The blended martial artist Khai Wu is a “late bloomer” by his personal admission, however he’s at all times carried out issues a bit otherwise and it’s led to a journey filled with discovery in addition to setbacks.
Wu grew up between California and Taiwan, the place his mother and father are from. As a small and unconfident child, he was bullied in school. He was additionally un-athletic and uncoordinated – he dribbled a basketball with two fingers.
His dad wished his children to go to Ivy League faculties and change into medical doctors or legal professionals – three of his kids went into the medical area. But whereas Wu tried arduous in school, tutorial studying wasn’t for him and his grades weren’t nice.
Instead, his brother-in-law introduced him to strive jiu-jitsu on the age of 9, and over time martial arts modified his life.
Wu had his first novice MMA struggle on the age of 21. He stood throughout the cage from an opponent who regarded larger and stronger than him and thought: “What am I doing here?”
As the bell rang, Wu circled his opponent, too terrified to assault. After greater than a minute, one thing took over – Wu threw a flurry of punches and gained by TKO (technical knockout).
As the victory sunk in over the next days, he realised that he was by no means in competitors with anybody else – that his largest issues got here from inside, and that he might study to take care of them and be comfy in uncomfortable conditions.
And he noticed that comparisons with different folks didn’t result in contentment or happiness, “that everybody is on their own journey”.
“I’m like the black sheep [of the family],” the now 28-year-old informed Al Jazeera, tongue in cheek. “I ended up being a pro fighter.”
While he’s since gained prominence in surprising methods – coaching Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, giving a TED discuss, and going viral for the best way he defused a racially charged state of affairs – Wu hopes he can quickly make extra headlines along with his combating.
Wu (7-4-0) will face Phil Caracappa (9-3-0) at featherweight in his debut for the Professional Fighters League on November 24 on the undercard of PFL’s 2023 World Championship in Washington, DC.
It’s prone to be a troublesome struggle towards an skilled opponent.
“The guys that really force you to discover a part of you that you never knew existed or really level up, those are the guys that really get me anxious”, Wu mentioned, talking on-line from California. “But they get me excited, too.”
‘Martial arts correlate to life’
Wu earned the nickname of “the Shadow” resulting from his elusive combating abilities.
He was simply 3-1-0 in novice MMA fights when he turned skilled in 2018 on the insistence of his household, who wished him to start out creating wealth.
“As an amateur, you don’t get paid to fight and you’re still taking damage,” he mentioned. “[But] they didn’t understand that you might have to build out your career a little bit more, then get into a better position.”
He gained his first professional struggle and was signed by the Bellator MMA promotion however he misplaced his solely two fights there. Early on he was typically combating folks with many extra novice bouts below their belts and his lack of expertise led to some defeats – but in addition he realized quick.
Under numerous promotions, he put collectively a four-fight successful streak from 2019 to 2020, misplaced a pair throughout COVID-19, and gained his final struggle on a break up resolution.
In June he signed with PFL. He mentioned the promotion’s event format and factors system appealed to him, and he felt like they weren’t promoting him a very rosy image.
“I’m just curious to always work with a company that’s kind of doing things a little bit differently,” he mentioned.
His final struggle was again in February however says the time since has allowed him to develop and broaden his skillset, which isn’t at all times potential within the grind and sport plan of a struggle camp devoted to a single opponent.
“A lot of the injuries that I had from my previous fights healed up, I’m getting stronger, exploring where I’m weak and really covering those cracks or holes,” Wu mentioned.
Meanwhile, he believes that being a coach at Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu gymnasium and having a pupil mentality reinforces his abilities.
His most well-known consumer is the Facebook founder, Zuckerberg. When he first educated the tech billionaire, he thought it might be a one-off session – however the Meta boss saved coming again.
“He probably liked my jokes or something, I make a lot of dad jokes. And ever since then, we’ve been getting along and training.”
He mentioned that he doesn’t suppose the mooted struggle between Zuckerberg and fellow billionaire Elon Musk will ever occur, and that Zuckerberg will transfer on to one thing extra severe (Wu spoke to Al Jazeera earlier than Zuckerberg tore his anterior cruciate ligament whereas sparring).
“I think Elon realised Mark was legitimately training and a real fight sounds fun until you actually [think about] the blood and eyes getting cut open and all that stuff.”
He mentioned he hasn’t talked to Zuckerberg about his motivation to take martial arts so significantly, however says combating is primal and that there’s “beauty” within the worry and reality of getting into the ring or octagon.
“Because no matter who you are, when you get in there, you’re in there by yourself,” he mentioned. “You can claim you’re a black belt in jiu-jitsu. But if you go in there, and your skills don’t show, they don’t show – so there are no excuses in fighting.”
Wu can also be an evangelist for the ability of martial arts past the gymnasium.
If you panic whereas getting choked in jiu-jitsu, the extra your respiratory and coronary heart fee quickens and blood rushes to the pinnacle, the quicker you’ll lose consciousness. Developing the abilities to be affected person and calm in annoying conditions like that may assist off the mat.
When he had a automobile accident a couple of years in the past, Wu had the arrogance and the presence of thoughts to remain relaxed forward of the affect – he walked away with out accidents and calmly helped the opposite folks.
“Basically, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do all that or process it if I didn’t have the martial arts training”.
Then there was an incident in 2021 when Wu was filmed calmly speaking down a person who was behaving belligerently in his native boba (bubble) tea store in Tracy, California, at a time when anti-Asian assaults have been spiking.
“That was all from martial arts training. I had the confidence to go in there and de-escalate the situation, and you know what, no one got hurt … So I think it is really important to see all the aspects of martial arts and how they correlate to life.”
I obtained lots of people asking me why I blurred the blokes face out. Here’s why 👇 https://t.co/ubGFVW0zU3 pic.twitter.com/rfK93019bM
— Khai “The Shadow” Wu (@khaiwu) November 3, 2021
‘The Boba King’
Wu’s Taiwanese tradition and heritage are vital to him, and his love of bubble “boba” tea has change into legendary – to the purpose the place he has been dubbed “the Boba King” by followers, who generally ask him to signal their boba tea cups.
For Wu, it reminds him of bonding along with his father when he was younger – after they would go and get boba tea collectively.
“Boba for me has always been very nostalgic,” he mentioned.
He’s eager to develop the game of MMA in Taiwan, maybe by opening gyms and different ventures there, and says he’s taken numerous inspiration from the truth that Zuckerberg remains to be striving to study new abilities and to supply progressive merchandise.
“It’s very inspirational. And I lately I’ve been catching this bug to start businesses myself,” he mentioned.
“Him being a businessman going into fighting; maybe I can reverse engineer that thought process and can make something work too.”
But foremost in his thoughts proper now’s his personal combating.
And whereas he aspires to win titles, he notes that almost all champions are sometimes shortly forgotten and says his actual goal is to fulfil his personal potential and proceed striving in direction of unattainable perfection.
“I think I’ve been fighting like 50 to 60 percent of my real potential and what I mean by that isn’t that I’m holding back, it’s that I’m a late bloomer. I haven’t found my exact stride yet but in my last couple of fights, I’m slowly putting the pieces together,” he mentioned.
“It took it took me a while, but being a late bloomer isn’t necessarily bad, it just means you get better as time goes on.”