Meet Xu Xiaodong, the MMA fighter exposing ‘fake’ kung fu

Sep 11, 2020

Xu Xiaodong says people have been ‘brainwashed by these fake kung fu masters.’

Xu Xiaodong is on a mission to expose “kung fu fakery.”

In May 2017, the 40-year-old mixed martial arts fighter famously called out tai chi practitioner Wei Lei for claiming he had mystical martial arts powers.

Their quarrel quickly escalated into a fight in a basement in Chengdu, southwestern China.

Xu quickly knocked down his opponent before a referee intervened. The controversial fight created fierce debate in China over the virtues of traditional versus modern fighting techniques.

“A lot of people have been brainwashed by these fake kung fu masters.”

Xu Xiaodong, MMA fighter

“A lot of people have been brainwashed by these fake kung fu masters,” Xu told Time magazine at his Beijing gym. “I’m trying to wake them up and let them know what real traditional kung fu actually is.”

(Read more: Inside a Chinese bullfighting school)

The outrage was so great that a Chinese tycoon offered a total of $1.45 million to anyone who could defeat Xu and “defend the dignity” of martial artists.

In June 2017, police shut down a contest arranged by Xu in Shanghai where he and a team of MMA fighters were set to battle a team of tai chi fighters.

Xu Xiaodong at his gym in Beijing in 2018.
Xu Xiaodong at his gym in Beijing in 2018. / Photo: Tom Wang/SCMP

Xu claimed in a social media post that his principal adversary, tai chi master Ma Baoguo, had asked his nephew to call the police before the contest started.

China’s General Authority of Sport then banned kung fu practitioners from organizing unauthorized fights in November 2018.

“They said that I undermined Chinese traditional martial arts and attacked Chinese culture.”

Xu Xiaodong, MMA fighter

“A lot of people, more than I expected, insulted me,” Xu said. “They said that I undermined Chinese traditional martial arts and attacked Chinese culture.”

(Read more: How Jackie Chan came up with his stunts)

Xu said he was assaulted in September 2017 by two strangers claiming they represented traditional martial arts.

He said the attack went on for 15 minutes and forced him to withdraw from public life for a few months.

“I have to think about my family,” Xu said. “At that time, I was afraid of going out with my family in public. I felt lonely, but I have to do this in order to protect my family.

“A lot of people are scammed by fake martial arts,” he says. “They are brainwashed. What I want to do is fight the fakery and let them know what is true.”

Adapted from an article first published in the South China Morning Post.

Martial artsKung fu

Credit

Producer: Tom Wang

Script: Tiffany Ip

Narration: Victor Peña

Editor: Mario Chui

Mastering: Victor Peña