Too deadly for my shirt.

I’d like to take this opportunity to debunk another myth that infests the world of Wing Chun, and probably other crappy martial arts.

We’ve all heard the one that goes “I couldn’t enter the UFC/PRIDE/MMA/DONKEY PUNCH CONTEST because my moves are just too deadly. Lots of my favourite, killer techniques (eye gouge, throat strike, groin smash, nipple twist, whatever) are illegal in those barbaric sports contests.”

Thankfully, I’ve seen less of this kind of thing around lately, perhaps because people are realising they can’t stand behind this paper-thin excuse for an excuse.

So, let’s just set aside for a moment the casual and incredibly unrealistic way in which these idiots are speaking about permanently maiming another human being and get to the core of the statement. The follow up to this usually outlines how, on the street, when faced with “life or death situations”, they would instantly resort to the above manouvres in order to defend themselves. They usually finish their sentence with some kind of graphic flourish like “thus rendering the assailant incapacitated/maimed/unable to continue/peeved/with a nasty chinese burn.”

You know, there must be a lot of wing chun masters in prison. I mean, these guys are trained killers, right? They are not afraid to poke you in the eye or chop you in the throat! They WILL incapacitate you with their deadly catalogue of blows! They will go STRAIGHT FOR YOUR NUTS LIKE A RABID DOG/LLAMA!

But wait. A cursory glance at any wing chun forum, or a friendly chat with one of these killers, will reveal the following. If you press them about their street experiences, and if they have any, guess what? They never killed anyone. They never poked anyone’s eyes out. They never popped anyone’s pink kiwis. They’ve never done hard time for incapacitating or maiming or rendering anyone unable to eat cheese for the rest of their pathetic life hooked up to a life support machine.

In fact, if you press them harder, they might tell you what they did do in their street confrontation. And it usually involves something like punching someone in the face. Or defending against a punch. Or throwing a wild kick. Or maybe, if you are lucky, elbowing someone in the head. All pretty solid techniques (and techniques that are, coincidentally, allowed in most MMA competitions). Where are all the eyeball/finger kebabs? Where are the mangled trachea stories? Where are the shattered kneecaps, broken shins, crushed testicles?


Then, there’s the question of how often these deadly techniques are practiced.

I never once in my four years of wing chun realistically practiced gouging anyone’s eyes out or even poking them in the eye. I don’t know what it feels like when my rigid knife hand crushed pathetic neck bones under its iron weight. I talked about it a lot, though.

I did, however, practice tens of thousands of punches. Why, then, did I allow myself to be convinced that the first thing I would do on the street would be to try to stab my fingers into someone’s eyes?

And why would I instantly abandon those straight punches that I had worked so hard on, the minute the rules forbade me poking someone in the eye? Why not just use my precious straight punches?

Wing Chun Thinking™, that’s why.


17 Responses

  1. Another good article!

  2. Ah,

    A thinking mans Wing Chun. You know with this type of Hard hitting journalistic view out there in the world we may just be looking at the end of all the major news publications of America:
    The NY Times, Wallstreet Journal etc…

    By the way is that a LLAma, or Lama?

    both very well know for nerd chewing…

  3. It’s Llama, Lawrence. Look it up.

    Cor blimey, it’s not like a Wing Chun man to concoct a straw man arguement, is it? /sarcasm

    Since when was I trying to usurp the major news corporations’ position in the world or news reporting? I’m just letting people know about the supreme crapness of Wing Chun.

    But wait… let me guess. Your particular brand of wing chun doesn’t suck. All the others do. AND I didn’t spend enough time in the system. AND you practice for health reasons and not just for fighting. AND so on and so on.

    Why don’t you try refuting some of my points instead of failing at comedy?

  4. mmabbj there is alot of hostility regarding Wing Chun on your blog and whether or not it is as deadly as it says it is, while there is no doubt that some of these techniques are lethal if applied properly I think the best strategy is to use what works and most importantly to apply intelligence to any confrontational situation. It is a common fact that 90 percent of fights end up on the ground therefore it is essential to have a ground game as well as stand up. Alot of the mumbo jumbo some of these wing chun guys say is crap and they can preach all day but this would not wash with me. Being a black belt in wado ryo karate and a yellow belt in kickboxing and a BJJ student I believe the more well rounded you are the more options you would have against a wing chun man or a drunken yob. For example check this kung Fu practitioner against royce Gracie:

    Sometimes these extreme moves like eye gouges are just not applicable when you change the circumstances.


  5. Sounds like good advice to me, Damien.

  6. To be fair, competitions where fighters meet on a soft, solid, even surface with good lighting and metres of space does favour groundfighting. The ground basically begs to be played on.

    To use WC as an example of kung fu, that art is commonly thought to have been used in close quarter fighting in Chinese hutongs (alleys) which would leave little room for the moves described in that video where fighters are scrambling over the top of each other and rolling around.

    Would WC vs BJJ in a dark alleyway on broken pavement or a crowded train carriage tell a different story?

  7. Anon, wing chun is close range striking art.

    But there’s one thing with a closer range… grappling!

    Actually, I’m not really one to comment on specific self defense examples any more because a) real fighting is so unpredictable and b) I suck at it.

    I know my BJJ is done on a soft mat. I know we spend most of our time starting from the knees. I am not very confident that I could pull off any kind of clean takedown on “teh street” without possibly injuring myself. Hence why I don’t tell everyone to go out and take BJJ as your only or primary means of self defense.

    The skills gained from the sport of BJJ will toughen you up and will likely give you the advantage in situations where you and your attacker are clinched, wrestling with each other (figuratively speaking), or on the ground. But you need to be able to punch to win a fight, IMO.

    Having said that, there is a great video on the Gracies in Action series where the Gracies challenged a local karate school. The karate guys chose a venue with a hardwood floor, thinking it would foil the grappler’s tactics. However, in every fight, the grapplers dumped the karate guys on the floor in very painful ways and basically smushed them into the hard ground from the top position for a while before submitting them.

    My plan is 1) don’t get into a fight. 2) If I do, hope that I’ve done enough Shooto by then to know how to punch properly. 3) Should I end up on the ground, I will know what to do thanks to BJJ.

  8. Well my post is about competition conditions not the street applications.

    We take large, padded, well-lit floors ie the typical ‘ring’ setup as the undisputed testing ground for martial arts. All competitions have rules which limit techniques to make it fairer for participants. But the battleground remains unquestioned and the biases I mentioned above become invisible. The ring, because of its plainness, comes to be seen as an empty, non-discriminatory space where anything can succeed. But plainness can exclude styles or at least dull their potency.

    I think this is because of the economics of fighting sports. Spectators can’t see the ring if it is too dark and hard, uneven floors would be too dangerous to justify the promotion costs and would not attract professional fighters who need comfortable conditions which favour regular competition.

    To be truly fair, there would be more than one ring.

    I propose, as an alternative design, a ring shaped like a rectangular canal dug into the ground. It is 4m deep, 10m long and 2m wide. The floor comprises broken tiles. The air in the canal is heated to 40 degrees Celcius.

    It is easy to see this setup favours small, light fighters with straight, non-pivoting attacks. Many people would say it is unfair. But I doubt those people would say that of the typical ring. I doubt they would question that its plainness is itself biased towards certain attacks, like grappling or ‘ground and pound’ tactics.

    This is why the claims of short-range, stand-up trapping styles like WC of being ill-suited for ring competitions do hold some merit.

  9. With all due respect (gah, I hate posts that start with that! peace mate…)

    In my own opinion, the problem of WC not being suited for ring competition is not so much characteristics of the style (short range, trapping), but more the way it is trained. Your average wing chunner, training forms, chi sau and occasional sparring, just can’t compete with people that train hardcore weights, cardio, endurance, flexibility, alongside an intense program of striking, wrestling and submissions.

    I agree that we mustn’t go too far on the other end of the spectrum and see MMA as the be all and end all. I don’t… the ring or octagon is still a pretty cozy environment (padded ground, doctors, and of course, the ability to tap at any time.) In fact, the days of using MMA as a way to test your style are pretty much over… Most people realise that you just can’t get by with any one style now. People often “represent” their style, be it BJJ (Noguiera), wrestling (Minowa), muay thai (Anderson Silva), Judo/Sambo (Fedor), murderous kickboxing (CroCop), BUT they know that they need to become somewhat proficient in all ranges just to even compete.

    I don’t like the latest trend of various kung fuers or other stand-up proponents holding up famous strikers like Chuck Lidell or Mirko Cro Cop and saying “Look! Strikers can beat grapplers! My training is vindicated!” whereas in actual fact, Lidell wrestled his whole life, has, I think, a purple belt in BJJ, and regularly trains grappling just to be able to defend himself against them. Likewise, an integral part of CroCop’s training is on the ground, with a very well-known BJJ black belt.

    However, when you compare ring fighting / sport fighting methodology with most TMA training methodology, it is clear that while neither will perfectly prepare you for street self defense, MMA training usually creates the better fighter, hand to hand, one to one.

    Why, for example, could a WC person not enter a muay thai competition and succeed? Standup style, elbows, knees, punches and kicks all allowed to all areas of the body except eyes and groin. The loss of these two targets does not make the entire exercise useless suddenly. Often in my old WC classes we would practice defense against a punch. Defense against a kick. Defense against an elbow. Resonding with punches and kicks of our own–all actions which are perfectly legal in a muay thai bout.

    If it is as effective as they say it is, why not prove it?

    Actually and somewhat by chance coming full circle, I think it is because of the reason I said above–it is not the techniques that are the problem but the training methodology.

    And to conclude, there is no reason at all why a WC person cannot commit himself to a much more vigorous style of training and compete, and succeed, in various types of sportfighting competitions.

  10. Those who claim WC is better than other martial arts should compete in MMA competitions.

    But you’ve just said in your post that only cross-training can produce good fighters these days. So of course, pure WC fighters would hesitate.

    But if the ring *is* inherently biased as I mentioned previously, then WC must change if it wants to win ie it must become more like the sports which succeed in that ring. This might mean swapping forms and trapping practice for lots of punching and kicking on bags and sparring. After all that, is it still WC? Did WC fighters in the 16th century use plyometrics and rowing machines? One might very well learn Muay Thai instead.

    And if the ring format is biased then, well, why should they bother?

    It helps to think of the other extreme: WC schools that are so obsessed with competition they strip the art down to minimalist demands of learning to hit as hard as possible, throwing away forms, traditional names and respect for family lineages. I think the fear of losing these historical and cultural aspects makes schools hesitate to commit to competition.

    I’ve said previously I would like to attend a WC school with decent conditioning, sparring and regular competition participation. But I would do so knowing that what I was learning would have little true WC left. Asking WC to succeed in the ring, ultimately, is to Westernise it, and make it more like other arts.

    In most kung fu competitions, you won’t see sparring. You will see a demonstration of forms which looks something like the artistic gymnastic events at the Olympics. Fighting ability is only a small aspect of what kung fu is and what the art is expected to instill in the practitioner. So perhaps the notion of mixed martial arts competitions as an event that only tests fighting is already unfair. Most kung fu practitioners I know couldn’t give a toss about fighting; the art means other things to them and they are entitled to it.

    And would a boxer compete in a kung fu competition like what I just described? Well I am a boxer and I’d say probably not but I’d probably still pay to watch it 🙂

  11. Paradox, innit… what is “true” wing chun, considering it differs from school to school?

    If you trained and competed in MMA, and ended up with a stripped down, effective version of WC, would it still be WC? Or just “wing chun for mma competition”?

    Would it be better than “real” (unmodified) wing chun?

    It is indeed a sticky subject.

    Here’s a thought though… BJJ, muay thai, western boxing, and wrestling, are fighting skills that can easily be transferred to MMA with little or no modification.

    The fact that wing chun would apparently need to be excessively modified tells us one of 2 things… 1) It is a useless fighting art with little or no grounding in reality OR 2) MMA is not really fighting. I’m not sure of the answer…

    I totally understand, appreciate and don’t mind people who follow martial arts to better their health, mental outlook, etc. I just don’t like it when those same people, or people who train in that way, make outrageous claims about fighting ability.

  12. True mate, and those claims happen too often and from the wrong people.

    To be fair, there’s probably a good share of arrogant dickheads in the mma camp too.

    Touche on the ‘true’ WC as it’s probably been modified already as it was passed down through the generations. But there’s a difference between adding personal tweaks and flourishes to the style and stripping down so it becomes a tool to achieve *this* or *that*.

    What we can conclude from WC’s need to be excessively modified is that we might have to step back and examine our own assumptions of what a ‘martial art’ is. Does WC fail on its own merits or are our standards unfair? Are we trying to squeeze all martial arts into a box that is overly influenced by fighting sports and competition? I feel most mma enthusiasts tend to magnify the ‘martial’ and reduce the ‘art’. Kung fu, remember, means ‘hard work’ in Mandarin Chinese and describes an abstract cultural work ethic rather than techniques of self-defence. It describes a wholeness of character, not just how well one fights (although that’s a really nice bonus!)

    Put it this way: if you met 1. a WC practitioner who fought pathetically but behaved like a gentleman and lived nobly and 2. a title-holding MMA fighter who spoke callously, bullied women and sold drugs; who is the better martial artist? What does it mean to be ‘better?’ Pure fighting ability?

    My personal view is: all martial arts are great and it is better to study any martial art honestly, be it WC, Wu Shu or White Crane gongfu than none at all. I believe all martial artists should respect each other because we are all striving for the same thing; to discipline and master our bodies and minds, even if our paths to that goal are different.

  13. Did you read my post about “saviours of wing chun?”

  14. Yes. Why do you ask?

  15. Not much discussion here.

    I’m checking out. Bye.

  16. Eh? No discussion? What about the 14 posts above? Are you waiting for a lengthy reply from me? Gimme a chance!

    Saviours of wing chun is a post about a group of people doing exactly what we have been discussing… making wing chun about fighting again.

    Hmm, are you a different Anon to the normal Anon? I’m confused. Are you my mummy?

  17. That’s ok mate.

    I’ll head back into the thread when you have a reply.

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