In this article, we’ll compare two popular martial arts for self-defense. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear idea of which one would suit you better based on their different techniques, real-life application, and training style.
What is Wing Chun and how did it originate?
Being a relatively new style of Kung Fu, Wing Chun is one of the many fighting styles that originated out of Southern China. It was founded by a Buddhist nun Ng Mui who was one of the top fighters of her era.
Well, according to its history, the inspiration came when she witnessed a fight between a cobra snake and a crane bird. The crane bird was able to repel the cobra’s attacks by using its wings and legs to attack simultaneously. It is no news that Kung Fu styles largely originated from animal movements, and Wing Chun is no exception.
She named it after one of her best students, Yim Wing Chun, who had used it to repel one of her unwanted suitors. From there, the sport got passed down to the next generations. But its breakthrough to the mainstream didn’t come until 1949 when the famous Yip man, a grand master of modern Wing Chun, took the martial art out of China and to the rest of the world.
What is Krav Maga and how did it originate?
In terms of origin, Krav Maga is very different – not only in how it originated but also when it did. Translated as “close combat”, Krav Maga means exactly what the name implies. It was developed in the 1930s by Hungarian-born martial arts expert, Imi Lichtenfeld.
To equip the Israeli army with hand-to-hand combat skills for World War II, he combined moves from several disciplines to develop this simple and effective approach to self-defense. Well, thanks to that, he has made perhaps the best martial art for self-defense.
Since Lichtenfeld grew up on the streets, he learned that the brutal and aggressive nature of street fights is much different than combat sports competitions, and that was the philosophy he applied. He made sure Krav Maga practitioners used surprise attacks and counter-attacks that could end the fight as quickly as possible. No wonder it’s one of the best options for self-defense. It makes sure that a fight ends as quickly as possible.
Krav Maga has kept evolving and it necessarily encompasses every area of fighting, including ground game. It’s commonly referred to as ‘militarized MMA’. However, it doesn’t employ grappling to the extent of major grappling martial arts like jiu-jitsu and wrestling. We’ll discuss this shortcoming later in the article.
Techniques & Strategy
For their techniques, these martial arts align more often than you realize. Wing Chun emphasizes quick punches, close-quarter combat, and tight defense that emphasizes blocking strikes. Just like Krav Maga, it destabilizes opponents with quick footwork and carries out offense and defense simultaneously – basically redirecting your opponent’s energy to your advantage.
Krav Maga, however, is a hybrid of various fighting styles – boxing, karate, jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, judo, Aikido, and even Wing Chun.
Even better, unlike most martial arts, Krav Maga includes weapons training. It focuses on “weapons of opportunity”, which is basically what would be available to you in street fights – keys, pens, handbags, sticks, etc. You need to be able to use any readily available weapon for your attack. Also, you’d be trained on how to defend against common weapons like knives, broken bottles, and even guns.
One key strategy in Krav Maga is the targeting of weak points. The only rule applicable in this martial art is neutralizing your opponent at all costs. Even if it would take gouging their eyes out or kicking their groin. No wonder there are no Krav Maga competitions. Imagine the number of casualties!
Without any doubt, both of these martial arts use many similar techniques. However, the fundamentals are quite different. Here are some differences.
Wing Chun and Krav Maga have distinct punching techniques. The Wing Chun punch is designed mainly for rapid repeat attacks and speed. The fist should be positioned vertically and the impact area is exclusively the two large knuckles. What’s amazing is that this punch has been proven scientifically as the fastest punch among martial arts. Although this punch is great for self-defense, the angle makes landing elbows more difficult and it has a shorter range.
The Krav Maga punch, however, is a balance between the Wing Chun punch and a regular boxing punch. It is thrown at a 45-degree angle – between a diagonal and a vertical punch. Unlike the Wing Chun punch, the impact area is usually the maximum surface area and the punch protects the two smaller knuckles from damage. In addition, the arms should be slightly bent to allow for faster retraction and prevent hyper-extension.
One area where these martial arts differ is in the fighting stance. In Wing Chun (especially while learning), there is a fundamental stance you’d adopt from which you can apply techniques correctly. Called the neutral stance, it starts in a half squat. While your feet are in the same spot, make a slight turn so that one would be in front of the other. From there, put your hands at chest height and make sure that the arm in front is the same as the foremost leg.
Krav Maga, on the other hand, trains two stances: the passive stance and the fighting stance. The passive stance is where you are in a regular everyday position (like where you are walking or standing in a queue). It is in these positions you could easily be caught unaware, so you’ve got to be prepared. However, the fighting stance is the position you take where you can see the attacker and are prepared to defend yourself.
Both Krav Maga and Wing Chun utilize kicks, but they are different.
As a beginner in Krav Maga training, there are 3 kicks you’d be required to learn and demonstrate effectively before progressing to the next level. They form the basis of your kicking game and are the ‘must know’ kicks for self-defense.
The fundamental kicking technique in the self-defense system is no doubt the front kick to the groin. The front kick is a rising kick thrown with the intention of going through an opponent’s frame and the groin. When throwing this kick, always make sure to aim with the shin because aiming with the foot or toes means the kick could easily be dodged. After throwing, recoil your feet back to a fighting stance.
The next fundamental kick would be the front kick with the ball of the feet (also called the push kick, teep kick, or just front kick). This kick is thrown horizontally like a straight punch. For this kick, the ball of the feet is what is used to strike the surface and it is aimed at the attacker’s midsection. The idea is to fold the attacker in half. It can also be thrown to the groin, neck, or face.
Of course, this list can’t be complete without the roundhouse kick. In Krav Maga, this kick is referred to as a round kick, and just like the push kick, it is thrown on a horizontal plane. As a beginner, you’d be trained to aim this kick at the knee of your opponent’s lead leg. Hurting their knee takes out their base, making them vulnerable to further strikes, and providing you with an opportunity to escape.
Perhaps, the most technical of the three, this kick is thrown by bringing the knee of your kicking leg forward on a slightly high angle. This loads the kick in preparation for throwing it across the target. While throwing this kick, turn the heel of your standing leg towards the attacker to generate enough power and open the kicking hip. As you progress, you’d be taught how to aim at the upper levels of the body.
For some reason, Wing Chun kicks are not as popular. Perhaps because they’re not high-flying taekwondo kicks or fancy Capoeira. Borrowed from the Southern Shaolin Kung Fu style, Wing Chun kicks are aimed low – usually to the floating ribs and below. Here are 3 common kicks used in Wing Chun:
One important kick in this martial art is the stomp kick. It is a very short kick. When extended it reaches the same distance as a straight punch. Despite it being short, the stomp kick is a killer and really dangerous. It is thrown short and fast and the impact is made with the heel. It is usually aimed at the shins, ankles, and knees. Trust me, this is a very difficult kick to defend. It could also be aimed at the hips and bladder.
Another fundamental kick in Wing Chun is the front kick. Unlike the one thrown in Krav Maga, it is not to push an opponent. It should be thrown fast and with no telegraphing. When attempting, make sure to aim with the lower shin or the ball of the feet. It can be thrown at the ribs, gut, and head.
One Wing Chun kick that mustn’t be omitted is the side kick. Basically, the longest-distance kick, this kick should be delivered with either the blade of the foot or the heel. Also, it could easily be landed from any direction.
Learning how to defend against strikes is a major aspect of both martial arts. However, their philosophy and techniques are much different.
One common defense used in Krav Maga is the Inside defense against a straight punch. Here, the aim is to redirect the punch with the smallest movements possible. During self-defense, your hands should slightly be in front of your face, so as the punch is thrown, you move your hand inward and forward to keep the attack as far from your face as possible.
As you do this, you’re aiming to make contact with the attacker’s punching arm – redirecting the punch. You won’t have to slap the punch away. Rather, you simply make it slide away. Also, make sure to move your head the other way as you use this technique.
Another defense technique is the outside defense against straight punches. This defense is executed from a low basic stance – meaning rather than keeping your hands up, they would be down below.
To do it, you’d have to move your body away from the line of fire shifting it towards the live side of your opponent. Use the arm in the direction from where the punch is thrown to block the punch. You do this by raising one arm to deflect the punch and since you’d be on the live side of your opponent, you must counter simultaneously.
To counter, you can throw a straight punch or a knee to the dome of your opponent. After separation, make your escape or you can follow up with more attacks.
Wing Chun also utilizes similar techniques. Here are some fundamental ones:
First, is the Tan Da, used to defend overhands or hooks. For example, when an opponent is throwing an overhand right, you would straighten out your left arm at 11 o’clock using it to intercept the right arm. When applying, use your forearm to block and keep your elbow facing the ground. One cool thing about this defense is the structure it offers. From there, you can use your free hand to punch the face of your opponent.
The second ‘must know’ Wing Chun technique is called the Pak Da. For this defense, you use your palm to deflect a straight punch shifting its angle 45 degrees wide. At the same time, you would counterstrike with a straight punch aimed at the attacker’s face.
A third and equally important technique is the Chain blast. It works like suppressive fire with a machine gun. This defense is applied alongside the Pak Da. After deflecting the punch, rather than counterstriking with a straight punch, you would follow with a barrage of fast punches to the head, or where the head is unreachable, to the body, or the head and body together.
Grappling and ground game are important aspects of self-defense. While Krav Maga prepares you for grappling scenarios, Wing Chun only does it to a small extent. Wing Chun only uses it to set up fast and direct attacks. For the most part it’s used simultaneously with striking, either to prevent an opponent from being in range to strike effectively, to trap an opponent’s arm while striking, or to control to properly land kicks.
In Krav Maga, however, there are plenty of grappling moves for effective self-defense. For example, being mounted by an attacker could be a very bad position to be in. Here are some Krav Maga grappling techniques to prepare you for such scenarios:
The first technique to apply would be bucking up. When an attacker is in mount and they try to strike at you using their fists or elbows, this is a good time to take away their stability by bucking up your hips. When done right, the attacker would fall over, trying to catch themselves.
The next thing to do would be to capture their support. While the attacker tries to capture their support, wrap your arm around one of theirs and bring it toward the inside of your body. This is done to lower them to the ground with the intent of rolling them over. Once you can control the arm, catch with your leg one of their legs, and then complete the rollover.
Once the reversal is complete, make sure to posture up to stay away from the striking range. From there, counterstrike with punishing shots to their head or groin and make your escape.
Training & Sparring
For a fact, Krav Maga classes tend to be expensive, costing upwards of $200 monthly. Even worse, the classes advance at a very slow pace. Wing Chun classes cost about $100 monthly, while private lessons go from $50 to $130. But finding Wing Chun trainers is usually the hard part.
If you really want to train Krav Maga but you don’t have a deep pocket, you can get books and DVDs and start practicing. Especially if you have previously trained in martial arts where sparring is involved, books and DVDs could be really helpful. Even when you train at a gym, books and DVDs should be used to supplement your training.
One thing to know, nevertheless, is that you won’t be doing much sparring in Krav Maga, and hard sparring especially.
Wing Chun, however, involves lots of sparring. If you want to be a good runner, you must run. The same thing is applicable here. If you want to be a good fighter you must fight. Sparring is crucial for developing good fighting skills, and unfortunately, this is one area where Krav Maga is lacking.
Another thing to know is the length of training. These two martial arts are actually alike in the time needed to get proficient and the time needed to master. In about a year of training, most Krav Maga and Wing Chun students would feel confident in their abilities and be able to apply them to a decent extent. But it would take up to 5-10 years to truly master them. However, you can start to train Wing Chun at home and develop some skills even by yourself.
Besides training for skills and techniques, one aspect that shouldn’t be neglected is strength and conditioning. It helps you train better and perform better. Also, it builds your fitness, power, and strength to push your skills to a new level. Here are a quick 2 minutes strength and conditioning workout for krav maga.
First, get in your passive stance and bend your knees. Now that you’ve done that, throw hooks in both directions for 30 seconds. As you do it, shift your weight and keep your hands by your face. Immediately after, do lunges for 30 seconds. You can also add jumps to the lunges for more fatigue. Immediately after the 30 seconds, do uppercut drills. Throw hard and use your weight to drive up.
Complete the workout with bowler’s lunges. Step across and do it on both sides, doing it as fast as you can. And don’t forget to maintain the right posture when doing this workout.
Wing Chun also has strength and conditioning workouts that’d help you get better in the gym.
To be proficient at Wing Chun, you need strong legs. The first workout would be a regular squat with both legs. As you do this workout, stretch your hands in front of you. The next workout would be a squat with a single leg. It is done by lifting one leg and slowly going down on the other. It is done for stability and structure. For better effectiveness, use your both hands to stabilize a pole or bar as you do this workout.
Another great workout is the knuckle side plank. It is done by making a fist and getting in the plank position but only on one side. Other great Wing Chun workouts are the knuckle handstand, knuckle crow, and single knuckle push-ups.
Krav Maga vs Wing Chun – which wins in a fight?
It can’t be disputed that Wing Chun is an effective form of self-defense when used by a master practitioner. But it involves lots of choreographed movements as is popular with most kung fu art forms. It dwells on particular principles of imitating animals and fluidity. Krav Maga doesn’t rely on any of that, it’s not a “spiritual art”, it’s designed purely for practical application in dangerous real-life situations.
In a street fight (no rules), Krav Maga wins against Wing Chun most of the time. Here’s the main reason: Wing Chun is a sport. Its practitioners train based on rule sets and they wouldn’t do things banned in the sport. There are no organized Krav Maga competitions, which means it has no rule set. Krav Maga basically does what you haven’t trained for by going for weak points and employing dirty strikes. It is this use of dirty and illegal strikes that gives it an edge against traditional martial arts, including Wing Chun.
One reason for Wing Chun’s weakness is that it was specifically developed to combat the forms of kung fu that existed at the time. It is great at combating one type of fighter and largely fails at combating other types of martial arts. Also, it is popular for being weak at long-range attacks. Even worse, the emphasis placed on being heavy on the back leg makes Wing Chun practitioners vulnerable to being taken down easily.
Besides, Krav Maga “allows” the use of weapons for attack and defense and therefore teaches how to interact with them. Wing Chun doesn’t, and in a fight that would spell disaster for the Wing Chun practitioner. So Krav Maga is more brutal and has more tools (don’t forget it involves ground game as well).
Which is harder to train?
Like most Kung Fu forms, Wing Chun involves traditional and unorthodox training styles that may prove too much for someone looking for casual training. Also, it involves sparring (light and heavy) unlike Krav Maga which (typically) involves very little sparring. So, Wing Chun is harder to train.
Can women and senior citizens train in Wing Chun?
Yes! Wing Chun is highly adaptable for all people regardless of age or gender since it values timing and structure rather than speed and strength. Even better, the style was created, named after, and developed by a woman. And history even says it was created for women by not relying on physicality and power. Anyone can train it.
Which art is better if I have lingering injuries?
Due to the simple moves employed, Krav Maga is better for people with a not-so-great fitness level. But both martial arts’ training can be adapted to suit your specific needs. There are always techniques you can apply regardless of your injuries, so focus on that. Make sure to talk about your concerns with your instructor.
Which art is better against multiple attackers?
Objectively, my answer is both. Krav Maga was made for war situations where you might face multiple opponents. Also, the use of quick and easy moves to neutralize opponents as quickly as possible makes it effective for dealing with one attacker and immediately moving to the next. Wing Chun is also a great choice as it provides quick strikes and quick counterattacks.
Should I start my kids in Wing Chun or Krav Maga?
Both Wing Chun and Krav Maga are great choices for kids. Wing Chun would be better for fitness, discipline, and instilling the doctrines of martial arts. However, for self-defense, Krav Maga provides a better overall package.