Why is Kung Fu not used in MMA?

A little misunderstanding

When we talk about MMA we always refer to things like UFC (etc.) but these are not really mixed martial art fighting; these are specific sport competitions with detailed rules / limits where it is favorable to use some things instead of others (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, etc.).

It’s like asking: “why, if pizza is really that good, it is not served in Japanese sushi restaurants?”

Some 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 fighters – A lot of Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do (etc.) practitioners who fight in the cage but, being a mixed martial arts sport, they probably (surely) do not practice only 1 (it is normal that common people do not catch it, for untrained eyes, it is very hard to recognize them all)

Said this, sport is sport and it is fantastic but real fighting is something else (read The 6 types of martial clash).

Why don’t a Kung Fu practitioner apparently use his own style? What renders it ineffective for that type of competition?

Let’s do the example of a (good) Wing Chun practitioner, especially if he knows only 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 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 adapted to:

  • A particular kind of struggle (like the one in the cage)
  • Against a particular kind of opponent

It’s the practitioner’s mind to tell him how to fight and not his 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 motor education of the body, nothing more, nothing less
  • It’s the sparring that teaches how to fight, each confrontation teaches something new and important
  • During combat, there is nothing that you cannot do / steal or adapt to your needs, even in real time (at the highest levels)

A complete warrior needs:

  • 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 is 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

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