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MMA vs Kung Fu Which Is Better In Real Fight Situations

MMA vs Kung Fu breakdown with a fighter.

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While mixed martial arts or MMA is a relatively new discipline that emerged toward the end of the twentieth century. Other disciplines such as those which make up Kung Fu have existed for millennia. So when we compare MMA vs Jung Fu, which of them is in fact better?

Kung Fu consists of several martial arts from Drunken Monkey, Shaolin Kung Fu, Wing Chun and more. MMA is a hybrid of several fighting styles which work in a real fighting environment. Recent examples show that MMA is a more effective fighting style.

But with Chinese martial arts have such a rich and diverse history. Very much making up the fabric of their national culture, customs and traditions. How can a discipline which is but a few decades old be considered better, or at least more practical?

One argument for this could be that Kung Fu and similar fighting styles originated in China. All had a set of predefined techniques and systems under which they evolved.

Over the centuries due to those countries’ isolation from the outside world. There was never any external threat or reason for those arts to adapt to any change in developments being made elsewhere.

So as a result those martial arts have remained the same for centuries. Safe in the knowledge that their style was indeed the best. And as a result, building a whole system of education and training which to fortify this belief. Until now!

What Exactly Is MMA

MMA was first popularised on the world stage by The Ultimate Fighting Championships. And while there had been several promotions already operating which used a freeform mix of martial arts, namely Vale Tudo in Brazil and Shooto in Japan.

It was the UFC that brought the idea of fighting styles clashing when they established the promotion back in 1993. And while initially, the vast majority of competitors were single or sometimes multiple discipline fighters.

Two MMA fighters competing inside the cage during training,
Two MMA fighters sparring in the cage.

None were yet chaining those individual styles together into a single cohesive discipline that took only the best elements from each. Getting rid of whatever did not work and building on those that did.

MMA was the result of a natural progression when martial arts were laid bare and vulnerabilities exposed. Where another would soon fill its place until we had a very distilled down version of various disciplines all rolled into one.

And it was this real-time often brutal editing that very much exposed the glaring weaknesses inherent in these traditional martial arts. To which so many had dedicated their entire lives.

And while we have had several high-profile MMA fighters who trained in one form or another of Kung Fu. No single discipline of its many hundreds has gone on to be a foundational element in the sport.

What Is Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a catch-all term for Chinese martial arts that came into existence around 4000 years ago. Developed over time from a need for self-defence, as well as hunting and military hand-to-hand combat.

However, these martial arts were not simply for use during conflict. But also on a level in terms of spiritual and physical well-being. And while some do focus on combat, they also include a series of what are called soft techniques.

Those which we see expressed in disciplines such as Tai Chi. A defensive martial art that also operates in the areas of meditation and overall physical health.

Think of those scenes where you see hundreds of Chinese people, many of who are elderly. Training openly in Tai Chi as a way to improve their movement and mental health, without any elements of combat.

Is Kung Fu Effective In MMA

Multiple UFC fighters, even today claim that at least some of their base consists of the more traditional martial arts. There aren’t many who combine their use with the other styles used widely throughout the sport.

Finding instead that other disciplines such as Muay Thai, wrestling, western boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. To be a far more effective art when used in a freeform fight situation.

And a good example of a high-level fighter using elements of Kung Fu would be of legendary UFC champion Anderson Silva. Silva who reigned in the middleweight division for many years also trained in Wing Chun. The martial art was popularised by the iconic Bruce Lee.

Anderson Silva training his martial art in the gym.
Traditional martial artist Anderson Silva training.

And it is mainly in his deflecting of punches that we see Silva using his Wing Chun skills inside the octagon. Skills learnt from his time using the Mook Jong, a wooden dummy that hones fighters hand-to-eye coordination as well as range and precision.

Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le is perhaps a better example of your more typical traditional martial artist. With a background in Chinese boxing and kickboxing. Le used his skills to great effect in MMA during his relatively short career inside the cage.

But in a new global sport, standout fighters who have risen to the top are few and far between. With the vast majority opting instead to train in other disciplines which have borne fruit.

What About Its Applications

As the umbrella term, Kung Fu incorporates so many varying disciplines. Many of these are designed to enhance both the mental as well as physical aspects of a fighter’s skillset.

We cannot simply say it is not effective. No doubt its integration as a piece of a wider jigsaw puzzle can and does enhance other more dominant disciples which are more widely used.

But in its purest form, without any adaptation for MMA. Many signs point to it not being a viable option when placed side by side with a trained MMA fighter.

When MMA Met Kung Fu

And not too long ago we have seen what can happen when MMA clashes with Kung Fu. As a trained Chinese mixed martial artist, Xu Xiaodong took it upon himself to as he puts it, expose the fake martial arts found in his home country.

And through a series of one on one fights, Xu Xiaodong has beaten each and every one of his opponents, often in a quick and devastating fashion.

Xu had been training in MMA and Muay Thai since 2001. Is widely regarded as the founder of MMA in China, opening the first gym in Beijing back in 2002.

And frustrated by what he believed to be rampant fraud amongst the traditional Kung Fu master. He took it upon himself to demonstrate how ineffective they were against the more modern fighting styles.

With Xu now having fought several so-called “Masters” he is as yet undefeated. And has even forced a change in the culture with the Chinese Wushu Association ruling that its practitioners were indeed no longer allowed to refer to themselves as masters.

Kung Fu Master Fights Xu Xiaodong For 30 Million.

However, his mission has come at a cost. Having been sued for calling a Tai Chi Grandmaster a fraud. Xu was forced to pay $60,000 as well as publicly apologise.

But even more chilling than this was the Chinese government lowering his Orwellian social credit score. So that he was no longer able to own property, rent or use high-speed travel or even use air travel within the country. Something which was later lifted after paying further fees.

But this does highlight the degree to which those in power seek to protect their positions. As they try to shield Kung Fu from any critical analysis.

The Famous Shaolin Monk

Another figure who rose to prominence is of the fighting Shaolin Monk Yi Long. A self-trained martial artist in the disciplines of Chinese Wushu and Shaolin Kung Fu. The Shaolin temple has commented that he is not affiliated with them in any way.

Long has had a successful career in both the sport of kickboxing and Muay Thai. Showing that these disciplines can indeed compete when it comes to the world of standup striking.

However, despite him having been called out by Xu Xiaodong, Long has yet to be tested in the realm of MMA. As the mixed martial arts fighter points to the monk as yet another fraud in terms of Chinese Kung Fu.

So whether or not the pair will ever meet in a match has yet to be decided. But with Long showing little interest in any potential bout, for the immediate future, it doesn’t look likely.

So Which Is Better

Both are not mutually exclusive and both have pluses and minuses. But if we are talking about true unarmed combat. And not the predefined techniques and setups we find in the more traditional Chinese martial arts. In the vast majority of cases, I believe that MMA will come out on top.

It is generally accepted, especially amongst its fans, that Mixed martial arts are the pinnacle of real-world combat sports. MMA was developed through a series of trial and error. Where many traditional martial artists brought their disciplines to the cage, believing that theirs would be the one to rule all others.

However, it routinely turned out that this was not the case and that was the purpose of the UFC. To discover what worked and what did not. And through a natural progression, which was never the initial intention.

Developed a whole new discipline to supplant those who had come before. Establishing itself as the fastest-growing combat sport in the world.

My Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this little run through the MMA vs Kung Fu debate. And just let me say that I in no way mean to insult Chinese martial arts or those who practice them.

But what we want to do is get to the truth, discovering what really works and what does not. And as anyone who has trained in many of these disciplines will tell you. There is often little desire to force things to their conclusion.

And I mean that in terms of the actual training involved, where the goal should be to push your limits and discover any weaknesses. And outside of the individual styles themselves, that is one of the key differences.

Where MMA prepares fighters for real-world altercations. Disciplines in Kung Fu are very much training for the sake of training. Foregoing the real nitty-gritty required to hone your skills leave you wanting in several areas.

So for that reason, I believe that is why MMA has become so popular. With its fighters making crossover fights into other sports and often doing very well. Its evolution has been the result of tried and tested methods that work.

Whereas Kung Fu has, for the most part, continued to hide in the shadows, behind a vale of protection. So for that reason, I and so many others will be sticking with MMA.