Why is Kung Fu not used in MMA?

Why if Kung Fu is so good, it is (apparently) not used in MMA?

A little misunderstanding

The question is legit but it is a bit like asking: “Why if pizza is really that good, it is not served in Japanese sushi restaurants?”

It is the perspective that is wrong.

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

First of all, if we think of Kung Fu (and many other martial arts) only as a way of apply violence, we fail to grasp the entire range of application of this discipline:

  • On one side, yes, Kung Fu borns to cover the most extreme combat contexts (eg, even with weapons)
  • On the other, it focuses (not secondarily) on working on ourselves (self-knowledge, self-improvement, etc.)

Second, even limiting the reasoning to purely combat terms, there is an abysmal difference that cannot be ignored between combat sports and real combat: read The 6 types of martial clash.

Almost no martial art can be fully implemented in a sport context

In the so-called MMA competitions (UFC, etc.):

  • There are extremely detailed rules and limits (read What is the difference between real fights and combative sports?) that make it impossible to truly implement the biggest part of martial arts
  • There are no complete martial arts, there are only incredibly small excerpts of them (so small and so altered that they completely lose their essence in favor of a totally different result)
  • There are contexts where it is favorable to use some part of some combat methods instead of others (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, etc.) but none of them is really there (and in most cases, the most used parts are in common with 90% of the other existing combat systems)
  • Not only the techniques but even many of the basic principles of the single martial arts are upset

A note by Master Kongling – Commercially they continue to call them MMA but the truth is that, with time, it has transformed into a well-defined sportive combat method that, more or less, is adopted by all the fighters (with the obvious adaptations that any expert would apply). This new combat method has a separate life to which no one wants to give a name but it exists and is born like many others.

Is it really true that no MMA fighter has a Kung Fu background?

2 facts:

  • Kung Fu techniques are widely used in UFC – A big percentage of the involved martial arts are (at least) vaguely connected to the teachings of Shaolin temple, this means that most of the techniques and training methods are widely inspired by Kung Fu (read Martial arts: all derive from Kung Fu?)
  • There are a lot of Kung Fu related fighters – A lot of Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do (etc.) practitioners fight in the cage but being a mixed martial arts sport, they probably (surely) do not practice only 1

A note by Master Kongling – About the second point it must be said that for untrained eyes it is very hard to recognize the traces but we do not have to search for the Ip Man movie’s stances (read also 4 teachings from the movie Ip Man), we have to focus on the methods.

Why does a fighter with a Kung Fu background not openly use his style in an MMA competition?

Let’s take the example of a (good) Wing Chun practitioner, especially if he deeply knows that style, he cannot act without using it. Naturally, if he has a minimum of preparation:

  • He will not move like in an Ip Man film (this should be obvious, as in a cage as in street defense)
  • He will principally use (when possible / useful) the core concepts of his Kung Fu (adapting them to the situation)

No one correctly trained to struggle will be so blinded to use a type of stance / technique that is not designed:

  • For a particular kind of struggle (like the one in the cage)
  • To be specifically effective against his opponent

It is the practitioner’s mind to tell him how to fight and not the style

Martial arts (in general) must not be seen as a set of strict rules but as a liquid ensemble of concepts / tools to be chosen and adjusted to the various contexts / situations, otherwise, a similar stubbornness becomes a condemnation to failing.

It would be ridiculous to lose our life out of pride that we do not want to use methodologies from other systems of struggle. No one who trains seriously think this way.

In real Kung Fu:

  • Forms, sequences, etc. are not the final goal, they are not to be interpreted as a way to learn how to combat (this is a very diffused misunderstanding), they are methods of basic motor education of the body, nothing more, nothing less (read Are Karate’s Kata, Kung Fu’s form (etc.) useless?)
  • It is sparring that teaches how to fight, or better, every single confrontation teaches something new and important (read Sparring: everything you are asking yourself)
  • During combat, there is nothing that you cannot do / steal or adapt to your needs (even in real-time, at the highest levels)

How to be a complete warrior

A complete warrior needs (read How to learn to fight: all the steps):

  • Mental education
  • Body conditioning
  • Technical preparation
  • Combat experience

If a practitioner limits his learning path ignoring these points (eg. never getting involved in sparring sessions) he will never learn how to fight against a serious opponent (in one word he remains an amateur, not a warrior nor a fighter, read The fighter and the warrior).

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • What is the biggest difference between a self-defense fight and a ring / cage confrontation, in your opinion?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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