Sparring should not be seen as fighting, it should be seen as an opportunity to build more trust in what we do.


Ben Judkins in his excellent blog ‘Kung Fu Tea’ recently wrote about the current trend in debunking Traditional Chinese Martial Arts as fake, here is a link to an article that is well written from a man that does his homework and it is well worth reading.

But this is not what I wish to talk about in this space.

In a couple of days, I am taking two of my students to spar with a local Karate School, this is their idea, not mine and I salute them for it.

This post is mostly for them, but there is something here we would all do well to consider.

We have been preparing for what may come on Thursday evening, but we have no idea what that might be, and it has been raising some concerns in my guys.

More than once they have commented that what we do does not appear to work.

To avoid partisan argument let’s just say O.K. Kung Fu is fake and it doesn’t work.

So what?

Compared to others in the Wing Chun community my way of teaching is very physical, almost hard, everything we do is from the MARTIAL aspect of the style and not from the ART aspect.

We train to fight.

So it may surprise you to hear me say ‘So what’ to the claims of fakery.

I am in my mid-sixties and in that time I have had quite literally hundreds of fights.

I started boxing at 7 years and have been active in one style or another since then, Boxing and Judo were my deepest involvement until I took up Wing Chun, competition is a large part of both Boxing and Judo, hence the number of fights.

My formative years in Liverpool in the U.K. where full of violence, not that anyone saw it that way, in the post-war world solving differences with your fists was considered the natural way to sort things out, the semi-mystical Biemo of Hong Kong rooftops was happening all over Europe in all high schools and youth clubs.

I am not in any way boasting when I say I have had so many fights, it is just a statement of fact, anyway it would only be boasting if I said I won them all.

I most certainly did not.

So I have had a lot of fights, in the ring, on the mat and in the street, this was over many years, in these fights I used more than just a few Martial Art Styles and in general none of them where the right tool for the job I was involved in at that time.

None of them worked the way I hoped and expected them too.

That is the point.

Let’s take a parallel view.

I did an apprenticeship as a Chef where I was lucky enough to receive very good instruction in very good hotel kitchens from very good tradesmen and I learned my lessons well, I was at least as good as any of my contemporaries.

Over the next 20 years as I moved from 5-star hotel kitchen to 5-star hotel kitchen, from city to city from country to country my excellent training was never quite enough, there was always a steep and instant learning curve to be endured.

I have no reason to think that this would not be the same in other industries, other trades, other professions.

Most of us know from personal experience that this is, in fact, the case.

New job = new problems.

What made us into decent perhaps exceptional tradesmen was our ability to take our somewhat inadequate training and find a way to make it work in this new environment.

How else can knowledge evolve if it is not tested to breaking point?

How often is it that it is only once our training has been broken and we improve, repair, reinforce what failed that it works at all.

No two fights {or jobs}  are ever the same, even if our training is spot on for the first it will not suit the second or third.

It should be a total ‘no brainer’ that going into a fight with some training, any training, even the wrong training is better than going into a fight with no training.

It is easier to trust in something we know than it is to just hope things go well.

The hidden strength and power of training in the Martial Arts, any style be it, Wing Chun, Judo, Boxing or Karate is that we learn how to trust what we know.

If you do not trust it why would you ever choose to use it?

I was trained to cook in the French tradition, when I worked in Italy I cooked Italian recipe´s in the French manner, it raised a few eyebrows but the results stood up to the taste test of an opinionated Italian Executive Chef, I worked in Spain, Africa, Greece and had the same experience.

Ironically I had the biggest problems when I worked in France, it is a lot easier to poke holes in something you know deeply, think that you own it somehow, just like in Kung Fu, Form can be seen as more important than Function.

In Italy and the rest how it tasted was of more importance than how it was made.

Fighting is not about style, fighting is not about training, usually, it is decided by luck, but as Gary Player pointed out to a snarky spectator that accused him of making a lucky shot, “the more I train the luckier I get”.

Sparring should not be seen as fighting, it should be seen as an opportunity to build more trust in what we do.

We should not approach it with the thought of how do I stop my opponent from doing his thing, but rather how do I find a way to do my thing.

In life, it is trusting ourselves and what we have that gets things done.





3 thoughts on “KUNG FU IS FAKE, SO WHAT?”

  1. Also…and this is NEVER brought up or even thought of when some brash young MMA guy challenges some old kung fu master on YouTube…what if this was reversed? What if some strong, young and hungry 20 something Wing Chun fighter that had natural talent as well as enjoyed the art and that also enjoyed actual fighting challenged an old MMA trainer? Would everyone say that MMA is “fake” and “doesn’t work” etc when the young, hungry opponent beat the older less testosterone-filled one? Or would they finally begin to understand that each fight and each fighter is different?
    They see an elbow in a fight and it must be Muay Thai. They see a joint lock and it’s only from Brazilian Jujitsu (never mind traditional jujitsu – just Brazilian). They see a takedown and in their limited mind it’s only from wrestling hardly ever from judo or any of the other combative arts that have the very same or similar throws within them. Wing Chun has joint locks and trips and throws and elbows (like many arts do) but they just cannot see it possibly because there have been bullshido (fake) “masters” that have been caught faking it…Idk. Either way these folks don’t seem to comprehend that many Wing Chun practitioners have done other arts like Muay Thai, jujitsu, western boxing, etc and STILL have seen the value and intelligence and directness (seen and experienced the great benefit) of Wing Chun and kung fu training. They also conveniently ignore guys like Anderson Silva (just one of the greatest fighters in the MMA ring ever) that is a Wing Chun practitioner and has used it in the ring to defeat non Wing Chun practitioners.
    Maybe they haven’t heard Bruce Lee’s wise quote, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, and add what is essentially your own.”


    1. One of the points made is that a person with genuine fighting ability will always be able to make T.C.M.A. work, but as for ordinary folk it is not so effective, here is a sad fact of Wing Chun, most people training it are ordinary people but they are sold a Pig in a Poke by too many so-called Masters and the Kung Fu Movie Industry. I have attended seminar/workshops with some of the most respected Masters in the world where all that was spoke about or taught was about the way to train Wing Chun and nothing about how to use it. In general, most people, including a very large percentage of the Wing Chun community do not understand the essence of what Wing Chun is, as a result they never use it correctly and are surprised when it fails. I agree with what you say about most comments being in favour of M.M.A. over Kung Fu, the thing is they are usually correct.


      1. Yes, I agree. Those that box or do jujitsu or Muay Thai or almost any form or MMA are getting to apply numerous tactics and techniques in sparring situations and in close to “real” fight scenarios when there is a ref and a ring or octagon involved. Many folks doing Kung Fu think they are learning some deadly skill but in reality they often may not even have cardio enough to go one round in a boxing or MMA gym let alone handle a criminal or two that jump them in the street. Wing Chun can be deadly and effective or it can be beautiful and almost useless in a real fight or when sparring or fighting in a ring/octagon…it varies practitioner to practitioner

        Liked by 1 person

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