Absorbing The Useless
“Absorb what is useful”, Bruce Lee said. This simple statement seems easy to understand and to put into practice. However the number of Jeet Kune Do systems (concepts, original, nucleus) and furthermore the unlimited number of applications of these systems proves that it is not that simple. Why? – Question one: What are you learning martial arts for?
Most people who take martial arts do so for the fighting aspect. Many individuals do mention the desire to learn the “art”, but if what they want is only “art”, then they could take oil painting classes! The majority of martial artists want to learn how to defend themselves, and only a minority wants to use their new acquired skills to beat on other people. Self-discipline and confidence come next on the list of motives, generally followed by the desire to get a good workout.So the answer to our first question is: Most people want to know how to fight for self defense purposes while staying (or becoming) fit and growing as a person.
– Question 2: What will be useful to learn so you can reach that goal?
This is where controversy arises and one can come across as many opinions as there are individuals. This is also where a lot of people are so eager to learn a style that they forget their original objective en route and leave their common sense on the side of the road!
I was first initiated to Jeet Kune Do when I went to watch a seminar some friends were attending. I didn’t train and didn’t think much of what I saw! I was more interested in the instructor who is now my husband! Since my marriage, though, my life has revolved around the martial arts. If we are not in Hawaii teaching or training at our headquarters, we’re on the road for seminars and more training, watching UFC or PRIDE tapes after training sessions, or reading a good wrestling book before going to train!!! I have been exposed to many schools, and the one question I always ask myself is: why do some people train the way they do? I see the techniques they practice and I am wondering if they have ever seen a real fight. Not a tournament but a street-fight where someone is getting attacked. Somebody attacking you is not going to stay right in front of you with his/her arm extended for 5 minutes while you’re doing an incredibly unrealistic and complicated combination of moves. He/she is going to hit as hard as he/she can. An attacker is going to ATTACK, most likely by surprise. An attacker is going to grab you and push you around and do anything (bare hands or with a weapon) to get what he/she wants from you. Everybody knows that, don’t they? So why not always have that in mind during training? If you wanted to be a great baseball player, you wouldn’t practice playing tennis for hours just because it involves hitting a ball also, would you? No baseball player would claim gaining “sensitivity” by practicing a tennis service hundred times a day! So why would practicing drills and techniques that aren’t even close to looking like a fight give you sensitivity for the real thing?
My advice is this: if you want to learn fighting (for self defense purposes), first find out what a real street fight looks like (video footage from street fights exist on the market!) and simulate this as close as possible in your training. Draw techniques from sports or other sources that have been proven to work under high resistance levels (boxing, Thai boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu jitsu, etc.). Just make sure to modify the tournament oriented techniques for street purposes. Use resistance, movement, speed, and elements of surprise. But be careful: standards vary from one individual to another and what some call resistance is merely a well-performed set of choreographed moves. Resistance is when somebody does not let you do your move. If your partner is not moving around, is not throwing anything back at you (punches, elbows, kicks), if he/she is just holding his/her hand in front of you to allow you to do whatever, if you both know exactly what is going to happen, how and when, then chances are there is no resistance involved in your drilling method! And chances are the techniques you are using are not high performance. If that is all you do, you are not learning how to deal with resistance thus not learning how to fight! You are absorbing the Useless!
Next time you’re doing what you call sparring, videotape yourself. Does it somewhat look like a street fight, or does it look more like something that you would see in the latest matrix movie? Which type of fight are you most likely to encounter in your everyday life? Which one should you be preparing yourself for? Now is the time to rethink your plan and choose the right one to get you ready. It shouldn’t be about what is artistic, or pretty, or fancy. A street fight is not pretty, it is ugly; there is sweat and blood; there is yelling, pressure, pain, danger, and fear. It is not the time to do art critique! Art won’t get you home safe when you’re in an empty parking lot with an armed drug addict after you!
So I ask again, why do some people still train unrealistically? My bet is that they have lost sight of their goal, have gotten caught in a system and have stopped thinking for themselves in the process. They just believe what they are told! I urge you to think for yourself! Be honest with yourself! With the technology today and the great protective equipment available, you can train realistically with a minimal risk of injury. My favorite part of training is to put the helmet on and go for it. I know what a jab to the head feels like and even a medium force jab rocks a helmeted head pretty hard! Sure you have to sweat more, but “if you want to learn how to fight, you have to practice fighting against someone who is fighting back” (Burton Richardson).
The answer to question 2 (What will be useful to learn so you can reach that goal?) is: Realistic techniques proven through proper testing to be effective against full resistance will help you learn how to fight an aggressive attacker.
– Question 3: How should you practice those techniques that have been proven effective?
Using resistance is crucial. But even more important is the concept of PROGRESSIVE RESISTANCE. When a student with no prior experience comes to our academy, we don’t ask that he/she spars full out with our top student without protective equipment. The only result would be for this person to receive a beating, feel very bad about him/herself, be hurt for days or weeks or maybe even months, and never come back again! Nobody would gain anything! What we do is make them feel comfortable and teach them basics: balance, basic punches, defense, a good Thai boxing tie up on the neck and some mobility on the ground. We concentrate on good form first but even during their first class we throw in a little resistance. Take the jab for example. After showing the mechanics of a good jab in the air, we will ask that they throw a few jabs at their partner, but for protection they will hit with their hand open, palm flat and aim at the forehead. This way they still practice correct distance and get used to making contact with a moving target. The partner defends only and is not hurt if his/her defense is not accurate yet. If we had them make a fist, then they could not use proper distance, as injuries would certainly occur from getting punched in the face repeatedly. Then we will ask that both partners throw the jab at anytime trying to hit the forehead lightly as many times as they can during the round. The partner is still at all times not letting him/her have it easy. They are already doing light ISOLATED SPARRING the first day, and they love it! Then we will do the same with the cross, and the jab cross in separate rounds. The only draw back to this method is that by going lightly for safety, the student does not get to train power. That is why we use drilling on the focus mitts also. But there again, we make sure there is movement and attacks from the focus mitts holder. We avoid doing focus mitts drills in set order as we want to make sure that students learn to read attacks and don’t get set in a pattern. For example, we will sometimes just concentrate on the jab and cross, but the number of jabs and the order in which to hit is not set.
The next step in our progressive resistance chart, is to put the helmet on and do the same drills: jab first (making a fist instead of an open hand is now safe) by one person only, then jab by both at the same time, then cross by one, cross by both, jab-cross by one, jab-cross by both, etc. We then modify the intensity of the blows from light or hard. Each person chooses how far he or she wants to push the resistance level. The same method is valid for clinch, ground, and weaponry techniques and of course at some point it is important to do some open free sparring rounds where everything goes. Beside the protective equipment, your increasing skill level will also make the training safer even when dealing with higher levels of resistance. Training realistically does not mean that you have to get beaten up!
The answer to question 3 (How should you practice those techniques that have been proven effective?) is: Realistic training methods, using PROGRESSIVE RESISTANCE in isolated sparring and free sparring to build up your skill in all the ranges will make you a well rounded fighter.
We have now defined
1: why we train: to know how to fight and defend ourselves.
2: what to train: realistic techniques that work even at high resistance levels.
3: how to train: using progressive resistance.
Let’s do it and enjoy every minute of it!
Co-owner of Jeet Kune Do Unlimited.
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