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Chinese Martial Artists Must Stop Calling Themselves “Masters”, According to Official Decree

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The Chinese Wushu Association, the only organization to govern martial arts in China on a national scale, has issued a statement against glorifying your own kung fu, advising that practitioners should not refer to themselves as “kung fu masters” or as “head” of a specific kung fu style.

The statement may be long overdue — the trend of challenge matches between kung fu “masters” and modern MMA fighters started as a one-time viral event, but has since spiraled out of control.

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It all began in 2017 when Xu Xiaodong called out “thunder-style” tai chi master Wei Lei. What began as Xu asking for proof of Wei’s supposed supernatural abilities, culminated in a bare-knuckle challenge match, which Xu won convincingly in ten seconds.

The brawl sparked a debate in China about the virtues of Chinese martial arts versus modern sport combat. Some criticized Xu for embarrassing Chinese culture, while others lauded him for his practical approach. Putting himself in the spotlight, Xu navigated social and legal punishment, from death threats to fines, to a shrinking social credit score which stopped him from renting property or riding on high-speed trains.

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Nonetheless, he kept on going. In January 2019, Xu Xiaodong bludgeoned another supposed “master” into submission. Just months later, he battered a “pressure point” wing chun “master” to a pulp in under one minute.

Just recently, another renowned “master” Ma Baoguo faced a short and embarrassing knockout against 49-year-old amateur kickboxer Wang Qingming.

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Apparently, the Chinese Wushu Association has had enough.

“Some people proclaim themselves as ‘wushu masters’ only to pursue their personal fame through staging fights to get public attention, which will seriously damage the image of Chinese martial arts,” read the statement.



Wu Bin, former deputy president of the Chinese Wushu Association, had already denounced Ma as knowing nothing about wushu, and not being able to represent Chinese martial arts. But the new statement aims to reach wider, stopping fraudulent and ego-born martial arts at the root.

If martial artists across China really do stop calling themselves things like “thunder style tai chi master”, Xu Xiaodong may rest easy at night, knowing he’s made a difference.

Image: “Tai Chi Master” (1993)

Adan Kohnhorst
Adan Kohnhorst is a Shanghai-based writer, producer, and multimedia artist, and the Associate Editor at RADII. His work has been featured in publications such as Maxim and the Chinese-language StreetVoice, and he’s an active member of the hip hop and DIY music scenes in Shanghai, NYC, and Dallas. He learned Mandarin in high school so he could train at the Shaolin Temple, but now just uses it to interview rappers. He blogs about China and Asia on Instagram: @this.is.adan