Another one bites the dust (the latest Xu Xiaodong vs Tai Chi master)

The Tai Chi ‘master’ lasted 10 seconds this time.

In the video above amateur Chinese MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong is fighting Chen Yong, the self-proclaimed sixth-generation Tai Chi Master of the Wu lineage. It’s the latest in a long line of fights between Xu and people who claim to be martial arts ‘masters’.

If we analyse the 10 seconds of action we can see Chen takes a forward weighted stance with his hands up in a high guard. It leaves him completely imobile and open for a kick. Xu kicks him low, Chen drops his guard and that was all she wrote.

Presumably Chen thought that whatever he had been doing for the past few decades was good enough training to actually fight with. But whatever Chen has been practicing… it wasn’t fighting.

Some of my Chinese Martial Arts colleagues get really upset with these fights. They think the whole thing is set up to make Chinese marital arts look bad and promote the UFC, and I’m somehow complicit in a plot designed to bring the whole Chinese martial arts down. Or that Xu won’t fight anybody young and fit and only challenges old men. It’s classic conspiracy theory nonsense.

I find this attitude odd because, frankly the UFC doesn’t give a crap about any of this. And nobody is making these delusional ‘masters’ fight anybody – they’re doing it of their own free will and more often than not, they are the challengers in the fights, and put up all the money required to make them happen. They clearly think they are going to win with their martial skill despite a huge age gap or a gap in fighting experience.

There is a strong tradition of Chinese Kung Fu masters appearing in faked fights on Chinese TV and seeming to be all-powerful. It’s that delusion that Xu fighting against. Watch this:

serpentza and Byron Jacob explain what’s happening in China.

A common thing I’ve hear is that nobody has heard of these ‘masters’ before. Again, that’s true, but there are a lot of delusional people in martial arts, so I don’t think that’s surprising. China is a big place. Perhaps it’s the use of the term “master” that gets bandied about so freely? In light of all these fights there has been a government move in China to ban the use of the word. Xu Xiaodong has been heavily persecuted – being forced to hide his face in clown makeup and have an insulting nickname in one fight. It didn’t stop him beating these ‘masters’.

But it’s not just Xu doing it. Here’s another video from a couple of years ago. In white pyjamas we have “The 47-year-old expert Zhu Chunping, who has been practising tai chi for decades” vs Yao Hantian “The 22-year-old Yao has been training kick-boxing for just six months”. Read the report in the South China Morning Post. From the 5 seconds of action in the video we can see Zhu takes up what looks like a version of the San Ti Shi stance from Xing Yi while Yao immediately starts moving, establishing range and holding his hands in a modern guard position. One right hand from Yao, which goes right down the middle of Zhu’s guard and he doesn’t react at all to, and it’s all over.

As for the attitude of trying to pretend these fights aren’t happening… I believe it’s some misguided implementation of Wu De – martial virtue. Why shouldn’t people watch these fights? If you engage in a bout with a ring, a judge, and cameras involved, that’s designed to be streamed or televised then clearly you are now in the entertainment industry. That’s what prize fighting is. If this was some sort of battle for honour or revenge it would all be played out in a dark alley somewhere and nobody would ever know about it.

I think the lessons these videos teach is so valuable that they’re worth posting. You need to keep it real (to some extent at least) if you want to teach “martial arts”. Even if that “real” is realising your limitations, and that you shouldn’t be fighting a 22 year old in a ring when you’re 47 and don’t have any fight experience.

Chinese martial arts are full of fantastic skills and valuable content, but if you spend all your time doing your “body method” training and no time doing fighting training, then don’t expect to be able to fight with it.

And let’s not keep hiding this stuff away – you don’t fix your problems by pretending they don’t exist.

“Here is where you’ll be falling down”.

11 thoughts on “Another one bites the dust (the latest Xu Xiaodong vs Tai Chi master)

  1. Pingback: Xu Xiaodong: A Modern Martial Arts Hero – Martial Arts Nerd

  2. Pingback: Is Xing Yi a nature-based martial art any longer? - Abhishek Blog

  3. Pingback: Is Xing Yi a nature-based martial art any longer? | The Tai Chi Notebook

  4. It’s like one entity fighting itself in yin & yang form. No doubt MMA has lots to teach about practicality and some self-defence, and Martial Arts has lots to tecah about stability form, health and some basic fighting – but most importantly with the right teacher a peaceful attitude to life. Hitting and getting hit is the ultimate madness of yang energy that does not bring happiness but practically to self-defence, dancing forms and staying healthy u might say is the ultimate yin energy that is likely to bring some happiness and health but very little practicality. Rather than the 2 extremes balance is best. The generals of the past likely experienced so much yang that they finally saw the beauty of yin energy… and the fact that we rarely need to solve all our problems with fighting, if we have fought ourselves and feel peaceful inside the world would be a better place. These are 2 different goals…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. @mikesigman

    Amazing Comment. Its like you know nothing about the story what so ever. Xu has had his life ruined by Chinese Social Media Score because he has beaten up “Chinese Masters”. The government looks at this like a war against Chinese Culture. It took him 36 hours to travel to one fight because he can’t use planes or trains any longer. Xu is one of the most epic MMA fighters ever simply because he is standing up to the Chinese government. How you don’t know this and apparently have knowledge in the sport is honestly beyond me. Embarrassing out of touch comment.


  6. There are reasons Chinese martial art (MA) culture lends itself to delusion, but each factor is a long discussion in and of itself. Among them are,
    Old martial fantasy novels
    Attributing MA manuals or MAs, by as a “found” manual or technique of some legendary or folk hero figure
    Confucian bureaucratic and political machinations
    Anti-Qing and Rebellion counter-culture
    Boxer Rebellion culture
    Leitai tournaments
    Republican Era martial organizations
    Form-centered instruction
    Cultural Revolution
    Creation, adoption, and promotion of Chinese contemporary wushu by the Chinese government
    Promotion of martial tourism
    and others

    But, for the current cases, There’s a reason for the adage, “You fight the way you train.”

    What martial artist in his or her right mind would fail to heed the counsel of Sun Zi to “know your enemy” before stepping in the ring with him by spending hours training with an MMA training partner, or whatever type of opponent they faced? They might even be able to figure out what competitive advantages their MA might have over an MMA fighter!

    While I think there is validity to the observation that none of these “Masters” is recognized, and they are, rather, “self-proclaimed masters”. It is unclear which of the recognized ‘”masters”‘ would do much better, especially if they did not train and prepare.

    There are some really good lessons here for all of us who don’t plan on issuing challenges to…well, anyone.

    First, if you are going to step into the challenge ring with someone, you need to know what they are about. And, not just know, but have experience in training for what you are up against. Or, bind them to rules with which you are accustomed to using, a push hands challenge, for example.

    Second, if you plan to rely on your MA training in a life-or-death self-defense situation, you better have trained how to use it as self-defense. There are methods scientifically shown to train the neurology to respond in the desired manner in stressful situations without actually having to follow through with the eye gouge or joint dislocation in training. Coincidentally, they are not far from some Chinese MA training, but the training is specific, and many teachers miss the mark. Be informed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I spent some time at an MMA gym a few years ago. That was an eye opening experience.

    I think anyone who has any notion of their martial art being applied in real life, ought to train with some MMA guys.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A MMA fight and self awareness and being healthy and fit at an older age and two completely different things. If the Tai Chi master was to fight someone his own age or avoid the fight alltogether then he might win. It’s like comparing a tiger to a bee, or something like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. One of the interesting things for me is how many people take these fights with Xu Xiaodong seriously and think they’re worth commenting upon. If you took a reasonably competent MMA, San Shou, etc., fighter from one of the many fighter stables around the US or UK and you had him fight any of the myriad Kung Fu or “Tai Chi” masters around the US/UK, the results would be the same: trained MMA fighter wipes the slate with novice who thought he was a fighter. I’m uncertain why some people think it’s a big deal.

    Long ago, I learned that the Chinese professionals/experts always ask “what big name did so-and-so fight” as an opening discussion about someone who is supposed to be good. Xu Xiaodong hasn’t fought any recognized good traditional fighters, so why people keep talking about “Tai Chi Master” rather than “novice wannabe” is beside me.

    Liked by 1 person

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