MMA fighter owns Tai Chi master in 10 seconds, sparks debate on Chinese martial arts


Chan Cheow Pong | May 5, 2017 @ 02:49 pm

A viral video showing a duel between Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Xu Xiaodong and tai chi master Wei Lei (also known as Lei Lei) in Chengdu, Sichuan province last week, has sparked a heated debate over which is superior – modern combat techniques or traditional Chinese martial arts.

MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong(Source)

Xu had defeated Lei in just 10 seconds with a mixture of power, agility and aggression. In case you missed it. Here is the video of the the fight:

Xu later issued an open challenge to all Chinese martial arts masters to take him on, and said that he will broadcast the fights across the country with RMB$1.2 million in prize money up for grabs.

He claimed that he wanted to “fight the frauds” as there were too many people claiming to be kung fu masters but actually weak in the practice. Boasting in a Weibo post that he could take on two or three of them at the same time, he wants it to be a no-holds-barred 10 minute sparring session with kicks to the groin and pokes in the eye allowed.

Chinese Martial Arts: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Amid the sound and fury, even Jack Ma, the owner of tech giant Alibaba, who has been learning tai chi for many years and also enjoys watching MMA fights, was compelled to <ahref=”http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2092958/tai-chi-can-be-used-combat-jack-ma-speaks-over-tai-chi-mma-debate” target=”_blank”>weigh in on the issue:

“Tai chi was orginally invented not for sparring, but as a form of exercise using the fists to illustrate its philosophy. Sparring is just one part of tai chi, but definitely not all of it.”

But the larger point was perhaps about how Chinese martial arts was exposed to be the modern day version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, given how Wei – supposedly a Grandmaster of his craft was soundly beaten within 10 seconds.

Some observers pointed out that, for a long time, Chinese martial arts in China had been practiced within an insular environment between competing factions and lineage, with an air of mystery surrounding it.

It is now mostly driven by the personal interest of people who dress up as culture transmitters to seek fame and fortune, while neglecting to master the true craft of sparring and ethos of Chinese martial arts.

And Xu had exposed the hypocrisy of it all.

In a few video interviews after his loss, Wei has offered a number of different excuses.

In one interview, he said that he did not want to win the fight because winning would cause “disharmony” in his life. In another interview, he said that he had held back in the fight, so as not to kill his opponent with his true internal strength.


In a third interview, he blamed his defeat on his choice of footwear. He claimed that on the day of the fight he wore a pair of new shoes with rubber soles. The floor of the arena was also covered in soft rubber, which caused him to lose his balance while retreating backwards.

Official intervention

Whatever the case, it is highly unlikely that the duel between Xu and other Kung Fu experts will take place eventually.

The Chinese Wushu (martial arts) Association has issued a statement on May 3 against the duel between Xu and Wei. It said the act is unethical and illegal, signalling a possible clamp down of such activities.

Part of the statement in Chinese said:

“There are many types of traditional Chinese martial arts, for example there are 129 types of officially recognised Chinese boxing styles. In the process of teaching people, there is indeed some undesirable practices that require further regulation and management. The public should follow procedures and report individual cases of fraud, malpractices and illegal acts to the authorities, in order for them to take appropriate action. They should not get into unethical or illegal acts of dueling in the name of ‘fighting fraud’, and must less show excessive aggression or indulge in malicious stirring of publicity. “

Perhaps Jack Ma’s philosophical take on this ongoing drama between Xu and the Chinese martial arts community is food for thought:

“In front of cannons, missiles and nuclear bombs, all martial arts suffer the same fate, so what’s the point of fighting among each other?”


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About Chan Cheow Pong

It took Cheow Pong two decades to recover from the trauma of memorising General Paper essays before he was ready to be an English writer. In between affliction and recovery, he thoroughly enjoyed his time writing in Chinese and doing Chinese translations.

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