Tag Archives: training

Is Mayweather Mittwork All Show?

By Al Alvir

There is a new phenomenon in the boxing world.  Like Muhammad Ali followers who fluttered like butterflies and Mike Tyson wanna-be’s who imitated his substance like aluminum for iron, it seems that everywhere there’s a new garage opening for a gym, one of its trainers believes he could duplicate the success of Roger Mayweather with some flashy  mittwork.  Some believe so without a semblance of understanding of his fighter or for mittwork in itself.  

Focus mitts were incorporated into boxing many decades ago and more – so there are different theories on its origination.  Boxing trainers use focus mitt work (aka padwork or mittwork), to give dynamic practice for fighters to work on the things that happen while fighting.  It gives a live body to train in front of.  It continues to be used today for warming-up a fighter, working on movement, and fine-tuning skills.  The problem is the focus of the mittwork; what is a trainer trying to achieve? Boxing trainers are increasingly adopting a cookie-cutter approach to teaching skills.  Today, padwork is more for warming up guys or showing-off than for fine-tuning skill-sets.  People love the way the Mayweathers do padwork perhaps because it looks so intricate.  Other trainers stick to fads like towel slipping and tube punching – useful in some ways and some much less than others – but should not replace good ol’fashioned mittwork – the kind that is almost like sparring.  And we don’t replace sparring, right?

The repetitive and fast action of the Mayweather style of mittwork indeed helps reflexes, short punches, and making things second nature, but bad habits may develop from it, too.  There are plenty of young non-Mayweathers who don’t have the pedigree or time to become good in spite of paddy-cake padwork.  They aren’t sitting on punches, turning their hips, or learning how to improvise within the fundamentals.  There is no doubt that Roger, Jeff, Floyd Sr., and Floyd Jr. were each tremendous talents who exhibited those skills, but I think the chipmunk quick mittwork we see for two seconds clips on tv had less to do with it than the amalgam of everything else.  Evidence suggests that they spent years touching up on the how’s and why’s before they became known for what many experienced eyes would, and do, call nonsense.  But far too many boxing trainers are selling it to kids without the substance.

The biggest benefit of Mayweather mittwork is that it teaches fighters the way to react in a fight and that “touching” (not trying to throw punches too hard) is essential to good boxing.  It’s arguable that the rhythm of punching is more important than sitting on punches because “touching” happens the majority of the time.  But if trainers can agree that a fighter must learn the fundamentals first – where to stand, angles, all the defenses, how to adjust – they could agree that many fighters are wasting time reacting and being fast over learning the essentials.  Also, trainers may agree that they need to learn their fighters and the fighters need to learn themselves.  Form and technique are paramount.  Trainers know this intuitively, but many of them allow their fighters to tap the mitts dropping their hands, not turning over punches, not extending their jabs, and fouling up distance and being naively vulnerable.

Mayweather mittwork, as some people would call “paddy-cake-paddy-work,” is almost completely choreographed.  And good feeds (the holding of the pads) should mimic the head, body, and real shots coming back.  The feeder should clearly differentiate what is the target and what is a punch, because in a fight the head doesn’t regularly come to your fists.  With Mayweather mittwork, the trainer does almost as much work as the puncher does.  Of course, trainers are supposed to meet the punch with the mitts to provide feel, distance, and resistance to the puncher, but the Mayweathers and their copycats do it too much.  Also, like the speedbag, mittwork can be too routine, the combinations and the feed has to be random that fighters have to go “freestyle”.  It should always be challenging.  So the fighter shouldn’t always know what to expect and shouldn’t always do the same things off of his defense.  And for many fighters, especially beginners, speed becomes rushing, and that kind of speed sacrifices form just as much as punching too hard.
Evidence suggests that the sales-pitch of mittwork has been lucrative, but can cost in the skills department.   One white-collar boxer showed me a tape in which he was hitting the pads, and he did it like a prodigy.  He said he tried boxing ONLY because his coach (who remained anonymous) held pads like Mayweather and he was sold.  He told me, however, that he couldn’t transfer any of that choreography into the ring because he never learned real defense, “how it feels to take a knockout heavy punch on the gloves.” 

I don’t condemn this philosophy completely, as I do believe that the Mayweather “speed-pads,” as some people call it, is the best cookie cutter mold for approaching offense and defense.  The basics of Mayweather mittwork come down to a few basics (for those of you who have no clue to the mystical sleight of hand they see before them):

  • Catch a left hook, come back with a left hook
  • Weave a right hook
  • Shoulder roll a right hand, come back with a right hand
  • Roll (pull back) or catch a jab, come back with a right hand
  • Catch a left to body, come back with a right uppercut
  • Catch a right to the body, come back with a left uppercut
  • Pivots to stay in front of feeder

There are variations on these basics (e.g. you can weave a left hook, too) and various combinations that come off of it, but the trainer calls out the defense and lets you know what’s coming after the combinations are each rehearsed.  All trainers do this to some extent, but some of the best feeders I’ve seen have done it with as little rehearsing as possible.  Once a fighter has done Mayweather mittwork a bunch of times, he may be able to do it with his eyes closed like Floyd Mayweather Jr.  That is my contention to it.  But it is also evidence supporting that it builds muscle memory.

One big suggestion is the use of the body shield, so fighters can sit on shots and get hit at the same time they’re going downstairs.  The body shield helps you find angles instead of being right in front of the feeder who is supposed to act as the opponent rather than a partner.  This mimicking of a real fighting helps, too.  Any ad hoc hypothesis that my idea makes doing other non-fight work-outs pointless ignores the issue:  train target areas, but make it as close to real fighting as possible without sacrificing the intention.  Fighters benefit greatly when a trainer throws punches back with some realistic intent and randomness.  Fighters benefit from trying different moves. 

Ultimately, the Mayweather mittwork can be effective when it supplements the myriad of conventional boxing training, but don’t sell it long.

PS. If a fighter isn’t training to throw kidney shots, is there absolutely any reason for the behind the back mitt feed?

Little Known Boxing Wisdom – 12 Things Maybe Only Cus D’Amato Knew

I consider Cus D’Amato to be the greatest boxing mind to have ever lived.  He was the closest thing to a boxing clairvoyant, a man who had an uncanny ability to read people and tell what their future would likely be.  He could point out the minutia of fights, what to focus on, and what would make the difference in the outcome.  D’Amato had the inexplicable ability to gauge fighters just by an exchange of words, even a demeanor or a handshake.  D’Amato had his defined philosophy on boxing, but he adapted to his fighters in his approach to coaching them.  He took in fighters who he deemed to fit in his stable of fighters.  Bob Jackson, renowned boxing trainer who worked under D’Amato, once told me that it was “that thing, [Cus] could see it if you got it.”  It might be something about being around for so long; Bob started to see it, too.  Cus D’Amato saw “that thing” when these fighters were just boys: Rocky Graziano, Floyd Patterson, and Mike Tyson.  (D’Amato also trained Jose Torres a few years before turning pro, but he wasn’t as young).  Great trainers all over the world have worked corners of dozens of hall-of-fame champions, but D’Amato may be the only one who had ever forecasted multiple children to become greats on their own rights (meaning, someone else wasn’t touting them as prodigies before D’Amato did).  Bob Jackson believed his magnum opus was a young Rohnique Posey who Jackson took off the streets of Far Rockaway, NY.  Posey, 30, has not become a champion, but is a grown man and perhaps a magnum opus in his own right.

 

Too many boxing trainers are hacks and boxing quacks – they know surface fundamentals, figure they can come up with some strategy for a slugger and a boxer, and improvise with the appearance of nuance.  A lot of them had personal success in the ring, often by no means of strategic genius or extensive boxing IQ, but they purport to have more understanding of the sweet science than others.  Many of them learned boxing in a common martial arts academy where real boxing is hardly anything more than boxing terms taught by good communicators, so they know their terms well.  Some are just boxing fans who know what they know from watching boxing, but they can communicate it to beginning fighters.  The regretful thing is that you don’t have to communicate the right stuff to be a good communicator.  There is only a small percentage of trainers, from my observations and education, who come from the school of thought about studying the idiosyncrasies of fighting from every aspect: reading, watching, training, and doing.  I have a great respect for old school gym guys, such as Cus D’Amato and Bob Jackson, who inundate[d] themselves in the art.  D’Amato was a boxing fanatic, not like some sports analyst who fancied sport to fill a void in his life, but one who relished in boxing’s kinship to the nature of people and simply loved the art.  Boxing is widely considered a microcosm of life, and D’Amato, the philosopher he was, saw it as such.  D’Amato used fighters’ fears as tools for fighters to build their mentality.  D’Amato is the most widely recognized trainer known for creating his own distinct style and system of fighting.  The implementation of original training devices such as the Willie Bag (Teddy Atlas cashed in on this with Everlast) and slip bag could arguably be credited to Cus D’Amato.

 

I’ve seen world-class trainers showing people nonsense in top gyms.  It is common to see trainers speeding up the necessary process of learning fundamentals just so they can make it “fun” for fighters.  Yuppies and coddled upper-middle class people across the world are learning boxing… the wrong way.  Some trainers just don’t care to give some of the minor things any thought.  Others believe that the real effort should only be put in real fighters who want to go “somewhere,” like turning professional.  So many trainers rely on tradition and ignore other possibilities – e.g. if a trainer is not from the school of pressure fighters, meaning he doesn’t choose to teach it, he might omit the use of certain tactics that would make the fighter more productive moving forward and get him to start countering and stepping back.  Boxing is steeped in a culture of inheritance, the passing down of techniques, training regimens, and lore.  And boxing, as proven of an art as it is, is not part of a gym culture that examines beyond the realm of what has been passed down to its trainers.  This is the crux of boxing’s integrity; it always works so well and dumps the uselessness and ignores the fads, but it hardly evolves in the ways other sports do.  When other athletes drop miles off road work because scientific proof says that anything over x amount of miles of running a day can be counter-productive, boxers run more.  When other athletes find that lifting weights enhances their speed and strength, boxers continue doing push-ups only.  When other athletes swear that sex doesn’t affect their game-play, boxers swear-off their wives and reduce to masturbation (trainers I’ve known have always sworn-off ejaculation of any sort).  When other athletes drink protein shakes that help them get their nutrients, boxers continue downing their urine.  Some of these are old boxing myths, and certainly not jokes, but their prevalence in boxing culture continues.  Of course, some top pros skip the old superstitions and hire specialists for their training camps in order to harness optimal preparedness.  But for the overwhelming majority of boxing gyms, fighters continue doing what they’ve done for years – what they believe has worked for years from the trainers they know. 

 

If you were to adopt a regimen for training, first comparing the detailed routine of 10 top pro-fighters, the work-outs would vary in an alarming way.  They do so many different kinds of work-outs, but it’s not really known whether it’s the routines that work best for particular fighters or just their choice work-outs.  The fundamentals of boxing are exact enough, but the philosophies of trainers, too, vary to the point that fighters would have to wonder, “What will work for me in this sea of contradiction?”  If one core-workout is the best, why don’t all fighters do it?  So, one would have to question what works best in all of boxing.  I’ve been in gyms for many years and follow boxing like an anal retentive grump.  I can explain and debate for days with anyone in the world about the fundamentals that I believe work better or worse, the training styles that can be enhanced, the strategies that certain fighters should use against their opponents, and I will never prescribe to ad hominem.  Trainers of all sorts will always have something to disagree about, as boxing can be very subjectively complicated, but I’ve met only a handful of trainers who have the forethought and stamina to examine their convictions on a daily basis and possibly evolve.  If I were ever proven wrong, I would want to accept it and test it, and test it some more.  I urge everyone, including trainers and cutmen, to strive at being craftsmen at what they do, not just go through the motions to get it done.  As a trainer, if you feel you have the luxury to be lazy or to make an arbitrary choice, you are not doing your fighters any justice.  Here is a list of some classic passed-down common knowledge, obsessive compulsive pet peeves, personal decrees, and some tips maybe only Cus D’Amato knew (but don’t think I wouldn’t fight him tooth and nail on it, as well, if he disagreed.  He may be Cus, but ad hominem… you know):

  1. Putting out the cigarette.  It does not mean you are properly shifting your weight or turning your hips just because you a pivoting on the ball of your foot.  There is more to shifting weight and turning your hips than that.  When someone pivots like he’s putting out a cigarette, it often means he has too much weight on that leg.  Power comes from the hips AND shifting your weight.
  2. Turning hooks.  Trainers say to turn over the hook so that your palm faces down, but guys tend to turn it too early.  The turn adds snap and force and it should be on contact.  See Mike Tyson vs. Trevor Berbick.
  3. Step and slide.  You do not slide the second step, you hover.  The point is to be as close to the floor as possible, but you don’t want to drag your feet.  Dragging, or sliding, your feet slows you down and could tire your leg.
  4. Enswell pressure.  When a cutman rubs swelling with the enswell, pushing the blood away, it is a temporary job, and it lends to the swelling increasing faster.  A cutman should only, if ever, rub out swelling if it’s the last chance for his fighter or the fight is going to be stopped.
  5. Mayweather-like Patty-cake-work.  Here’s another example of ad hominem.  I’ve said for years that the Mayweather pad-work was pointless.  But because Mayweather is/was on top, gym fighters insisted it worked.  Anybody can do it; it’s partially choreographed and it doesn’t help simulate a real fight or real moves.  It’s just a display of fluidity and speed at its best.  But it’s not great pad-work feeding or a display of great skills.  Fighters of all sorts are doing it now, and it’s plain bad and obviously not too difficult.  If you have a routine and can look away, you are obviously not doing what its intended use is—to focus.  Patty-cake Baker’s man, it’s all show.
  6. Speedbag.  It’s good at first, but any fighter gets used to a bag and a platform after seconds and can do it with his eyes closed, so it takes away from the training.  Switch bags and change up the way you hit the bag to get the most out of it.  Pin the bag.  Play around. It’s for hand-eye coordination, so if you can look away, trust that it’s not doing much more than keeping your arms moving.
  7. Snap.  Contrary to what boxers may feel like they’re doing when they punch, they are not punching through the target.  They are actually punching at the target and transferring the greatest force by snapping at the target and changing the trajectory of the punch.  It’s a complicated explanation in physics, but very simple and natural for boxers to perform.  Twisting the fist uses more, larger muscles and increases kinetic energy.  Even if a fighter punches with a follow through, there is a point when he snaps/pops his punch and changes the trajectory even slightly.  Force has to transfer to the target and not dissipate with it. 
  8. Uppercuts.  You should rotate your fist and you should throw it from angles.  People tend to throw the uppercut with the weakest fulcrum – as though their arm is in a cast and sling as they swing their arm up.  That is the weakest angle for your punch because you’re using the weakest muscles.  Your palm should rotate as though you are flexing your bicep, so you get more leverage.  And uppercuts, when possible, should use your chest muscles as much as possible – like a vertical hook.  And try not to throw uppercuts right in front of your opponent.
  9. Where to look.  Generally, stare at the center of the chest, but let your eyes roam.  You want to peak at your opponent’s eyes, he may be cut or having a seizure.  You want to be aware of his hand (only from far away), he may have a ripped glove that could cut you up.  Also, your opponent might have a give with his eyes.  You might have a guy staring into your eyes, and you can trick him by looking up or down. The point is, your eyes are a tool to maximize your awareness.  Also, when you hit the bags, train your peripheral vision.  When hitting the double-end bag or slip-bag, look past the bag at times.  You can’t treat the thing you’re slipping the same way you do the thing you’re punching; you don’t stare at a fist when you’re bobbing and weaving, do you?
  10. Breathing through teeth.  Leave the grunting to tennis players.  Boxers breathe through a bitten-down mouthpiece and make a “sst” sound, not a “shh” sound.  A “sst” sound through the teeth and mouthpiece comes from deep down.  A “shh,” as though you’re telling someone to shush, is basically a superficial exhale.  And biting down will keep you from getting your jaw broken.  Only Manny Pacquiao hasn’t had his jaw wired for this girlish quirk.
  11. Cross vs. Straight vs. Overhand.  Know your 2’s.  It’s important to know the differences between all your 2’s because of the different functions.  I’ve seen it dozens of times when a guy is trying to break through someone’s defense and could do so with a different approach with his 2 punch.  These three shots each function as different punches depending on the angles you get and the angles you make in a fight.
  12. Stepping and punching.  Stepping is ONLY about moving location.  You never have to step with a punch if you are not moving location.  Trainers sometimes insist that fighters step with the jab regardless of positioning.  It’s not going to add power without true forward movement and it can be another give/tip-off. 

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.”

The Problem with Bruce Lee’s JKD

Jeet Kune Do—a Humble View, Inside Looking… Inside?

From a basic philosophical perspective of education and information, I have always believed in questioning, testing, and testing some more. Now, as an experienced coach, I impel everyone to question what I say and test it. Bruce Lee was my earliest martial arts idol. He had moves with an aesthetic outdoing my sensei and smoother than other karate or kung fu men on Saturday mornings. Bruce Lee almost singlehandedly inspired me to learn boxing and supplement my experience with various styles of martial arts. I have grown to learn how Bruce Lee lent martial arts, on a grand scale, so many invaluable concepts that have helped the evolution of fighting.

My query on JKD is about what it inspires besides boxers to learn different defenses or Greco-Roman grapplers to learn Thai kicks or any other melding of styles. Does it cause a delusion of the artist? Is there a hero-worship that transcends the simple purpose of JKD? When has Bruce Lee ever proved that he existed as an “ultimate,” be-all and end-all of fighters? Hypothetically speaking, if Bruce Lee wanted to be worshipped or even if he wanted his disciples to blindly follow him through the wrong path, should they? Does one grievous Bruce Lee mistake mean uncorrectable, perpetual doom for its new practitioners? Was Bruce Lee’s death the most regressive thing for JKD, causing people to deify him rather than improve upon the gift he gave all of martial arts?

After reading – for the third time in the last 15 years – the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, I was again convinced that Lee was a genius, a legend before his time, indeed. He theoretically understood combat like Cus D’Amato understood boxing combat. He carefully detailed almost everything he had believed, his truths about the art of fighting. Of course, so many of his moves correspond with what we, in today’s fighting world, consider practical.

I notice too many JKD men, however, making the primary faux pas of not questioning. Bruce Lee did Wing Chun Gung-Fu, some western boxing, and Muay Thai, so JKD men believe they should do exactly those. Dan Inosanto, the top JKD man under Lee, incorporated Filipino martial arts, so the flock followed suit. It seems that every JKD man makes this his “way.” JKD guys even go to the extent to say, “ ‘We’ do martial arts [this] way, as opposed to [that] way.” With wide scale questioning – real, genuine inquiry and skepticism – individuals grow and come to find truths that can be so specific to each of the persons. And questioning could only strengthen the concept of JKD.

Bruce Lee regrets naming JKD, so why don’t JKD men absorb this idea: Giving it a concrete property, even in a name, takes away from its proposed water-like property. Being “like water, my friend” becomes mere rhetoric. If one JKD man speculates about his art, he will find answers and for all intents and purposes, he will test it. The JKD school half-testing techniques with assortments of drills only lends to a myth of JKD. When I was 16, JKD was my passion, and I practiced it everyday in my brother’s backyard sessions. But we were bamboozled in many ways; we wore too much gear and we choreograph-role-played too much. We pondered over the straight blast to how to properly perform a stop-kick. Some argued that a straight blast should be softer and made to stun the opponent. Others in our group wanted to swing harder and freer. Some guys wanted to cock the stop-kick for more force. Others wanted to just stop the opponent’s forward movement. We would copy the reference point square-off from Enter the Dragon and Pak Sao to one backfist. We were brainwashed to think one measly backfist predicted a fight’s outcome. Sometimes we would train a sequence of moves and finish it with the first damn strike. The moves lend the subconscious notion that one strike was the science to win a fight. JKD books even illustrate moves to set up these quasi-jabs or backfists. Where was the science of exchanges and reactions to the impact of power punches, set-ups, and boxing traps? Where was the pain factor? We all were so infatuated with finding one truth that we disregarded each other’s truths. We disregarded the whole idea of JKD; if we follow it, we miss it. It was just a concept and we ran with it to the point of killing it. The training was all-in-all worthwhile to a certain extent, but for all the hits we took and time wasted, we didn’t truly test the techniques with the ONLY thing that works, free fighting.

“Formlessness”… “No style as style”… “No way as way”…”Simple movements”… “Non-classical.” It sounds like some high-handed mumbo-jumbo, especially when Lee said what he does is a style. “There is no mystery to my style.” Well of course it is, it’s not a spirit or energy; it is as tangible as words on paper. Hence, it is “style.” JKD men seem to take some of Lee’s philosophies too literally except for the part of JKD that implores people not to follow it. It reminds me of Eddie Murphy in Coming to America when his bride will do anything he wishes except for when he wishes that she would do the opposite of what he wishes. JKD men think they can take whatever they want and throw out anything they don’t want from martial arts. That is naïve, even ignorant. I’ve met JKD men who think they can box for 3 months, do Muay Thai for 4, and play with Escrima sticks before bed without any true sacrifice and commitment to any single art and think they are efficient JKD practitioners. They wrongly assume they can borrow tidbits from arts without thoroughly consuming themselves in one art for many years. This is the current problem with MMA – they have “jack-asses of all trades, masters of jack-asses.” It pains me to watch some JKD men who fancy themselves as martial artists who know boxing. Much of the time, they have dumpy footwork but they could do the little butterfly shuffle from Return of the Dragon. They could snap a backfist, but do they understand a semblance of the science of boxing – an art that has been tested over and over again and continually evolves? How about the popular Brazilian Jujitsu? I challenge anyone to find a JKD school that exhibits proper technique in the fundamentals of boxing or Muay Thai, in which a seasoned western boxer or Thai boxer can witness a JKD school coaching and not say facetiously, “You gotta be kidding me…” JKD is almost irrevocably watered down martial arts with an assortment of flawed fundamentals. Too many of these guys pass as hacks deluded by blind dedication to an antiquated JKD. But, perhaps, the best JKD men (perhaps Eric Paulson and Burton Richardson, I wonder) have moved on and do not affiliate themselves with the eternalized cult that has become of JKD today.

There is a spiritual characteristic to JKD causing us to romanticize it. JKD practitioners sometimes delude themselves with a competitive nature that seems to rank “who is most like Bruce Lee.” There is no solid fight footage, so the myth is exacerbated by the movie fight scenes that we like to imagine were reenactments of real Bruce Lee fights. JKD men cling to every recorded word like the Branch Dravidians did to David Koresh. A JKD man may dispute the David Koresh example, saying, “more like Jesus.” Haha, it’s what I’m saying exactly. But is JKD “so lethal that we can’t practice it like sport?” That is such an easy cop out of a claim, but kicking groins, biting limbs, and the death touch are not the only things I ask to be tested. The one-to-three inch punch, for one, I’d like to be examined. Anyone with a boxer’s jab can pretty much answer the one-incher claim with a sarcastic “Big f-ing deal.” It is simply a display of moving one’s hips and generating short power. Still, when I first slow-motioned Bruce Lee doing it one of the many times, I felt embarrassed for him after noticing… Lee actually pulled back about 3 or 4 inches. See for yourself. Many probably won’t, because it’s so much cooler to believe the hype. Still, I would have been more impressed if he exhibited a top boxer’s power or speed in a full punch, rather than what seemed like super power in showbiz thaumaturgy. If he could hit as hard as a top boxer from 1 inch away, how would he fare from a full punch’s distance? Lee criticized katas, but held his own exhibitions of indulgence. He even broke boards though he was known to say, “The board doesn’t hit back.”

It is my humble opinion that JKD should be, as it was meant to be, a vehicle “to be discarded.” JKD guys, as they proudly seem to call themselves, “just don’t get it.” They mimic “stylelessness” and cling to every contradiction. I wonder, is Floyd Mayweather more JKD man than Sifu is? Was Cus D’Amato a teacher of an unwritten JKD?

I am not questioning JKD ad hominem. Contrarily, I am supporting what JKD stands for despite the historical myth of Bruce Lee. I believe Bruce Lee to have been the greatest martial artist to have ever been known. But I doubt that he was as good of a fighter. I look at Bruce Lee as being akin to a Malcolm X; he always meant well, but made a mistake, then he tried to rescind on that mistake, unsuccessfully. Many people of this ‘occult’ still believe the mistake, and no one can ever take it back. They believe they should dance like Bruce Lee and that they all, seemingly without exception, should put their strong side first. But Lee was explicit in letting everyone know that his way would not necessarily be anyone else’s way.

Why couldn’t he just have named it MMA? Instead, he accommodated each worshipper to hop on one leg and bark like a dog?

 

 

“I have not invented a “new style,” composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”. . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that. There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune-Do is simply the direct expression of one’s feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one’s back.”
– Bruce Lee