In an almost comical proposal, mma fighter Xiaodong Xu and Tai Chi “master” Lei Wei decided to “cross hands” in a gong sau fight May 7 th 2017. And in classic modern fashion, “video or it didn’t happen”, they recorded the “fight” which according to the various click baits ended in 10 seconds, though in truth the fight actually lasted (approximately) 29 seconds. Of course, that doesn’t make things much better.
So how did this all come to be? Xu, looking to expose the insular attitude of Chinese Martial Arts, issued a challenge on Weibo. He claimed that he could take on two or three of these so-called masters. Lei Wei, of whom I could not find much information, chose to accept the challenge. Aside from that, not much is known on how this fight finally came together.
Many are wondering what’s wrong with this fight. So many things, but let’s just stick with the basics. Tai Chi is a joke as a practical martial art. Tai Chi is essentially standing Yoga. Sure, there is a combat aspect to Tai Chi, but it is so rare that almost nobody takes it seriously. Tai Chi uses a fun game of sparring called push hands which is a toned-down version of Sumo. That was not a typo.
Tai Chi is meant to be studied for improved health both physically and mentally; you don’t study it to learn how to fight. Seriously, what’s next, a Spin Instructor challenging Connor MacGregor? The next problem about this fight is the history of Chinese Martial Arts, or, more to the point, Chinese History. We are talking about a culture who thought so much of itself that they convinced a bunch Chinese Boxers to take on British Soldiers. The British Soldiers had guns, the Chinese Boxers, not so much. Of course there is more to this story, and I am over simplifying the situation; but this still reflects the dedication of the Chinese people who are married to the rituals, and morals which hampers their ability to modernize their practices. There were also the Chinese Revolution of 1911, World War II, and the rise of Communism during the 1949 Chinese Revolution, all of which led to China being isolated from the rest of the world for nearly 50 years. During this time, the Chinese Government forbade practice of practical martial arts, forcing most practitioners to resort to performance style martial arts called Wu Shu, and (wait for it…) Tai Chi, because these were NOT fighting arts.
The video in question
Mike Tyson said “everybody has a plan until they get hit”. As I have said before Tai Chi is philosophical martial art based on meditative combat theory, and its practice does not involve actually getting hit. If you’ve never been hit before, a publicized challenge match is not the time to test your deeply contemplated theories.
Ironically Xiaodong Xu only wanted to break open the shell that a lot of these masters like to hide in. He wanted to show the Chinese people that these masters have been bullshitting you (and likely themselves) with their tales of awesomeness. Instead of being hailed as a hero he is now being bashed by his fellow Chinese citizens and has had to go into hiding. He’s been threatened with death and is currently a social pariah, because he chose to break the illusion of the cultural norm.
What to should we make out of this? This was a good reality check, but obviously nothing worth turning a bearer of harsh truth into an outcast. You and I already know the truth when it comes to real fighting, and the people of China are not that far behind. Already they have several MMA based events including the UFC in China. The US had this awakening in 1993 and China is in the process of its own. But even still in the USA and other Western Countries, we have these braggadocios “masters” and the naive willing to follow them.
This video went viral simply because they showed yet another example of a culture locked ideal that was exposed years ago by the Gracie family and again when an Aikido master was smacked down by an MMA fighter over a decade ago. Until the common layman, looking into martial arts world through movies and other fantasy based media, recognizes the differences between performance art based in martial theory and practical application of martial techniques, I predict we will see an unfortunate humiliation of these misguided and misleading “masters” approximately every decade or so.