Chinese Kickboxing

What is Lei Tai (擂台)?

"The pretty is not practical and the practical is not pretty"

- General Qi Jiguang (戚继光)

The Chinese term Lei Tai (擂台) refers to a fighting platform, similar to a boxing ring we see in the west, however, the biggest difference between a Lei Tai and a Boxing Ring is that the traditional Chinese fighting platform has no ropes surrounding it, making throwing your adversary off the stage part of the strategy for winning.

The Chinese term Ziyou Boji (自由搏击) means "free fighting", and is used to refer to all types of combat sports. The common term Sanshou (散手 - lit. scattered hands) has been, more recently,used to mean "free sparring", and is commonly used in Chinese martial arts schools for their fighting programs. At the ZYKFA our students learn their sparring techniques under a full contact environment, we do not teach our students the point sparring method that is used in many Karate schools. We believe that for our students to fully understand Northern Shaolin as a martial art they must learn how to apply it in a live environment against resisting opponents.

Traditionally fighting tournaments take place on a Lei Tai (fighting platform). Lacking the outward beauty and gracefulness of forms training, it shows how a trained fighter is capable of implementing the fighting system we teach. This type of training allows our students to demonstrate their understanding of the theories, concepts and strategies within the Northern Shaolin style as well as its techniques (技術), movement (運動), speed (速度), power expression (發勁), structure (結構), breath control (氣息控), not to mention demonstrating the character (性格) of the fighters.

Currently there are two similar, yet distinctive, sets of rules in the world of Chinese full contact fighting. One is known as Sanda (散打) the other is Kuoshu Lei Tai (國術擂台). Both use the Lei Tai as their fighting stage, however they have different rules, equipment, scoring, legal targets and strategies.

What is Sanda (散打) and Kuoshu Lei Tai (國術擂台)?

Sanda literally means "free fighting" and is sometimes referred to as Chinese Kickboxing. It is a sport fighting format developed in Mainland China (PRC), by its military forces. Sanda was further developed, and turned into a popular amateur combat sport (also referred to as Sanshou), in 1991 as a counterpart to the sport forms competitions of modern Wushu that China had been promoting since the mid 1970's. Some will argue that Sanshou is the term for the amateur level of the sport and Sanda is used for the professional level. The equipment used in Sanda is:Suten_Sanda_Gear

  • Head guard
  • Chest guard
  • Shin guards
  • Groin guard
  • Gloves (10 oz Boxing style)
  • Mouthpiece

The rule set allows for punches, kicks, throws and takedowns. Points are scored for properly executed strikes, throwing your opponent to the ground or forcing them off the area.

Kuoshu (國術 - Guoshu in Pinyin) translates literally as "National Techniques" and is an abbreviation of the term Zhong Guo Wu Shu (中國武術 - Martial Techniques of China). Kuoshu Lei Tai (國術擂台) refers to the sport fighting rule set initiated in Nanjing, China in 1928, by the Central Kuoshu Institute (中央國術館) for its first tournament, which some consider the precursor to the modern MMA events, as it allowed any style to participate under its full contact rules. The rule set was further developed throughout the 1960's in Taiwan (ROC) and introduced to the world in 1975 at the First World Kuoshu Tournament. The equipment used in Kuoshu Lei Tai is:Lei_Tai_Gear

  • Head guard with cage
  • Mouthpiece
  • Gloves (4 oz MMA style - covered thumb)
  • Groin guard

The rule set allows for punches, kicks, elbows, knees, throws and takedowns. Points are scored for properly executed strikes, throwing your opponent to the ground or forcing them off the area. Knockdowns and knockouts are common in these events as the glove size allows for more transference of power in the hand strikes as well as the use of knees and elbows which are devastating blows when properly applied.

The ZYKFA Lei Tai Program has their fighting students begin by working on the Sanda format first. Once they become more experienced and proficient in sport combat, they move on to the Kuoshu Lei Tai format, as it was developed in Taiwan and is closely related to our school's history. Our past masters were not just involved in the Kuoshu movement of the 1930's but some also fought in the 1928 event.

Reasons For Lei Tai:

Lei Tai allows the student to measure their instinct and timing in a live environment with a resisting opponent. It gives them the opportunity to work on maintaining a focused and calm attitude while also developing a proper fighting spirit. The program is designed to develop the student's understanding of how a focused, relaxed, and a calm attitude can be used in their everyday lives. Lei Tai fighting allows them to better understand the Northen Shaolin techniques they learn and practice as well as experience and experiment the movements in their taolu (forms) as practical applications. The training develops endurance, power, and accuracy of movement. We strive to teach the students how to better approach the many situations in their daily lives with benevolence and humility. It helps the student develop camaraderie and school spirit. With the right attitude, Lei Tai training cultivates honor and respect for the school, your fellow students and, most importantly, for yourself. The ZYKFA Lei Tai Program is for character development and not the cultivation of ego.

Introduction to Lei Tai:

Lei Tai training is done in the guan (school's training area) under controlled conditions. The practice of Lei Tai  is done under the supervision of Shifu, Instructors and Assistants. Unlike street fighting, Lei Tai has rules to protect the participants from unnecessary and/or life threatening injuries. The practice begins with basic drilling, which allows the student to analyze techniques a with a degree of control. Protective gear must always be used. It is mandatory that all students purchase their own equipment sets for their level of training (beginners Sanda advanced Kuoshu Lei Tai). The use of head guard, mouth guard, groin guard and gloves is mandatory for all Lei Tai classes, also, women are required to use chest guards for classes. The ZYKFA Lei Tai Program is for students that have spent enough time studying the basic techniques of Northern Shaolin and understand the ZYKFA school culture. Lei Tai training is not a requirement for general students; however it is required to become a ZYKFA Instructor.


The ZYKFA strives to create a healthy and positive learning environment for all of its students. Students that wish to participate in the Lei Tai Program must meet certain criteria and requirements. 


  • Must be a minimum of 16 years of age to participate
  • Must not have had a history of severe concussions
  • Participants must be of sound mind and body


Tournaments and Travel:

The ZYKFA does not require their students to compete in Lei Tai events in order to participate in the program. Some students. however, have the desire to compete and take their training to a higher level by becoming part of the ZYKFA Lei Tai Team. Students that wish to be considered for our team must demonstrate consistency, dedication and perseverance in their training. The Lei Tai Team has tournament opportunities not just nationally but also in different parts of the world such as South America, Europe and Asia. Travelling to events is not just fun but a also a great bonding experience for team mates. Some tournaments have certain restrictions, so before committing to an event, please make sure to understand all rules and regulations. Lei Tai students are encouraged to travel with the competition team as managers, assistants or just spectators even though they may not want (or be able) to compete.

For a Youtube Video of the ZYKFA Lei Tai Program CLICK HERE and HERE

Lei Tai Competition Team:

Each year a team of students represents our school in Kuoshu/Lei Tai competitions.

Here are some of the accomplishments of our team:

Four ZYKFA members represented the US in the 1st Pan-American Kuoshu Championship in Brazil 2001

Doug Iding Silver - Matt Mita Silver - Joe Tomczyk Bronze - Seth Finlayson Bronze

2nd Place as a team in the 2003 U.S. International Kuoshu Championship Tournament

Kimba Tieu 2003 National and International Champion

Two ZYKFA members represented the US in the 1st World Kuoshu Championship in Brazil 2003

Kimba Tieu Silver - Seth Finlayson Bronze

3rd Place as a team in the 2004 U.S. International Kuoshu Championship Tournament

2nd Place as a team in the 2005 U.S. International Kuoshu Championship Tournament

Robert Clark National and International Champion

2nd Place as a team in the 2006 U.S. International Kuoshu Championship Tournament

Kimba Tieu National and International Champion - Rachel Spahr National and International Champion - Tim Riordan National Champion

Three ZYKFA members selected as US Team members for the 2nd World Kuoshu Championship held in Singapore 2006.

Kimba Tieu World Champion - Rachel Spahr Silver

1st Place - CHAMPIONS as a team in the 2007 U.S. International Kuoshu Championship Tournament

Kimba Tieu National and International Champion - Max Osterhaus National and International Champion - Andy Grinrod Silver - Marcus McCain Silver

As team at the 2008 U.S. International Kuoshu Championship Tournament

Max Osterhaus 2008 Lei Tai Competitor of the Year - Andy Grinrod Bronze - Emmalee Pearson Bronze

As team at the 2010 U.S. International Kuoshu Championship Tournament

Elaine Meszaros Silver

As a team at the 2010 Brazil International Kung Fu Tournament Championships

Wesley Strey Champion

1st Place CHAMPIONS as a team at the 1st UMAI Kung Fu Championships - 2011

Andrew Nepstad Champion - Andrew Ruis Champion - Steve McDonald Silver

As team at the 2014 U.S. International Kuoshu Championship Tournament

Andy Grindrod - Silver, Dan Malloy - Silver, Adrew Nepstad - Silver

As team at the 2015 U.S. International Kuoshu Championship Tournament

Adrew Nepstad - Champion, Steve McDonald - Silver, Andy Grindrod - Bronze

ZYKFA member represented the US in the 5th World Kuoshu Championship in Argentina 2015

Andrew Nepstad - 3rd Place

Lei Tai Ettiquette:

"Show skill, not ego"


  • Lei Tai is a contact event in the guan. Failure to follow the rules of etiquette may cause injury and insult. These rules are to be guidelines for your practice and development.
  • Arrive early so that you may warm up before class begins. Remember, if you're early you're on time; if you're on time you're late.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. By paying attention, you show respect for yourself and the other participants.
  • You are not allowed to participate unless you have all of the required protective equipment. Take good care of your gear.
  • At the beginning of a match in the school, you should stand at attention facing your opponent and await instructions patiently. The instructions will include pace, level of contact, targets and any other factors considered important by the instructor. Make sure you understand and follow these directions.
  • When the instructions have been given, you must salute your opponent. Do not turn your back, even if the official has called a halt to the match. This is doubly important because it shows that you are totally focused on the match and that you respect your opponent. 
  • Keep your guard up. If your opponent has not heard the command to halt, he/she may take advantage of the opportunity to strike.
  • Do not strike maliciously. Lei Tai training in the guan is meant to be a learning experience. You are developing the ability to express Northen Shaolin concepts, theories and strategies with your fellow students. 
  • A calm, focused, and relaxed attitude is the sign of a serious student and good fighter.
  • The Rules of the Guan apply at all times.

Legal Target Areas

  • Top, sides, and front of head (only for ages 18 and up) 
  • Chest* and stomach
  • Arms
  • Legs

Illegal Target Areas

  • Spine
  • Base of Skull
  • Groin
  • Throat
  • Eyes
  • Striking the joints (knees and elbows)
  • Female Opponents: The chest area

Basic Conduct

  • No uncontrolled joint locks
  • No joint breaks (ie. targeting knee against the grain)
  • No sweeps or throws unless adequate padding has been provided
  • No grabbing of equipment
  • Keep your ego and temper under control


NOTE: Shifu, the ZYKFA Instructors and its Assistant Instructors reserve the right to remove or expel anyone from the Lei Tai Program or the Lei Tai Team that does not follow the rules and regulations of the program as well as if they are being a threat to themselves or others.

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