TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A Chinese tycoon is offering 10 million yuan (US$1.45 million) to the traditional tai chi fighter who can defeat a mixed martial arts (MMA) gym owner and promoter Xu Xiaodong (徐曉冬), who pummeled a so-called "tai chi master" into submission within 10 seconds during a challenge match held last week.
Chen Sheng (陳生), the millionaire who founded Tiandi No.1 Beverage Inc., is offering the massive cash prize to “defend the dignity” of martial artists after Xu bludgeoned an obscure masseur and part-time tai chi practitioner, who claims to be a "master," in a bare knuckle, no holds barred match that ended in less than 10 seconds. Chen is proposing 5 matches, with the victor of each contest winning US$1.5 million and the loser taking home US$500,000.
The fight was the culmination of a ongoing online war of words between Xu, 38, the owner of two MMA gyms in Beijing, and Wei Lei (魏雷), 41, a self-described "master" of Yang Style tai chi who goes by the nickname of Leilei (雷雷), with the former claiming "traditional kung fu is just for show and tai chi is fake."
Chinese media reports have revealed that instead of being a tai chi master, Wei is actually a massage therapist, that once trained in some tai chi. After the humiliating defeat, Wei's tai chi instructor was quoted by EToday as saying "he did not achieve mastery of kung fu," and both his teacher and tai chi classmates opposed his participation in the bout. Wei for his part claims he slipped because he had a new pair of shoes that were slippery on the padded floor they fought on and he said he refrained from using the internal power of tai chi because it was too "deadly."
His humiliating defeat, which was streamed live to over a million viewers, quickly went viral and reignited the debate over the practicality of traditional Chinese martial arts versus mixed martial arts (MMA). Xu's blanket claims that all traditional Chinese martial arts are fake and his gloating over his swift dispatch of the massage therapist angered millions of netizens and countless Chinese martial artists, who rapidly began lining up to challenge him, well before any cash prize was announced.
Xu even bragged that he could easily defeat two or three martial artists at the same time to prove how fake tai chi is, according to the South China Morning Post.
Shaolin fighter Yi Long punching a kickboxer.
In response to Xu's statements denigrating tai chi and traditional martial arts, multiple Chinese martial artists from various styles have taken the challenge, including Chen Qian (陳前), a disciple of Chen Style tai chi master Wang Zhanhai (王占海); Guangzhou native Li Shangxian (李尚賢), who specializes in Meihuazhuang (梅花樁, Plum Flower Post); Qin Yulong (秦玉龍), who claims to be a member of the Kongdong Sect (崆峒派); and Yi Long (一龍), a Shaolin kung fu fighter who has won many kickboxing bouts against Muay Thai kickboxers.
Even a female member of the Qingcheng Sect (青城派) of kung fu and Sanda fighter, Song Xiayang (松夏央), has been rumored to be on the list of challengers, though she denies such a fight has been agreed to.
Qingcheng Sect practitioner Song Xiayang
The Chinese Wushu Association, represented by 2008 Beijing Olympics Sanda gold medalist Qin Lizi (秦力子), and more than 10 other prominent Chinese martial artists released a 3,000 word statement on Wednesday saying that Xu's comments and actions are only serving to promote himself and the match between him and Wei violated martial arts ethics and potentially the law.
The fighting applications of many traditional martial arts have been lost since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seized power in 1949 and began to systematically eradicate Chinese traditional culture. A large number of martial artists were imprisoned or even executed, a process which was accelerated during the Cultural Revolution.
After eliminating most traditional martial arts, the CCP introduced modernized wushu (武術, martial arts) and simplified tai chi, removing the spiritual and martial aspects of the arts, while adding gymnastic skills to more closely resemble Olympic gymnastic floor routines or acrobat performances.
Contrary to Xu's statements, kung fu practitioners have actually excelled in MMA, including notable fighters such as Cung Le (who has already called Xu out), Peter Davis, Pat Barry, and Roy Nelson, all of whom have winning records in the cage. UFC fighter Roy Nelson started his martial arts training with the Lohan School of Shaolin in Las Vegas and still trains in kung fu on a daily basis.
Video of the controversial duel between Xu and Wei: