Martial arts aren’t all about the competition, but it has to be said that in the days of mixed martial arts (MMA), there is a lot of competition about. One question that comes up regularly is whether Kung Fu or boxing would have the advantage when they came into contact down a dark alleyway at 2 a.m. in the morning?
Would Kung Fu or Boxing win in a fight?
All things being equal, boxing is likely to win a fight against Kung Fu because as a sport, it is specifically meant to bring the opponent down. The honest answer is that it depends. Whether Kung Fu or Boxing would win in a fight depends on the training of both fighters. It particularly depends on whether the Kung Fu practitioner has spent any time focusing on fighting boxers.
So, let’s find out why Kung Fu vs Boxing can give one party an advantage over the other.
A (Very) Brief History of Kung Fu
If you go back in time far enough, Kung Fu’s forms probably originate in India but the vast majority of the martial arts’ development took place in China, in the Shaolin Monastery, which was formed back during the time of the Sui Dynasty (that’s 581-618 A.D).
From the day they formed, the Shaolin were famous for having developed a system of fighting and were considered to be a formidable military foe.
Kung Fu has always been integral to the Shaolin monks and they were fighting in real combat as late as the mid-16th century when they were called on to deal with some “wukou” pirates. It has always been possible for foreigners to train with the Shaolin too.
So, Kung Fu was a “martial art” in a very real sense. But what about today? Well, Ma Yongzhi of Tsinghua University says that in modern China, wushu (which is the Southern Chinese term for Kung Fu) has become about spectacle rather than fighting.
He notes that Tai Chi was once a martial art but today a Tai Chi practitioner is unlikely to ever be called on to defend themselves with Tai Chi. He feels that the Sanshou-style of Kung Fu preferred in China now may combine both the traditional sport and modern skills, but it lacks “lethal moves”.
He says that, “The old fighting style of wushu should be revived” in order for Kung Fu to be more effective, particularly when it is used to combat someone using another martial art.
A (Very) Brief History of Boxing
Boxing, on the other hand, stared life as a sport and remains a sport to this very day. It appears to date back to ancient Egypt and there would have been a version of boxing in the sands of Cairo at least 3,000 years B.C!
You’d also have found boxing at the original Olympics in Greece back in the 7th Century, B.C. Yet when Rome fell, boxing fell with it and it would not be resurrected until the 17th Century AD in England.
It’s been a modern Olympic sport since 1904 (though boxing was illegal in Sweden, so it didn’t appear at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics).
That means that boxing, unlike Kung Fu, was completely designed not for the battlefield but for a fight between two people, one-on-one. This may be one of the reasons that boxing has an advantage over Kung Fu when the two disciplines come into unexpected contact on the street.
One Definite Disadvantage Of Kung Fu
There is one clear problem for most Kung Fu practitioners when it comes to fighting someone else. They don’t get enough practice at it.
While boxers get physical on a daily basis. Boxers who spar actually fight as they would in the ring, they just don’t take things as far as they would in a full match.
Kung Fu, on the other hand, puts a lot of emphasis on “soft sparring” that is demonstrations of technique but where the final blow is “pulled” so that the opponent isn’t harmed. The trouble is that this is a recipe for training your muscle memory to “pull the blow” in a real fight too.
That means a boxer has a big advantage in a face-to-face street fight because he’s not going to pull his blows. Now, sure this may mean that he hurts his knuckles (because most boxers wear gloves in training) during the fight but they may not need many full-strength blows to finish a fight either.
You can see the differences if you watch these videos. The first shows what sparring is like in Kung Fu:
And this one shows what boxers are like while sparring:
Is Kung Fu Too Complicated To Be Effective Against Boxing?
Many martial artists claim that the biggest problem with Kung Fu, however, is that it’s just too complicated to be effective against other simpler martial arts. They argue that boxers, karate practitioners and taekwondo practitioners all have a huge advantage because their sports are simpler to carry out.
However, when we talked to the best Kung Fu practitioners, they felt that this was a mistaken impression. They say that while your average Kung Fu practitioner may only have a surface level understanding of Kung Fu and thus struggle to execute a complex move in a fight against another discipline, the Kung Fu master has no such issues.
The Call To Kung Fu Philosophy
The masters point to the basics of Kung Fu philosophy, “Avoid your opponents’ strengths and make use of their weaknesses.”
So, when fighting a boxer their first preference is to avoid the punches of the boxer. They note that Kung Fu isn’t as fast as boxing when it comes to punching, so attempting to block punches or trade punches with traditional Kung Fu is a non-starter. It’s an example of playing to the boxer’s strengths and that’s a recipe for failure.
The Boxer’s Weaknesses From A Kung Fu Perspective
The boxer has weaknesses, if you know how to exploit them with Kung Fu. You may not be able to punch as well but the boxer’s lower body is always exposed, and they lack the “solid balance “of a trained Kung Fu practitioner.
The masters recommend that when you enter a fight with an opponent whose discipline or style you don’t know – you should strike a simple Shaolin Pose such as “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” (shown below) and wait to see the shape of their body before deciding how you will fight.
If they appear to be a boxer then it’s time to look to defensive moves that are likely to be more effective against a boxer.
The “Lohan Strikes Drum” pattern, for example, can be used to attack under a boxer’s arms as they come in to punch. Then a “Bow-Arrow Stance” can help to take advantage of the unprotected ribs of the boxer.
Then drive through to the solar plexus with “Precious Duck Swims through Lotus” (shown below) and then telegraph a headshot, and instead of delivering, move into “Throw Ball in Waves” and slam the boxer’s ribs again.
Dance out of the way of the boxer’s attack and then repeat the whole process over again as needed.
The masters say that this simple setup for dealing with a boxer may not be immediately effective for your average Kung Fu practitoner, today, but that if you were to practice the sequence over and over again for a period of 6 months – you would be in a great position to defend yourself against a boxer and even to beat them.
They feel that if you punch the ribs hard enough as part of this process, it would only take one or two successful strikes to bring a boxer to their knees.
Conclusion: Kung Fu Fighter vs. Boxer
OK, you may be thinking that it’s OK to claim that a Kung Fu fighter can beat a boxer, but has it ever happened? Well, sadly, we don’t know anyone that’s been hanging around in a dark alley waiting for a fight to break out, while carrying a camera, but we do know where it’s happened in other circumstances – MMA.
Here’s an interesting video where a Hung Gar Kung Fu practitioner takes on a boxer in the ring. Check it out and you’ll see it is entirely possible for Kung Fu to beat boxing when the Kung Fu practitioner knows their stuff.