Martial artists challenge upstart MMA fighter

2017-05-03 09:08Global Times Editor: Li Yan ECNS App Download

MMA fighter wins support for exposing martial arts swindlers

Several Chinese traditional martial arts masters have challenged a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter in a bid to defend their discipline, after the latter took down a tai chi master in less than 10 seconds, claiming that traditional martial arts are "worthless."

One of the challengers is a monk from the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province.

The match between MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong and tai chi master Lei Lei, which has gone viral, sparked a heated debate over whether there is still value in traditional martial arts, as they seem less combat-focused. Others tried to defend them for their profound cultural underpinnings and value in keeping practitioners healthy.

Xu said he believes that traditional Chinese martial arts are dead. "Because they can't be used in person-to-person combat. What's the point of martial arts if they can't fight?" Xu told the Global Times Tuesday.

Xu charged Lei in front of a crowd at a venue in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province on Thursday. After a fast flurry of exchanges, Xu floored the 41-year-old Lei in a matter of seconds.

The victor claimed that perhaps only 1 percent of tai chi masters are genuine martial artists, but he has never seen one. He said his fights serve to reveal these fraudsters.

His comments have enraged many traditional martial artists who vowed to take him down in a duel to defend the name of their school of martial arts.

Huang Yunzhong, an attorney representing the Sichuan Tai Chi Tuishou Research Society, confirmed with the Global Times that the president of the society, Lu Xing, has challenged Xu to a fight. He said the exact time and location of the match have yet to be decided.

Shi Yanjue, who claims to be the 34th generation of martial arts monks from Shaolin Temple, also challenged Xu to a fight on Sina Weibo. He demanded that Xu forever leave the circle of martial arts if he beats Xu in the match.

Xu on Tuesday challenged world flyweight boxing world champion Zou Shiming on his Weibo. Zou's agents said he would not respond to the challenge, as Zou and Xu are not on the same level, "one professional, one amateur."

Different disciplines

Xu's match with the tai chi master has sparked controversy as MMA and tai chi are vastly different in style and rules.

"Tai chi has grown to be a sport favored by elderly people to keep healthy. Unlike MMA, it is not designed for real combat," said Dong Jinxia, Director of the Peking University Research Centre for Gender, Sports and Society.

"Martial arts is a comprehensive term. You don't have to beat somebody to practice martial arts," Dong said.

Xu denied that it is unfair for a MMA fighter to charge a tai chi master.

"I accepted all their terms. No boxing gloves, no holds barred, even eyes and groin are game. If you ask me, I am the one who was taken advantage of," he said.

Xu's fight with traditional martial arts practitioners has won support from a lot of people online who are fed up with swindlers in the traditional martial arts scene.

In 2012, China Central Television revealed a fraudulent scheme where "tai chi master" Yan Fang orchestrated a performance with her apprentices of her pushing them away without even touching them to attract followers.

Even Xu's own credentials are elusive. He claimed to be a coach at Beijing Shichahai Sports School on his Weibo, but an employee at the school told the Global Times the school has no staff member bearing that name.

China's martial arts world is indeed mixed with swindlers, said a tai chi expert.

"But you can't say tai chi is fake because someone claiming to be a tai chi master is a fraudster," the expert, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times.

"Martial arts originated in combat but as time passed, our country emphasizes peace and stability, which requests martial arts to focus more on fitness rather than fights," he said.


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