Tag Archives: Jeet Kune Do

The Jab vs. The Straight Lead of JKD

By Al Alvir

Having just read The Straight Lead by Teri Tom, I was compelled to write about “The Boxing Jab.”  The straight lead works as a more powerful jab than the boxing jab, and it indeed has more reach than the classic boxing jab.  The problem is that the straight lead serves no additional function from a ‘regular jab’ than to make up for its lack of power in the wrist (as the straight lead’s form is to not turn the wrist) with explosive hip rotation.  JKD people tend to overstate the effectiveness of hip rotation in the jab, simultaneously underestimating the effectiveness of shifting weight and the dynamics of not rotating the hip with the jab.

The boxing jab serves as a tool for measuring distance and for setting-up an opponent.  The boxing jab, too, has numerous contact spots (aka pop spots, meaning the point of snap (this is discussed in other articles on Shootafairone.com), as a fighter has the luxury to jab shooting his hip with various torques.  This is a bad habit, however, for an educated fighter, because he is giving away positioning and taking his 2 farther from his opponent.  Also, when a fighter shoots his hip for a jab, it’s wasted energy, as it complicates such a simple weapon.  If a fighter can be successful throwing a straight lead, I promise that it will only be situational and will not happen against a person with better attributes.  I, myself, used to train the straight lead and was effective with it when it was effective (I meant to state it that way), but I found that I was way out of position for intelligent onslaught after missing.  But as I always say, “test it.”

It’s just a jab, either way.  It’s likely not going to knock-out anyone worthy of fighting.  The reason jabs are so important and effective is that jabs can be thrown rapidly and at repetition without unwise commitment.

The biggest problem of JKD’s straight lead teachings is that the teachers often aren’t schooled, or simply don’t teach, the progression of functionality; in other words, they skip the education on all the functions of that lead hand.  One example is keeping that lead hand up as insurance for 2’s coming from the same stance (same lead).  Simply put, JKD men often complicate the functions of the lead hand.  This complication, or over-complication, coupled with trapping and kicking and groundwork, makes it a ridiculous testament to its absurdity.  I mean, a damn book on a single punch was written for an amalgam of students the world over who are at opposing ends of JKD practice, and from which the majority of the pool is no good.  My friend, Bryan Lamont, is a JKD coach – one of the few good ones – who criticizes the poor JKD concept guys as well as acknowledges that most traditional JKD guys as sloppy and “all over the place.”  He remains loyal to JKD, yet I see him stray as I think any good JKD man should.

The straight lead mumbo jumbo and the detailed stance to the deferential treatment of Bruce Lee’s “writings” are all akin to hero-worship and go against what I believe were Bruce Lee’s teachings which were to keep things simple and direct.  The Straight Lead, as every single JKD book I’ve ever come across, is all about teaching style cookie-cut to a whole flock.  When Tom “scientifically” talks about stance, she undermines the effectiveness of infinite stances.  Boxing coaching – like baseball batting coaching or any proven sport – is broken down into the most fundamentally simple functions, allowing for the individual to evolve from that foundation in a very personal way.  Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson to Roy Jones Jr. to Floyd Mayweather Jr. got their styles from that foundation.  In JKD, Bruce Lee made a horrible mistake, as he himself prophesized, by setting specific “rules” or a “way” on style by detailing “his style.”  (*Aside:  Teaching such a linear stance will handicap some people from evolving and finding their own styles, as it is a more difficult way to learn how to shoot hips, weaving, slipping, offense, and moving in angles. This may be better explained in a different article, but I digress…)

Now, I am not against the straight lead, as it is called here.  Great boxers do it all the time.  Floyd Mayweather Jr. does it, but many boxing men call it an “up-jab.”  It’s a sneaky way to fit the punch between a opponent’s guard, and to find him from a greater distance.  Many boxers practice it as a sort of uppercut with the palm up and the punch rising under the chin from jab distance.  I always dismiss that stuff as signature stuff not to be taught on a greater scale.  Furthermore, it is important to know the most basic way of jabbing effectively before progressing into jabbing from different body angles, shooting the hips, and throwing the jab away from the face (aka “Lead hand no man’s land”).  Turning the fist and not the hips will provide for the best distance finder and the most practical use of energy.

Even if a well-schooled fighter throws a straight lead, he will not throw the straight lead from a high guard.  And well-schooled fighters sometimes have to have a high guard.  He may have to jab down and without turning his fist, he cannot produce the snap behind the shoulder; the vertical fist would have to be thrown with all the triceps muscle.  On a smaller note, a jab covers a little less area with the vertical fist and doesn’t cut someone as easily – this common boxer contention, however, is not the major reason turning the fist is better.  Additionally, a Floyd Mayweather Jr. shell stance is the best proven stance to throw the straight lead, but it’s important for fighters to get that chin behind that shoulder.  Mike Tyson did his version of the straight lead, but his speed advantage and his size made it necessary at times to turn his hip so explosively.  Punching up also naturally protects a fighter on that side, as the shoulder blocks the chin.

JKD practitioners such as Teri Tom discuss science behind punching, as I have in some earlier articles, and she and I are on par with the science.  Bruce Lee said “several inches and snap,” and I say “2-4 inches and snap,” but the difference is arbitrary.  But Tom discusses the Impulse-Theorem and retraction, to which I contend the reason turning the fist is better (again, see my other articles on the science of punching).  Take the hip out of the equation, and anyone will see a little more pop with the turning of the fist.

The Straight Lead is a great conversation starter, but it’s filled with misleading information and points that are amiss.  If Tom knows what she is talking about, the semantics can be challenged.  The cookie-cutter science may seem to simplify, but that’s a fallacy.  There is nothing simpler than custom skills and honest, uber-personal evolution while maintaining what this book complicates:  basics.

After all, it is just a jab.

I can hear it already… Straight Lead zombies swearing that it is much more elaborate than that.

The Problem With Bruce Lee’s JKD – Afterword

Faith Based Training

JKD has adopted the deficiencies of traditional martial arts (TMA): faith based martial arts training, as I call it. Without questioning all facets of martial arts through the process of simulation training and mere skepticism, all TMA falls short of reality. And JKD is a peripheral victim. The fact is that martial arts training involves pain and frustration and randomness, and it’s not for everyone. It is not glorious at all in all the suffering that goes with it, yet it is a passion like anything else. Even disciplines that are proven through sports must be proven to each successive practitioner. For example, no matter how convinced we are that an arm-bar works, we cannot even trust a Royce Gracie without trying it for ourselves. We cannot know viscerally—not just theoretically—how to do it to an opponent until we actually do it.

Faith based training is what has become of martial arts. Coaches don’t tell why and students don’t ask why. Their training itself doesn’t answer why. Even mma gyms seem to have allowance for quasi-practitioners who just go to classes, do partial-contact drills, but don’t do the free sparring with minimal protection. Minimal protection is important, because you must be free to release genuine force and also process the pain. JKD men often put full gear on (shin protectors, head-gear with mask, and even stomach protectors); this allows fighters to release force upon one another, but it does not allow fighters to process the pain and react to it. Conversely, “gear-less sparring” generally does not allow fighters to release real force on one another, and then there’s nothing to process. No pain, it’s like play-fighting.

The adoption of instructor titles and monikers is another indirect perpetuation of faith based training. It causes students to become followers who don’t question. It’s like religion of martial arts. A coach’s ability to communicate a way of thinking about fighting is better than any coach brainwashing. Anything that lends to brainwashing—as in “believe this because I’m saying so, trust me”—should be extinguished from martial arts. Such things like Sifus and masters and Professors have zero effect on improving martial arts. In the army they break you down to nothing, and on so many levels they brainwash you. Martial arts is not like the military in which you are taught to sacrifice yourself completely to your military’s cause. In martial arts, you sacrifice completely to and for yourself. A hierarchy on almost every level of martial arts stunts the only thing that matters: fighting ability. And respect, in combat arts, is inherent, if not earned on an individual basis. The point is that everyone is equal in martial arts and should question every skill, as fighting is a never ending evolutionary process among the vast array of disciplines.

In JKD, their three main aspects—efficiency, directness, and simplicity—is misleading. It seems inherently correct, but once you put it as a numbered aspect of a way (be it ‘of no way’ or whatever), you make it a “rule.” I would rather sacrifice efficiency, directness, and simplicity for something that simply works for me. Plus the 3 aspects are subjective. It can be argued that boxing is the least simple of martial arts, as it may be the most rigorously strategic. I question, for example, the effectiveness of trapping ala Wing Chun. JKD men all over the world are convinced that this stuff works. It seems efficient, direct, and simple enough, but how do we know? No one has ever used it in full contact combat with any bit of exclusivity. There is no known use of it in combat, period. Paul Vunak, a JKD man who was known for his excellent trapping skills, had plenty of instructional videos exhibiting the trapping range in what I call “contractual sparring.” By that, I speak of sparring in which one guy is limited from using at least one technique that his opponent is not limited from using, or one man’s goal is different from the other man’s goal. Something like this is really just a drill. The truth is that a fighter cannot trust any technique for himself because somebody says it works. A fighter cannot even trust a technique for himself even if he has seen it in action; he must practice it himself and ask the questions in every way he can. Mainly, “how and why would this work for me?” So how can the masses trust a technique they have never seen in use and have never tried themselves? And I don’t know about some of those Brazilian Jujitsu moves either; they don’t seem too simple, direct, or even efficient, but they sure as hell worked for other people. They just don’t seem as cockamamie as, let’s say, Ninjutsu. But hey, maybe that deserves some inquiries of its own.

Only an individual can answer what is best for him in combat, but he should be honest and realistic. If a technique works, is it the best move for a fight? Is there a set-up, follow-up, and counter? Is it a one time move like a Superman punch (meaning you can’t do it over and over because you give the move away)? What does it “working” mean? What if it worked 75% of the time before, but it’s completely failing this time? Do you have the proper tools to solve the problem? What if your technique doesn’t offset another fighter even one-bit? What if the move does the intended physical damage, but the guy keeps coming? Then what?

Question everything…Even what you are reading right now…1…2……3. You are cured.

I thought religion was “the opiate of the masses.”