Kung fu mar­ket’s fu­ture in the bal­ance

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By REN XIAOJIN renx­i­ao­jin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Af­ter a re­cent on­line video of an MMA, or mixed mar­tial arts, fighter tak­ing down a tai chi master within 13 sec­onds went vi­ral, ne­ti­zens en­gaged in a fierce dis­cus­sion on whether tai chi could be ef­fec­tive in com­bat at all and if it would sur­vive more pop­u­lar mod­ern mar­tial art forms such as kung fu.

“I will open arms to any tai chi master who dares to chal­lenge me,” yelled the MMA cham­pion Xu Xiaodong af­ter his vic­tory. His rant added fuel to on­line fire of tai chi’s crit­ics who be­lieve MMA, box­ing, kung fu and muay thai are far ahead as com­bat sports.

But some ex­perts say that is just one way of look­ing at the is­sue. “Tai chi has many va­ri­eties and what peo­ple are prac­tis­ing nowa­days is an ex­er­cise to im­prove men­tal health,” said Liu Haom­ing, owner of San Feng Tai Chi Club, a Bei­jing-based school.

Jack Ma, founder of e-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba Group and one of the rich­est per­sons in China, backs tai chi. “It is not for com­bat, but MMA is. For com­bat, MMA in­deed is faster and more ef­fi­cient, but tai chi is not only about skills, it’s also about its in­her­ent phi­los­o­phy.”

In the face of mount­ing com­pe­ti­tion from al­ter­na­tive mind-body dis­ci­plines, tai chi is pass­ing through what can be called both the best age and the worst phase, said Liu.

“With the coun­try back­ing tra­di­tional mar­tial arts, tai chi has the po­ten­tial to shine. Also, more for­eign­ers have been vis­it­ing Bei­jing since 2008 to learn tai chi, which helps pop­u­lar­ize the gem of our culture around the world.”

Liu said he has been teach­ing tai chi to for­eign­ers since 2008, and many of his stu­dents are se­ri­ous about mas­ter­ing it as they are aware it can calm their mind as well as pro­vide a good work­out.

“How­ever, tai chi re­quires some ex­clu­sive time and an open space with clean air. Ur­ban peo­ple usu­ally don’t have much pa­tience or time to prac­tise tai chi.”

Yet, some mar­tial art mas­ters be­lieve tai chi, be­ing a win­dow on Chi­nese culture, will have a bright fu­ture ahead.

“I be­lieve not only China but the world will grad­u­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty of tai chi,” said Zhang Yu­jun, founder of Fenghuang Taiji Academy, a non-profit tai chi school. “Tai chi teach­ers will have a big­ger mar­ket as the mar­tial art can help ur­ban work­ers to re­lax.”

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