MMA v. Tai Chi -- Not Even Close

As I noted on Twitter the other day:

 

Really, this one's ugly. So ugly that's caused an uproar in China:

For weeks, the mixed martial arts fighter Xu Xiaodong had been taunting masters of the traditional Chinese martial arts, dismissing them as overly commercialized frauds, and challenging them to put up or shut up. After one of them — Wei Lei, a practitioner of the “thunder style” of tai chi — accepted the challenge, Mr. Xu flattened him in about 10 seconds.

Mr. Xu may have proved his point, but he was unprepared for the ensuing outrage. When video of the drubbing went viral, many Chinese were deeply offended by what they saw as an insult to a cornerstone of traditional Chinese culture.

The reaction has been so furious that Mr. Xu has gone into hiding. “I’ve lost everything, my career and everything,” he said in a message circulating online. “I think many people misunderstand me. I’m fighting fraudulence, but now I’ve become the target.”

The notion that "soft power" can beat a punch in the face never really made any sense. And yet for decades we've been treated to thousands of films depicting little guys flipping huge opponents with just a twist of their wrists, and tiny women taking down hulking behemoths with a karate chop. But it's all fun and game until someone gets hurt:

The fight between Mr. Xu and Mr. Wei was brutal. As Mr. Wei circled slowly, arms outstretched in a calm tai chi defense, Mr. Xu lunged, jabbed him to the floor, then used a “ground and pound” technique to subdue him. It was all over in about 10 seconds.

Known broadly as wushu, traditional Chinese martial arts include such disparate disciplines as qigong, categorized as an “internal” practice that is mostly spiritual, and kung fu, an “external” art that is practiced by the monks of the Shaolin Temple and was popularized around the world by Bruce Lee. There are hundreds of styles of wushu in China, and many overlap.

Tai chi, while a martial art, is viewed by many today as a spiritual breathing and balance exercise enjoyed by people of all ages, usually performed in slow motion in a quiet park instead of a fight ring.

But, hey, let's go on pretending otherwise. What could go wrong?