This article is part of a far larger effort by The MMA UnderGround to understand what really works. The focus is not on what happens in the arena, but rather what happens on the street, or in this case, in the gym. If you enjoyed it, check out more stories on:
1. Style vs. Style
2. Martial Arts on The Street
3. Real Karate
In this video, from a Japanese television show hosted by the popular comedian Ucchan Nanchan, a Kyokushin dojo hosts some Chinese martial arts stylists. To understand the rule set under which this took place, a little history is useful.
In the 1950s, a young Korean living in Japan named Mas Oyama took Shotokan and Goju Ryu, but found that the lack of contact in the training reduced the arts to nothing more than "mild calisthenics and etiquette." So Oyama developed a new style, called Kyokushinkai. The art includes competitions with full power kicks and knees to the legs, body, and head, plus full power strikes to the body. A full point is awarded when one fighter is hit so forcefully he or she is knocked down.
The attacks range from the straightforward, like a punch to the chest, to the utterly spectacular, like a Rolling Thunder kick. MMA fighter Davy Gallon saw a Kyokushin Rolling Thunder kick on YouTube, tried it once or twice in training, and then decided to use it on Ross Pearson. Now Gallon is on a three-fight win streak in Bellator MMA.
Kyokushin competition reaches a peak with the 100 Man Kumite, where a fighter has to face 100 black belts in succession, 2 minute rounds, full contact. Further, although it is less recognized, equally important to the devastating offense, Kyokushin practitioners harden their bodies against attacks. Notable Kyokushin black belts include MMA welterweight G.O.A.T. Georges St-Pierre, four-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Semmy Schilt, and film star Sean Connery.
The Kyokushin rule set described above obviously has a glaring problem - no face punching, and face punching is literally the #1 thing in a fight. However, in the absence of grappling, bare knuckle punches to the face in practice or competition lead to injuries that hugely interfere with training. So compromises have to be made, and the Kyokushin rule set is a great one, historically in wide use worldwide in style vs. style matchups.
The video below features Kyokushin fighters vs. adepts from three Chinese styles: Snake style, Drunken style, and the internal form Hsing I.
The Snake Style comes up first, and looks fluid and fast in his movements. It also looks like he never tried them on someone trying to hurt him. Snake Style gets kicked in the head with a lead leg round kick, among the weakest in the Kyokushin arsenal. That appears to be it.
The Drunken stylist is interesting, in that he rolls with a lot of kicks. Unfortunately, he is kicked over a dozen times, while executing strikes of his own that appear to have the power of someone drying wet hands by waving them around.
The Internal martial artist is the most hapless, and offers nothing, not even physical fitness. His chi may be coursing through his body, but there is no verifiable way to demonstrate that. It sure doesn't help for defending yourself.
The #1 lesson that the average person takes from this may be that Chinese martial arts are worthless in terms of actually working. That is utterly false. Sanda, a Chinese martial art and combat sport that use strikes and takedowns, is probably the most underappreciated-discipline in MMA.
The #1 lesson from this is that the Chinese stylists should be congratulated and respected for testing themselves. The only way to never lose is to never fight.
Hopefully, they learned something. If not, a repeat will have the identical outcome.
Again, to repeat, Chinese stylists are not the problem. In the early 1960s, Paul Vizzio began studying Fu-Jow Pai Kung-fu (Tiger-Claw), and today is the world's second highest-ranked practitioner in the art. Over a 23-year period, he earned 19 World kickboxing titles, from eleven professional kickboxing organizations, in five different weight divisions. More impressive still were his underground bouts in New York's Chinatown, fought in jump boots and bag gloves. He is among the baddest dudes on the planet.
And it must also be said clearly of the video, that the techniques they were attempting to execute were hopeless. Defenders offer a number of arguments. One is that a significant percentage of the Chinese martial arts arsenal is grappling, and that grappling was forbidden. Another is that striking the face was not allowed. Anyone who thinks these bouts would be different if holding and face striking were allowed needs to rethink their training.
There has been criticism that the bouts are highly edited, and only show the parts where the Karate stylists do well. Anyone watching this and imagining there are long hidden parts where the Chinese stylists are winning, doesn't know what they are looking at.
A further criticism is that the Snake, Drunken, and Internal stylists were not real fighters, were forms-only people. The obvious reply is to ask where the people making Snake style work are. In the absence of that, the default has to be if it moves like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.
In sum, the karate fighters toy with the Chinese stylists. This is, emphatically, not because all Chinese martial arts are ineffective. This is because Mas Oyama came up with a rigorous way to pressure test his theories, against trained, active resistance. The result is something that works.
Likewise, Sanda has a rigorous means to pressure test techniques, against trained, active resistance. The result is something that works, and very nearly all the techniques come from traditional Chinese martial arts.
In sum, the issue is not the art, and where it comes from, it is the pressure testing. Without realistic pressure testing, the result is nonsensical, as you can see. If you are practicing a discipline without realistic pressure testing, it may be providing remarkable benefits in terms of peace of mind, conditioning, confidence, and many other invaluable qualities, but it won't work against a physical attack.