An insiders view on the MMA vs. Tai Chi Fight

So I know that I already wrote about this, but while eating at Jumbo's in Boston's Chinatown witrh friends..... it turned out that I actually know someone who studied under Xu Xiaodong, the MMA/Sanda fighter in this 10 second duel that went viral.

We had Fu gwa and gai peen (the bitter melon and chicken slices) and also some sort of Chinese burrito type thing that was good but I had no idea how to order it. I kind of wanted to see what these guys would order because I notice that everyone has their own ordering habits. 

So we were talking about traditional vs. modern martial arts and as a traditional martial artists, (who frankly has done okay in fights and boxing etc. Not overwhelming amazing, but not embarrassingly horrible either) I have a lot to say about some of the notions that immediately will come up just from the idea of what this fight is about. In fact a lot of my friends who don't even practice Martial Arts and aren't even Chinese will immediately be saddened by what just happened. 

Xu Xiadong's student gave some clearer insight though. First off, let's talk about training.

"One of the first things we did as beginners was all the beginner students would line up on one side and the experienced students line up on the other. The experienced students will then punch the beginners and the beginners don't even punch, they just have to focus on blocking" He demonstrated the boxer's guard and also explained when studying MMA with Xu that they all learned boxing frist, as a sort of base, "To be honest in the beginning I could not even keep my eyes open and they had to tell me on focusing to keep my eyes open to watch what your opponent is throwing at you."

The first thought was, "wow that's actually a good method. Though I can't exactly imagine employing that with students (children) here in the US. But with my own kids... I have actually done similar training. Obviously I wasn't trying to hit my own kid full force... but I bet the same is true of the experienced students. They have control. 

Interestingly at the school where I learned Kung Fu we would usually do the opposite. Beginners would throw all the punches at experienced students and the experienced students would just indicate openings with slaps etc. I like the idea behind Xu's training... but I never saw anything like that in an American Boxing gym. And I think when teaching kids I might opt for some sort of slap boxing instead. But there is something very powerful about having to first learn how to defendand I beleiec this training method will get enable you to learn the martial art very quickly. It is safer if you are just doing it in a boxing way and not say, using the same sort of philosophy with Bak Mei type strikes you know? With White Crane strikes... actually like a said we did do something similar. But your guard would have to move to counter the pows and cups and honestly if that was the first thing you did.... it might be discouraging but it's worth researching.

"I think we were the first group in China to do MMA and we had an interesting experiment. We tried to have all sorts of martial artists" Combat sports, "studying for the same amount of time to fight with MMA rules. The worst one, surprisingly was Tae Kwan Do. Because when they clenched it was over. Boxing Wrestling Judo and Sand Da people all did about the same."

I asked him about the whole "All Tai Chi sucks" type statements.

"Those were angry words... but what actually happened was Xu was supposed to meet with a Tai Chi Master to talk about (debate) how Tai Chi didn't work on the street. But then they did not agree and they were supposed to meet again and fight. But the Tai Chi Master didn't show up. Instead, he posted Xu's personal information online. His phone number and his address. Then after receiving many threatening letters and calls and e-mails telling him he sucks as a person he went off and starting saying Tai Chi and even all of Kung Fu is no good. At that point many people did not support him because it was like he was  insulting Chinese Culture."

The point here is that the video makes it look like Xu is picking on Traditional martial arts. I think it is important to note that he was cyber bullied first. 

As a traditional practitioner (that is always changing things not so much to adapt to the "street" but to the situation.) I actually see MMA and simply a continuation of a tradition. These type of exchanges may actually improve traditional modern Tai Chi honestly. That is to say... Tai Chi Practitioners (and Kung Fu practitioners in general) in the past had to fight more. When you are fighting all the time... you don't necessarily have to do fighting drills. My mother grew up in the 50's in the states and she fought people all the time in her Catholic girls school. Now.. it is true maybe she did not have a good boxing guard either, but she was in bloody head banging against concrete type of fights. She went on to do Kendo in Japan, which she loved, because you could "beat the shit out of each other and nobody got hurt" she never got that great at it. But I just want to show that her Martial Arts, never actually helped her on the street either. In fact as she traveled around the world and got into many dangerous situations she never fought her way out as an adult according to her stories. 

Two instances she recounted were diving off a cliff in Iraq because they were shooting. The moral of that story was not to dive because she later heard of others diving there and hitting their heads on rocks. And bribing child soldiers holding machine guns in Laos with cigarettes. The gift meant that they didn't shoot her right there. (she's white btw, and in those countries.. she always said she was Canadian.)

One final thing she said to me in regards to fighting was this quote from my grandfather, "Don't be a fighter. Once people know that you are a fighter... then everyone will want to fight you."

Some would say Xu is in this predicament now. However, maybe that is a good thing in his case. More fights that are going viral might be good for business. I didn't know who he was before this 10 second duel. Now he might as well be up there with Bruce Lee for his 15 minutes of fame. Can he get a show or perhaps a match in the UFC out of it? Anyway who knows. 

I am not as saddened by the fact that the Tai Chi guy lost and I also do Tai Chi like practices. I will probably continue to teach my Tai Chi like stuff even more than my other forms (up there with this Stick form/game that my Sifu actually hated but is quick for kids to pick up) because its what people want. Ex- Soldiers, gangsters, people with violent pasts... they love the idea of sparringt and fighting, yes... but honestly, they always also ask me about Tai Chi. Tai Chi isn't going anywhere. 

As far as MMA is concerned, catch wrestling, boxing and wrestling, just plain fighting... has been around and it isn't going anywhere either. The names seem to change though. What is now called MMA would have been called ALL of the different names for other martial arts in the past from Kung Fu, Wushu, Boxing, and wrestling to you name it. There are no sticks or sword yet in MMA though, nor are there teams of fighters going at the same time... more like football, whcih if you think about it, might be pretty interesting to watch. 

Let's not worry so much about feeling bad and focus more on constantly learning and changing as teachers and students of the martial arts shall we?