Unbelievable!? Face, politics and money.

For a moment I thought that something was happening.

If you have not seen ex Sanda and MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong is on a campaign to call out what he considers to be frauds in Chinese martial arts. He has targeted the Chen family and other famous Chen Taiji people – who charge €26000 for a baishi ceremony (where students become ‘disciples’ and enter into the lineage).

The Chen’s did not step up – they offered to send a sanda student, but not one of the actual Chen representatives like Wang Zhanjun and Wang Zhanhai – who are regularly on Chinese TV demonstrating how they cannot be touched by swords or thrown by Judoka. Incidentally Xu offered to fight them each onea after another in 10 min rounds with no break, no rules, eyes, groin all game.

A Taiji teacher from Szchuen did step up and was beaten in less than 10 seconds, then went on Chinese TV claiming his Taiji power was too deadly to use so he didn’t. Sigh.

Here’s his 10 second defeat.  There are more links to relevant stuff below.

Since then famous master Chen Zhenglei has said that Taiji is just a health art – despite prior claims and demos to contradict this, and he called on the Chinese Wushu federation to clamp down on Xu. The Wushu federation duly obliged, and have accused him and his company of being foreign spies.

That at least is new to me, in this context.

Somehow I doubt Xu is a foreign spy – he is probably motivated by the lack of respect genuine fighters get, by disgust at the dishonesty of what is sold as martial and also out of the desire to get some publicity. He has certainly succeeded with the latter.

You see for a moment I thought that Xu’s internet presence and the technology that would allow fights to be seen across China and the world would successfully shake things up.

Not so sure anymore – just seeing the usual…

  • CMA people saying that the Lei had no real Taiji
  • Other CMA people saying how deadly they are, or their teachers are, or the genuine school they know about in x province
  • Other CMA people saying that Taiji is all about healing, and should not  be challenged in sports fights (and conveniently forget all about the claims and demos)
  • Other CMA people are stepping up and asking to fight Xu, and are taking it all as a patriotic insult
  • More clued on people are queuing on to say how ridiculous it all is, and what real(istic) training is like. Actually they are not really queuing.
  • The international MMA community has basically no clue this is happening, and no interest either.

As some of my friends would say ‘It’s like the 90s never happened.’  if the 90s are a long time ago for you that’s when the Gracie challenge turned into the UFC and ‘traditional’ martial arts were slapped with a big dose of not-fantasy.

The thing is is this has happened repeatedly – and true believers will remain true believers in the face of almost all evidence. That’s why I’m writing the ‘How to choose a teacher book’ I doubt it will save CMA from this kind of thing, but it it might help some students get a better start and help some teachers who take an honest approach.

I was hoping that this might lead to new narratives in CMA, where the qi fantasies would be sidelined and a more honest approach to what is practical adopted. No need to stop the dress up, or the pretty movements with attendant culture, but open to a broader sense of where these arts fit in a world where people share fighting skills openly, and real combat is readily watchable.

I did not expect that Chinese government would weigh in on the side of the superstitious. I suppose that was naive of me. I did not expect the Chens to send people to bull Xu who has been told that his fights are illegal. Once more expecting honorable behaviour when I should have been prepared for worse.

Perhaps this will shake a few people up. Perhaps once the dust has settled and people have stopped scrabbling to save face there will be some interesting reform.

What I’m sure about though, is that I’ll see stuff like this again.


Links and a little bonus

Thanks to Tri-Essence Martial Art of Guan Nan Wang  and the   The Fajin Project for keeping me informed.

The videos below are in Chinese

Chen Xiao wang’s people ganging up on Xu, who is talking to his online audience. http://www.365yg.com/item/6416228509437395458/

A funny article about CMA and cosplay. In English.

Lei  the defeated Taiji teacher explains to a reporter how deadly he is https://www.facebook.com/jarek.szymanski/videos/10156138093673242/

and finally a video I’ve seen around (which I think Michael Rook posted)  that gives an example of the exact opposite – two martial artists treating each other well – one outside of his comfort and skill zone, the other adjusting his force and intensity in consideration