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Chinese martial artists no longer permitted to call themselves ‘Masters’

Xu Xiaodong’s battle against ‘kung fu fakery’ takes an interesting turn.

Shaolin Martial Arts Photo by Andrea Pistolesi/Getty Images

The Chinese Wushu Association, a powerful body that oversees all of China’s traditional martial arts, recently made a stunning decree. From now on, no martial artists in China will be permitted to advertise themselves as ‘Masters’.

According to RADII the CWA released the following statement on the matter:

“Some people proclaim themselves as ‘wushu masters’ only to pursue their personal fame through staging fights to get public attention, which will seriously damage the image of Chinese martial arts.”

The surprising move from the CWA is a direct response to the surge in MMA vs. traditional martial arts circus fights that have been happening all over China since 2017.

The first of these incidents to gain widespread attention happened in a gym in Chengdu, where the now infamous ‘Mad Dog’ Xu Xiaodong took on self-proclaimed ‘Thunder-style Tai Chi Master’ Wei Lei.

That fight, which exploded over Chinese social media platforms, lasted about ten seconds and ended with Wei Lei being knocked unconscious by Xu. After the fight there were ugly scenes with other tai chi practitioners trying to fight Xu.

That duel was born out of an internet feud between Xu and Wei. Xu, a Beijing based MMA trainer, had argued that traditional martial arts were not useful for either combat sports or self-defense. Xu also took issue with traditionalists who claimed they possessed supernatural powers. Xu accused those individuals of faking their powers for profit.

After he beat Wei, Xu went on to fight many other traditional martial artists; defeating each of them in embarrassing fashion. As he did this he became a target of both the Chinese Wushu Association and their close-ally the Chinese government.

Xu was consistently de-platformed on social media sites like Weibo, which takes its orders directly from the government. Xu was also sued for slander by a tai chi ‘grand master’, with the backing of the CWA. That lead to Xu having his social credit rating slashed, meaning he could no longer own property or travel on high speed rail.

Despite all this Xu fought on, taking on so-called ‘masters’ and speaking out about the Chinese government. In recent months Xu has defended activists in Hong Kong and advocated for critics of China’s handling of COVID-19 in Wuhan.

While Xu’s ability to compete in more spectacle fights were hampered by the aggressive stance against him by the CWA and the government, that didn’t stop these types of contests from happening.

Across China there have been multiple viral videos uploaded showing various experts in tai chi and wing chun fighting with combat sport athletes. Most of the time, the traditionalist gets knocked out cold.

This trend, undoubtedly started by Xu, seems to have provoked the CWA into making their new statement.

The CWA must hope that this statement slows the outpouring of videos showing ‘masters of wushu’ being starched by people who train in boxing and MMA. The organization might also hope that this stops Xu from continuing his ‘crusade against kung fu fakery’.