The Pros and Cons of Wing Chun in MMA
The million dollar question…does Wing Chun belong in MMA?
Before we get to that, let’s first take a look at the pros and cons…
Pros – Wing Chun can make your moves more simple, more direct and more efficient. Wing Chun always comes back to the concepts of controlling space, moving as efficient as possible and direct action. The art is about attacking at every opportunity. Because when it comes to Wing Chun, offense is the best defense.
Cons – Wing Chun is a combat art with no rules and was never designed for competition. By bring Wing Chun into MMA , the art must change, and in essence, potentially lose its overall focus on street self-defense. Wing Chun is best suited for a random violent attack on the street without weapons. In fact, it can be argued that Wing Chun ends a weaponless attack more quickly than any other martial art.
Why hasn’t Wing Chun been seen in MMA?
Wing Chun is not a sport. Wing Chun is simple, direct and practical self-defense. MMA is a sport. Wing Chun’s purpose, concepts and goals are specific and often times do not translate well into sports competition.
Wing Chun is designed for realistic self-defense. Meaning, the art works best with the element of surprise. In self-defense, there is no time to circle, prepare and attack. The number one goal of Wing Chun is to shut the fight down as quickly as possible. This is why in a true self-defense situation, the outcome is almost always determined within the first vital moments.
Because of this, Wing Chun practitioners, for the most part, work on staying true to the purpose of the art. Practicing strikes to the neck, eyes and groin are a staple, most of which are prohibited in MMA and the UFC.
So that’s why you don’t see Wing Chun used in MMA. Just like Wing Chun strikes to the eyes and throat, Wing Chun kicks are designed to break and/or tear tendons of the knee and ankle. They aren’t designed to play fair or be gentlemanly. They are designed to completely incapacitate someone trying to attack you.
Why are we now starting to see Wing Chun in MMA?
Considering that the art was (1) specifically designed for self-defense rather than competition and that (2) for the most part, Wing Chun practitioners don’t believe in, nor participate in, competition, Wing Chun may not have a bright future in MMA.
However, as MMA has grown to become so popular and more and more people are choosing the mixed martial arts approach, it was only a matter of time before we would see Wing Chun techniques inside the cage.
As MMA continues to evolve, fighters are looking for ways to get an edge on their competition. What many MMA fighters looked past previously, they are now looking outside the box of mainstream combat sports into other arts such as Wing Chun.
Now we have fighters such as Tony Ferguson, Jon Jones and Anderson Silva all using textbook Wing Chun in MMA / UFC.
Tony Ferguson & Wing Chun
One of the most well-known fighters who use Wing Chun is Tony Ferguson. He is always practicing Wing Chun and there are several videos online of Tony Ferguson’s Wing Chun training. He really appreciates working on the Wing Chun wooden dummy. So much so, that he takes it with him to training camps to help him get ready for fights. His application of Wing Chun concepts can be seen in his use of constant forward pressure. Even Joe Rogan (who previously doubted Wing Chun’s use in MMA) noticed after seeing Tony Ferguson use Wing Chun in his recent fight, that “if you really know your sh*t, Wing Chun works inside the cage.” See this Tony Ferguson Wing Chun video.
Anderson Silva & Wing Chun
Anderson Silva, a huge fan of Bruce Lee, has studied Wing Chun and JKD with Dan Inosanto. He has used Wing Chun trapping moves in close and Wing Chun kicks in several of his matches. Here’s a video displaying Anderson Silva’s Wing Chun moves. Anderson Silva has also trained Wing Chun (in one form or another) with Steven Seagal. Seagal learned Wing Chun from Randy Williams and Samuel Kwok. Anderson Silva also trains on the Wing Chun wooden dummy to practice his trapping and close-quarters moves. See more at Anderson Silva Wing Chun.
Jon Jones & Wing Chun
Like Tony Ferguson and Anderson Silva, Jon Jones is also known for his outside-the-box thinking. He uses the Wing Chun-style oblique kick in almost all of his matches. He has stated that it is “very effective” and that he works on it often. However, although Jon Jones’ kicks look very much like Wing Chun, unlike Ferguson and Silva, Jon Jones may not have any actual Wing Chun training.
Are Wing Chun Kicks Too Dirty for MMA?
Wing Chun kicks often aim to break or tear ligaments and tendons in the knee or ankle. This is why many believe that Wing Chun kicks are too dirty for MMA. Although currently legal in competition, recently, MMA fighters have spoken out against them. They say that Wing Chun kicks and those similar to them are just too dangerous for competition.
Both Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson have spoken out against them. Because Wing Chun-type kicks to the knee are career ending, they believe that the UFC should ban them from competition. Rampage has even said that people who use the Wing Chun-style kick to the knee are “bad for the sport.”
Still the issue is divided. Others say that these kicks are legitimate for MMA. One person referenced these kicks and said that “this is how the small person can overcome a bigger opponent”.
Since fighters don’t want their careers ended by the unsportsmanlike techniques of Wing Chun, how can it safely be used in MMA?
Since many of the rules of MMA prohibit many of Wing Chun’s techniques, using Wing Chun techniques “safely” inside the cage seems like a difficult task.
But truth is, Wing Chun concepts have been used in MMA competition all along. What many who haven’t practiced Wing Chun don’t understand, is that Wing Chun is a concept-based martial art. Although there are Wing Chun-style techniques that can be seen, Wing Chun was never meant to be defined by its techniques. As a concept-based art, Wing Chun must be understood based upon concepts such as centerline control, constant forward pressure, body structure and simultaneous attack and defense.
This idea can be extremely challenging for those who can’t look at things in a Wing Chun way and from the perspective the art defines itself. Those that demand a more concrete or technique-based way of defining Wing Chun won’t ever truly be able to appreciate the art due to the freedom of thought it requires.
Wing Chun’s True Purpose
The ultimate goal of Wing Chun is transformation of the mind, body and soul. It is a very soulful practice which develops the mind and emotions on a deeper level. Because it is a spiritual journey founded upon Buddhist and Taoist thought, the premise of MMA competition is contrary to the ultimate goal of Wing Chun… the development of higher levels of kindness and compassion. Training Wing Chun for self-defense is only the vehicle used in order to get to these higher levels.
Wing Chun is well known for its street fighting effectiveness. But Wing Chun isn’t known for its use in competition fighting.
Here are three UFC fighters using Wing Chun in MMA competition.
So when people ask “why is Wing Chun not allowed in MMA, share this video with them.
All three MMA fighters show Wing Chun in the cage.
In this video, Tony Ferguson’s Wing Chun training on the wooden dummy is shown. In his fights (specifically against Anthony Pettis), he not only shows Wing Chun techniques, he applies Wing Chun’s concept of constant forward energy.
Jon Jones displays his Wing Chun-style oblique kicks. He demonstrates and applies them well against many of his opponents.
Anderson Silva also practices Wing Chun on the wooden dummy as well as having worked Wing Chun-based drills and concepts with Bruce Lee’s student Dan Inosanto and Samuel Kwok student Steven Seagal.