There is, at present, what appears to be nothing less than a deceptive, covert, undeclared war upon traditional Chinese martial arts. This war is being waged by the corporate entity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), moreover its brand name, Ultimate Fight Championship (otherwise known as UFC), currently a multi-billion-dollar industry. Most MMA practitioners themselves are most likely not even aware this agenda exists, and those with disdain for traditional Chinese martial arts may be just unwitting pawns.
There are many prominent Youtuber, podcaster or “social influencer” MMA fans and dabblers, that have publicly dismissed, denounced, and even derided traditional martial arts as obsolete, with no place in modern combat. Some traditional skills have even been labelled “fake martial arts” or renowned and respected lineage-holders called “fake martial artists”. In the case of Chen Taijiquan, it is a matter of historical record that the skill was created by a renowned military general and handed down through generations of his kin that used the skill to successfully thwart would-be invaders of their farming village. Members of the Chen clan also became renowned as bodyguards providing transportation security through bandit country. Wing Chun Kungfu was respected within the martial arts community of Foshan along with Hung Gar Kuen and Choi Li Fut. The skill of Wing Chun was proven on Hong Kong rooftop matches and in “closed door” fights that were open to all styles. There is nothing fake about any traditional Chinese martial arts, notably Wing Chun and Chen Taijiquan as they seem to be in the MMA “crosshairs” for some reason. Most likely, this is due to their popularity throughout the world. The only fakes are the low-level teachers and charlatans without lineage that proliferate the internet on platforms such as YouTube, promoting nonsense as traditional Chinese arts, and damaging the reputation of the real skills.
Lately, there have been many “viral videos” of challenges issued by MMA fighters to alleged Chinese masters of traditional Chinese martial art styles. The “masters” that accept these challenges are not only far from known and respected within the martial arts community of recognized masters, but they are often physically smaller, lighter and weaker than the challengers (and in some cases even noticeably older); altogether mismatched, even by UFC’s own weight division standards. It is highly unlikely that they would ever meet in a professional ring or an officially sanctioned fight. These so-called “masters” (whether self-titled or given this title by the content creator in order to garner views), in truth, are not masters at all! They are certainly not in the league of masters with whom I have trained, or even just met. This would also be patently obvious to anyone that has ever witnessed the prowess of a genuine master or studied under one. Not only do they appear to lack Gongfu (skill) and Gong Lik (trained physical strength) from practice, but it is also immediately apparent that they possess no technique of which to speak, or any experience with actual fighting, and no “Fire”/ Yang energy or fighting spirit within them.
These “masters”, allegedly representing Chinese martial arts, are not just defeated in every video: they are abjectly humiliated. There is nothing dishonorable in defeat, ever, but it is the manner in which they allow themselves to be defeated that is so shocking and disgraceful. Pitiful displays of full-blown capitulation are on show, often resulting in the “master” curled up like fetus, cowering on the floor, a battered and bloodied mess. In an unsanctioned fight between two fighters, without judges and scorecards, and without a draw, there is generally one winner and one loser, but sanctioned or unsanctioned, never are we likely to see a true martial artist losing in such an abysmal and embarrassing fashion. Certainly, no master martial artists, or experienced fighters for that matter, curl up into a ball on the ground, like a victim, if they are defeated. They will fight on until incapacitated, or unconscious, or if injured and unable to continue simply declare so and “throw in the towel”. There is no shame in this either. A true master has dignity. Always.
All physical confrontations, where health and even life is at stake, including challenges, should always be treated very seriously indeed. The bigger a master’s reputation, the more he has to lose in defeat, so the more seriously any encounter such as this should be approached. It is also a grave mistake to ever underestimate an opponent, as pride and overconfidence, or arrogance, have been the downfall of many skilled combatants. It is possible that this is the case, or complete delusion, as many of these so-called “masters” appear to treat the challenge almost frivolously, approaching it more like a good-natured sparring match with students. There is no degree of gravity, until they are struck hard in the face by the steely-eyed challenger. Then there is a momentary pause, and the look of total shock at being struck. Upon seeing or tasting their own blood and having felt the power and venom in the opponent’s strike, reality suddenly dawns on them, and they realize their predicament. It seems almost as if they had never even remotely considered this possibility, or ever experienced having been hit before or ever faced a live opponent outside of their fantasy world. And, then the little Qi and Spirit that may have been present within them at the beginning is instantly drained altogether. Without Qi, Spirit and Body cannot synchronize and function effectively, and the Heart (or will to fight) is lost also. So, with no actual ability or desire to fight any longer, losing then becomes a foregone conclusion. And, a rapid one at that.
In these challenge “viral videos”, the Chinese “masters” mount no aggressive offence, nor do they even possess an adequate defense, as they effectively just become punching bags for the challenger. They possess no guile, trickery, or game plan. They invariably appear to be the prey, being stalked by the prowling challenger around the ring, constantly retreating and backtracking, attempting to remain out of range, unable or unwilling to even launch a cohesive or effective counterattack, while the challenger continually presses the attack. There is no back-and-forth or exchange of blows. This is tantamount to running away, leaving one to wonder why on earth they would have even agreed to meet in the ring in the first instance. No fight can ever be won solely with defense and retreating without any form of counterattack. One cannot defend or run forever in the ring, and with this approach it is only a matter of time before one is caught by a deluge of well-placed blows and dispatched. In purely defensive posturing, they throw up their outstretched arms and flail about, in full panic mode. An observer with just the slightest experience could be forgiven for questioning whether these “masters” possess any formal training in combat skill whatsoever, as this would be the exact reaction of any untrained person thrown into the ring with no sense of how to fight or how to protect themselves. Even a middling fighter will not thrash about and flap in this manner.
Equally puzzling is the fact that in the rare instances these “masters” do attempt to exchange blows with the opponent, they fail to ever use the very techniques from the styles in which they are alleged to be masters. Instead, they respond with the same techniques as the challenger, only with less accuracy, speed and power, and without any conviction or intensity behind them. During a real fight, in the ring or in the street, nothing ever goes quite according to plan. Everything is fluid. An attack can instantly become defense, and vice versa, but any technique that has been drilled and honed, having been practiced thousands upon thousands of times, by a master no less, will come out naturally, crisp and clean in its execution. These “viral videos” promote the false narrative of MMA consistently beating traditional Chinese martial arts. If MMA continues on with its mission to prove it is superior to traditional skills, then fighters really should seek out the best representatives to challenge, and not the very worst.
So, what is the true purpose behind these apparent “humiliation rituals”? Is it, as claimed, to expose fake masters or is it to disgrace and harm the reputation and name of traditional Chinese martial arts across the board? Many reading this will be asking, “Why?” Why would the UFC, the largest MMA promotion company in the world, a conglomerate burgeoning empire that is so big and powerful even care about traditional Chinese martial arts? In general, Chinese arts in the West, lack the television coverage and multimedia public relations of MMA and organizational levels that other cultures maintain with their global Federations and Associations, gradings, uniforms and belts etc. In comparison, with their relatively minor appeal, they enjoy a very niche market share.
To understand this better, we need look no further than the greed of the modern business model of John D. Rockefeller’s modern medicine. Rockefeller was reputed to be one of the known richest men in the past century, and first ever American billionaire. He famously said, “Competition is a sin”. His plan to gain monopoly and complete domination of the marketplace was not to produce the best quality goods and services possible to increase market share, but to obliterate the competition and eliminate it from the playing field altogether. On record, he also was once asked by a reporter, “How much money is enough?”, and replied with a wry smile, “Just a little bit more!”. A hundred years ago, Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations performed the same business practice with practitioners of traditional folk medicines. They set out to discredit the naturopathic, homeopathic and holistic medicines which had existed for hundreds of years, based on human experience, as “unscientific”, “hocus pocus” and “quackery”, all the while promoting their brand of bloodletting and surgical removal of vital organs and tissue (often unnecessary), and injecting toxic metals (and later radiation and chemotherapy or mustard gas).
The recent backlash of people seeking alternatives to these modalities that are invasive, harmful or poisonous to the body, and damage Qi of the subtle body, led to a resurgence of what is now called “Alternative Medicine”, which, in fact, is ironic as this was the “Original medicine”! Western medicine has its place with life-threatening emergencies, infection and reconstructive surgeries etc. but it also has its limitations and carries unlimited side-effects, often necessitating further medicines to counterbalance the effect of the previous medicine administered. And so, begins a slippery slope of more medicines and the sufferer is never free, or healed, instead becoming a “customer” for life. This is all by design. The business model is for repeat customers and so the idea is not of healing, but of permanent disease “management”, and the individual is not a patient, but a “client”. This giant conglomerate of multinational pharmaceutical corporations (“Big Pharma”) has engaged in all kinds of criminal, nefarious, immoral and deadly practices from “guinea pig” experimentation on the public to hiding data and findings of the harmful effects and death caused, in effect gambling with human lives, knowing the payout for wrongful death over experimental medicines is a paltry sum token gesture once the net profits have already come in.
We also see this situation play out as the sterile, homogenized, mega-chain stores move into the town centers and main streets, displacing the mom-and-pop generational family businesses and smaller independent stores that are unique and offer superior quality and greater variety of goods and services. Pushing the lie that Chinese martial arts are redundant and obsolete, unworthy of anyone’s time, and using the most powerful medium of all (television) to swell brand recognition, guarantees a new generation of adherents unlikely to “shop” anywhere else. All to increase the market share, obliterate the competition, and enjoy the “whole cake” to themselves.
UFC’s collective wealth is derived from fight tournaments that are syndicated on live pay-per-view television, (partnered with Fox Sports), and broadcast globally. These have run for over 27 years since 1993 with over 460 live events. Then, there is a television “reality” show spin off called The Ultimate Fighter (at the time of writing has run for 29 seasons) and an international franchise of UFC gyms, UFC video games on Xbox and PlayStation platforms, including collectible action figure dolls of the fighters, clothing sponsorship deals with Reebok, and other merchandise etc. Not content with what they have accumulated in the market share, following their monopoly model, they seem intent to wipe out all competition; anything that might eat into their monumental profits, by besmirching reputations and bringing into question the effectiveness of traditional martial arts that have proven themselves both on the battlefield and in the streets or Hong Kong rooftops, in both gangland and notorious closed-door fights. UFC and MMA gym franchises are making stratospheric profits, and yet they still want to destroy smaller independent operations and have “just that little bit more”. No doubt UFC’s corporate owners are the very same elite power players that hold stakes and shares in every other multi-national conglomerate. And, now UFC and MMA have recently moved their business interests into China, opening a performance institute in Shanghai. While there is no shortage of students enrolled in traditional martial art schools, the interest amongst the youth in China has been waning for some years, as they tend to follow modern Western culture. The growing demand for MMA amongst the world’s highest population means the potential for mega profit.
A monopoly is never good for the consumer as it removes all choice, which takes away the individual’s power and freedom. With a monopoly the consumer is subject to the monopoly’s terms and conditions and fees. It is a shame that greed destroys and ruins everything. The world is a far more interesting place because of choice. The diversity of martial arts is its strength. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Not everyone who seeks to learn self-protection and self-development necessarily wants to follow MMA’s way of training on sweat covered rubber mats in unusual positions often resembling Kama Sutra. Some people are looking for much more than what MMA has to offer, which is why traditional Chinese martial arts will never die out. If a covert undeclared war against traditional Chinese arts has not actually been initiated by the elite investors behind UFC/ MMA and implemented by unwitting pawns (“useful idiots”), then the coincidental timely appearances of all these “viral video” challenge matches would nevertheless suit their needs perfectly and would be a boon to further their mission of corporate global dominance.
During China’s Cultural Revolution, everything connected to the country’s past, and tradition found itself under attack. Vast amounts of advanced knowledge and human experience were lost forever during this dark dystopic period, including many martial arts and Qigong systems. In the West today, MMA appears to harbor similar contempt for traditional skill. When a culture destroys its past then there is no foundation upon which to grow, which is ultimately foolhardy. Even Bruce Lee, who broke the traditional mold, always recognized and credited Wing Chun as the skill which led him to create his “formless form”, Jeet Kune Do. He maintained that “Wing Chun is the mother and Jeet Kune Do the son”. Traditional cultures still pay respect to their predecessors, make offerings and keep ancient ceremonies alive to hold them in memory. They acknowledge they stand upon the shoulders of those who came before, without whom they would have nothing. MMA/ UFC should be humble, grateful and praising of all the arts from which they have borrowed or stolen instead of seeking to discredit and make pariahs out of them. There really should be a spirit of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect, so that ultimately there would be no need to have this discussion on Traditional Chinese Martial Arts versus MMA.
By Adam Wallace