Why Kung Fu Loses Against MMA
If you go to any bar on a Saturday night, you might encounter a room full of people glued to the TV, watching Pay-Per-View coverage of the latest big-name title fight. From humble origins, mixed-martial arts (MMA) fights have come up to be hugely popular, often getting tons of attention from people around the world – and more often than not, drawing parallels with the more traditional martial arts from which MMA is descended.
What’s more, on the rare occasions when a modern MMA fighter goes up against a student of kung fu, it can appear extremely lopsided! While being totally different styles, they are both rooted in attacks and defense, and thus it is tempting to think that they are roughly equally matched. So, when faced with the fact that kung fu fighters often lose when pitted against MMA – how can we explain that? Is one discipline better than the other? Is kung fu useless in a real, ruthless fight situation?
Well, not exactly. It’s not nearly as simple as that, and here’s why.
Simply put, MMA fighters win more often in the ring because that is exactly – and only – what they train to do, whereas kung fu is much more broad in its focus and its moves. Kung fu was not developed to “win in a ring”, after all. It was developed out of principles of meditation, balance, mental discipline, and the necessity of self-defence in situations where the fight likely would not be fair.
What does that mean? Well, it means that we teach kicks, punches, and other hits that are effective in an emergency situation, when they need to be – but would never be allowed in an MMA fight. Downward elbow hits, reverse roundhouse kicks, open-hand strikes, and glove-free blocks are good examples of this – they are all very common in kung fu, but not used anywhere near an MMA ring. In a street situation where you need to end a conflict fast, fighting “according to the rules” is not going to help, so we train our students to do what is most effective, with the least amount of harm inflicted. MMA, on the other hand, is about beating up another person until they are completely subdued and usually unconscious – as long as they stay within the rules. It may be more entertaining to watch, and more brutal in its execution, but it lacks the real versatility and adaptability of a true self-defence discipline; it can’t accommodate unexpected weapons, or illegal kicks and punches, or the ability to stay calm and focused for hours at a time instead of short three-minute bursts. It is a sport – one that requires a lot of time and talent and passion, yes, but a sport nonetheless – whereas kung fu is a philosophy, an art, and a way of life.
Another way to say it? MMA fighters train to get into fights and give 110% toward conquering their opponent. Kung fu fighters train to stay out of fights, unless there is literally no other way out – but if it’s all on the line, they are equipped to approach any escalation with a clear head and a quick response. So don’t be so quick to judge if a kung fu martial artist has lost in the ring – real fights don’t have referees or rules, and it would look much different in a street situation!
The Martial Art Of Taekwondo
In prior months we have covered some other common forms of martial arts like karate and kickboxing. Today we’d like to talk about another one, which you’ve no doubt heard about in many movies, TV shows, and probably even within your personal friend group: taekwondo.
What Is Taekwondo?
Like many similar martial arts, taekwondo was developed in Asia, though its history does not go back as far as the more traditional styles like karate. Starting in Korea after the Second World War, the name roughly translates to “The Way of the Trampling Fist”, and was brought into being as many separates styles in different schools across Korea. In 1952 the South Korean president saw a demonstration of the style, and saw in it a way for Koreans to remember their own ancient discipline, taekkyeon; within a few years, the schools had begun to unify their teachings and combine old and new techniques very effectively, eventually settling on the name taekwondo.
While slow to gain popularity, soon enough the military was using the discipline as their standard for hand-to-hand combat, and by the 1960s, new associations and federations were established and spreading around the world – including the International Taekwondo Federation (Also known as ITF and is pictured performing above along with World Taekwondo) in Toronto. In 2000, it was added to the Olympic Summer Games as one of only two martial arts, alongside judo, and today it is popular in many countries with many offshoot styles.
Martial Arts With A Kick
While some martial arts are all about redirection of momentum, stance ability, blocks, and so on, taekwondo is well known for its emphasis on kicks of all kinds. Fighters can jump and spin, landing kicks with plenty of force to all parts of the body, including the head – in fact, World Taekwondo competitions award extra points for strikes of those type. Because of this reliance on fast, manoeuvrable movements, taekwondo is seen as more of an agile, swift martial art.
You might have also heard of their Theory of Power, which is the idea that speed is more important than actual size when it comes to how powerful a strike can be. Taekwondo’s form is recognizable by the amount of rotation and turning its fighters do when striking, in order to counterbalance the striking force and create an even bigger hit. The discipline also believes strongly in considering equilibrium, breath control, concentrated strike areas, reaction force, and mass with every strike. They emphasize the practice of breaking boards or bricks as a test of how accurate, quick, and powerful a fighter’s blows can be.
One particularity of taekwondo is that formally, it is not a weapon-based martial art, and is not part of the curriculum of most programs (though some schools do incorporate staff, knife, or stick training).
The Five Tenets Of Taekwondo
Though there are many different styles and practices of modern taekwondo, the core beliefs of all of them refer back to the Five Tenets of Taekwondo:
These five concepts guide how all students are to act and train as they become more educated, and reflect the idea of an ultimately peaceful society as an overarching goal for taekwondo in the world. In this way, the sport is very much like all martial arts in how it manifests – including our very own kung fu!
If you are looking for martial arts in Calgary you should call us today and we can help guide you in the right direction.
Kickboxing: A Descendant of Martial Arts
Fighting in some form or another – and with the elements of rules and sportsmanship – has been around for millennia, as shown by the huge number of ancient arenas and fighting pits that have been discovered dating back to some of the oldest human cultures. But these days, it’s much more than just tossing a couple of gladiators in a circle and placing bets. From those old traditions come some of the most common and recognizable disciplines we see today, including kickboxing.
Last month we talked about the origins and forms of karate, and that ties into kickboxing because that’s where the sport began! Though it may seem like a natural offshoot of a fighting style – after all, kicks are more powerful than punches – it actually was not until the 1950s that the sport we now know as kickboxing began to take shape in Japan.
Drawing not only from traditional karate, but also from muay thai, a man named Tatsuo Yamada began outlining the forms of the new sport and throughout the early 1960s, it took hold in students of both disciplines. As more people learned the rules of the sport, and the first competitions and events were taking place, soon kickboxing was expanding around the world and by the 1980s, it had grown into North America and Europe. Moving back and forth in popularity since then, and with very broad scope of rules and styles, it is one of the most enduring schools of modern martial arts for people of all skill levels.
Though each country seems to have its own rules, the bouts that most people are familiar with in kickboxing are generally based on full-contact karate, where the opponents fight through rounds until one of the fighters is knocked out or submits. There is no specialized equipment or weapons; generally only a mouth-guard, hand wrappings, and other protective gear is needed. Rules vary on low and high kicks, hits to knees or with elbows, use of spins, and other details. That means that each fighter has to be pinpoint accurate, quick to strike and to retreat, and ready to react to their foe in an instant. As opposed to the more meditative nature of karate and kung fu, kickboxing is much more fast-paced and focused on the immediate impact of kicks and punches.
There are dozens of sub-styles of kickboxing, including shoot boxing (where fighters can use standing chokeholds and armlocks), sanshou (which incorporates elements of wrestling and takedowns), and Japanese K-1 (which allows lower-body strikes and grappling).
Whatever your personal style may be, if you like to fight, chances are good that there’s a kickboxing genre for you. However, if you prefer something more holistic and meditative, you can’t go wrong with studying kung fu – and we just happen to know the perfect place to learn: right here at Kung Fu
The Martial Art Of Karate
When it comes to martial arts, many people think that they’re all the same – that kung fu is the same as judo, or karate, or tae kwon do. But if you look a little further into it, you’ll discover that there are plenty of ways that these skills manifest in practice, and that all of these different styles have totally different focuses and areas of expertise. We’d like to explore a little bit of what makes each discipline unique, and how they are similar to the kung fu we teach here at our studio.
Today we’re going to talk about karate, which is one of the most popular martial arts in Calgary and, indeed, in the world. You may have seen it (or heard it misidentified) in hundreds of movies and TV shows, where it is often synonymous with any form of self-defense. There’s even an episode of The Simpsons where Bart claims to be learning a “Touch of Death” at his karate class.
Luckily, karate is not all about causing harm to your opponent, but much more about self-discipline, training, and constant learning to always improve. Stemming from a blend of Chinese kung fu and Okinawan fighting styles, karate developed over many hundreds of years into different forms, types, and functions. Generally, they emphasize proper stances, strike and block techniques, and exercise, while psychological elements like leadership, perseverance, and virtue are built as well. A student can learn karate as an art (known as budo), as purely self-defense, or as a full combat sport – usually reserved only for competitions within the sport, but this is where the media’s portrayal of fighters usually draws from. There is even an offshoot called kyokushin that highlights full contact, toughness, and takedowns over the more mental aspects of the sport.
Many practitioners of karate appreciate its simplicity, both in the training and in the materials needed. Traditionally, learners needed nothing more than a wooden post, some blocks of stone, and various other common materials in order to increase their strength, stamina, coordination, and speed. That means it’s easy to do wherever you are, and cost is not as much of a factor when trying to learn. The name itself, kara-te, even means “empty hand”, referring to the training of one’s own body to be efficient and effective. Of course, some schools and some students choose to train with weapons as well, such as the bo (staff), sais, or nunchaku, but these can be harder to work with as one must consider the laws regarding the use and transport such weapons (you can see our blog right here).
You may be brand new to martial arts in Calgary (or in general), or you could be a seasoned pro, but with the sheer amount of new styles and techniques that are always being created, there’s always something new to learn in karate, kung fu, and all the others. Come see for yourself why these physical arts have lasted for centuries and still bring millions of people enjoyment, stress relief, and satisfaction all around the world. We can help show you the way at Kung Fu For Life, located just down the road from 39 Ave C Train station in Calgary!
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