Sanshou (Chinese:, lit. free hand) or Sanda (Chinese:, lit. free fighting) is a modern Chinese hand to hand combat, self-defence system, and combat sport.
Not seen as an independent style, it is rather considered just one of the components of Chinese martial arts and is normally taught alongside other wushu. The term Sanda has a longer history and is more commonly used. Sanshou was the official name given to the martial art when it was formalized and standardized by the Chinese government. Later the official name reverted back to Sanda.
It is composed of some aspects of traditional martial arts fighting styles in China, but mainly based on scientific one-on-one combat efficiency. Sanshou is composed of Chinese martial arts applications including most aspects of combat including striking and grappling. Sanda tournaments are one of the two sport wushu disciplines recognized by the International Wushu Federation.
Sanshou's history involved barehanded or "lei tai" fights in which no rules existed. However, as a competitive event sanshou developed in the military as these bouts were commonly held between the soldiers to test and practise 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 (KMT) at the first modern military academy in Whampoa in the 1920's. Later it was also adopted as a method by the People's Liberation Army of China. One can see Sanshou as a synthesis of traditional Chinese kung fu fighting techniques into a more amorphous system and is commonly taught alongside traditional Chinese styles which Sanshou techniques, theory and training methods are derived from. The emphasis of Sanshou is on realistic fighting ability.
As an unarmed self-defense, close combat system, Sanshou includes DA punches, kicks TI and grappling Shuai, Na (throws, locks, chokes)
As a sport, Sanda is practiced in tournaments and is normally held alongside taolu events in wushu competition. For safety reasons, some techniques from the self-defence form of Sanshou such as elbow strikes, chokes, and joint locks, are not allowed during Sanda tournaments. Furthermore, it is possible to defeat the opponent by moving (whether by throwing, striking, or otherwise pushing) him outside the ring. 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.