A decades-old argument might just have been settled: Modern "mixed martial arts" fighter vs. Tai Chi master — who wins?"

In a recently filmed fight, Xu Xiaodong, a Beijing-based mixed martial arts freestyle coach, duked it out with Wei Lei, a famous Tai Chi master from Sichuan. It took less than 20 seconds for Xu to knock out Wei.

Riding the momentum, Xu confidently challenged fighters of any other discipline, including Li Tianjin, another renowned Tai Chi master and Ma Yun's bodyguard, the Taiwan-based United Daily News reported.

The question has spurred new debate on the age-old question among the Chinese diaspora, where both approaches to combat are followed. Among those duking it out online were Ma Yun, the founder of the Chinese internet giant Alibaba, and Jet Li, the Chinese movie star who has held many roles as a martial arts master.

Amused by all the excitement, Ma Yun, on a business trip to Argentina and Mexico, responded on his blog “This is a show where actors and spectators interact best. Pity that some take it too seriously!”

Calling himself a fan of both Tai Chi and freestyle fighting, the Chinese tycoon recalled that he used to walk for miles as a child just to watch a cockfight. And since he was in college, he has had no fewer than eight Tai Chi coaches.

Tai Chi is a martial art, and a Tai Chi master may of course participate in a fight, but those who practice Tai Chi rarely reach the level of a professional fighter, Ma noted. “Most people practice Tai Chi gymnastics, or they are just amateurs who enjoy gathering in a park for exercise”, he said.

Chicken v. duck? Apple v. orange?

The question of which style is better for combat misses the point, because the two disciplines have different rules. Ma says it would be “like comparing the number of points scored in a basketball game and a soccer match. It's like comparing a chicken with a duck.”

Jet Li, the actor, won several championships in Wushu, a traditional martial art, before making his debut in the film Shaolin Temple and subsequently starring in numerous Kung Fu films. Reacting to the video of last week's fight, he called for continued support for Tai Chi as a sport. Referring to his own discipline, he said, "In ancient times, Wushu was a lethal combat technique. But these days it is more about style than substance.”


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