(All apologies for inaccuracies and idiocies in this reply; I'm posting to this subject as a favor for a friend. )
I moved to Boston in ‘98 and trained with Dr. Yang in Longfist, WhiteCrane, and Taijiquan, continuing after I left for Carolina. Before that, I wrestled in high school and college. Before and since, I have coached high school and college wrestling; including these last six years at Chapel Hill High School, NC. We have two returning two-time state champs, just won our conference, and are beginning end-of-season tournament action.
1. TCM has always striven to include Ti-Da-Shuai-Na, ie. Kick-Strike-Wrestle-Submission, and each style has it's version of all-the-above, even "soft" Taijiquan.
2. There's a difference between 'ground fighting' and 'submission.' 'Submission' can be done standing, while 'Ground fighting' can include both 'submission' and 'striking.' Standing-Submission is often demonstrated in Qin-Na, Ground-Submission in Brazilian-Jiu-Jitsu, and Ground-Striking in current UFC "ground and pound."
3. It's questionable how 'complete' ANY traditional lineage is these days, especially since most of us is white folks, not in China, and not training the traditional MINIMUM of 3 hours a day.
4. From my experience, Chinese perception of 'Shuai/Wrestling' is MOSTLY, but not ENTIRELY based on take-downs. Which means bringing a person from standing to prone position, while retaining dominant position. This has been supported by traditional history, which indicates that the arts were developed for pitched-battles (if you fall . . . you get trampled), weapon fighting (. . . you have difficulty using your main weapons), boats (. . . you drown), Lei-Tai dueling (. . . you lose), and responding to ambush in a crowded city (. . . you get trampled again).
5. "Folkstyle" is the term wrestling practiced by US high schools and colleges. "Freestyle" is closely related, and is practiced globally, including the olympics. Both of these can be called "Traditional Martial Arts" if you look into their 300-2000+ year heritages. Both systems include take-downs (bringing opponent to ground while retaining dominant position), riding (keeping opponent on ground while retaining dominance), escapes (getting off ground, back to standing position), and reversals (gaining dominant position while staying on ground). All of these can be applied directly to a striking fight.
6. Use of mats allows training to be challenging in multiple positions, while keeping things safe. Lots of "mat-time" helps you feel comfortable going from standing to ground and back. This feeling persists even “off mat.” (One of my guys recently developed a standing back flip, for example. The mat allowed him to practice without hurting himself, and now he can do it without the mat.)
7. Wrestling is mostly practiced with partners, so all your techniques are trained with varying degrees of resistance, different body sizes, and in ever-changing scenarios. This builds strength, endurance, and flexibility; as well as allowing practitioners to develop a highly trained body intuition of your opponent's actions and your own capabilities.
8. In TCM, this is called "matching practice," and includes routines such as "push-hands," "fighting forms," and "matching sets." These routines are abstract training methods meant to help practitioners develop their techniques into useable shape, without injuring yourself in the process. It would be silly to dismiss "push hands" as artificial, limited, or non-martial; just because it doesn't allow all-out damage. The RESTRICTIONS of training routines are what allow you to focus on developing your weaknesses without harming yourself or others in the process.
9. Training ethic is probably the most important aspect of any serious martial artist or athlete. QUANTITY of time invested and QUALITY of time spent make the biggest difference in your success. TCM calls for 3 hours a day minimum, over 10 years, for basic competence. High School and College Wrestlers usually manage 2-4 hours a day minimum, over 4-12 years. This training regimen includes what in TCM would be referred to as both "external" and "internal" curriculum. Many of the successful MMA/UFC guys come from this background, and reflect the ethic and reward of long-term training with motivated partners.
10. Athletic competitions, call it sport or not, allow you to bring an intensity to your training. Your "sense of enemy" becomes much more real. And though they are "artificial,” competitions allow you to SAFELY test your awareness and reactions in a way not otherwise possible, shy of being "jumped" or ambushed (NOT safe).
11. Dr. Yang is fully aware of the difficulties that most martial artists are facing in trying to get their 'quantity' and 'quality' training time. Anyone who has trained with him at the CA camps has felt the difference in working intensely with constant training partners for regular long hours. It's this ethic that matters more than WHICH art you train. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has trained in CA.
12. There's not much reward in comparing apples to oranges. Quality and freshness of the fruit matter most; otherwise it's a matter of taste.
Assistant Coach Chapel Hill High School Wrestling
Director Branch School YMAA Carolina
YMAA CA Camp Operations Coordinator