JKD’s Most Important Technique
It’s probably surprising to hear that something so (allegedly) basic as the Ready Position is JKD’s most important technique. I understand, I really do. But we need to deal with this because not understanding the primacy of JKD’s On-Guard is the central mistake infecting Lee’s fighting method. Seriously.
First, let’s cover why it’s so important.
To begin, the Ready-Position is ready to do two primary things: hit and move. Specifically, it’s ready to fire non-telegraphic straight BOMBS, preferably from the lead hand/foot. Assuredly, the rear-side gets in on the action but only as a coup-de-grace. The supremacy of straight hits is a critical aspect of JKD that we shouldn’t take for granted. Unfortunately, too many people do. The JKD Bi-Jong is the launching pad from which the primary weapons (lead punch, side kick and snap/hook kick are thrown). Any significant departure from this set-up will invariably degrade the efficiency, power and speed of these weapons.
Next, the Ready-Position is ready to move. It’s easy to confuse movement with footwork. Any fool can move; JKD fighters move their Ready-Position by means of specific footwork designed especially for this purpose. If, for example, you bounce when moving, instead of shuffling as you should, you obliterate your ability to instantly fire when needed. First, you have to stop bouncing, then reset, and then fire. This literally destroys your JKD because now you can’t instantly counter-attack. Your options then are to try and avoid everything by running or getting into a brawl.
In this, one can see the careful integration of the three technical fundamentals of JKD: the Bi-Jong, JKD/fencing style footwork to transport the on-guard, and the pulverizing straight hits. It’s a package deal. If one of these go, the others are soon to follow. And this is why you absolutely cannot, repeat cannot, simply add things willy-nilly to your game and call it JKD.
Roundhouse swings and bad footwork are generally added by the student because they haven’t been taught that keeping the on-guard position is of central concern. After all, if I lose focus on this, I’m liable to throw strikes that telegraph and/or make instant recovery impossible. The goal of the JKD fighter is, as Bruce called it, stillness in motion. That is to say, we want to fire without warning from the ready-position and then return immediately to it. That’s it! The more we deviate from this standard, the harder everything else becomes.
Constant drilling must be done in order to ensure that the JKD fighter is able to maintain their discipline under pressure. The Romans once had the greatest military on the planet. They called their practice maneuvers; their maneuvers were called bloodless battles; their battles were called bloody maneuvers.
If you’ve ever been to an amateur MMA or boxing event, you’ll notice how wild the fighters can get. Clearly, they know better than to swing so hard that they fall down if they miss, but novice fighters do this all the time. Why? Simple. They haven’t yet developed the discipline required to control themselves under pressure. This is no small point. Pressure causes us to make mistakes, so the JKD fighter must train and train and train – not until they get it right but until they have to try to do it wrong!
With all this said, it shouldn’t surprise you that Bruce Lee said that all JKD practice was the practice of the ready-position. The fighter that’s always ready to hit (hard!) is a dangerous fighter. And the JKD tactical mind-set is to “get off first” – to stop-hit or counter. Even the attacks in JKD are actually “early” counters because the enemy is off balance or, for whatever reason, unprepared. Everything in JKD swirls in orbit around the interception/stop principle and this simply can’t be achieved without the integration of the technical fundamentals of the on-guard, footwork, and straight bombs.
So, why do so many people mess this up? Well, there are numerous reasons but let’s focus on two big ones.
First, people erroneously think that JKD’s governing philosophy is relativistic, which is to say that anything goes and there are no fixed principles. But if you say there aren’t any fixed truths, you just said one. Get it? By saying there are no absolutes, you’re saying one. We can avoid all this confusion by properly understanding what it means to “have no way as way.” This should be understood – primarily – from a tactical standpoint. Feints, draws, traps, counters, changes of timing, angle, etc. These are all the when and why of fighting. The technical structure of JKD, though, isn’t able to be varied much at all (though it can, of course, be tweaked for practical purposes) for the very reason that human anatomy is a rather fixed thing.
If I drive someplace, I’m bound by certain specifics. What kind of car do I have? What’s the speed limit? What kind of law enforcement is there? (Remember George Carlin’s number one rule of driving: if the police didn’t see it, I didn’t do it). What are the traffic conditions? You see, we’re “bound” by certain things but also tactically free to adjust. If there’s a traffic jam on my primary route, I can take another highway. I can leave earlier or later to avoid congestion. What I can’t do is mount a missile launcher on my roof and blast my way to work – tempting though that is.
Naturally, we are free to do whatever we want, but we aren’t free from the consequences.
Which leads us to the second error – complexity. The scourge of complexity happens because we fail to properly identify the facts of reality. The JKD on-guard/straight hitting/footwork combination allows us to best control distance, avoid being a good target while simultaneously attacking the softest targets of our enemy. And this isn’t going to be easy because the other guy is trying to hurt us. He’s going hard and fast and he’s moving. This necessitates ruthless efficiency. Any complicated movements that don’t achieve simultaneous evasion and counter should be jettisoned. We endeavor to keep it simple because the stakes are high and the other guy won’t cooperate.
In all, there’s no way to simplify fighting if you’re out of position and can’t counter-attack. This is why the JKD bi-jong is absolutely the most important technique because without it, nothing else works.