Supporters of the two combat styles wanted a resolution as to which style was better since a previously unknown MMA fighter defeated a tai chi master in April.
Police in Shanghai on Monday (June 26) closed down an unlicensed fight between two teams – one led by a tai chi master and the other by a leading mixed martial artist – just weeks after footage of a similar, very bloody, contest went viral online.
The event, dubbed a “group brawl”, was set to pitch four MMA fighters, led by Xu Xiaodong, against four tai chi experts led by Ma Baoguo, Guangzhou Daily reported.
The planned fight came just weeks after Xu, a fighter and promoter of mixed martial arts, doled out a severe beating to another tai chi master, Wei Lei, in a bout that lasted just 10 seconds.
Many commentators described the fight as a clear victory for modern combat techniques over traditional styles.
Monday’s bout, however, failed to get underway after police raided the venue, the report said.
Footage of the incident posted on YouTube shows the would-be combatants preparing for the bout in front of a crowd of spectators, before the lights go out and police come in.
Officers are then seen talking to Xu who can be heard saying: “I will certainly cooperate, but don’t push me. You won’t be able to push me!”
He is later seen being escorted from the premises.
In late April, Xu – known as “Mad Dog” for his intense fighting style – scored a convincing victory over Wei, after making controversial remarks about tai chi in which he said he wanted to “expose” its lack of merit.
“[I] crack down on fake things, because they are fake. Fake things must be eliminated. No question,” he was quoted as saying by state-owned tabloid Global Times after his win.
Wei was once featured in a Chinese Central Television documentary as “one of the greatest tai chi masters in China”.
Xu’s crushing victory in their head-to-head contest led to a passionate debate online about the relative merits of the two martial art forms.
Many people suggested that Wei’s defeat showed that traditional martial arts had been found wanting in a real combat situation.
Supporters of the centuries-old art form, however, pointed to its place in Chinese history and culture.
Others, of a more patriotic bent, seemed outraged that MMA, a form of combat championed in the West, could be considered superior to a traditional Chinese martial art.
The Chinese Martial Arts Association said in a statement in May that the initial match had been illegal, and had “violated the morals of martial arts”.
“Wushu is a traditional Chinese exercise activity, an excellent part of traditional culture, with merits for physical fitness, self-defence and health cultivation,” the statement said.
Other martial arts experts, including tai chi masters Lu Xing and Wang Zhanhai, rushed to challenge Xu to provide “fresh perspective on martial arts”, Lu was quoted as saying to local media.
Meanwhile, Chinese tycoon Chen Sheng, founder of the Tiandi No. 1 drinks company, even offered to raise the stakes by putting 10mil yuan (RM6.3mil) into the mix to “defend the dignity” of traditional martial artists.
Xu’s microblogging account was deactivated after the national attention, but internet users excitedly referenced the latest incident with the police as his “resurrection” after months of silence.
They also complained about the apparent deletion of messages relating to the planned Shanghai bout.
“Blocked again! This is regional politics!” one person wrote.
“[Xu] can defeat all of the ‘fakeness’ across the lakes and rivers, but he cannot defeat the government!” – South China Morning Post/Sarah Zheng