Chinese martial arts enthusiasts were outraged when they discovered that a kung fu Monk had “won” a fight against an African student after the latter was paid to lose the match. The incident took place in the Six Country Boxing Championship organized by authorities in the central Henan Province in October.
The fake fight
The African student, Gabriel from Tanzania, was defeated by 51-year-old Shaolin Monk Shi Yanzi in just 43 seconds. Chinese audiences were stunned when Gabriel fell in such a short period of time since the organizers had introduced him as a “brave black warrior from Africa.”
Media immediately picked up the story and publicized it throughout the country as a victory for Chinese Kung Fu against Western fighting styles. “I only intended to go in the boxing ring to learn and exchange some skills with him and see if I could use more Shaolin Kung Fu techniques… But I didn’t expect to win him in a single round,” Shi said in a statement. (ABC News)
Later on, news broke out that the match was fixed and that the African student was actually paid about US$860 by the organizers to lose the match. Social media users were furious that they were duped by the event. A Weibo user joked about how China was producing fake medicines, fake history, fake news, and now fake fighting. Some even called the match an insult and asked Chinese fighters to win their matches fair and square rather than paying off competitors.
The match was held at Dengfeng City, which is also known as the Kung Fu Capital of China because of the thousands of people who flock to the place to learn martial arts.
A big market for MMA
From Bruce Lee to Donnie Yen, Chinese martial artists have played a crucial role in the development of the fighting styles we know today. In fact, one of the most modern forms of fighting, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), was reportedly invented by Bruce Lee after he tried to combine the various martial arts styles he had learned over the years.
In modern times, MMA is fast gaining popularity in China. Every major MMA event company, from the UFC to ONE Championship, seems to want a good chunk of the highly lucrative Chinese market. Headquartered in Singapore, ONE Championship has a clear advantage over its Western counterpart UFC when it comes to attracting Chinese fighters and viewers — respect for the traditional martial arts culture of Asia.
“Arrogance, trash talking, and disrespecting your opponent is very prevalent in western MMA. We are the complete opposite of that. We espouse the traditional values of martial arts such as respect, humility, honor, and work ethic, and this is why we resonate so well with our partners and audiences in the region,” Victor Cui, founder of ONE Championship, said to MMA Mania.
The interest in MMA-style championships has also brought a huge demand from the public to see Chinese martial artists fight against foreigners. This is why fighting tournaments across the country are bringing in competitors from Africa and the West. But a big drawback of such championships is that organizers are desperate to keep their Chinese audience pleased, even if it involves paying off foreigners. Ip Man wouldn’t be too pleased to hear about that.