Fantasy or Reality: Kung Fu vs MMA Challenge Fight!

Is Traditional Kung Fu Fantasy or Reality?

Traditional Chinese Martial Arts are taking a lot of flack lately. It’s not helped by the recent challenge fight between the Tai Chi Master and the MMA fighter. It’s literally blown up on YouTube. Everybody is talking about it and now there’s even a reward offered to beat the MMA fighter!

It is important to note that within the Chinese martial arts there is a wide spectrum of approaches to fighting. Some arts specialise in Shuai Jiao (throwing techniques) and Chin Na (joint manipulations), while others specialise in striking with the upper or lower body.

Some styles specialise in a close range of fighting, such as Wing Chun Kung Fu. In the past, Kung Fu schools would fight bare hand on a Lei Tai (a raised platform) to see which was the better fighting art.

A Test of Skills

Style vs style competitions allow for an accurate measure of effectiveness. After all, fighting the same style can be predictable. Applying what you know to a non-compliant fighter from another style is harder, and perhaps a real test of skills. However, if you are going to do this, it requires that you have some level of understanding of what the other fighter does, how they move, and sufficient preparation in the modern context of MMA.

Style vs style challenge fights can be credited with many of the modern adaptions of traditional martial arts today. They facilitate the development of your fighting ability, both physically and psychologically.

Physically, hypothetical defences are tested in application and consistent success is used as a measure of validity. Individuals who participate in challenge fights bring benefit not only to themselves but their team as a whole, and others watching.

Psychologically, the focus of preparing for a competition or fight can enhance a fighter’s performance; furthermore, preparing for real combat develops a very different mindset to your normal everyday training regime.

Most importantly, style vs style challenge fights dispel fantasy over reality.

Read on to find out how you can test fantasy over reality in your training, below.

For all the sceptics, there is a very effective combative form of training in Chinese Martial Arts. It’s call San Shou, sometimes San Da.

Consider San Da as the modern development of traditional Lei Tai contests used to test the fighting arts of Kung Fu, but governed by rules to reduce the risk of injury. 

Regardless of the differences in approach to fighting, San Da provides an opportunity for differing Kung Fu styles to compare in a modern arena. There is an agreed set of rules that cover the different ranges of fighting i.e. Long-Range (kicking & leg catches), Mid-Range (punches, knees, & elbows), Close-Range (grappling). It is akin to Mixed Martial Arts, but with no ground fighting and instead a focus on striking and throwing (stand up fighting).

There are few Chinese Martial Arts Schools that incorporate San Da boxing training into their practice. In keeping with the Chinese tradition of testing your fighting skills on the Lei Tai, we train San Shou (San Da) rules at the London Wing Chun Academy in order to represent the effectiveness of Wing Chun. At our gym, San Da training is taught separately from our ordinary Wing Chun classes in order to allow a greater focus on the sparring and grappling aspects of San Da Kickboxing.


The London Wing Chun Academy is a martial arts and functional fitness gym based in North London. Open 7 days a week with gym and functional fitness equipment. Our gym provides group fitness and martial arts classes in Wing ChunSan Shou KickboxingBrazilian Jiu JitsuWC4 Self DefenceYogaFunctional Fitness, and non contact Fitness kick BoxingMembership starts from £25 per month. Visit our gym today for a taster class. Get Started Now >>