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Shaolin monks are highly spiritually disciplined and well trained with centuries of strict tradition behind them. The Shaolin monk train boys as young as eight or nine years old. Kung-fu practitioners believe that their traditional methods of training are the best and their instructors are always right. The histories of these styles and their founders are passed down orally, which makes the sound near god-like. So, when someone poorly performs in a fight, it is believed that the person is not trained hard enough or must have some character flaw. So the question is, would a Shaolin monk beak an MMA fighter?
A Shaolin monk will not be able to beat an MMA fighter in an unarmed one on one combat especially in anywhere near the same weight class.
There are various reasons to why a modern, elite MMA fighter would absolutely beat any of the historical monks. There is a huge gap between the Shaolin Kung-Fu and MMA. The methodologies and philosophies of the fights are totally different. In the rest of the article, we will compare Shaolin monk and an MMA fighter and highlight some reasons as to why an MMA fighter will mostly win the fights against Shaolin monks.
Also, before we start, if you are interested, take a look at how a fight between a Navy SEAL and MMA fighter would play out.
Would a Shaolin monk beat an MMA fighter?
To answer the question, we have to consider many factors. Like, is it armed or unarmed combat? What about the weight class, is it the same? How long have they been training? There are also other factors. However, if all the above factors are equal, there is a better chance for the MMA fighter to win. Here are some reasons why?
Shaolin Monks training style is totally different from that of an MMA fighter. For Shaolin Monks, sword and other weapons are part of their training whereas, MMA fighters train for unarmed combat. That is why, it is believed that, if historical monks from Shaolin Temple are given their weapons, they have a chance to win against an MMA fighter.
Shaolin Monks have other responsibilities other than training for fights. The trainings are also of religious nature and they focus on particular ideologies. The monks claim that their techniques are too deadly for competition. Most of them disagree that ground fighting should be developed at all because, they believe it, promotes bad habits.
Both the fights have their own rules and regulation. Consider, a monk with tremendous fighting skills but no idea of MMA rules and regulation, decides to fight an MMA fighter in an octagon. So, will the monk do MMA gears, gloves and follow the MMA rules and regulations.
In such situation, the Shaolin monk must have hard time beating any legitimate MMA fighter. There are great chances that many of the States Athletic Commission’s rules and regulations, including striking and grappling has to be altered or abandoned, in order for a Shaolin monk to win.
It also depends on the type of fight. If the fight is taking place standing up there is greater chance for a Shaolin monk to win. Because the agility of a monk is far greater than that of am MMA fighter and he can escape the moves of MMA fighter. If the fight is taking place on the ground, such as grapple, wrestling match then there is less chance a Shaolin monk to win.
Can a Shaolin monk really fight?
There are different forms of Shaolin monks. It is not necessary that every monk should be a brilliant warrior. Some are simply monks following the life of a Buddhist monk and that is the key. They give up their worldly life over religion and follow strict rules throughout their lives. They even dislike the idea of sports fighting as it violates the principle of martial ethics and code of conduct.
In one of his interview with Time, Shi said that Kung-Fu cannot be compared to MMA because its true essence is spiritual rather than simply physical. Traditionally, one of the most important teachings of Shaolin Kung-Fu was to strengthen monks at the Shaolin Temple. Their main aim was to attain the highest spiritual achievement that any human being can achieve.
However, with the passage of time, this supreme aim of Shaolin teachings is now relatively lowered where they aim to have good health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness and spiritual joy irrespective of religion.
There are also Shaolin monks who perform some super human skills which includes, balancing on a spike, fancy high kicks and so on. These skills make them extraordinary fighters. However, Shaolin are not designed for one on one fighting rather it is designed to fight multiple people at a time.
Shaolin monks rarely train with live partners which makes it hard for them to know how to handle themselves when people try to take them down to the ground. Not having partners who will grab them, throw them, kick them and punch them means they will not be able to fight against any fighter who follows all these techniques.
Shaolin monks have practically no sparring and grappling experience which makes it hard for them to fight. They use traditional training methods and have not evolved at all. That is why, any legitimate fighter can easily take them down and strike them.
Additionally, Shaolin Kung-Fu practitioners pay more attention to the training of mind and energy. This is the reason why Shaolin students can do their daily work and play in a better way. These trainings are not mainly for effective fighting rather they are for the internal dimensions. So, the fundamental philosophy of Shaolin Kung-Fu is personal development and not effective fighting.
It would be right to say that mostly; a medium Kung-Fu practitioner is far from being ready to fight. Because, most Kung-Fu does not involve sparring and there is no conditioning. Sparring teaches how to fight and if its absent in any training then it means losing the fight.
So they question that arises here is, why do Shaolin monks practice martial arts if fighting is not their top priority? Well, this is because Shaolin Kun-Fu is a way to achieve the aims desired by the monks. For example, to have good health, they have to practice chi kung because this gives an indication of good health.
It is clear, Shaolin monks are unreachable acrobatic athletes and experts of Chinese Kung-Fu but they do not focus only on fighting. It is believed that their actual combat preparation has diminished during the years. If any real fighter ignores sparring and other techniques used to fight, it is possible that he will never learn how to fight against his opponent. So, in simple words a Shaolin is an amateur, he is not a warrior or a fighter.
Read here more about why Kung Fu isn’t used inside the sport of MMA.
Shaolin monks vs MMA fighters
YouTube and other websites post videos that show real fight between Shaolin monks and MMA fighters. Most of these fights take place in gym, cage or ring. In nearly every match, the MMA fighters beat the Shaolin monks. Here are few examples.
This match was between Neil Robbins, an MMA fighter, and Olly Renon who is a famous Shaolin outside of China. In the Medium Weight Pro Clash, the MMA fighter was able to beat the Shaolin monk.
This fight was between Yi Long, a Shaolin monk and Leo Bonniger, an MMA fighter. Yi Long lost this fight and Leo was declared the winner.
In almost all the videos on YouTube, the Shaolin monk is Yi Long who is fighting against various MMA fighters and has won many of them. However, it is believed that Yi Long is not a real Shaolin monk. He did not train in a Shaolin Temple but puts on the persona of a monk. He has incredible durability and amazing striking-defense.
It is also a bitter truth that the Shaolin temple is now commercialized and many of the core teachings are forgotten. Monks have started practicing before rapt audiences and tourists. Some Kung-Fu teachers and practitioners use the name of the temple without their permission. Many of these people have started their own Shaolin schools,
This makes it clear that, it is hard for a traditional Shaolin monk to beat an MMA fighter. But, there are still chance if the monk practices some of the skills and techniques used by the fighters.
To conclude, it is good to imagine your favorite TV fighters beat the best MMA fighters, but the reality is different. The Shaolin monks can give hard time to mid-tier MMA fighters if they learn and train in all facets of MMA over an extensive period of time.