Sifu Martin Brogaard -Wing Chun vs MMA

A lot of people are skeptical about Wing Chun’s practicality, because no practitioners of Wing Chun have performed well in MMA. To dissolve this skepticism, I think it is important to shed some light on this topic.

All martial artists are limited by their perspective and the way they train. It is often said, “never box a boxer and never wrestle a wrestler”. If you fight an opponent on his turf, he is likely to win.

A lot of people have asked me: “do you think a top Wing Chun practitioner could beat a top MMA practitioner?” The answer is simple; it depends on the terms. In a cage or a ring, under MMA rules, the MMA practitioner will most likely win. The MMA practitioner can make use of the cage or ring and keep the distance and attack from the outside or take the fight to the floor where he has superior experience.

But in a small room or a crowded place, the Wing Chun practitioner has the advantage. He can make use of the lack of space so the MMA practitioner cannot keep his distance and use feints or surprise attacks.

He can keep the MMA practitioner at punching distance, where he has superior experience. MMA strategies favour moving in and out of range, bobbing and weaving, using feints for takedowns, ground-and-pound and submissions.

If the MMA practitioner is out of reach, the Wing Chun practitioner can think of using the battlefield and improvised weapons or he can move to an area with less space to move around.

To really get the full perspective, you have to understand the way MMA and Wing Chun differ and what they have in common.

Commonalities between Wing Chun and MMA:

This comparison is based on high quality Wing Chun and high quality MMA. It requires an understanding of both fighting systems.

1 – Both systems take into account the distance/range of an unarmed fight, even though their preferences are different.

2 – Both focus on the most effective way to fight under the expected terms.

3 – Both share many of the same training parameters e.g. positioning, control, precision, balance, stability, flexibility, relaxation, endurance, power, force, coordination, speed, distance, timing, momentum, fluidity, adaptability, agility, creativity, tactile and visual reflexes and breathing.

4 – Both include the mental aspects e.g. positive expectations and staying in control of your inner dialog and your behaviour.

5 – Both focus on economy of motion and on using the whole body as a tool for offensive and defensive moves.

6 – Both focus on continuous effective attacks to vulnerable targets.

7 – Both focus on exploiting advantages, positioning and manipulation of the opponent’s balance.

8 – Both use adaptability to handle the opponent’s superior power or positioning.

9 – Both focus on optimal body mechanics in their techniques.

10 – Both focus on a safe distance and surprise attacks.

Differences between Wing Chun and MMA

Wing Chun’s reputation has suffered due to poor representation on the Internet. Three things have been misunderstood. First, people think that the low quality Wing Chun they see on the Internet represents the true art.

There is also a lack of understanding of the fundamental principles of the system as well as the strategies and biomechanics behind the techniques.

Finally, there is lack of exposure of quality masters using it in combat. It is difficult to show Wing Chun’s true effectiveness without really hurting somebody, and no one should be sacrificed to make a point.

If people are really interested, they can understand Wing Chun’s effectiveness by spending time testing it with a high level Wing Chun practitioner.

As a metaphor; “you don’t have to shoot somebody to prove a gun works, you just have to understand how the gun works”.

This is one of my goals – to help the world see the efficiency and effectiveness of this amazing close combat system, and to make it accessible for anyone with the right attitude and mind-set.

Things Wing Chun can learn from MMA

You have to integrate some kind of full contact situational sparring to get a sense of how it feels physically and mentally when the opponent does not hold back.

You also have to train against somebody who is skilled in the kind of attacks you most likely will encounter in a real fight e.g. feints, circular kicks and punches, throws/ takedowns and ground fighting. This does not mean that you should use these techniques. But you should train against somebody who knows how to use them.

Things MMA can learn from Wing Chun

The Body mechanics of Wing Chun´s defensive tactics in punching range could have great benefits if adapted within clinching / trapping range (Chi Sau principles).

At this range, Wing Chun has ideal structure for stability, mobility, shock absorption, short power generation, redirection of force and structure manipulation. The punching distance can then be a controlled distance which can provide an advantage for the fighter with less weight, reach, power or speed, provided he has trained to mastery.

Economy of motion such as, simultaneous movements with short power generation could also be adapted. In todays MMA, most stand-up fighting techniques are inspired by Boxing, Kick Boxing or Muay Thai, where the techniques are based on strikes and blocks, wearing boxing gloves.

Then you have bare-knuckle arts like full-contact Karate, where punching is primarily aimed at the chest. All of these arts have a similar paradigm when it comes to striking distance. They rely on visual reactions and not in controlling the “bridge”. Their attempt at control is the clinch or the takedown, because their game is largely inspired by Wrestling, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu.

This is another one of my goals – to help talented and skilled MMA fighters integrate principles from Practical Wing Chun in their skillset. This would allow them to take their opponents into unfamiliar territory and beat them there.

It is not about changing the MMA fighter’s skillset, but more about increasing their skill set to bring new opportunities to their game. This could bring a whole new dimension to the MMA scene and re-establish Wing Chun’s good reputation. Ω

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  • Michael Nedderman

    I can’t believe that the author, sifu Martin Brogaard, completely missed the BIGGEST reason MMA fighters dominate in the UFC–the rules favor them, that’s why!

    How do you stop a grappler? You gouge out his eyes which he can’t protect as he is wrapping his arms around you, that’s how!

    Please note that the first 19 rules at the link below all keep non-grapplers from stopping grapplers–grapplers are a protected species of fighter! I understand why they have to have those rules, to keep the injuries and, therefore, the insurance rates down, but don’t tell me that MMA is better unless they fight without the protection of those rules. Such a comparison, and the conclusion that MMA is, ipso facto, better than Wing Chun, or any other martial art, is not honest.

    Rules aside, what about the context of MMA fights? How would the grapplers do against multiple opponents? I have a Blackbelt Magazine column written by Royce Gracie stating that he wouldn’t take anyone to the ground if confronted with multiple opponents–can you blame him?

    No! This debate isn’t honest because it omits the most obvious defects in the “MMA is the best” position–that it is the “protected” martial art.


  • Wing Chun is pretty powerful and the comparison to MMA has merit for sure. It all comes down to the people using their skills and not to the styles themselves imho.

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