Chinese billionaire offers $1.5 million to any Tai Chi expert who can beat MMA fighter

Friday, May 05, 2017

Xu Xiaodong, a self-taught MMA fighter, coach, and promoter in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China recently issued a fighting challenge to Tai Chi masters, using the Chinese social network Weibo. Tai Chi master Wei Lei was brave enough to step up. It is also possible that Lei was not brave, but deluded to the point it would be accurate to say stupid.

The “fight” lasted 10 seconds, with the traditional martial arts master faring notably worse than would the average person. This is not unexpected, because human beings enjoy instincts that while not optimal are reasonably effective. Unfortunately, these instincts (keep your hands up, dig for an underhook, etc) can be be drilled away by a sufficiently deluded martial arts system.

It’s bad to be in a fight if you don’t know how to fight. But it is worse by far to be in a fight, not know how to fight, and not know it. Lei didn’t even know enough to run.

Afterward, in a series of interviews, Lei offered a variety of explanations for his absurd showing. He said he wore shoes with rubber soles, and the mat was rubber, so he slipped.

“He never touched me when I was standing up,” said Lei. “I only got hit when I fell on the floor. Do I need to explain any more?”

Lei apparently did indeed need to explain more. He later said he didn’t want to win, as it would have led to “disharmony” in his life. And in yet another interview, Lei said that he had held back so as not to kill his opponent with his true power.

The exposure of Lei’s delusion and absurdity is not an attack on Tai Chi, in any way. Tai Chi is a remarkable cultural tradition, with notable health and wellness benefits. But it has less to do with actual fighting than yoga, another warrior art, but one that suffers from less delusion about the efficacy of the techniques in a fighting situation.

Rather than simple illumination, the challenge has sparked a debate about the effectiveness of traditional Chinese martial arts. One figure intelligently rising to the defense of the old ways is Jack Ma.

The founder of AliBaba is worth something over $30 billion, and is a long-time student of Tai Chi. His personal bodyguard is 5′ 6″ 190 pound Tai Chi master Li Tianjin. Ma responded on his Weibo account, saying he was a fan of mixed martial arts and the UFC, but that fights aren’t a reasonable means to compare martial arts.

“A street fight [like this one] can’t settle any debate,” wrote Ma, as translated by the South China Morning Post. “Comparing the striking techniques of MMA and Tai Chi … their rules are different. [A debate] is simply out of the question.

“It’s like insisting on comparing goals in basketball and football matches, and concluding that football is inferior to basketball. This is like comparing ducks and chickens. A competition should have its rules properly set. Even in cricket fights these days, [competition rules] require the insects to first be weighed.”

“Tai chi was invented neither for attack nor defense, but as a movement to illustrate its philosophy. Attack and defense are part of Tai Chi, but definitely not all of it.”

Ma said there are some Tai Chi adepts capable of using the art for self-defense, but that most devotees use it for health.

Another Chinese entrepreneur took a less nuanced approach. Multi-billionaire soft drink magnate Chen Sheng is offering a total of 10 million yuan (approximately $1.5 million) to those who can defeat Xiaodong. The money is to be split across five matches, with the winner of each fight getting 1.5 million yuan (approximately $200,000) and the loser 500,000 yuan (approximately $70,000).

“I want him to understand, he used this kind of extreme method to provoke Chinese traditional culture, and will need to pay the price,” said Sheng, according to Amy Southall for the UK’s

Xiaodong has a number of Tai Chi masters lined up to fight, including Lu Xing, Wang Zhanhai, and Li Shangxian. If Xiaodong gets paid $200,000 each to fight five Tai Chi masters in a row, it will be the greatest deal in the history of mixed martial arts. As an incentive, Xiaodong has offered to fight two or three Tai Chi masters at once; if accepted, this would push up his fight per purse notably!

In the meantime, the Chinese Wushu Association issued a statement: “Martial arts is a traditional Chinese sport as well as an excellent traditional culture that includes various forms, like martial arts repertoire and free combat. We are strongly against such bouts, especially scuffles held in the name of eliminating fake martial arts which are more about fighting and pure aggressiveness.”

In other words, never, ever, actually test the martial aspect of the martial arts.