A fist-fight in China turns into a clash between tradition and modernity

MOST lovers of Chinese martial arts take the magical aspects of kung fu, as demonstrated by the flying fighters of legend and film, with a pinch of salt. But Wei Lei built his career in China on a claim that his mastery of tai chi, a branch of kung fu, had given him supernatural power. In a programme about kung fu that was broadcast on state television in 2015, Mr Wei demonstrated that he could keep a dove standing on his hand with an invisible force-field and smash the inside of a watermelon without damaging its rind. The broadcaster itself appeared to be among the credulous.

There were many sceptics, too. Earlier this year one of them stepped forward to challenge Mr Wei: Xu Xiaodong, a practitioner of mixed martial arts—a fighting form drawing on Eastern and Western traditions that began to take off in America in the 1990s (and is picking up fans in China). Mr Xu mocked tai chi as a slow-motion form of aerobics. Last month the two men decided to settle their argument in…Continue reading


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