One common topic from time to time is whether or not Wing Chun kung fu works as a sport or inside the UFC ring. In my honest opinion, Wing Chun does not work as a sport. Before we explain why, I’ll like to take a bit of time to talk about the origin of Wing Chun. If you see how Wing Chun evolved then you’ll understand why Wing Chun does not work as a sport. About 300 years ago during the Qing Dynasty (清朝), when China was conquered by Manchurians or Manchus, the southern Shaolin monks created a style that was used to eliminate Shaolin disciples who betrayed the monastery. This was also an art for rebellion against the Qing Dynasty to restore the Ming Dynasty.
This art form consists of two knives, which mainly emphasis on thrusting or stabbing which is the most powerful and damaging movement as a weapon, in order to eliminate the target as quickly as possible. As time gone by, the Qing government felt a huge threat with the Shaolin Temple. Therefore, they spend troops to invade the Shaolin temple, eventually burning it down. During this event five monks escaped from the invasion. One being the Buddhist nun Ng Mui (伍枚) who was one the Shaolin disciple who trained in the assassin art . Ng Mui fleet away to a province of China called Yunnan (云南省). While in Yunna, Ng Mui taught a local woman Yim Wing Chun (嚴詠春)kung fu, but modified the assassin art as an empty hand form. That is why in Wing Chun we emphasis on straight-line strikes and thrust punches.
So how this have to do with Wing Chun not able to work as a sport. As mention earlier Wing Chun kung fu was originally an assassination art form. It is meant to eliminate the target as quickly as possible. As an assassin, time is one of the main factor, you don’t have the time to stall or anticipate what the opponent will be doing. That’s why even in empty hand form we will focus on strikes on vital areas such the throat, solar plexus, lower abdominal and groin. Where as in sport, you’re bound with rules where you’re not allow to strikes in vital areas. In the UFC, the fighters need to learn various styles like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, so they have other ways to defeat the opponent and win within the rules. You can still apply Wing Chun principles, theories and techniques in the sport but definitely won’t be as effective. For Wing Chun to be in sport, will be like telling a tiger that he can’t to use his fangs and claws while hunting his for prey.
You may say, well sport martial arts or MMA can also hit vital areas too inside the street. However there’s one crucial factor, which I also tell my students all the time. “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent”. Meaning if you practice your martial art to be suited inside a ring or as a sport, your first instinct in a physical confrontation in the streets will be the same as you practice. Striking vital areas will not be your first instinct and reaction at all.
For Wing Chun or any traditional Martial Art, their daily practice is striking vital areas and breaking joints. The goal is so the individual get caught in a physical confrontation, they can get out as quickly as possible. In modern day, I see Wing Chun as an art of survival, self-defense and self-cultivation. It is an art for everyone. People with different size, age and gender will be able to learn the art. What matter is if you’re willing to train the art.
That being said, does that mean traditional martial arts or Wing Chun is better than sport martial arts or mix martial arts? No, I’m not saying which one is better, just pointing out the difference between the two practices. Both are still skill-base practices, just depend on your goal and the one you feel suitable for yourself. There’s really no better style. In the end it really depends who trains harder in their practice. There’s a saying in Chinese in how to gain kung-fu (功夫). Kung-fu meaning a man of skills. For the answer you just read it backwards. If you read it in Cantonese it will say (苦功) which means hardship or hard work.