I am often asked questions like, "Why don't you see Wing Chun used in the ring?" or "Why are there so many videos of Wing Chun practitioners losing to MMA fighters?" I have a few comments on that. The fact that there is a LOT of bad Wing Chun out there doesn’t help, but that’s true for any art. That aside, here are my thoughts on the matter.
Wing Chun is not a sport. It is not a game. It doesn’t live in that world. We use weapons, and that automatically puts us worlds apart. How well does Mixed Martial Arts work against knives, or a gun, multiple opponents, or even someone that’s not in your same weight class? Those issues don’t get addressed, because that’s not their world.
Sports fighting is not our world. Now to be sure, there are definitely elements of Wing Chun that can be used in the ring. There are some notable athletes that have been quite effective at adapting some small parts of the art to that world, but they’re adding those things to an already established base of some other sport fighting art. If you were to go in with “pure” Wing Chun, you would have to severely alter your training to fit in with the rules. Doing so would build bad habits for self defense application. You would have to modify the art so much that it’s beyond recognition. Why would you waste your time? Train MMA if you want to go into the ring; train Wing Chun if you want self defense.
The way Wing Chun works is that it requires you to get within reach of your opponent so that you can reach his vital targets, i.e. his throat, neck, groin, eyes, etc. This is to give the smaller, weaker person some kind of chance regardless of weight class. Once the distance between us and the opponent has been closed, they are dispatched very quickly with almost no time for an effective counter.
That being said, when the rules of the sport, and you have to remember MMA is a sport, make specific targets off limits, it nullifies what makes Wing Chun so effective. What was once a strength and a hallmark of our art, now is the very thing that puts us in danger. Now we are moving in very close to the opponent while our most effective tools have been banned. We’re in the opponent’s range, where he can counter us, while our less effective attacks don’t do the damage that would have otherwise already ended the fight.
A common rebuttal is that anyone can aim for these targets, and I agree! Anyone can do something against the rules and be effective against MMA and it immediately takes them out of their world of sport again! It’s just not something that they train for and the ring is not something we train for. It’s really that simple.