Tai chi is a Chinese martial art practiced for defense training, health benefits, and meditation.
The martial art is based on a fist system, practiced by the pushing hand method (tui shou). Tai chi emphasizes the concept of yin and yang. the reason why it is often represented by the taijitu symbol.
Ma Baoguo is a 'master' in Tai chi. The elderly Chinese attempted to defend the martial art's honor using his own reputation, when he fought in a tournament in Zibo, Shandong.
But this was when he was knocked down three times in just 30 seconds in a fight with 49-year-old amateur boxer Wang Qingmin.
The 69-year-old Tai Chi 'master' quickly became an overnight celebrity in May when the tournament happened.
In November 2020, Ma’s official Weibo account posted for the first time since May, writing that:
It all started when Wang Qingmin was about to face Ma Baoguo in the tournament.
Speaking to local media in an interview that has been widely reported, Wang said he was “very uneasy” before the fight because he knew of Ma’s reputation, which he had seen plenty of times in videos on the internet.
"Ma Baoguo is very powerful. I am also very worried about myself,” he said, “but I think as an athlete and a traditional martial arts enthusiast, since signing up I don’t have a choice but to fight.”
Wang said that he had to pay to enter the fight. His entry fee was ¥660 ($92.5) and he has not received any prize money for his win. He stepped in at late notice after Ma's original opponent pulled out. It was also reported that Ma had been paid ¥200,000 for the fight, with organizers charging users ¥5 to live-stream the fight.
But the result of the tournament wasn't as Wang expected it to be. Ma was knocked down twice, very quickly. And finally Ma was knocked out cold after receiving Wang's right hook straight to the face. All of which, happened in less than 30 seconds.
Wang was registered as an MMA fighter, but during the fight, he said that he used the Chinese style of Xing Yi Quan, rather than Western martial arts as media reported.
Wang spoke of his surprise winning, he was worried for the elderly martial artist.
When a renewed interest in Ma Baoguo, netizens started creating spoof videos, to insert the martial artist into well-known action films, or doctoring images to place him in films such as The Godfather, where Ma replaces Marlon Brando.
Many videos that ridiculed Ma come from all corners of the web, from China and overseas, and they have been viewed by millions of times. Some of which were even seen by more than 100 million people.
Even Ke Jie, a Chinese professional Go world champion, released a video on Chinese-platform Bilibili spoofing Ma.
With the interest escalating, many internet users have even set up fake accounts pretending to be Ma, in order to share some false news.
Netizens were referring the match as “kung foolery” moment, and Ma promoted as a "kung fu fakery."
These all coincide with the six-month anniversary of Ma's viral loss to Wang.
Ma’s Weibo account addressed the rise in the videos, which had also seen him become a trend as a search topic on Weibo once more.
Disgraced, Ma Baoguo has apparently walked away from martial arts after the resurgence in online ridicule.
This isn't the first time that a certain martial art (and martial artist) has been mocked on the web.
In the past, Wushu masters for example, have blamed their defeats on slipping, not having enough food beforehand, the venue being changed, the crowd being partisan for their opponent, not being used to the local cuisine and laying off their full power because it might be fatal.
But some netizens questioned whether the match was staged to make the Chinese martial art look bad.
China at this time, recognizes more than a hundred martial arts and Tai chi is one of them. Tai chi however, despite known as a martial art, is mostly practiced as a for of exercise rather than for combat.
Previously, Ma Baoguo has caused a stir in controversy, when he was reported to have hired British MMA fighter Peter Irving to shadowbox in a video, which he later tried to pass off as footage of him defeating Irving in sparring.
This came to a surprise, even for Irving.
“Recently, probably because of the tension about the MMA fighter challenging traditional martial arts in China, he decided to edit the footage and claim he’d beaten me in a real fight. When I heard I just thought it was a bit ridiculous and I felt sorry for him, and thought he was just rather sad,” wrote Irving in his statement on his Facebook page.
In the past, Ma also once called Chinese MMA Strawweight Champion Zhang Weili “stupid” and claimed that he could beat the mixed martial artist in a fight.