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China: Around The Nation

‘Tai chi can be used in combat, but...’: Jack Ma speaks up over tai chi-MMA debate raging in China

Comparing the traditional Chinese martial art with MMA is meaningless, according to tycoon

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 May, 2017, 1:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 May, 2017, 9:39pm

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has chimed in on the defeat last week of a tai chi master at the hands of a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.

The duel and its result were meaningless as the principles governing the two sports were different, according to Ma, a tai chi enthusiast who also enjoys watching MMA fights.

In comments posted on his Weibo account on Thursday morning, Ma referred to the match between MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong and tai chi master Wei Lei as little more than a “street fight”.

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“A street fight [like this one] can’t settle any debate. Comparing the striking techniques of MMA and tai chi ... their rules are different. [A debate] is simply out of the question,” the tycoon said in his article, which was written during his flight to Mexico from Argentina. Ma’s Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

“It’s like insisting on comparing goals in basketball and football matches, and concluding that football is inferior to basketball. This is like comparing ducks and chickens.

“A competition should have its rules properly set. Even in cricket fights these days, [competition rules] require the insects to first be weighed.”

Xu and Wei had faced off publicly in Chengdu, Sichuan province, last Thursday, during which the MMA fighter gave the tai chi master a pounding that concluded the duel in just 10 seconds.

The match sparked widespread debate over the practical use of tai chi in actual combat.

Xu later issued an open challenge to all tai chi masters to take him on, saying that he aimed to “fight counterfeits” as there were too many people claiming to be kung fu masters but actually weak in the practice. Tai chi is a form of kung fu, or traditional Chinese martial arts.

In his Weibo article, Ma said he enjoyed watching MMA and UFC competitions on television. UFC refers to Ultimate Fighting Championship, an American MMA contest. He had followed at least eight tai chi masters since his university days, he said, though he admitted that his tai chi skills were amateur and he had never joined any real fights.

Ma wrote that tai chi was “definitely” practical in real combat, but those who could really use tai chi for combat were very few. The majority of tai chi practitioners were merely practising its forms for the sake of exercise, he said.

“Tai chi was invented neither for attack nor defence, but as a movement to illustrate its philosophy,” he wrote. “Attack and defence are part of tai chi, but definitely not all of it.”