October 3, 2019 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Xu would be the first to tell you that he’s more of a troll at heart than political rebel, and he’s become a target of the state for reasons that are much more fitting of his personality: He likes to talk shit, and he likes to fight.
Lauren Teixeira brings us the story of Xu Xiaodong, a Chinese dissident whose praxis is whaling on martial artists propped up by China's propaganda machine.
posted by Etrigan (18 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
What I don't understand is why any of the mystic-bullshit guys would ever agree to fight a proper combat technician? Do they believe their own hype? Are they being forced to by the propaganda apparatchiks? Surely somewhere in their hearts they know they're going to be instantly brutalized.
posted by aramaic at 12:14 PM on October 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Do they believe their own hype?

I think they do.
posted by thelonius at 12:21 PM on October 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

They're also believing (and supporting) the Hype of the State. Disagree with China, and you could be in serious trouble. To fight against Xu is to fight for China, it seems.

Also, it's startling how casual (and probably how common) it is to mention impacts to social credit scores (previously), China's social monitoring system that can limit how you are allowed to move (Brookings.edu, June 2018), such as keeping you from taking flights or high-speed trains.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:31 PM on October 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

Readers of Frank Miller's 1986 Elektra:Assassin will be reminded of the dismissive beatdown of deluded practitioners of tai chi that takes place in that "comic book."
posted by Glomar response at 1:17 PM on October 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Surely somewhere in their hearts they know they're going to be instantly brutalized.

They're probably starting to suspect after 17-0, but Chinese martial arts can be very...genteel. They may go decades without any freeform sparring. When they compete, it is often against people in the same art under very constrained rules. These folks have invested so much in these systems and never been exposed, so they just can't believe that a flabby practitioner of Western combat sports could whip their asses handily. It's pretty easy to be sympathetic; the cozening of the Chinese state only makes them more insulated from reality. US martial arts was almost as bad until the rise of MMA.

The typical defender of traditional martial arts (which usually really means Japanese and Chinese martial arts and a smattering of other Asian styles) will claim that the real techniques of these styles are so brutal that you can't use them in a sporting event. Of course, they neglect to question how one could become reliably proficient with a technique that could never be safely practiced with resistance.

Of course, I'm generalizing here. Within Chinese martial arts are countless different styles, some more reasonable than others, and many of them quite different from what you see in movies. But Tai Chi is probably one of the least combat-ready disciplines that anyone dares call a "martial art."

Queue someone to talk about how their sifu was able to throw them across the room with a gentle shove. The question is whether he or she could use that effectively in full-contact sparring or a fight rather than as a demonstration against a willing participant.
posted by Edgewise at 1:19 PM on October 3, 2019 [16 favorites]

That was an interesting read. I had no idea I'd leave today as a bit of a fan of an MMA fighter.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:25 PM on October 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

I wonder how long it will be before someone tries that at some of the martial arts schools here in the USA.
posted by JohnFromGR at 1:42 PM on October 3, 2019

That’s sort of been done already?
21st century MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and competitions like the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) that are now A Thing are the result of some end-of-20th experimentation.
As the century drew to a close, after Martial Arts had been popularized for several decades, people began to speculate:
Ok, so Bruce Lee fights Mike Tyson - who wins? If you put Olympic Gold Medalists in Wrestling and Tae Kwon Do in a ring together, what happens? Japanese Karate vs Thai Kickboxing? US Marine vs Shaolin Monk?
So they started having these public exhibitions and tournaments, hey let’s invite people to test their techniques against each other in a prize fighting system. (Note, these are fights to Submission, not like to the death. The first person to say “Ok I give up, I’ve had enough”loses.). It got hugely popular and is now a multimillion dollar sports economy.

Over time, a couple of things were discovered.
1) Mutts beat Purebreds. Someone who is a both a mediocre Boxer _and_Wrestler tends to win in a contest against any Purist Expert in either single discipline.
2) Despite stuff like flying spin-kicks and Ancient Secret Iron Tiger Palm woo woo, it turns out that simply shoving your opponent to the ground, sitting on top of them, then just thumping them in the head until they cry Stop! is...actually super effective? To the point that all that Darwinian competition to find the most winning strategy has resulted in the disappointing-to-some conclusion that “Ya know what wins fights? It’s not Kung Fu. It’s Ralphie Style.”
posted by bartleby at 3:11 PM on October 3, 2019 [20 favorites]

> I wonder how long it will be before someone tries that at some of the martial arts schools here in the USA.

MMA is already pretty well established and recognized here, has a major media presence that's arguably now bigger than boxing. So I don't think you'd be able to trick any masters of particular martial arts into a freeform match. They've got plenty of available info to know what would be coming.

In contrast, per the story in the link, MMA is still a new phenomenon in China, and the media is tightly controlled so MMA's not going to get popular until the central government allows it. So it's probably pretty easy to find uninformed people to fight; for that matter it sounds like some of the time people are calling out Xu for the fight. Since Xu's personal campaign is focused on tai chi masters he deems to be fakes, he comes across as less an unhinged, belligerent dude and more like, well, like somebody out of a 1970s martial arts flick who's roaming the countryside on a personal mission to purge a discipline of corruption and fraud.
posted by at by at 4:38 PM on October 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

Over time, a couple of things were discovered.

It's more complicated than that, I'd say, and it turns out that the art of shoving your opponent to the ground, sitting on them, and thumping them is itself a subtle and complicated art. You have to master at least some of Brazilian jiu-jitsu or freestyle wrestling or sambo. If you don't, you're liable to take the other fighter down with your arm or your leg in just the wrong position and find yourself wrapped up into a very painful fight-ending pretzel.

I've read here and there that many of the Japanese martial arts used to be much more violent. So were Western boxing and wrestling. My own half-baked theory is that there are periodic revivals of, "But what if we *really* fought, who would win then?", as with the current popularity of MMA, but after a few decades most of the fighters end up severely injured, while the gyms teaching gentler martial arts keep their participants and resulting revenue streams.
posted by clawsoon at 4:49 PM on October 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

(...until the next revival of, "But what if we *really* fought?")
posted by clawsoon at 4:50 PM on October 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I liked this better back when it was called "Gracies in Action" I&II.

Or the whole yellow bamboo fiasco of way back when.

This is a time-honored tradition that kind of makes the rounds every so often when, like clawsoon above said, people stop fight-testing their art. Then some young roustabout comes around and starts, you know, actually practicing and sparring close to as hard as they fight. which obviously limits some moves and removes some others yes until you're left with a distilled system that mostly works. And all who take this path eventually converge if there is competition. As we have seen with modern MMA.
posted by some loser at 5:17 PM on October 3, 2019

There's a great series on Youtube which I'm struggling to find now which goes through the history of some of the bullshit artists who were prominent in North American martial arts during the time that communication was dominated by martial arts magazines; it's not just a Communist Chinese phenomenon. Free speech is a necessary but not sufficient condition to expose people who claim that they have some magic tricks to win a fight.
posted by clawsoon at 5:18 PM on October 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

and then these styles, once converged, eventually solidify in to a few pretty stable styles, which then eventually takes us back to the beginning of the story, and so on and so on.
posted by some loser at 5:18 PM on October 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wonder how long it will be before someone tries that at some of the martial arts schools here in the USA.
posted by JohnFromGR at 4:42 PM on October 3

I had a high school classmate back in the 80's whose father practiced several forms of martial arts and who was notorious for going around to various martial arts schools in the area and challenging the teachers to a dojo fight (He was also a violent cop who enjoyed using some of his more painful techniques on suspects who were "resisting" arrest).
posted by KingEdRa at 6:30 PM on October 3, 2019

Vale tudo started in Brazil in the 1920s (and it's where the Gracies got their start).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:24 PM on October 4, 2019

Not to Milkshake Duck the Gracie family, but...
posted by CheapB at 4:23 PM on October 5, 2019

I've studied Enshin karate, Hapkido, Wing-Chun and BJJ. The only discipline that had a weird culty vibe to it was Wing-Chun.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:36 AM on October 17, 2019

« Older Wendy's Presents: Feast of Legends, a Fast Food...   |   Orion of Master? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments