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!