Is traditional Chinese Kung Fu practical for fighting?

What is fighting?

The first thing to understand is that “fighting” can have a lot of meanings (read The 6 types of martial clash):

  • Warfare fighting? – Made to kill rapidly, in a stealthy way, etc.
  • Armed / unarmed fighting? – With weapons like swords, knives, etc.
  • Self-defense fighting? – Made for civilian safety, prevention, safety, etc.
  • Street fighting? – Without rules, respect, proportion, etc.
  • Sportive fighting? – With rules, respect, protections, etc.

Each martial art has specific rules that condition the preparation of the involved athletes / practitioners (eg. in some cases lethal blows are not refined, the parts of the body covered by the protections become less palatable targets, etc.). If we do not know what is the specific context, it is very hard to reply because any martial art borns (and it is adapted by its instructors) for specific needs:

  • Exhibitions
  • Specific sports competitions
  • Fitness
  • Health
  • War
  • Self-defense
  • Stealth assassination
  • Mental growth
  • Relaxation
  • Hobby or social relationships
  • Discipline
  • Religion

Can such different paths be compared for the same purpose (“fighting”)? No, each martial artist is good doing what he does, not so good doing what he not does. In most of the cases, it is like comparing pears with apples: it is simply useless.

Can traditional Chinese Kung Fu be practical for fighting?

Yes – If with “fighting” we mean something like:

  • Bare hand fighting
  • With no rules
  • Against a single opponent
  • Same training level
  • Same technical level
  • Same psychophysical capabilities
  • Almost same height, weight, muscle mass (etc.)

No – If with “fighting” we mean something like:

  • The certainty of winning
  • Unbalanced fighting (eg. against 10 armed opponents, read How to fight with more than one opponent at the same time)
  • With rules that limit the expression of our style (eg. a boxer that cannot use punches)
  • Unbalanced training level (eg. a grappling champion vs a “1 hour per week amateur”)
  • Unbalanced psychophysical capabilities (eg. a determined athlete vs a “never-fought guy”, read MMA vs Tai Chi 10 seconds knock out: an explanation)
  • Unbalanced body proportion (eg. 90Kg king of the ring against “Jim the slim”)

But… it remains also another big question: in what age?

  • Today?
  • When Kung Fu is born?
  • When Kung Fu has reached its maximum diffusion?
  • When?

Is it good to train in a “traditional” martial art to learn to fight?

The point is: what do we mean with the word “traditional”?

  • No – If with “traditional” we mean something that has stopped to evolve (thinking to have reached the perfection), it is obvious that it cannot be the best choice for a fight in present days; something that is dead and does not grow is destined to be analyzed, copied, improved and inevitably surpassed
  • Yes – If with “traditional” we mean an ancient martial art that, starting from a millennial tradition, continues to evolve its methods in relation to the present need; this is for sure the best possible choice because what works it is improved, what not abandoned

The word “traditional” is nonsense referred to a martial art focused on fighting: in thousands of years of evolution, Kung Fu has continuously been changed and evolved in relation to its needs (as it should be doing in this century).

To practice a martial art without “upgrades” surely means to maintain a historical tradition (and it is a good thing) but the evolution does not wait for anything or anyone.

To choose something like Kung Fu could be the best possible solution but only:

What makes a martial art effective or not for fighting?

If we talk about “fighting” in completely general terms, it is very hard to reply but the most important aspects should be:

  • Its adaptability – It should include all the possible contexts and types of fighting (read 6DKF: what does it teach?)
  • The regular practice of free sparring – This is mandatory, on the ground, close quarters, etc. (read How to do sparring)
  • The not passive study of techniques – Against uncooperative partners, in not linear scenarios, etc. (read The best way to study technique: 10 tips)
  • The mental preparation – Determination, stress management, etc. (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///)
  • The daily and intelligent training – Physical development, skill acquisition, conditioning, speed, stamina, etc. (read Tips on how to stretch our training times)
  • The spatial intelligence-related skills development – Spatial intelligence, spatial memory, precision, timing, etc. (read The most important skill in combat)
  • The tactic development – Personal strategies, faints, combat methods, techniques customization, etc. (read A 6DKF for each one)

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • What is your opinion in relation to traditional martial arts?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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