Fighting using Internal Kung Fu is not going to be easy.

Internal Kung Fu with Ollie Smith

Fighting using Internal Kung Fu is an unrealistic obsession.

If you are into kung fu you’ve probably spent a huge amount of time working on martial applications, you also might fall into one of a few camps, 1. Passive curiosity, not so ready to get hurt or eager to hurt others 2. no-holds-barred fighter, signing up for full-contact competitions left, right and center, or 3. Struggling with trying to entertain the practically impossible, deconstructing martial applications in an attempt to make them a reality.

Luckily, you have stumbled across my little post on fighting with Internal Kung Fu. However, reading on you might find that I’m going to ruin all of your kung fu fantasies and you’ll leave disappointed, shaking your head never to return, or you might track me down and challenge me like the kung fu nerd you truly and obviously are.

Before I get into this any deeper allow me to let you in on the goal of this post, ultimately my main goal is to dispel the kung fu master ideology that I see so often reported by the followers and the dreamers, I’m here to tell all that kung fu doesn’t work the way you’d like it to.

Some people are strong and fast in their movement, others have amazing control over their mind and bodies, rarely and perhaps once in a lifetime you might find someone that seems to embody all of it.

Kung Fu fighting in theory.

This way of thinking has led me to promise my students that from 2017 onwards we will practice fighting by putting on some protective gear, gloves and start testing kung fu fighting. Even though  I am using Xingyi, Bagua and some of the Taichi principles I was taught by Luo Dexiu, there are still some fundamental things that need to be practised and improved upon.

Stepping and position is key, I insist that my students keep their weight on the back foot for starters. Striking also needs to be good, I will insist that students not break their structure when reaching to connect with a punch, this usually happens when the puncher is more concerned about avoiding being punched when issuing his or her punches.

For years and years, my last full-time teacher Luo Dexiu taught us a huge number of martial applications, we would line up in class and stand face-to-face lead arms outstretched, our palms not quite touching, one person would rap out ten reps of the taught application that evening and then prepare themselves for a return of the very same volley of strikes. Even though I’m lucky enough to have been taught by an amazing Internal Kung Fu teacher with a reputation for being quite practical, also being a part of a very strong lineage of Internal Kung Fu we still faced the very same problem I’m talking about in thid article, that is ninety percent of our fighting application was controlled and cooperative. I still go back to Taiwan to visit what remains of the class, even with Lou absent there is still a teacher there showing up to go over the same drills, even if the fighting applications are well thought out and can teach coordination and control of an opponent, maybe if you are good you can take advantage of the training and years later you might just be able to use it in a real fight.
What I am suggesting is that mostly everything you practice and learnt does not work in a real fight, competition, street or class.

So, why do we do it?

Most of us do not like fighting, I mean real fighting. I’m just unfortunate enough to have had a few street fights, a blessing in disguise I guess, as I got to see what happened and judge how much of my kung fu training came out to help me.

I think a lot of people learning kung fu refuse to grow up, they celebrate their fantasies and that makes them feel good.

I enjoy the theory of kung fu fighting application as much as the next guy or girl, it’s what keeps most of us going, unfortunately all that cooperative sparing and time spent practising complicated set-ups only served to enhance your coordination at best.

Practising Kung Fu is definitely not only about fighting application though, it is mind and body that work together to bring us fulfillment.

For me personally the movement and expression of kung fu is the true value, it is that movement and how I choose to move and change that makes me happy.

Postures are difficult to hold, refining my movement to a new tempo is difficult, being patient with my breathing is difficult, my pleasure is meeting and surpassing these challenges of Internal Kung Fu.

Kung Fu fighting in reality.

I am currently teaching weekly lessons how to apply fighting with Internal Kung Fu in the most practical way I can.

I’m using sparring gear to help me to test the kung fu I learnt and find out how best apply these kung fu techniques.

Things are still somewhat controlled, but one thing I ask my students to do is to really throw a punch and to connect with it (ideally not too hard though).

This means I do get hit quite a bit, what is more important is that we are able to continue, I do not ask my students to take punches that they are not willing to take.

I am happy to hold off on the ass whooping, even if you feel uncomfortable with the light contact, I would not continue to land strikes if you didn’t want me to.

One thing is immediately clear to anyone that I’m teaching and that is; applying kung fu techniques is quite different when trying to apply them to someone who only wants to punch you in the face.

I always say that there is a time and a place for any of your kung fu apps, I still believe that there is always a scenario for most fighting with Internal kung fu, we just need to be careful not to go down the rabbit hole on this and steer clear of the “kung fu by theory” path.

I know a lot of fighting with Internal Kung Fu is not how we see it in our minds, in all honesty we do not move in the same fashion when we’re in a fight. Fighting in the real world is not like a competition in a ring or on a mat, it is much too reckless and spontaneous, you will most likely meet an untrained fighter in a pub brawl, or on the street, you will most likely have to contend with more than one person in your fights, and when this happens you’ll break all the rules your kung fu teacher taught you.

However, on the flip side you can still keep structure in your punches, you won’t need power and will never need to commit to any path of attack, fighting is frigging difficult fighting with a set of a hundred techneques is practically impossible.

So, fighting with Internal kung fu can be a method of technique and skill of course, unfortunately, however good you get at kung fu you still might mess up by slipping over, or your physical body might fail, you might even run out of stamina. Even though Kung fu can help you to avoid all of this to a certain degree, at some point we all succumb to the physical demands that are put on us during a fight.

Another way of looking at fighting is; if we are bigger, stronger and faster than our opponents then we stand a pretty good chance of winning continuously, unfortunately one thing is left certain, that is; at some point we will all meet someone who outclasses us as a fighter, what do we do then? Well, you turn to your secret kung fu of course, using your “Death Touch” strike them in the Dim Mak pressure point that you’ve been practising for twenty years.

On a more practical note, I should point out that we are currently not doing any grappling, throwing or kicks, at the moment we are practicing a stand up game of tag but with our fists.

If you are interest in meeting this new challenge, head over to the contact page to book in your lesson.


Certified Yizong Instructor Xingyiquan, Baguazhang, Taijiquan with a background in external kung fu and western boxing.