EliteXC Primetime, headlined by Kimbo Slice and Gina Carano
I’ve always known that, sooner or later, the Chinese art of Wing Chun Kuen would be represented in a professional mixed martial arts bout. I just didn’t expect to see it in MMA’s historic prime-time debut.
On May 31, 2008, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler forever settled any reasonable doubts about Wing Chun’s viability in real combat. And he did it by accident.
Robbie Lawler faced Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith in the inaugural broadcast of CBS’ Saturday Night Fights. During the first two rounds of this title bout, both men fought according to New Jersey’s Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts: no headbutts, biting, groin attacks, or rabbit punches; no hair-pulling or small joint manipulation; no fish-hooking or strikes to the trachea.
For more than ten minutes, Lawler and Smith used their training in boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling and BJJ to soften each other up. Neither fighter held a clear advantage, and so the exchange continued. Then “Ruthless” Lawler stuck his fingers in Smith’s eye.
Referee Dan Miragliotta halted the fight immediately. Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith hoped to continue after a five-minute rest to regain his vision, but the doctor forbid it. The match was called: no contest.
Lawler’s eye poke, unintentional though it was, ended the bout in seconds. There is little doubt in my mind that, if the referee had allowed it, Lawler could have followed up with an uncontested knockout.
Robbie Lawler fingers Scott Smith in round 3
Ring Fighting vs. Real-World Self-Defense
As a professional fighter, Scott Smith followed the match rules, and he was reasonable to assume that Robbie Lawler would do the same. However, it would also be reasonable to assume that, in a five-round fight with fingerless gloves, a stray finger could land in your eye, and to defend against such an accident.
If only such a thing were possible. The eyes are the most sensitive area on the body, and especially difficult to protect. If the opponent can so much as touch your eyes, they can damage them permanently, so the threat demands a conservative game. (The same principle applies, to a lesser degree, to defending the throat and genitals.)
Effective defense of vital areas cannot be an afterthought; it must be integrated into a fighting strategy from the outset, and supported by coherent tactics. The approach must be conservative, but also vicious, in order to eliminate the threat as rapidly as possible.
Does any of this sound familiar? These are the precepts of Wing Chun Kuen, Bruce Lee’s original martial art. Wing Chun starts where MMA ends; it is brutal and direct. Rules, community standards, and basic human decency prevent it from being fully applied in the competitive arena, but as Robbie Lawler reminded us yesterday, the ruthless hands of Wing Chun should not be discounted.