Recently, many Wing Chun schools have admirably sought to fight with Wing Chun in the realm of combat sports, particularly, mixed martial arts (MMA). However, when they get in the ring or cage to fight, they use very few Wing Chun techniques, but instead use techniques from Boxing or Muay Thai, but still call it Wing Chun. Are they right? There is sharp disagreement in the Wing Chun Community as to what defines Wing Chun in MMA. This article will likely offend some. I apologize for that and please don’t be offended as this is just the opinion of one person. However, when you see karate stylist in MMA like Lyoto Machida, Kyoji Horiguchi, or Stephen Thompson, their karate is obviously seen in the techniques they use. When you take Wing Chun out of the school and into the cage what does it look like? Should it still look like Wing Chun?
If Wing Chun is a martial art, if the techniques were designed to be used in a fight, then why aren’t they used? The truth is that when MMA fighters use Wing Chun in the ring or cage, what they are really using are some Wing Chun theories and concepts. Particularly, they are using the theories on controlling the centerline, theories on how to generate power, controlling your opponent’s structure, etc. These theories and applications are 100% correct.
There is much to be said of fighters who can take the Wing Chun theories and apply them in MMA. However, there is a difference between the application of theory and the application of techniques. Is Wing Chun just a theory? Or is it also a martial art? If Wing Chun was just a set of fighting theories, then yes, using Wing Chun in MMA simply means just applying the theories. However, since Wing Chun is a martial art, applying Wing Chun in MMA means more than just applying the theories, it means applying the techniques as well, if they work.
Now, to be clear, using Wing Chun techniques in a fight whether in the cage or on the streets will never be as pretty as in the classroom drills. In a fight, your Tan Da or Pak Da will likely be sloppy, rushed, and barely recognizable as a Pak or Tan Da. However, it should still be effective. In the classroom drills, everything looks so perfect, but in a real fight, it is a jumble of limbs flying every which direction. Yet, despite this, the technique should still be recognizable just as every other traditional martial art is recognizable from Tae Kwon Do, to Karate, to Judo.
So, why is Wing Chun theory being utilized without Wing Chun techniques? The reason is because not all Wing Chun theories are being applied in the ring or cage. For example, Wing Chun has theories on kicking primarily below the waist and mostly with straight kicks to the knee. This is illegal in many MMA matches. So, that alone eliminates at least 75% of your kicks. Wing Chun also has theories on the utilization of short range power in punching.
The Wing Chun straight punch is severely neutered as a result of wearing 8 oz gloves. It’s like dropping a glass on a hardwood floor versus dropping it on carpet. It will definitely shatter if dropped on the hard floor, but may withstand the fall if it’s carpet. This is particularly true if dropped from a short distance. As Wing Chun utilizes a lot of short ranges punches and short range power, the addition of “carpet” in the form of 8 oz gloves severely weakens punching power. So, what does this all mean? It means the majority of Wing Chun punches and kicks are not as effective in a MMA fight compared with long-bridge striking styles like Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Muay Thai. This is why many fighters look outside of Wing Chun for their offense. Defensively, you will still see Pak Sao and some other techniques, but you can’t win a fight with defense alone.
So, how can one utilize Wing Chun in MMA? Wing Chun is best utilized in MMA the way it currently is at least by those successful at it. It can be utilized through the application of many of the Wing Chun theories and concepts. Some techniques may work in MMA, but that’s not the point. The point is to use the right tool for the right job. Don’t do a technique in a MMA fight because that technique is Wing Chun, rather do it because it works. If it works, no need to call it Wing Chun if it’s from Boxing or Muay Thai. Call it what it is with the acknowledgment that you blend techniques from other arts with your Wing Chun techniques and theories. There’s no shame in that.
No one in MMA fights purely Muay Thai, or purely Karate, or purely Boxing. That’s why it’s MMA; it’s a mixture of styles and it’s up to each fighter to find the best mix for them. No one goes into a MMA fight expecting to only use one style like Wing Chun, for example. Expect to use multiple styles, but call them what they are. You’re still a Wing Chun Fighter. Thank you for reading my thoughts on Wing Chun in MMA. Hopefully this read has been helpful in your journey of understanding.
Wishing you peace and compassion.
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