee almost by accident after he had just returned from training in China. He established the first formal, full time Sanshou program in the US and was the first person training people specifically for that format. His Boston Sanshou Team was housed in the Boston Kung Fu school. With the success of his team, most of the US watched what they were doing. Some won’t admit this, but it was true. All the other “Big 6” sanshou teams came after Jason’s team and all learned things from Jason.
The first, because it was the most obvious, thing I noticed was the equipment they were using. Boxing quality head gear, good boxing gloves, body body protectors for the trainers holding pads.
None of us were using “Thai pads” back then. I think Cung Le’s proximity to Fairtex Muay Thai in San Francisco is what started the Sanshou/Muay Thai cross training. Ultimately however there was a LOT of cross training. In a US vs. China card held in Hawaii, we didn’t have enough US fighters and Fairtex actually supplied a few fighters to face the Chinese.
It’s funny to think back to those early days, when we weren’t 100% sure what we were doing, still piecing it together. Today, the original “Big 6” are all very established fighting programs, and involved in both Muay Thai and MMA in this country. Sanshou / San Da in the US is pretty much dead, but that is another blog post!