As I’ve always said, I have just a passing interest in martial arts. It just happened that time and again, this sport/art generates newsworthy incidents that are incredibly edifying in the most dramatic fashion.
When Chinese MMA influencer Xuan Wu challenged Sho Kimura to a match at Wuhan (deliberately coinciding with the anniversary of the Nanjing massacre), he proudly declared that he would defeat Kimura with boxing rules, boxing gloves. He even had the audacity to declare that Kimura’s victory over Zou Shiming at Shanghai in 2017 is not counted. In that match, Olympic champion turned professional boxer Zou Shiming challenged Sho Kimura to a match at Shanghai. Zou was training full-time and had the entire state apparatus behind him. Kimura was an absolute underdog training at his own expense after work as a delivery man.
It’s a well-known fact that it’s one of the easiest ways to gain fame and admiration. Brainwashed by decades of anti-Japanese indoctrination, this crowd is easy to please. The man who threw a drink at former Taiwanese president Lee Teng Hui in Japan for example, was given a hero’s welcome after the Japanese police released him without charge.
The outcome of that Zou Shiming vs Kimura fight shocked everyone. It was a convincing victory for Kimura. Xuan Wu swore to save China’s face this time.
Xuan Wu’s weight was about 76kg. Kimura’s weight was 58kg. The former is almost a head taller. Kimura accepted the challenge in good faith. When Xuan Wu consulted Xu Xiaodong before the match, the latter told him that since he had a very significant advantage over Kimura, he would probably not lose too badly. He might even fight to a draw.
However, before the match, the organisers informed Kimura that leg sweeps would be allowed in addition to the usual boxing rules. Insiders informed Xu Xiaodong (who revealed this on YouTube) that if Kimura did not agree to it, his participation fees would be substantially reduced. Being cash-strapped (Kimura is a delivery man), the Japanese boxer reluctantly agreed.
The first half of the first round of the match was practically a walkover for Kimura. Xuan Wu was no match for him. Relying only on punches, Xuan Wu was clearly at the losing end and he knew it. The crowd was impatient. They kept chanting “kill him, kill him” 杀了他，杀了他.
Towards the end of the first round, Xuan Wu started using leg sweeps. Kimura’s manager protested, but it was stated in the contract that leg sweeps were allowed. In the second round, Xuan Wu went further. Not only did he keep knocking Kimura off balance with his leg sweeps, he added his own rules, picked Kiruma up and did a near-lethal wrestling throw with Kimura landing head first. Kimura was just inches from death. Kimura’s manager ran up and stopped the fight.
The crowd cheered! The judges declared Xuan Wu the winner. He had the cheek to drape China’s national flag over his body after such a heinous act! He even proudly declared that he had used “Chinese martial arts” to defeat a Japanese fighter. The response from some Chinese netizens came fast and furious. They condemned the judges. They condemned Xuan Wu. They called him a disgrace to Chinese people. That is the voice of reason. But what about the folks who cheered for Xuan Wu? Do they belong to the silent minority or even majority?
But what about movies like Huo Yuan Jia, Chen Zhen and of course the very well-known Ip Man. Even though the real Ip Man had never fought a single match against a Japanese (and much less a Westerner), the movie appealed to the Ah Q audience’s taste for imaginary “victory”. Could Xuan Wu’s fight against Kimura be seen also as a performance, paying a Japanese person to get beaten up to please the ignorant, vengeful audience?
The saddest part of all this is, Xuan Wu started off as a vigilante exposing fake martial arts – just like Xu Xiaodong. He was an honest whistleblower; a respected and conscionable member of the pugilistic world. Somewhere down the line, he lost his way and became a “patriot without principles”. In the face of nationalistic fervor which has reached boiling point in recent years, how much has it affected the most basic moral values and decency of the average Chinese? As for those who cheered Xuan Wu on, aren’t they the living examples of Lu Xun’s Ah Q in the 21st century?
And what’s the biggest irony? All the underhand methods of the Japanese portrayed in the movies are now exactly the same as those used by the Chinese in real life. Kimura could have been knocked out in pretty much the same underhand ways by which Huo Yuan Jia was defeated by the Japanese – as claimed by the Chinese. The real Huo Yuan Jia unfortunately, was not as amazing as he had been portrayed on the silver screen. Besides that, he was a good friend of the Japanese. Sadly, history will never be as popular as nationalistic nonsense.