Skip to main content

Wing Chun master dons Bruce Lee tracksuit, challenges MMA fighter for 150k

The article is part of a larger effort to understand what works in martial arts not by looking at MMA events, but by observing the application of martial arts outside the arena - on the streets, or in this case, at a mall. If you enjoyed it, check out more stories from The MMA UnderGround on:
Martial Arts on The Street
Dojo Storms
Informal Fights

“Without his clothes, a man would be nothing at all; the clothes do not merely make the man, the clothes are the man. Without them he is a cipher, a vacancy, a nobody, a nothing… There is no power without clothes.”
-Mark Twain

Beginning in 2017, Xu Xiaodong, an amateur MMA fighter turned pioneering MMA coach in China, began brashly calling out Tai Chi masters for claiming that the practice imparts significant self-defense skills. A number of these masters were not knowingly fraudulent, and stepped up. 

As it turns out, they were, unfortunately, unknowingly fraudulent; their attempts at fighting were comically inept, on the level of an irate eight-year-old who never played a sport. Each of them was ignominiously dispatched by Xu Xiaodong so effortlessly that it looked like something out of a Kung Fu movie. It's challenging to find any area of human conduct where quality is so far removed from perceived ability.

Unfortunately, rather than being hailed as a hero in native China, Xu Xiaodong has faced severe sanctions from the government. 

Why? It takes a little history to understand. 

Chinese Martial Arts

In some quarters, Chinese martial arts are not held in high esteem. This in error.

Many date the birth of MMA at UFC 1 in 1993, or Ali vs. Inoki in 1976, or LeBell vs. Savage in 1963, or Mitsuyo Maeda starting to teach his real-fight-tested Judo/Catch as Catch Can hybrid to the Gracie family in 1917. However, there were highly organized, no-holds-barred fights taking place on an elevated platform called a Lei Tai in China during the Song Dynasty, 1,000 years ago. Sanda is one of the world's most effective martial arts, and it uses techniques almost exclusively drawn from traditional Chinese martial arts.

Chinese martial arts are a very significant part of China's magnificent cultural heritage, and the world is very much better for them. For example, this author's mother practices Tai Chi and it notably increases her health and wellness. From this perspective, it is the very best martial art in the world, despite it having precious little verifiable use in a self-defense context.

And there is nothing wrong with a martial art having near zero self-defense effectiveness. For example, Yoga is a warrior art, and has helped countless figures reach peak effectiveness in the widest variety of pursuits, including MMA. But yoga makes no claims as to the self-defense capability of masters. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many teachers of Chinese martial arts.

The Chinese government enjoys a great deal of hard-earned soft power from the spread of Chinese martial arts around the planet, and the effective reputation they enjoy in many quarters. That status is threatened by Xu Xiaodong's exposing that Tai Chi and other Chinese martial arts do not hold value in terms of self-defense.

Obviously, the appropriate response is to introduce the amazing art of Sanda into the curriculum of Chinese martial arts kwoons. Then the traditional side can be taught for its cultural, physical, and spiritual benefits, and the practical side of Chinese martial arts can be spread as well.

Unfortunately, it is apparently simpler to try to quiet Xu Xiaodong. But can you actually quiet a man called "Mad Dog"? Further, Xu Xiaodong expanded the scope of his challenges beyond Tai Chi, to Wing Chun. And the challenges are now no longer taken up by him alone.

Wing Chun

To be clear, Wing Chun is not worthless. The entire premise of MMA is not based on determining whether any given martial art is good or bad; in point of fact, no martial art can work against a broadly-skilled fighter of roughly similar level, without alteration. The idea is to determine not whether any given art is right or wrong, but rather, how it is right? What parts are effective? Having any other attitude will inevitably result in loss over time.

Wing Chun is not an art like Tai Chi that imparts near zero self-defense ability. It is, however, a rickety bicycle that thinks it's a Kawasaki Ninja. Wing Chun is the equivalent of a martial art teaching adherents to only jab, with one hand. There will be exponents who can win a fight by only jabbing with one hand, but it will never work on anyone good. That's why there never has been and never will be a top MMA fighter with a Wing Chun background - the way the kicks and punches are thrown is apparently convincing to some, but are in reality silly and second-rate.

Some Wing Chun defenders argue that too much of the art is illegal in MMA. However, the parts that are legal (kicks, punches, knees, elbows) are executed terribly in Wing Chun, so there is every reason to believe the eye pokes are even more inept, as, unlike the clumsy strikes there is no feedback process. And on what basis does a Wing Chun expert (none of whom in the entire history of the art has verifiably used an eye poke successfully) think that he or she knows more about gouging than say Jon Jones, who has poked a generation of world-class fighters in the eye?

Ironically, much of the popularity of Wing Chun is due to its association with Bruce Lee. However, when Bruce Lee got around to actually trying Wing Chun, in the famous fight with Wong Jack Man in 1964, he realized that it was not a reasonably effective means of self-defense.

"I'd gotten into a fight in San Francisco with a Kung-Fu cat, and after a brief encounter the son-of-a-bitch started to run," said Lee to Black Belt magazine. "I chased him and, like a fool, kept punching him behind his head and back. Soon my fists began to swell from hitting his hard head. Right then I realized Wing Chun was not too practical and began to alter my way of fighting."

In closing, there are a lot of very strong and capable Wing Chun adherents. The issue is that it is not an intelligent approach to defending onself, as you will see.

The Opponents

Xu Xiaodong has friends. One of them is a fellow Chinese MMA fighter named Xuan Wu, which translates to Black Tortoise. He is described in the video as a Muay Thai fighter, but MMA is his thing.

Tan Long is one of those Wing Chun instructors who is unknowingly fraudulent. He honestly believes that his goofy techniques work, and called out Xuan Wu on the social network, reportedly claiming he would put up 1 million yuan ($150,000) to fight. 

He came out wearing the iconic bumblebee outfit Bruce Lee wore in the Game of Death documentary. Tan Long even had his hair cut in a style reminiscent of Lee.

And he broke a brick with a nunchaku; there's no way he can lose, I'm 100% sure.


The Fight

The fight took place in a kickboxing ring, set in the Xixia Wanda Plaza mall, in Yinchuan, China, on August 3, 2019. Tan Long opened with a flying kick and seconds later, it was over.


It turns out that clothes don't make the man after all. Just because you shot Jesse James, don't make you Jesse James. And just because you put on a Bruce Lee tracksuit, doesn't mean you can fight like Bruce Lee, or even stay awake.

Share your thoughts on The StreetGround forum at