Sunday, 24 June 2012

The great Bruce Lee

The above picture was one of the first I ever saw of Bruce Lee, it was in the form of a poster that was in a local shop window. By then it was the mid seventies and sadly Bruce had already passed away, however despite his short life he left us a few great things including some great films, a simple, direct and non classical martial art and also a philosophy for life, which can be used to actually live a life worth living.

His movies were an expression of his time and also himself, he tried to show some of the things that had helped his own self realization and freed him from his own limitations.

His art was simple and direct and non classical, by non classical I mean nothing was taken at face value just because it was traditional or the result of some long ago fights.  In a time when you just did what you were told to by your teacher, Bruce took the Wing Chun of Yip Man (or at least part of it) and ruthlessly tested it, firstly in Hong Kong and later in the States.

Tools that worked were kept; things that did not work were either modified or thrown out. Bruce’s art evolved with his personal needs and development and also the environment he found himself in. I think his art had five stages of development, firstly the early years of Hong Kong, then the three American stages of Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles and then back to Hong Kong. Even in the last year of his life he was researching the martial arts and this included retracing some of his steps. Cross checking, proving or improving everything.

All of the above is great and sometime later I got to train in Lee Jun Fan and also Jeet Kune Do. I was lucky enough to train with some of his first and second generation students and the art was wonderful. Bruce left us a way of researching and also a template for our own martial arts in Jeet Kune Do.

However the main thing that I feel helped me the most was Bruce’s philosophy which transcended the martial arts into daily life.

The following quotations reflect his philosophy.

"Be formless... shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You pour water into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. You put water into a teapot; it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or creep or drip or crash! Be water, my friend..."[103]

"All types of knowledge, ultimately leads to self knowledge"[104]

"Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it".[105]

"Do not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there".[106]

"Quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough".[107]

"I always learn something, and that is: to always be yourself. And to express yourself, to have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate him".[108]

"It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential".[109]

Bruce use his own philosophy modified to his needs to overcome his physical, mental and spiritual limitations. He set himself free of the classical martial arts bondage and just expressed himself. He never gave up, was open minded, was alive in the moment and above all he did what he said he would do. Imagine if we all followed that prescription in our daily lives.

Be true to yourself.

Don’t give up.

Be open minded.

Live in the moment.

Do what you say you will do.

So that’s a simple, direct and non classical way to live a full and rewarding life. None of us knows when our own time line will end, so best get on with life.

Human Weapon (Muay Thai, Ninjutsu & Silat)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The boxing jab or lead jolt

Mark Dacascos in Le Pacte Des Loups

Just like Mani (played by Mark Dacascos) above firing the lead jab, most of us who have been training a while have worked the basic boxing jab and found it to be useful in the context of sportive sparring matches. Today I would like to examine using the boxing jab in the realms of self protection and to do so I am going to write about my own journey using the jab as one of my tools.

I was first taught the boxing jab back in 1977, it was the first punch I was taught in amateur boxing and I was told it was a point scorer, a range finder and a fight controller also that you could not knock someone out with a jab but you could knock someone over with a straight jolt. In short you could use the jab to control the fight, keeping you opponent off balance and set up your power techniques such as the rear cross or left hook.  The jab needed two things to work; speed and deception, it had to be fast to avoid counters but it was the closest tool to the target and with lots of repartition and footwork you could get the speed. Deception was all about faking a shot and being non - telegraphic. You had to be able to throw it at different angles and double it up as needed.

GSP gets it done

Being long and lanky, I always had a good jab as I could keep my opponents at bay with my long arms and good footwork; however that’s about all I used the jab for. Sometime later I got to chance to train with Bob Breen, a great martial arts instructor here in the UK and one of the best “boxing hands” coaches I have ever seen. Bob took me on the focus pads for a few rounds and one of the things he said I should work on was my jab as I was just an  arm puncher.

Bob Breen

I needed to learn how to put my whole body behind the punch to get extra power and zip. Following Bob’s advice changed my jab forever, now it hit with real power and it was a much better tool to dominate my opponents. I am not going to give away Bob’s training secrets here, but I recommend you either train with him or watch some of his coaching DVDs.

A couple of years later, I started training Geoff Thompson's Fence for self protection, this was all about using the hand fend to control the space and deception to launch a big fight changing hit. A lot of my friends switched to this and their jabs fell in to disrepair unless they still boxed.  I think the jab is a valid self protection technique; people disagree with me because they want a big hit followed by lots of go forward and bigger hits to knock the opponent out. I think that like the eye jab the boxing jab has its place in self protection, because done right you can use it just like in boxing to control the range and hurt without steaming into your opponent. You may choice to switch to the all out steaming attack at some point but I have found that a sweet jab can dissuade the less committed attackers. I realise that I am taking a chance not utilising the lots of go forward steam roller approach straight away but sometimes a stiff jab is all that’s needed if it results in a bloody nose.

Sold on the jab for self protection?

Felice Herrig

Here are a few pointers you may like to consider if you are training the jab for self protection.

  •  You need to hit with your whole body to get the correct power, you also need to be moving to get the correct angle. Think of your jab as a jolt.

  • Timing is everything, you’re not sparring, and so get used to firing you jab straight away.

  • Your target is the nose, not the teeth or the neck. You are trying to break the other guy’s nose. People tend to dip their chins to protect their neck, so it’s really hard to get you fist into the neck.

  • One training idea is to put two eyes and a nose on one of your focus pads with masking tape and practise popping that nose with your jab.

  • During boxing sparring, work popping the jab from your natural squared up, less bladed self protection stance. If you can tag a pro boxer on a regular basis, that should give you the confidence to throw your shot.

Watch Felice in action- count the jabs with hand and foot

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Arts to train in 2012

So 2012 rolls in and it's time to discuss training for the coming year. This year in our small group we are going to try and train a different art each week. Not sure how this will work out but it will look something like this.

Week One: Combatives.

Week Two: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Week Three: MMA.

Week Four: Mix and weapons training.

The main goal this year is to try and get the alive drills going and continue to narrow down our tools. We are going to try the above for six months and see how it works out. For the last part of the year, we will probably pick one discipline and concentrate on that.

The great thing about being in a small, independent and non commercial group is that we can suit ourselves when deciding what to work on. Most of us just want some self protection and fitness training, combined with studying something interesting. Just a group of people who want to get off the sofa and bang.