The discussions continue in chat rooms and at YouTube about why the kung fu moves of Chinese martial arts have not been frequently used in mixed martial arts ( MMA ) fight contests. As many of us recognize, some of the Chinese martial arts have been included in the umbrella discipline we know as Wu Shu. Wu shu is a recognized sport of China in modern times and is almost solely concerned with demonstration art in perfecting ancient forms. For the uninitiated, forms are pre-arranged sequences of the kung fu moves of ancient martial arts. The forms are the architecture of individual martial art styles. The movements of the style are in the forms.

The movements of Wu Shu have been made more difficult over the years in response to increased competition in tournaments and the forms have been modified to some extent for appearance sake. The jumps, leaps, high kicks, long-bridge punches and other exotic techniques do not have a wide application in the fast moving and brutal MMA competitions where simple is better.

That leaves us to Wing Tsun (Wing Chun) and why techniques of this Chinese system of less complicated movements has not found wide application in MMA either. Wing Tsun is a system that circumvents the athletic capabilities of an attacker by using his force against him, not in long, drawn-out matches, but in fast, unexpected self-defense situations. In order to succeed in the mission of self-defense against a much stronger, more determined attacker, a defender has to either escape with evasive footwork, then counter-attack and succeed in hitting the most vital areas of the human body or just run away – if you can. The vital areas we mean include the base of the skull, the neck, the eyes, the knee joint all of which would be permanently disabling. These areas are simply not allowed in sport fighting.

To be sure, a Wing Tsun practitioner can train like an MMA fighter for endurance, power, anti-grappling and so on and then use a certain number of the techniques and ideas from Wing Tsun. However, the fighter’s inventory of techniques and targets is reduced considerably because of important rules set by contest organizers.

If the goal is to develop the toughest, biggest, baddest, most lethal fighter then MMA is the answer. This idea excludes candidates from most of the general public and narrows the candidates down to very strong athletes who are willing to risk serious injury to prove themselves to be the toughest, most effective fighter. Strength and size are big factors in winning matches although not the only factor. In a small number of cases, slightly smaller competitors with more talent have prevailed in MMA contests over larger persons.

If any fighting method has a flaw, it will be in the area in the use of size and strength. Everybody knows that a bigger, stronger individual has an advantage over a smaller, weaker individual. If a martial art method cannot do this effectively, its self-defense value is questionable. If an art can really show somebody how to deal with greater size and strength in an attack, it would have real value to that person. Wing Tsun does that. If an art cannot not do this effectively, it loses a significant portion of its usefulness for street assaults.

A bigger, stronger individual is thought to be less likely to need self-defense skills. The exception might be that they have been desk-bound for years and never learned how to punch, kick, or counter a grapple or would like to use Wing Tsun as a rewarding way to spend time addressing joint health, leg strength, upper body flexibility and other coordination and fitness concerns.

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg