“Does Wing Chun Work in MMA?”

Without doubt one of the first things anyone will ask, look up on the internet or seek an answer to regarding any martial art, in this case Wing Chun, goes little something like this:

“does Wing Chun work in a real fight?”

The close second for most common question asked sounds like this:

“is Wing Chun effective in MMA?”

Let me just state for the record that the answer to both is YES – but not for the reasons most people think.

Wing Chun, the Undead and the “Tent Pole Theory”

Allow me to dip into my vast 80’s movie reservoir to draw an effective parallel.  One of my favorite horror films is the original 1985 vampire classic Fright Night.  The remake was good, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the original.  One of my favorite scenes is when vampire hunter Peter Vincent (played to a tee by British actor Roddy MacDowell) holds a cross in front of Jerry Dandridge, the film’s villian.  He laughs in Peter’s face for a few seconds before scowling at him and uttering the famous phrase, “you have to have faith for that to work, Mister Vincent!”

In that same vein, Wing Chun is effective for both MMA and the reality of combat-but not because of any magic mojo or mystical garbage.  Thugs don’t cower when you put your hands up like Donnie Yen in Ip Man.  An opponent in the cage won’t wilt because you stand in a posture that looks like it came out of a book.

A big part of what makes Wing Chun so effective is the application of what I call the “Tent Pole Concept.” Just as tents have one or two poles which hold up everything else and provide structure to the tent itself, in our case the application of the two “tent poles” of FORWARD PRESSURE combined with TRIANGULAR STRUCTURE form an ironclad sense of body unity and allow you to impose your will on your opponent.

Your structure is honed in your forms training, your sense of body unity is sharpened each time you perform an entry in chi sau or a stepping drill, and both ideas are reinforced whenever you use the wall bag or focus mitt to practice your chain punch or palm strike.

Getting back to the whole Fright Night issue of faith, the other ingredient as to what makes Wing Chun so effective is in applying these two concepts and having FAITH that they work – in our case “faith” can be translated as “lack of hesitation in the application of the tent poles of structure and pressure.”  How does one acquire the belief and faith that they will in fact work?  Through proper training; in other words, through practice with proper intent.

My Favorite UFC Fight

The best example I have ever witnessed in MMA of the application of these core Wing Chun concepts can be seen in the following clip: Vitor Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva at UFC Brazil in 1998.  Note: this clip is of the fight in its’ entirety, so if you want to get to the good stuff skip to around 5:03.

I love watching the above clip since it contains the entire fight, which allows us as spectators-and more importantly as Wing Chun folks dissecting an example of the effectiveness of the concepts of our system- to watch the process unfold, from the initial “feeling out” process in the beginning of the fight to its’ swift and violent conclusion.  However, in the interest of being thorough, here is a more detailed look at the last 10 seconds or so of the fight to really see how effective Belfort’s forward pressure attack was, thereby validating the Wing Chun concepts of pressure and structure.  This clip is short, sweet and nasty-just like Wing Chun!  Check it out:

Now Vitor Belfort is not a Wing Chun stylist, but that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that his performance validates all of what Wing Chun is designed to do when trained and applied in the right way.

Belfort is not standing in a yee jee kim yeung ma.  His hands are not out in wu sau.

He is, however, applying forward pressure while moving forward in such a way that he is never top heavy.  He is balanced and his strikes are right to the center of Silva.

He is a steamroller, moving forward without mercy until Silva is out.

That is picture perfect Wing Chun theory and concept, and that is why Wing Chun -when properly applied in concept and execution-is so effective in both MMA and the street.

Give This A Whirl

This is a perfect drill for applying the “tent pole concept” idea for yourself.  It should not be done every class or every week for that matter, as it may detract from the other areas of technique and skill development but should be done approx. 1-2 times per month with full intent and attention so as to allow you to feel the real-world application and intensity of the techniques and principles drilled in class.

Wanna learn to use Wing Chun to kick ass and fight for real?  Try the following drills on for size, and CLICK HERE for all of the stuff you need listed below to get started on real-world training for self defense.

  • Have one person in the middle of a circle, wearing boxing headgear and MMA gloves.  This person will be the “defender.”
  • Begin with one “attacker” who will be wearing a face cage or motorcycle helmet and boxing gloves.
  • Using a Gymboss Interval Timer, set intervals of 30 seconds on with a 30 second rest.  The first round will have one “attacker” against the “defender.”  All the defender will do is create space by applying forward pressure and triangular structure either with a chain punch or palm strike.  Reset, and repeat for the 30 seconds.  Read my review on why this is such an integral part of your training arsenal HERE, and then go through with it, pick one up and start using it.
This little gem is your best buddy for realistic training, as it keeps the pace of training short, sweet and intense. CLICK HERE to pick one up and more importantly to start using it!

Does Wing Chun work in MMA?  Does it work in a real fight?

If trained the right way, YES.


Train Smart, Stay Safe

Sifu Bobby

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A WORD OF WARNING: I tend to speak and write how I think, so some of what I say may come across as insensitive, rough around the edges and maybe even a bit arrogant. If sarcasm, political incorrectness and occasional "naughty words" offend you, you may want to move on - but if you're serious about making your Wing Chun WORK, then fill out the fields above and let's get started!