The truth about a fight which has “upset” the foundations of Tai Chi from China to the United States
A note by Master Kongling – Initially I was not so much interested in dealing with such a trivial subject but given the number of questions I’ve received, I decided to make a small effort sharing my (absolutely personal) opinions on it. Probably I am the last who comment this vicissitude but I hope this article could be anyway useful.
Some time ago a video was published showing a fight between a (so-called) “grandmaster” of Tai Chi (Taiji) and a (so-called) ambassador “of the MMA in China:
- The two (chinese) contenders – In the clip appear Wei Lei a (clumsy) “representative” of the Tai Chi and Xu Xiaodong an (arrogant) “representative” of the MMA (even if it is not immediately clear, they have a similar weight and age, according to what has been said)
- The content of the video – The video shows a clash in which the Tai Chi “master” is ridiculously defeated in a matter of seconds by his opponent (the MMA guy)
- The context – In the presence of a discreet audience and taken from multiple angles (trough various smartphones, etc.), the fight happened on a typical training / competition tatami
- The reason of the challenge – According to the interviews on Chinese TV and other sources, after an online bickering on fighting techniques (liberations, falsified skills, etc.) the two contenders decided to meet in a “friendly” and open-door match to demonstrate technical superiority of one on the other
- The justifications of the “grandmaster” – After the defeat, in his defense, the “master” of Tai Chi alleged (puerely) to have slipped to the ground due to the instability of the combat surface
- The purpose of the MMA guy – He claims to want to discredit all the false Kung Fu illusions (and illusionists) with tangible evidences
The fool against the bully: a few reflections
- This article is obviously written from the point of view of Kung Fu but it will not be compassionate towards the practitioner of Tai Chi
- There are many things that could be said, let’s limit ourselves to the essential ones (useful to our martial growth, certainly not to establish reasons or wrongs)
- Even if we do not link any video, more and more versions of it are easy to find on the web (in almost any search engine and video-related social networks)
A Master of Tai Chi (really worthy of this title):
- Should not accept meaningless challenges – He should not give up so easily to things like pride, anger and resentment (accepting to fight purely to prove to be better than someone else, read Revenge and resentment, knives taken from the blade side); this is totally wrong in the conception of Tai Chi (and Kung Fu in general)
- Should know his (more than obvious) limits – Nobody can know the outcome of a fight before its start but a real expert should have at least a certain knowledge of his psychophysical state in terms of combat preparation and, above all, should understand the ones of his opponents; there was no need to be a genius to understand how it would end (Xu Xiaodong is a fighter with several serious fights behind him, Wei Lei probably had never fought)
- Should not justify with a so trivial excuse – Not having enough adherence to the fighting surface is a very bland justification (commonly used by the martial artists to hide a bad execution, for example, of a form); even admitting that the terrain of struggle guaranteed low adherence, we must say that even his opponent was in the same conditions and above all, that although rootedness is fundamental in Tai Chi (read Kung Fu rooting: the pyramid concept), it is ridiculous to think that such an ancient martial art (used in an incredibly big number of fight during the centuries) could be so poor to be 100% deprived of its effectiveness only because of a slightly slippery battlefield
A note by Master Kongling – I will never stop repeating it: you become good doing what you do not what you never do (read Why martial arts do not work: 5 reasons). Practicing martial arts’ forms only (even for an entire life) has nothing to do with fighting: to learn to play football you have to play football matches, to learn to fight you have to fight. It should be so simple but when we talk about martial arts, people do not understand it.
A professional athlete:
- Should not fight against an amateur – Whatever kind of preparation he may have, who has never fought is and remains an amateur
- Should not give in to anger – It was not necessary to rage against an opponent who was objectively defeated in the exact moment of his falling (see the video of the fight)
- Should respect his opponent – Xu Xiaodong should have maintained a correct sporting attitude; even if what Wei Lei said before the match may have been wrong, it is not for professionals to humiliate an opponent and strut so much after a so easy win
Why Wei Lei had no right to represent Tai Chi
- Was not ethically worthy of representing Tai Chi
- Was not technically worthy of representing Tai Chi
- Was (consequently) not worthy to the fight
- Has (consequently) neither added nor removed anything from the valor of Tai Chi
Being recognized as a representative by a federation or a high-sounding name is not the same as being able to worthily represent an ancient combat style like Tai Chi.
Let’s take the example of medieval European fencing:
- Would it make sense to choose a famous medieval fencing teacher (but that has never faced a competition) and make him fight against a modern fencing athlete (even not the better one)?
- Who could ever win between a person with a high level physical preparation, who is used to managing all the fighting mechanics (against opponents of his level) and a Y person who (even if prepared on the theory) has simply taught amateurs?
It makes no sense (and anyone who has a minimum of martial culture and preparation knows it).
Is Xu Xiaodong’s purpose acceptable?
Because of this fight (and others like it), the general public has extended these individual episodes to the entire world of traditional martial arts, which was not in Xu Xiaodong’s intial intentions at all:
- Xu Xiaodong goal was and is to “show the naked king”, to expose all the scammers who, without any preparation boast to be invincible fighters (or to possess supreme skills)
- In an interview with Chinese TV, Xu Xiaodong claims to recognize that it is not Tai Chi that is weak but the way it is taught (thing that our school is in full agreement with)
The point is that Xu Xiaodong’s martial goal therefore has a sense (it is the battle started by Bruce Lee, after all) but the way in which it was conducted no.
A note by Master Kongling – It’s a sad story. What particularly disappointed me (as a Kung Fu practitioner and at the same time as a lover of combat sports), was the arrogance that reigned in this whole matter: from Wei Lei in his attitude of invincible warrior (unable to recognize a certain defeat), to the arrogance demonstrated by Xu Xiaodong (before and after the event, unworthy of a sportsman), to the institutions that have censored Xu Xiaodong’s social channels (closing all his work and communication possibilities).
In the next article of this series, we will deeply see the combat (the strategic and technical errors of the Tai Chi “grandmaster” in relation to the MMA fighter’s action).
- The 10 principles of Tai Chi – The fundamental concepts of Tai Chi (this article is a good starting point to make your own considerations about the video)
- How to use martial arts in a real fight – The reasons why the Tai Chi “grandmaster” lost so badly this fight
Reply in the comments and share your experience:
- Have you seen the fight? What do you think about? Do you consider them worthy representatives of MMA and Tai Chi?
Author: Master Kongling
Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.
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