Taijiquan Master Wei Lei (魏雷) Reflects On His Fight with Sanda Master Xu Xiaodong (徐晓冬)
(Translation & Research by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
China: The Background to the Taijiquan v MMA Debacle (27.4.2017)
China: Fugitive MMA Expert Xu Xiaodong [徐晓冬] Summoned by Chengdu Police (6.5.2017)
Interview with Wenzhou Taijiquan Master Liu Jinping (刘建平)
Translator’s Note: I have accessed a number of Chinese language texts to build a reliable English translation of the events surrounding a recent challenge match between Master Wei Lei (Taijiquan), and Master Xu Xiaodong (MMA), which took place in Chengdu, Sichuan province. The referee in the fight has stated that when Master Wei Lei slipped-over, he thought his opponent was about to help him up – but instead he started punching him on the head! This was when the fight was ended due to injuries sustained by the prone fighter. Of course, in the West, the video of this fight (which does not show anything of martial worth), is being used to racially attack China, Chinese martial culture, and Chinese martial artists – with Xu Xiaodong (who has no connection with the West) being seen as somekind of ‘hero’ (due to his attack upon Chinese martial culture). Obviously I reject any racialisation of China, and use logic and reason to ‘break it up’. Needless to say, as Xu Xiaodong has now attracted the attention of some very dangerous martial artists in China, he has ‘retired’ from public view – behaviour that many have been interpreted as cowardly considering he is the architect of this situation. On the other hand, Master Wei Lei is being seen as ‘brave’ in that he took the fight with Xu Xiaodong without having undergone the proper Taijiquan self-defence training. Of course, this event has generated a debate on the Chinese language internet as to the efficacy of Taijiquan for self-defence, with many old masters and modern ‘wushu’ coaches being consulted and quoted through the media. This has even led to the Chen (陳) family of Henan (the Founders of Chen Family Style Taijiquan) being consulted on this matter – with their response stating that Taijiquan was used effectively on the ancient battlefield, and retains this ability throughout all its legitimate lineages. It was also stated that Taijiquan takes a longtime to master and to use properly. Although the PRC government has no official position on this matter, some have suggested that Xu Xiaodong has been motivated to make his video (and post it on ’Youku’) in mimicry of his Western MMA-counter-parts, who routinely visit other people’s training halls to ‘spar’, whilst filming these encounters and posting the videos on ‘Youtube’ (the US equivalent of China’s ‘Youku’), as a means to gain popularity and boost personal egos – the exact opposite of the purpose of traditional Chinese martial arts practice. In this regard, Xu Xiaodong’s example comes under the heading of ‘spiritual population’.
Commencing at 1900hrs on the 27thApril, 2017, and held at a Martial Arts Hall in the ‘Empty Flower Garden’ (空花园 – Kong Hua Yuan) – situated on Ke Hua Road (科华路 – Ke Hua Lu) in the Wangfujing (王府井) area of Chengdu, Sichuan province, a very unusual challenge match took place recently in the People’s Republic of China. In and of themselves, challenge matches are not unusual within Chinese culture, varying in seriousness from gentle or sedate sparring sessions, to combat exchanges that lead to bad injury, maiming or even death. The reasons for these matches is invariably ‘honour’ and ‘face’, and such an encounter is not taken lightly in a cultural sense. On the day in question, 50-year-old Taijiquan Master Wei Lei (founder of the Lei Gong [雷公] Taijiquan style – also commonly known as ‘Lei Lei’ [雷雷]) entered into a challenge match with 39 year old integrated martial arts coach Xu Xiaodong (徐晓冬) of the Beijing Shenshanhai (什刹海) Sports School of Sanda (散打). In fact this match attracted an unusually large crowd for challenge matches, as it was promoted as the ‘Contest to Find the Authentic Martial Art of New China’ (新中国成立以来最真实的武术比赛 – Xin Zhong Guo Cheng Li Yi Lai Zhen Shi De Wu Shu Bi Sai ). When Sanda is modified to include grappling and groundwork – it is quite often referred to as ‘Mixed Martial Arts’ or simply ‘MMA’ in translation, although this has no direct historical or developmental connection to its Western counter-part (which is often premised upon a modification of Japanese martial arts). On the other hand, Lei Lei’s system of martial arts is said to be a variant of Yang Style Taijiquan.
A video of the fight was uploaded onto Youku – and features footage of a 20 second match which sees Lei Lei losing his footing, falling to the floor, and being struck 7 or 8 times on the top and side of his head by Xu Xiaodong. As these punches opened cuts on the head – the match was stopped by the referee. This was a bare-knuckle match apparently without any limitation, where groin-kicking and elbowing were allowed. Oddly, despite Xu standing in a typical stance adopted by modern fighters that exposed his groin – Lei failed to kick the area and end the fight quickly. Giving an interview to the Chengdu Business Daily Newspaper the next day (April 28th), Wei Lei stated that the smooth rubber-soled shoes he was wearing could not grip the floor, and when he tried to anchor himself to deliver powerful blows, his feet slipped-out from under him. He also added that he lost fair and square and after resting 7 days, he would resume his teaching schedule and absorb the lessons he had learned. Interestingly, at one-point in this brief encounter, Lei Lei was able to land a punch into the sternum area of Xu without any trouble – the impact of which made his feet slip.
Although Xu Xiaodong has issued numerous challenges to very well-known traditional martial artists as a means to become famous (stating that he has no respect for traditional martial arts, their practitioners or their teachers) – Master Wei Lei took on the challenge as a means to protect the honour of those older masters that had been targeted by Xu (one of which was 70 years old). Although Xu Xiaodong has since stated that this fight proved MMA to be ‘better’ than traditional arts, the bulk of Chinese opinion on this matter disagrees with him. In reality, this was not a fight between two schools or types of Chinese martial arts, but rather a battle between two individuals, each with their own personal training histories, and technical weaknesses and strengths, motivated by narrow objectives. It has been commented on, for instance, that Xu Xiaodong’s technique was not very polished considering there were no established rules in operation. Other than rushing forward into an unstable opponent, and then hitting him once he was on the floor, no real technical skill was exhibited, as Xu’s defence was far too open, exposing his groin, diaphragm, throat, eyes and ears to attack. His wide stance would have slowed his movement, and exposed his legs (and knees) to damaging counter-kicks, with his feet being prone to being trodden-on, etc. In the event, none of these weaknesses were exposed due to the technical limitations of his opponent – who admitted in an interview that since the age of 40 years old, the emphasis for his martial arts training has been on building a robust health and longevity. In fact, Master Wei explained that many of his students suffer from various long-term illnesses which are treated in-part by regular Taijiquan practice, and that if people want to damage one another’s bodies in full-contact fighting, they should do so between the ages of 15 ad 25 yeas old (or there about), before settling down to perfecting their martial techniques and teaching others for life preservation, as the emphasis of traditional martial arts is self-defence, and not self-offense as is the case with Xu’s approach to training. Master Wei explained that his fight with Master Xu Xiaodong was agreed to be between two individuals, but that Xu had broken that agreement by telling everyone that it was between two styles.
Master Wei Lei’s background in martial arts is interesting and varied. From around 11 years old, he started training in traditional Chinese Wrestling (摔跤 – Shuai Jiao), before studying ‘Sanda’ (散打) – the same background style as Master Xu Xiaodong. He then moved on to the practice of Korean Taekwondo, before settling on the tough martial art of Muay Thai. He sparred regularly and was very good at full-contact fighting, but in 2008 (when he had reached 41 years old), he changed direction and decided to study Yang Style Taijiquan (with a 3rd generation descendant) in Chengdu. This was to do with the body changing as it ages, and the need to preserve vital force and build vigour. The gymnastic and athletic influence of many martials arts is suitable for the young, but not for those who are older. This is because the methods of training the external body are not good for longevity and generates too much negative (yin) energy in the mind and body. This type of fitness is one-sided if the view of Chinese medicine is not taken into account. Taijiquan, on the other hand, possesses the ability to cleanse the mind and body of negative (yin) energy, and build positive (yang) energy for robust health and longevity. Master Wei Lei continued that if the mind and body can fully master Taijiquan technique, then there will be individuals that can carry-on fighting after 40 years of age, and dominate everyone they encounter, but (he added), this stage is very difficult to attain, and he will continue to seek and attain this stage regardless of his recent set-back. When Master Wei Lei’s elderly teacher was asked for a comment – Master Luo (罗) replied that neither he, nor his students had been in favour of Wei Lei taking this fight, and that people over the internet had made judgements based upon incomplete or false information. However, Master Luo did state that his student Wei Lei had not been studying Taijiquan long enough to have been taught how to use Taijiquan effectively in a combative situation. When asked why he did not use the martial knowledge he had gained from other styles throughout his life to defend himself, he simply stated that he had no fear, was calm and collected, and did not want to betray the Yang Style Taijiquan Style he was learning. In the meantime, due to Xu Xiaodong’s ignorant and disrespectful attitude toward traditional Chinese martial culture, many respected (and dangerous) Chinese martial artists (many with military experience) have challenged him in a ‘no rules’ contest – fight to the finish. All of a sudden, when faced with the reality of the negative situation he has created, Master Xu Xiaodong has become unusually ‘quiet’.
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2017.
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