Can Kung Fu Be Used in a Real Fight?

If you live somewhere where street fights are common, you may have considered learning a martial art. And since the 1970s, the Chinese martial art of Kung Fu is one of the most widely known. But, can Kung Fu be used in a real fight?

Certain forms of Kung Fu can be used in a real fight. The Luan Ying style, for example, is deadly. It is a combination of punches, hammer fists, palm strikes, elbow strikes, low kicks, and forearm-trapping techniques. And Bruce Lee’s original style of Kung Fu, Wing Chun, is also very effective.

But Kung Fu encompasses many different styles, not all of which would work in a street fight.

In this article, we’ll explore its effectiveness in some depth, check out the Shaolin style, learn a bit about Bruce Lee, martial arts’ most famous icon, explore all the different Chinese martial arts that makeup Kung Fu, and talk about which are best-suited for self-defense.

Let the fun begin…

Is Kung Fu effective for self-defense?

Kung Fu can be effective for self-defense, depending on the style you are practicing and the Kung Fu techniques used by that style. That is especially true against an attacker untrained in martial arts or other fighting styles.

I’ll explain. It’s rare to find trained fighters attacking or bullying others. It’s not because they are weaklings.

Oh, no.

They know that’s not what their skills are to be used for. It’s also because discipline and self-control are essential parts of virtually all martial arts. Consider that some martial arts were developed by monks or the noblest warriors.

That’s saying something, right?

Another reason why you’d hardly find trained martial artists fighting is that they can easily blind, cripple, or even kill most of the people they’d encounter in street brawls.

Kung Fu is primarily a striking art. At least in some of the styles that fall under that term.

Remember, Kung Fu isn’t really a martial art. It’s an umbrella term used to describe ALL forms of Chinese martial arts. That can include Tai Chi and Qigong, or martial arts styles geared toward self defense and real situations. Below, we’ll check out the Shaolin Kung Fu style.

There are strikes and kicks you can use that’d make fighting an untrained (or even moderately trained) a relatively easy challenge for you.

Fortunately, most of the folks you’d fight in the street aren’t skilled. If you’re a trained Kung Fu fighter, you’d have an edge over them. Most of them would most likely rely on brute force, while you, a trained Kung Fu fighter, have an array of techniques at your disposal.

You’ve also been trained to be calm even in the face of aggression and to have the courage to confront your fears.

You’d crush them.

Truth be told, it’s hard to say what would be the outcome if your assailant is a trained fighter. Kung Fu might be effective, or it might not be effective. That’s why I said: it depends.

When two equally skilled fighters have a go at it, it’s often hard to predict the outcome. Curious about what’s likely to be the outcome if a Kung Fu fighter were to have a go at it with a trained MMA fighter? 

Check out a recent article of mine where I showed who is likely to come out on top. Of course, MMA fighters might actually know Kung Fu as one of the arts they practice. But does knowing more than 1 art make them deadlier?

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Shaolin Kung Fu effective?

Shaolin Kung Fu can be effective as it is focused on strikes, blocks, throws, and punches. Additionally, Shaolin Kung Fu practitioners also train on the ground, which is useful in case a fight goes to the ground.

Shaolin Kung Fu is made up of many styles.

So, the style, the skill of the fighter, the skill of the attacker, and where the fight is enacted… are some of the factors that affect whether Shaolin Kung Fu is effective or not.

Shaolin Kung Fu can be highly effective, seeing as it’s essentially a combo of four approaches to fighting:

  • Kicking
  • Hitting
  • Grabbing
  • Wrestling

When these are skillfully combined by a fighter, they can be super-effective as they cover virtually all that a good fighter ought to know. Shaolin Kung Fu provides a broad base of effective skills you can employ to defend yourself.

There are also techniques that help foster flexibility, balance, endurance, power, strength, and awareness.

Let’s face it; it’s highly unlikely that a Krav Maga or Muay Thai fighter is going to attack you in a bar or a dark alley. Most people who bully and attack others are folks who lack the discipline and skills that an ancient art like Shaolin Kung Fu would give you. You’d be able to teach these bullies a thing or two. Of course, martial artists don’t look for fights.

So, the best move is often to simply run away as fast as you can.

But, if you are unable to flee and had to contest with a trained fighter in a street fight, it’s difficult to say what the outcome would be. Now, let’s learn about someone who is perhaps the most famous Kung Fu fighter ever.

Did Bruce Lee do Kung Fu?

Bruce Lee did do Kung Fu. He focused on the Wing Chun style for a long time. Later, he evolved his own “style”, Jeet Kune Do, which many see as the “father” of MMA. It is not only an effective form of fighting; it is a superb philosophical and pragmatic approach to life.

Bruce Lee is perhaps the most renowned icon for martial arts in general and Kung Fu in particular.

He wasn’t simply a movie star. He was a legit and trained fighter. He was trained by Yip Man, the renowned Wing Chun master.

Even as a young man, he had his own school in Seattle where he taught Kung Fu. This was before starring in several Kung Fu movies, which inspired many all over the world. At the University of Washington, he pursued a degree in philosophy. His interest in philosophy and martial arts influenced him profoundly.

And, at a point, he developed his own style, Jeet Kune Do ( the way of the intercepting fist).

It is an expression of his belief that most traditional martial arts are not as effective as they could be because they are rigid. He likened Jeet Kune Do to water.

He believed that fighters ought to be flexible and open, not rigid.

And that they should not be faithful to one style, but rather they should learn and incorporate any effective fighting style into their own style.

For Bruce Lee, effectiveness was the main criterion, not an adherence to the fixed patterns of any fighting style. This is why many credit him as being one of the main influences for MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).

Can you teach yourself Kung Fu?

In a recent article of mine, I showed you how you could learn Kung Fu at home and by yourself. Of course, a dojo and training partners are more ideal. But if that’s not an option, there is a way to make it work.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Which Kung Fu style is most effective?

Luan Ying is the most effective Kung Fu style. It combines several fighting techniques such as punches, low kicks, elbow strikes, hammer fists, palm strikes, and forearm trapping. A key part of its effectiveness depends on locking up an opponent, thereby crippling their ability to defend themselves.

It involves adopting a stance that’s similar to that used in wrestling, bent knees, and arched backs, making takedowns and strikes difficult for the opponent. The hands are held in front of the face, protecting it and making direct strikes to the face difficult.

Knee strikes are also employed. 

Say an opponent tries to grab a Luan Ying fighter, they’d most probably have to contend with a knee strike to the face!

Another key reason it is highly effective is that some other Kung Fu styles, Luan Ying practitioners, also focus a lot on conditioning. So, in addition to the specific fighting moves, they train their bodies to be strong, in addition to being flexible. They also engage in a lot of sparring.

The footwork employed is also very swift and mobile, even fluid and deceptive. It’s very easy to feign and catch one’s opponent unaware.

You’re probably curious about how Kung Fu compares with Karate. Find out in a recent article of mine where I compared Kung Fu and Karate and which is better for fighting techniques. In it, I outlined 9 key differences.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Now, let’s check out the elephant in the room…

What is the most effective martial art in a real fight?

Krav Maga is the most effective martial art for fighting, although it is not a true martial art but a self-defense system. It is solely focused on self-defense, and it equips practitioners with skills they can use to brutally subdue an assailant as quickly as possible without any injury to themselves. 

It was originally developed to help Jews fight anti-Semites and is even taught to Navy Seals.

Some of the reasons why Krav Maga is the most effective martial art are:

  • There is a focus on the most vulnerable parts of an opponent’s body
  • There are no rules
  • There are a couple of lethal techniques being employed

Most unskilled fighters assume that fighting is mainly about brute force and aggression.

A Krav Maga fighter, on the other hand, has been trained and knows that not all body parts are created equal. A punch to the chest is not the same as a swift, unexpected kick to the groin!

The face and the groin are examples of vulnerable body parts a KM fighter would target.

While most people may be filled with fear as an opponent bends down and tries to grab their legs, a KM fighter sees it as a great opportunity to connect their knee to the other’s face several times until they drop.

If an opponent tries to grab them, they may turn, act as if they are fleeing, and turn swiftly to connect an elbow strike to the assailant’s head.

Groin-kicks, knee-strikes, elbow-strikes…these are some of the defining techniques. And, when they are properly executed, even a trained fighter would most likely fall to the ground, stunned and bloody.

In fact, seeing as there are no rules, a KM fighter would employ any move that’d save their life. Can a Krav Maga fighter beat up an MMA fighter?

Check out my take in a recent article of mine where I showed why it’d be a tough call and that the Krav Maga fighter is…

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How does BJJ compare to Kung Fu for street fights?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, while certainly one of the best martial arts in the UFC, is less than ideal for street fighting.

The reason is that street fights might involve multiple attackers and the use of weapons. BJJ is largely ground fighting. And if you’re on the ground with one opponent and his buddy stomps on your head, it’s game over.

So unless you are certain it’s just 1 person attacking, you don’t want to find yourself on the ground.

Now as we’ve discussed, there are many different styles of Kung Fu. And BJJ would certainly be better than not knowing any martial art and would be better than knowing some different styles of Kung Fu such as Tai Chi or Qigong.

But if I had to choose between Wing Chun or BJJ in a street fight, I’m going with Wing Chun every time.

Does Kung Fu Actually Work in a Street Fight/MMA?


We looked at reasons why Chinese Kung Fu can be highly effective and why it might not be.

The style being employed and the skills of the fighters are key considerations. We checked out Shaolin Kung Fu, noting that it is a comprehensive style. In fact, it has substyles, and that it provides a broad base of skills a good fighter needs.

We learned a bit about Bruce Lee, perhaps the most famous martial artist that ever lived. He was not just a movie star, but a trained Kung Fu fighter, who at a point had his own school.

And that, he even developed his own style, Jeet Kune Do, which is regarded as the “father” of MMA. We also considered the most effective Kung Fu style and ended our exploration by looking at Krav Maga, the most effective martial art.

Photos that require attribution:

Kung Fu Man by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious and street fight by Alexey Dushutin are licensed under CC2.0 and were combined, cropped, edited, color-adjusted, and had a text overlay added.


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