MMA is a sport where athletes can utilize techniques from all martial arts as long as these are within the official rules. But what about Wing Chun? Is Wing Chun legal in MMA?
Wing Chun techniques are legal in modern MMA, but to a certain degree. Most punches, kicks, knees, and elbows are legal if you throw them to the head and body. Self-defense tactics such as eye gouging and striking the groin area are not allowed and will disqualify you.
Does Wing Chun represent a good base for MMA? And are there any successful fighters utilizing this art at the highest level?
What Is Wing Chun?
Wing Chun is a Chinese martial art known as “Ving Tsun.” It falls into a group of Southern Chinese Kung Fu styles and represents a system developed for self-defense and freestyle fighting.
Wing Chun, as a concept, focuses on fast and precise striking. The emphasis is on narrow stances, quick movements in all directions, and targeting sensitive body areas with kicks, elbows, knees, and punches. It teaches you how to attack the opponent’s throat, neck, chest, and belly. Though brutal, these moves are very effective when your life is in danger.
The key is to intercept the opponent’s attack and use their force against them to protect yourself and do damage. Students learn how to rely on speed and precision, rather than power, to back off the attacker and overwhelm them with pressure.
The concept also adopts the idea of relaxation and learning how to stay calm in stressful situations. There is a part of training where students perform relaxation and soft techniques to reach a meditative state.
What is MMA?
As its name indicates, mixed martial arts combines grappling and striking techniques from various martial arts put into one system. It emerged as a combat sport and later became a martial art. It is a complex system, as fighters can engage on the feet and the ground.
The rules do not significantly impact the action’s fluidity nor favor one particular style. It is the closest humans have to legal street fighting or freestyle combat.
Fighters can strike each other with kicks, punches, knees, and elbows, take each other down, and submit using chokes and joint locks. Many variables and possible outcomes make MMA the most complex combat sport.
To win matches and succeed, each athlete must develop all-around skills and cover all the aspects of the sport. To achieve this, they usually train in the following four martial arts simultaneously:
- Muay Thai (striking and clinching)
- BJJ (ground fighting)
- Wrestling (takedowns and ground control)
- Boxing (footwork, head movement, and punches)
But what about Wing Chun?
Is Wing Chun Illegal In MMA?
Wing Chun is legal in MMA as long as the technique is not against the rules of modern MMA. Most Wing Chun hand and leg strikes are legal, practical and may improve a fighter’s chance of winning a match. However, certain parts of the Wing Chun concept are not legal, and here is why.
For example, the system emphasizes targeting pressure points on the body to cause as much pain and damage as possible with every strike. In a self-defense scenario, this is how you finish the fight and escape from trouble most efficiently.
However, MMA is a combat sport, not the street. And targeting specific body parts is not legal as it may cause serious, life-threatening injuries.
MMA fighters are not allowed to strike/poke each other in the eyes, throw kicks to the groins or elbow each other using specific angles. This certainly limits your abilities to use the full range of Wing Chun’s arsenal. Still, the majority of other techniques are legal.
Is Wing Chun Effective In MMA?
Wing Chun is present in modern MMA, and certain techniques and elements transition well into cage fighting.
However, the only fair answer is to say Wing Chun is less effective and technically advanced than other striking martial arts such as Boxing and Muay Thai. And this is the main reason why it is less popular and effective in cage fighting than these arts.
Overall, it all comes from the effort and time you put into training and the results you get. If your goal is to become an MMA fighter and develop a strong base in one martial art, then better options exist.
You can train in Wing Chun and develop specific skills that may help you in MMA to some degree. On the other hand, you can invest your time in training in a martial art such as Muay Thai or BJJ. You’ll develop superior skills and have much better chances of succeeding.
Pros of Wing Chun in MMA
Wing Chun emphasizes using elbows at close range and inside the clinch, which is very useful in cage fighting. MMA fighters often end up in a clinch position in the center or against the fence. Knowing how to utilize elbows or defend against these attacks could be a decisive factor.
Apart from the proper motion of the elbow strike, Wing Chun teaches you control of the opponent’s wrist and how to create openings. You also learn how to position yourself and generate force behind each strike.
However, Wing Chun focuses more on attacking the body because if you miss an elbow strike to the head, you end up turning your back to the attacker.
Wing Chun is about timing and intercepting the opponent’s attack with fast and direct blows to the body and head. In training, students learn how to read the opponent’s reactions and predict the attack in a split second.
They would drill and do live simulations until they stamped all the scenarios and patterns deep into their muscle memory.
This enables them to intercept the attack and hit the opponent. At the same time, they are off balance and position, which increases the force and does more damage.
Blocks and Counters
Blocks and deflections are a big part of Wing Chun training and the most critical defensive technique. Knowing how to block strikes keeps you safe from damage and allows you to follow up with a counter-attack.
The skills and techniques you develop are very practical in MMA, especially at close range. And unlike in other arts, many Wing Chun blocks and deflections can also be used for striking an opponent.
Cons of Wing Chun in MMA
The concept of self-defense
Wing Chun is a self-defense fighting system where students learn how to protect themselves in real life. You don’t learn how to obey the rules or develop fighting skills to win matches in the competition.
Instead, the focus is on real attacks you may encounter on the streets and finishing the match as fast as possible.
There is no preparation for multiple rounds or developing strength and fitness to perform over an extended period. So overall, the concept of Wing Chun is not ideal for the sport of MMA.
The lack of competition
Wing Chun does not involve competition where you can test your skills against other practitioners. This is a significant downside as you need to gain some competition experience before switching to MMA.
You need to learn to maintain focus and concentration while the crowd roars, cameras are filming, etc.
Not as advanced as other systems
Wing Chun’s training curriculum is standardized and hasn’t evolved much over time like in other martial arts. Students learn the same stances, striking techniques, movements, and principles, and there is little room for changes.
Though this approach has certain benefits, it caused Wing Chun to be surpassed by other, more advanced martial arts. The concept is not improving with time as in other striking arts such as Muay Thai and Boxing.
As a result, these arts teach better stances, movements, and striking techniques and have a more realistic approach to training.
Famous Wing Chun MMA fighters
In MMA history, there have been many fighters who have had a strong background in Wing Chun. In fact, the fighters from the following list are a great example of how practical certain Wing Chun techniques could be in MMA.
Tony Ferguson is the former interim UFC lightweight champion and one of the most violent fighters in history. His fighting style is very exciting mainly because he does not shy from using unorthodox techniques, including Wing Chun. This makes him very unpredictable and dynamic on his feet.
One of his specialties is to catch his opponents with elbow strikes at close range, and it is easy to see where he has developed this ability. Following him on social media, you can often see Ferguson doing Wing Chun workouts on the wooden dummy and sharpening his skills.
Anderson Silva is the former UFC middleweight champion and one of the most dominant fighters in history. Silva’s striking game was ahead of his time, and he used a unique mix of techniques from different arts, such as Taekwondo, Thai boxing, and Wing Chun.
Like Ferguson, he also uses a Wing Chun wooden dummy to drill elbow strikes and blocks. He had a lot of success utilizing these moves throughout his long career.
Jon Jones is the most dominant light heavyweight champion of all time, and his fighting IQ is off the charts. However, many fans fail to recognize that the origins of some of his trademark moves come from Wing Chun.
For example, Jones was the first to use kicks to the opponent’s knee, famously known as “oblique kicks,” a Wing Chun technique. He is also a master in controlling the opponents’ writs at close range before blasting them with elbows.
Can You Use Wing Chun In A Real Fight?
Wing Chun is a practical martial art, and the skills students develop might help them escape trouble in self-defense. Still, the teaching methods and overall quality of classes vary between the schools and countries.
But overall, Wing Chung gives you a solid understanding of real fighting.
The learning syllabus covers physical and mental aspects of combat and will make you capable of defending yourself.
You will develop solid fighting instincts, timing, and automatic reactions to execute specific fighting techniques. It is notably effective at close range and closed spaces such as a bar.
But make no mistakes about it. Wing Chun is not the most effective martial art. It works well against attackers who have not trained fighters and people similar to your skill level.
Final Thoughts On Wing Chun in MMA
Wing Chun is a very popular martial art practiced by millions worldwide. But due to its heavy emphasis on self-defense, lack of competition, and standardized learning syllabus, it does not represent an ideal MMA base.
Certain techniques, such as elbows, knees, and blocks, work well. But other martial arts like Muay Thai and Boxing are more practical overall.
Wing Chun represents a great introduction to the world of martial arts. You will learn proper self-defense techniques and improve strength and endurance. If you are interested, go for it, as you can always switch to more advanced combat systems later on your journey.