I participate in an MMA school and recently learned of a man named Xu Xiaodong through a member there. Upon further research it turns out this guy is a total badass that is willing to walk through hell in order to fight for the truth.
For those unfamiliar, MMA is an acronym that stands for Mixed Martial Arts. MMA tries to incorporate multiple schools of martial arts into one package to become the most effective fighter possible. The reason this term exists is because there are hundreds of different styles that focus on different facets of encounters. Many branch from different places around the world and their names respect as such. For example, many martial arts names that we are familiar with come from Japan- karate, ju-jitsu, judo, etc. But their modifications that change enough are also included- Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ).
This is important because many of these martial arts historically focused on one and only one aspect of combat. Judo was concerned with taking an armored combatant to the ground in order to do damage- hence the lack of strikes. Boxing was concerned with striking with the hands, and not what to do when the opponent wraps you up- hence the lack of grappling. And each had their own competitions and rules that allowed for those specific forms to exist.
Each of these arts existed within their own worlds, hardly ever interacting, and as such remained siloed. That is, until some Westerners decided to test out which was the strongest. So, the UFC came to be and threw any who wanted to test their martial art against the world with hardly any rules. The UFC quickly demonstrated the real from the worthless fighting styles. BJJ in particular caught the eye of many because it allowed smaller men to out-compete their larger counterparts. And later the Gracie Hunter, Kazushi Sakuraba overturned what most believed the king of martial arts.
The history of the evolution of MMA is not the main point of this article, but it must be emphasized that the reason it exists is because the West kept testing the effectiveness of one-on-one combat, keeping what worked, and discarding what did not. This ethic is very familiar with the West, a relentless pursuit of what is true.
China, on the other hand, does not traditionally hold this ethic in the highest of regards. Social cohesion and tradition almost unanimously trump truth when the two collide. This is one reason why China’s rise to such great worldly power is a sight to behold. They adopted many Western ideas in order to achieve this feat.
But one area where they did not readily adopt Western practices was in martial arts. Kung Fu, Wing Chun, and Tai Chi are traditional martial arts there and as such, are held in extremely high esteem by most of its people as well as its government. And this is where Xu Xiaodong comes into the picture.
Xu is a Chinese fighter who was interested in being effective in one-on-one fighting early in his career. He learned striking early, but was easily bested by a BJJ practitioner, and thus decided to add BJJ and wrestling to his repertoire. After becoming proficient in multiple styles, he wanted to participate, share, and test these styles with his countrymen. This was met with stiff opposition by traditional martial arts masters who did not like these outside ideas to challenge the status quo of martial arts in China.
Unfortunately for them, Xu is an Alpha and did not back down from their dismissals. He made extremely public challenges to all traditional masters, their students, practitioners, and supporters to test their craft against his. This lit a firestorm on social media which grabbed the attention of big media, which blew this scene onto the national stage. Many criticized him for challenging the wisdom, thousands of years of tradition, and social unity of how martial arts were supposed to work in China.
Turns out, some of them had guts and took him up on the challenge. He met all on their demands- in rings, out of rings, no grabs, no kicks, etc. And every single fight he took, he crushed. This is no surprise to those familiar with MMA- it is designed to produce a fighting machine- but to the traditional Chinese? They see a young man bashing the face in of their elders and social betters, causing immense disrespect to their traditions.
Xu never once backed down, even in the face of serious social repercussions. This man and his actions caught the attention of the Chinese government. And when they learned of what he was doing, they cracked down upon him.
For those unfamiliar with China’s social credit system, it is an overt system tied to individuals that acts as a living scorecard. If you do “well” according to those rules, you are rewarded. If you do “bad”, you are punished. And Xu did bad.
They restricted his access to payment systems, trains, forced him into a month-long apology, among many other things.
Xu had a fight scheduled which required him to cross the country, but he was not allowed to take the high-speed train, which would have gotten him there in about eight hours. Instead, he train hopped, and taxi-ed to get there. That trip took over 50 hours and got him to the fight with a serious lack of sleep, food, and other normal conditions.
Xu was forced to wear make-up depicting himself a clown when fighting a different prestigious martial arts master. Not only did he wear it, he held up a beautiful embroidered sign after he dominated the match proclaiming to the world that he is who fights to expose what others claim superior, but are not.
Xu’s financial access was removed multiple times, name plastered and defamed, and attempted to be made a mockery. He was forced to make apology videos once a day for months.
But he held his ground. Xu Xiaodong had an iron-clad resolve to not give because what he knew about martial arts was true. The men of the West could learn a thing or two from this legendary man of the East.
So what if the media slanders you? So what if the government removes your precious rights? So what if the whole world screeches like harpies at you? You know the truth. So you stand your ground, look them in the eye, and say back “I am a son of the West and my rock is truth. You move.”
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