Taiji vs. Muay Thai (incl. Video)

taiji vs. muay thai

The other day I wrote a story for Fightland about an interaction I had had with Chen Jia, the Taiji Princess I’ve mentioned here before. It was about a fight her master’s brother, Chen Ziqiang, was setting up with Thai fighters. I spent an hour telling her how bad the idea was.

I reenacted that for the Fightland story, and then went on to hijack Prof. Ben Judkin’s essay on taiji and Taoism as symbols in a marriage of convenience, to link the idea of Chinese patriotism to Taoism/Taiji and through that find some explanation for what I considered to be an absurd, misguided macho ploy. I ended the story by saying I was happy the fights did not take place, because I didn’t want to see taiji sullied.

But in fact, the fight did go down. Last September in Jiaozuo, Henan Province, just a few hours from Chenjiagou Village and the Shaolin Temple.

So I got the links and watched the fights. Sadly, this “match-up” was exactly what everyone says fights in China are like. The fights were rigged – Chinese fighters wore black pants to hide shinguards, referee saved Chinese fighters from anything more than a 3-punch combo, Thai guys were paid to take a fall.

The biggest mistake I made was to presume that Chen Ziqiang didn’t know exactly what he was doing when he set these fights up. It’s ridiculous that I thought these fights would be real, given what I had already seen in Chenjiagou regarding the Chen clan’s marketing ability and business savvy. But it’s also the sign of a clan with one foot still in the rice paddy. The trends are moving the other way. Businessmen have found that Chinese who were once satisfied with a comforting farce of a fight, are now unable to suspend their disbelief.

The system in China has completely revealed itself, flipped up a skirt to show hooves, and people here are wise to it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity and the fight game recently. I’m focusing on the game now, and the biggest game in town is MMA, a sport that thrives off of its reputation for being authentic and real. Authenticity is a powerful force, and an authentic fight game has entered the Chinese martial arts scene at a very auspicious time in China’s social development.

A sport known for its realness meets a society drowning in fakery.

A girl atop Huashan outside of Xi’an told me once that “假是我们中国文化的一部分” which means “fakery is a part of our Chinese culture,” and she said it with a measure of pride. The trickster has always been a hero in Chinese culture, and held above the great warriors who must eventually sacrifice themselves for either cause or country, while the schemer survives. That tradition, combined with a half-century of non-stop brutal lies and another three decades of desperate money mongering, has reached its most bloated moment.

I don’t think the moment can last forever, and I believe a cleansing of the martial arts will hasten the end of a century of lying.

It’ll still take a long while though, so for now, let’s enjoy these final moments:

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Published on: April 22, 2014

Filled Under: Modern Kung Fu, Video

Views: 12530

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3 Responses to Taiji vs. Muay Thai (incl. Video)

  1. Bai Yiming says:

    100% agreed!

  2. Peter George Stewart says:

    It’s hilarious how much goalpost moving and No True Scotsman-ing has gone on with this (not you specifically, but in terms of some of the comments I’ve seen in other places). I would strongly disagree that it’s a work in the sense that the Thai guys have been paid to take a fall – they’re fighting alright. Particularly re. the No True Scotsman-ing (“hey they’re not REAL MT guys”) in comments I’ve seen, if you look at their records in the link to David Gaffney’s blog, they are indeed real MT guys, with some serious fights and wins in Thailand, not just patsies who are working for the Chinese in a Chinese MT camp.

    Comments seem to fall into two broad classes: “oh noes, this is making Chen look like a viable martial art after all, must be fixed”, and “oh noes, it’s not the magical, mystical thing we were led to believe”. Both responses seem idiotic to me. Especially the latter: whoever EVER believed the mystical magical stuff was always an idiot.

    I agree that there is some questionable refereeing, especially re. the kid who gets knocked out and gets a very generous count, although that’s borderline (he does get up pretty quickly and just about squeaks through on the count). The refereeing in the last fight is pretty bad too, and the decision wrong, I’d agree.

    But the rest of it seems like a decent showing from both sides, with some real skill being shown by both the Chen and the MT lads, and some genuine Taji moves being shown too, with some of the throws and takedowns, and even kicks and punches (a pretty decent Chen style fajing in I think the second vid, though the timing’s a bit off).

    Seriously, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick with all this. The reality of it is that it’s interesting, fun to watch in places, and certainly doesn’t shame Chen style; but it’s inconclusive. I look forward to more. I hope it’s the first of many match-ups, in many more different sport combat rule formats, with better preparation for the Chens (they probably need a bit more more cardio on the whole, though they’re no slouches), better refereeing.

    I hope they use these kinds of meetups to discover their best fighters and go in for MMA eventually at some point, it’s much more the natural element for Taiji, since many of Taiji’s joint locks could probably be modified into new, never-before-seen kinds of submission moves. I would imagine that’s the game-plan eventually. I think the Chens have realized that they can’t rest on the laurels won for them in China so long ago by Yang Luchan (and later Chen Zhaopei) in Beijing.

    • Sascha says:

      Thanks for this comment. I think you are right, I let my frustration get the better of me sometimes, and criticize what is actually a foray into a new world as much as a show.

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