MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong had been taunting masters of the traditional Chinese martial arts for many weeks. He called them overly commercialized frauds, and had been challenging them to put up or shut up.
After one of them — Wei Lei, a practitioner of the “thunder style” of tai chi — accepted the challenge, Mr. Xu flattened him in about 10 seconds.
Xiadong proved his point, but he wasn’t ready for what ensued.
When video of his pummeling went viral, many Chinese were deeply offended by what they saw as an insult to a cornerstone of traditional Chinese culture. The state-run Chinese Wushu Association posted a statement on its website saying the fight “violates the morals of martial arts.” The Chinese Boxing Association issued similar criticism.
An article by Xinhua, the state news agency, called Mr. Xu a “crazy guy,” saying that the fight had caused people to question whether Chinese martial arts were of any use and even to ask, “What exactly are traditional Chinese martial arts?”
As for the mma fighter, the reaction has been so furious that Mr. Xu has gone into hiding.
“I’ve lost everything, my career and everything,” he said in a message circulating online.
“I think many people misunderstand me. I’m fighting fraudulence, but now I’ve become the target.”
Tai chi, while a martial art, is viewed by many today as a spiritual breathing and balance exercise enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s usually performed in slow motion in a quiet park instead of a fight ring.
— Arlekin (@Arlekin404) May 8, 2017
Mixed martial arts is a “no-holds-barred” fighting style developed over the last century from fighting styles around the world. It began to gain popularity in the United States in the 1980s. While it is violent, it does have rules — including no biting, spitting or gouging.
The fight between Mr. Xu and Mr. Wei was brutal. As Mr. Wei circled slowly, arms outstretched in a calm tai chi defense, Mr. Xu lunged, jabbed him to the floor, then used a “ground and pound” technique to subdue him.
The fight was over in about 10 seconds.