Nothing is as frustrating as arguing with someone who knows what he’s talking about.
I had a comment from a reader with the ballsy name “Awesomeman.”
He said: “You should see the video in youtube called “is wing chun ineffective in a street fight for self defense” that guy called Shane was ignorant about wing chun, you should watch it and react to it.”
So I took a look. This video op-ed is from a young guy named Shane on a site called “FightTIPS.” Not sure exactly what his business is but it looks like online fight training?
There are a few problems I see with Shane’s video op-ed piece (problems symptomatic of our internet “discussion of fighting” culture) and I think he did one thing right.
The thing he did right was to refrain from being an asshole about his opinion and from insisting his opinion was the only only possible one.
So props to him — he gave his opinion and some supporting remarks (he sees problems with the Wing Chun footwork and with the efficacy of blocking “heavy haymaker or hook” punches with a block and attack action/ Tan type block).
But he didn’t launch into a bunch of name-calling and harsh words.
To some degree, Shane (and the commenters) were going over the usual UFC/MMA/K1 VS “fill-in-the-blank” classical martial art.
People love to put Wing Chun into this sort of comparison. There are many many people saying that in an MMA-syle vs Wing Chun fight, Wing Chun loses badly. Look at any random page on Bullshido and you’ll find this idea expressed with a lot of conviction.
But its really a false comparison.
Lets get real. When you make a statement like “Is Wing Chun Ineffective in a Street Fight for Self Defense” you are getting preeetty broad.
What are we really talking about here?
Are we talking a professional MMA fighter vs any Wing Chun practitioner? Are we talking people trained MMA-style with any degree of experience vs any Wing Chun trained person with any degree of experience?
Right there you are already all over the map.
How many possible combinations of fights are we talking about?
At one extreme, we have Jon Jones (Light Heaveyweight UFC champ) vs some Random Kid from up the street who trained at the community center taught by a guy who took Wing Chun for a year and a half when he was in college.
At the other extreme we have some guy in his fifties studying MMA-style techniques at some boutique gym (in between Yoga and Pilates classes) for a couple of years a couple of hours a week. He has done a little boxing and a little Muay Thai and six months of BJJ with someone who is a year ahead of him in their training, still working on his Blue Belt.
Lets put this guy in a street fight versus my teacher Greg LeBlanc.
Greg studied Wing Chun with one of the best guys in the world for seven years pretty much 24/7, 365 – so much training so that he ran into over-training issues and had to slow down a little.
He has since continued to refine his skill. He also has a respectable amount of Akido. Throw on top of that the serious weight training he’s been doing, packing on the muscle (doing power clean sets in the 150s and deadlifting 300+). He’s put years into conditioning his hands to prepare for striking skulls, hitting canvas bags filled with sand or beans so that when he hits the bag hard it makes a sound like when you hit it with a bat.
Who’ll win? Strip Mall MMA or Top Flight Wing Chun? Because (of course) the fate of these two approaches to fighting hinge on this single contest.
There are infinite variations on these hypothetical scenarios.
So saying categorically “Style A is not useful for the street” about any art is silly and reductionistic. The world is more complicated than these black and white assertions.
When we say “MMA” what do we mean? When we say “Wing Chun” what do we mean?
Shane says Wing Chun “neglects footwork…realistic footwork” and that when attacked, the “chin lifts” and under pressure Wing Chun “falls back on the back pedal.”
OK. Sounds like he is describing one fight and not a style or a way of thinking that is at least a hundred years old and has millions of practitioners. You pretty much cannot make any assertions about “Wing Chun” (or MMA for that matter). If you see some boxer on HBO drop his left and get caught with an overhand right, do you say “Boxing” drops the left and thus Boxing is vulnerable to head attacks?
MMA just means a mix of different arts. Its not really a single approach (any more than saying Wing Chun means anything very specific).
Various MMA fighters and their camps try different mixes of arts (usually BJJ and/or wrestling and Muay Thai and/or Western boxing). But there are fighters with heavy underpinnings of Karate, Judo, and Vale Tudo. There are many many flavors.
Wing Chun just means it has some relation to an approach to fighting that originated in Southern China as early as 1900. But you’ve got Wong Shun Leung, Pan Nam, Leung Ting, Hawkins Cheung, etc, etc, etc. They all do this and not that and many have mixed in other styles. Gary Lam added Muay Thai training. Others have added some BJJ or Tai Chi or Escrima. These different families have departed from each other in many significant ways, so much that in some cases, they are hardly the same at all.
The first form of Wing Chun I studied was nothing like the Wong Shun Leung-Gary Lam-Greg LeBlanc version I’m training now. Nothing like it. That approach was as different from what I’m doing now as Karate is from Judo.
Wing Chun is in many ways the original Mixed Martial Art, probably using techniques from Crane and Snake and Tai Chi to populate the idea set and philosophy (short range, attack the head, yield under certain conditions). They added weapons (pole and knife) to the curriculum at one point.
In regard to back pedalling, you do see a lot of this on Youtube.
If you see an MMA fighter back pedalling, is this the fault of the style? Its not the style’s fault, its a fighter making a mistake.
Its wrong (in my lineage). In the Wong Shun Leung style Wing Chun, we don’t “back peddle.” We call that “staying a target.”
Our strategy is to step in and attack. Under a lot of pressure, we might drop back half a step (Tiu Ma) at an angle and counter-attack from the new position (which is now a sort of flanking maneuver), similar to the way boxers circle, moving off the line and moving into an open position but still in striking distance.
In regard to the use of a block and hit defense against hooks and haymakers, I will put up some video soon demonstrating the efficacy of the tan shape against an attack of any force from an opponent of any size. Its not full-proof (nothing is) but it works pretty well, especially when you step in with it.
So ultimately this falls into the (very large) category of “the Wing Chun you see on Youtube” vs “Wing Chun properly executed by people with experience.” We are seeing more and more of the latter on Youtube and hopefully someday we will start to see a shift in attitudes about our style.
In the meantime, I don’t have much hope but it would be nice if people would realize the difference between making a statement about a specific person or even school and making a categorical statement about a whole style with thousands of variations of expression and hundreds of mixtures practiced by millions of people.
We need to keep in mind that. as writer Theodore Sturgeon once said, “90% of everything is shit.”
But that doesn’t mean everything is shit. It just means good stuff is always rare and the exception.
But hey, this kid Shane seems like a go-getter – he looks to be in his 20s and he is already putting out videos and driving traffic to his “MyFightGym” commercial site, which looks pretty professional. I couldn’t figure out where he is located or where he trained but it looks like he has good intentions and is just trying to make a buck and help people not get bullied.
I suppose a lot of styles that are not the MMA core (Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, BJJ) get disparaged on Youtube and I just see the Wing Chun ones because that’s what I am interested in.
Are there articles on how Esrima or Krav Maga or Kajukenpo don’t work on the street because they don’t work in MMA?