The purpose of this article is to look at some things happening in the world of martial arts that you may have not spotted, in particular Shaolin Kung Fu.
By the end I hope you might understand not only why I feel that Kung Fu Techniques will be seen more in MMA but why it could grow to the same popularity as BJJ over the next few years ( I am well aware that Kung Fu used to be huge). I will also examine the new science which shows the unique health benefits that arts such as Kung Fu Might possess.
It is in article that has just under 2000 words and is heavy on video so please take your time to read and enjoy the article. I also might point out that I do not do Kung Fu. I am a former boxer, Judo black belt and Vale Tudo guy. So I think to have an outsiders view on Kung Fu and offer some incite might be useful for other non Kung Fu people.
When I was a little by I was obsessed by the David Carradine show Kung Fu. It was the story of a Shaolin Monk who went off and had little adventures week by week (or that's at least how I remember it). Back then Kung Fu was the art to be reckoned with and Shaolin Kung Fu in particular was the art that was the Grand Daddy of them all.
I had images of the Shaolin Monastery in my mind as being some kind of voluntary harsh labour camp where in exchange for mopping floors you were taught how to become a fighting machine.
I was pretty sure that if you wanted to be tough then you needed to be a Shaolin Monk or certainly learn Kung Fu at least.
My thoughts on Kung Fu became more intense over the years simply because I kept reading more about it in magazines such as Martial Arts Illustrated. I recall seeing guys wearing motor cycle helmets in training and was like "they must hit really hard" however I really lost any interest because when I was about 15 UFC Fever hit the world and everyone became a grappler over night.
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I ended up getting a copy of UFC 2 on video and saw a a range of martial arts including Kung Fu get owned by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner Royce Gracie and ultimately this did end up fuelling my grappling journey later in life.
However recently I have been hearing, seeing and learning things that makes me think that Kung Fu and in particular Shaolin Kung Fu has a lot more to offer and because of one fighter we may see a huge increase in Kung Fu uptake again. I will explain why here:
There are lots of kung fu styles out there and to be honest I know next to nothing about any of them, however there are 2 that have always caught my eye. The first of course is the Shaolin Style and the next is Wing Chun.
Wing Chun first came to my attention when reading about Jeet kune Do and I liked it. I was a boxer those days and straight punches were my thing, speed of hand with correct technique is so misunderstood by most martial artists but to be honest I could never find enough footage of Wing Chun in action to warrant any belief in it as a fighting system. Yes it made sense to me, straight and fast punches on a single line. However when you can watch Mike Tyson destroy people on boxing Videos and watch Royce Gracie Tap out everyone in a cage your whole reference point or belief system on what works 'for real' can easily be determined on sports martial arts alone.
Now I wont lie, my closet love for Kung Fu was further enhanced by watching the new Ip Man films of which Mike Tyson is going to star in Ip Man 3. However the scene where by Ip man takes on a load of karate guys and whoops them is now part of the all time great fighting scenes. Take a look at it below:
Now you could forgive me for being a bit romanticised by this clip but a short while ago a bit of real life Karate v Wing chun footage came across my desk and I was shocked by what I saw. Wing Chun Kung Fu in action and yes it was amazing!!! Take a look:
It was all there, the Wing Chun stance, the calm solid fighting style and of course the superb chain punching. Wing Chun really did look amazing in the video.
So where am I going with this?
Yes I really do see the appeal of these classical arts, they are direct, powerful and fast! Whats not to like?
But hold on I said that Shaolin Kung Fu and Wing Chun could be bigger than BJJ this year didnt I! Yes I did so let me explain.
A young fighter named Yi Long who many say is a Shaolin Monk has been gaining a huge on line following recently. His very destinctive style in the ring and combined with his look certainly have drawn a lot of fans to watch his fights. The video below shows him in action and is a great fight to watch where he stops his opponent. His takes on a Muay Thai fighter in this match.
The next big fight Yi Long has signed will be to face the Muay Thai Tree Destroyer known as Buakaw Banchamek which takes place in June 2015 . Buakaw is one tough fighter and perhaps is most famous for his hugely popular video showing him kicking down a tree which I have included in this post:
This is the Mayweather v Pacquiao of the martial arts, a superfight that could be amazing.
But what if Yi Long wins? Well let me tell you this the world will start to go ever so Kung Fu mad again because when you add to this Mike Tyson starring in Ip Man 3 with Donnie Yen then we will yet again be gripped by Kung Fu mania.
I hear what you are saying, this is all great in sport but its not MMA or Self Defence, so do the techniques work in those arenas?
Well if we take MMA which is heavily designed for the grappler then I would say all it takes is one very good wing chun person to enter the cage with some basic grappling and dominate.
How?- Well in MMA fights which have now become kind of repetitive, we see a lot of missed opportunities on the cage where people are wrestling for position. This is the ideal moment for wing chun chain strikes to be used, fast strikes that score punches and cause a lot of facial damage. Everyone is looking for the take down or defending the take down. They are not seeing the opportunity to land these shots.
Ground defence? In a fight where one person is a great take down artist and the other is a striker we have usually seen the striker taken down and submitted. But why? The answer lies in a lack if training on the ground. Now whilst Kung Fu people do not heavily focus on ground techniques there is grappling in Kung fu! Some very devastating forms as well. We just havent seen it in the UFC as of yet. It doesnt mean that it isnt out there.
In the video below I have included a some footage form a guy who trains in a variety of arts but here he is training in Chinese grappling. Looks a lot like Judo, and I am aware that many Kung Fu styles have this type of training incorporated into their systems. You just dont get to see them very often, but once we do it could really change the way people feel about Kung Fu and MMA.
Now there are of course a lot of if buts and maybes in this post, well that is because we have yet to see a truly world class Wing Chun or Kung Fu person enter MMA. When it happens I truly believe it will be something special.
But what about self defence?
This is a good question can Kung Fu work in self defence? Err hell yeah. Kung Fu really can work in self defense situations, just check this video of these Kung Fu Cops in action:
This is a fantastic video because you will start to see the great variety of ranges that Kung Fu has, from grappling to striking.
One of the most interesting aspects of Kung Fu is its strength and conditioning aspects. Shaolin Kung Fu has become known for its Iron Shirt training whereby the internal energy and organs are strengthened, however there methods of basic training are still very impressive.
We see lots of body weight work, lots of stretching and I guess you good argue its like a fighting version of 'free running'. This is a hidden element in kung fu, yes we may not see the same type of training as in an MMA club but that doesnt mean they don't have strength and conditioning routines Check the videos below:
We have seen exercises like this across the world now in modern fitness clubs and classes, but the horse stance, rapid and explosive movements combined with fighting techniques are excellent strength and conditioning drills well worth exploring.
To finish off we will also look at another reason we might see a huge uptake in Kung Fu students. For me this is the mind and body focus on training.
In a world where we rush around, we now have very little time for strong mental exercise. We are seeing our senses bombarded with a range of different stimulus and to be honest my own brain very often aches each day when I sit down at night.
So is it any wonder that now science has started to prove that things like meditation and internal energy might actually exist and have huge potential to impact on our health. They arent sure how or why this is happening but it does.
This article on IFL Science is a fact based article that discusses the use meditation on Cancer patients and how the mind can directly change our bodies on a cellular level. It is just one of thousands of articles out there on the subject which I will be examining in detail over the coming months.
So if martial arts like Kung Fu and Shaolin Kung Fu place a heavy focus on meditation and the mind body experience it is very likely that people studying these arts can both have improved ability to protect themselves and great leaps forward in health and conditioning.
The scope of this article was to look at why Wing Chun (or any Kung Fu system) and Shaolin Kung Fu could enjoy a resurgence in popularity to the kind of scale enjoyed by BJJ.
We have not only seen that footage of Wing Chun in fights is now on line but it is very impressive, we have also seen that Shaolin Kung Fu techniques are being seen in the ring and being used to great efffect.
Add to this the clear uses in self defence situations, potential for MMA and the clear increase in evidence of a mind/ body connection we start to see that Kung Fun really could sweep the world again. However the real interest may come from the new IP Man Film which stars Mike Tyson.
In a world of various martial arts I like to try and predict trends and I see that the Kung Fu trend may be just around the corner!
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