The transcript below is from the video “Does Kung Fu Work in Real Fights?” by Lawrence Kenshin Striking Breakdowns.

Lawrence Kenshin – Striking Breakdowns:

This is one of the most popular questions in martial arts… but no one has really featured it properly yet. Time to settle it once and for all–this feature is to differentiate the Kung Fu that works from the ones that don’t.

What is the difference between Kung Fu that doesn’t work and the kung fu that does work? Let’s explore that in this Striking Breakdowns episode.

Lawrence Kenshin – Striking Breakdowns:

So, does kung fu actually work? As someone who studies striking history, this is a common question I get. With the recent popularity of Ip Man…

[Scene from “Ip Man”]

…we are seeing a rise of interest in kung fu again. The real answer is yes and no. And to answer it, we need to go back in history.

People who advocate kung fu, often say that a punch is a punch and a kick is a kick. But not all punches and kicks are equal. Bad punches and bad kicks exist too. There are technical differences in all striking arts and we should respect the differences. Throughout the last 50 years, millions of matches have taken place in combat sports. We now know that muay thai and kickboxing are the two most applicable all elite fighters in MMA today practice muay thai and kickboxing.

[Videos of MMA fighters.]

Lawrence Kenshin – Striking Breakdowns:

Boxing, karate, and taekwondo are the secondary choices after muay thai and kickboxing. On its own, these arts all have significant flaws. These arts historically lost to thai boxers and kickboxers.

[Videos of boxing matches]

But there is one Chinese martial art that can stand with the best of muay thai and kickboxing. Its name is Sanda. Sanda is China’s most popular combat sport. It was invented by the Kuomintang, the former Nationalist Government of China in the 1920’s. After the transition to the communist party, the new Chinese government continued to make it into a national combat sport. This gave birth to what we know as the only Chinese martial arts that works in real combat.

Lawrence Kenshin – Striking Breakdowns:

As seen here, real life scenarios with practitioners testing and using their chosen art to compete or show their skills. Although, kung fu and other ancient martial arts may look aesthetically pleasing, the truth of the matter is, the majority of the time they are not as functional when applied in the real world.

To understand why Sanda works, we need to talk about the two other martial arts that make the four pillars of MMA. MMA is composed of four primary arts. Despite the differences, muay thai and kickboxing get lumped into one pillar. Then there’s boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling.

Lawrence Kenshin – Striking Breakdowns:

What do you notice about all five arts? All five arts actually spar very often to test the theories. As Bruce Lee says, discard what doesn’t work and keep what works. This is the very reason that Bruce Lee, a man who represented wing chun and kung fu, went on to become one of the founding fathers of modern MMA.

The key principle for a technique to survive, cannot be theoretical. It must be applicable. When people ask me whether kung fu works, what they’re asking about is the traditional forms of martial arts. You know the stuff seen in kung fu flicks, the types of techniques seen in Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen movies. But the thing is traditional kung fu does not spar often. And what it ends up producing is not skilled and not tested martial artists.

Lawrence Kenshin – Striking Breakdowns:

Although, muay thai is often hailed as the king of striking arts, some Sanda fighters have been successful in challenging the best of muay thai. Yuan YuBao. Bao Li Gao. And Liu Hailong. Some of the most dominant fighters within Sanda, have all beaten many top muay thai fighters. Cung Lee is a Sanda fighter that did well in MMA, competing in the UFC, Strike Force and other top tier MMA promotions. Also a former international kickboxing federation world champion with an undefeated record. Yi Long has also done well against many muay thai fighters. Despite claiming to be a Shaolin kung fu fighter, he is actually a Sanda fighter.

Lawrence Kenshin – Striking Breakdowns:

Unlike traditional kung fu, Sanda was a modern military art designed for battle. During the birth of Sanda, in the 1920’s, real matches happened. These matches were more like gladiator matches, rather than modern sport. The matches like the early days of muay thai, boxing and MMA were brutal but very real. Over time, Sanda filtered their own techniques and created what works. They also incorporated effective techniques from various disciplines. This gave birth to the only effective Chinese art with kung fu influence.

Lawrence Kenshin – Striking Breakdowns:

So, to answer the question, does kung fu work? Honestly, no. Traditional kung fu arts don’t work well in the ring. Time is better spent in any of the four pillars that make up MMA. And indeed Sanda belongs within one of those four pillars. A general rule of thumb, is to train arts that have been tested overtime and already proven within elite combat.

In our future video, we will explore the best Sanda fighters and how they did against other striking arts. My name is Lawrence Kenshin.

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