Saturday, March 21, 2009

Notes on Training

People are interested in the sequencing and relationship of the many areas of technique and training method in Jun Fan - Jeet Kune Do, FMA (Filipino martial arts) and various adjunct areas such as Muay Thai and Silat. In response to questions in this regard, I'm presenting a general progression overview.


There are various options for sequencing progressions of material. While an approach that integrates jeet kune do and kali curriculum is recommended because they complement each other so efficiently, skills may be separated according to needs and interests (studying straight jeet kune do trapping for example). The following is a general progression that is very beneficial for a development from foundation to more advanced skills.

Each body of material includes technical principles, training methods to functionalize the material, integration with the other skill areas, and working on gaining a sense of strategy and priority as to what's most effective at a given moment. That is, in addition to obvious physical work, we do progressive cognitive drills so that we can smoothly handle more and more choice reactions as we learn. This applies whether talking about Jeet Kune Do, or Filipino martial arts.

Each technical area should be sequenced so we're not putting the cart in front of the horse. For example, it would be a bad idea to teach jeet kune do trapping or kali joint locking before working with the kickboxing skills that allow us to set up trapping and joint locking

Here is a general curriculum progression.

1) Footwork drills to develop distance sensitivity and timing when to go in or not, when to angle or circle right or left. These skills are the first step to developing "generalship", or being the one that controls the nature of the confrontation. These drills are drawn from jeet kune do, and personal research.

The next three areas could be in any order;

2) Hand attack, with an emphasis on non-sportive tools and targeting, including finger jabs and elbowing, drawn primarily from jeet kune do.

3) Kick attack, with an emphasis on low-maintenance kicks from the groin down, but working some mid and high-line kicks for the sake of being well rounded and being able to help our training partners work on defenses for those kicks. This material is initially drawn primarily from jeet kune do.

4) Hand defense including parries, covers, gate blocks, bob and weave and drills for choice reaction. That is, against a left hook, for example, we might evade, cover, simultaneous block/hit, bob and weave or stop hit, and some choices are more efficient at a given moment than others; how do we learn to spontaneously choose? This material is primarily an integration of Jun Fan and jeet kune do western boxing and Wing Chun methods.

5) Kick defense, including footwork (of course), parries, shields and covers and the stop-kick. This material is drawn mostly from jeet kune do, with Kali as an adjunct.

6) Close quarter stop-gap tactics (AKA "foul tactics," AKA "my favorite things"). It's a given that any method can fail; all it takes is a fraction of a second of distraction or brain-freeze and whammo!, things get messy. But even though it would be relevant to talk about grappling at this point, there are things that are very effective and take less skill. Again, the less skill something takes, the less likely it is to screw up. Things like thumbing the eye, finger grabs, head-butting, shouldering, pinching, biting, and a few selective nerve tweaks. It always amuses me when an instructor says in response to this " well anybody could do that!…" as though it's lack of needed technical sophistication is a negative. When I grapple with my students (standing or on the ground), we always go for these targets first if available. Jeet kune do and kali share these methods.

7) Jeet Kune Do - Jun Fan trapping. When we get to the point where we function at least fairly well with the relationships of the above material, then we can take a step up in skill level either offensively or defensively. Jeet kune do trapping can be done defensively, but the progression makes the most sense starting in offensive mode. At every step of the way, it's important to relate back to the previous material so it's not an isolated skill. It is part of the base understanding that we don't trap because it's cool, but because the context presents itself.

7) Sectoring. Up to this point in the progression, we have done some simultaneous defense and counter-attack, primarily against hooking lines or as a stop-hit. But doing this against straight line strikes requires a better eye and timing, so we don't do it at an earlier stage. These variations and relationships (actually termed "time-hits" in jeet kune do via fencing terminology) can be efficient entries, or used as back-up counter-attack for other tactics like trapping or locking. This material also serves as a beginning to specific kali empty-hand skills. This is also numbered "7" because it would make just as much sense to work with sectoring at this point as it would to work with trapping.

8) At this stage, we have broader options. Going into grappling and groundfighting, joint locking, or sensitivity training would add important pieces to the puzzle.

9) Kali empty hand. The Inosanto-LaCoste system, emphasizing the limb counter-attacks and it's follow-ups with percussion, joint locks and take-downs. This material blends beautifully with jeet kune do, but can be learned as a separate area.

10) Anything that takes extreme precision, such as silat, or other specialized jeet kune do training.

As always, the challenge in jeet kune do is to integrate the skills so that at any appropriate point, we can flow to one efficient response or another, otherwise we might as well be learning card tricks to show at the family picnic.


As with the empty-hand training, there are many possible Kali/Eskrima progressions that would make sense. Here is one general progression that I use.

I think it's beneficial to be exposed to Dan Inosanto's system and Edgar Sulite's Lameco system at the same time, but it's certainly legitimate to focus on one or the other for the sake of interest even if both men's systems shared important material and both men were always changing their drills and training structures as a reflection of their continuing research and growth.

1) Single stick with emphasis on using the motions at long range and follow-ups at middle range as our "home" to use Edgar Sulite's term. Developing an eye for "before, during, and after" variations of timing is central.

2) Double stick with emphasis on developing the motions with offsetting combat syncopation and in relationship to other patterns. For example, once we've learned a "heaven 6" pattern (Inosanto system) in matched coordination, then we not only learn variations, but variations randomly fed and matched. Then syncopated applications, and then how six-count might interact with a four-count pattern. In other words, some of my friends think that the more counts there are (e.g. Villabrille 24 count), the more "advanced" the essence of the drill is. More complex is not the same as more advanced; advanced has to do with how something is used. As Dan Inosanto would tell you, the crudest pattern in the Inosanto system, "caveman" Kobb Kobb is more advanced, if used in syncopated form, than the so-and-so 84 count, and the simplest free-lance drill will generally be more beneficial than the most complicated set pattern.

3) Single stick at intermediate range. There are many interesting drills at this range, including the use of checking, counter-checking and the principles of disarms. Shortly after gaining some understanding of the checking hand with these drills, we would move in to close range, and then work on flow between the three primary ranges.

4) Available weapons. If someone wants to carry a knife, it would be a good idea to start the whole weapons progression with that. But for the majority of people that don't carry a knife, understanding available weapons is important. The reason that I'm mentioning this in relations to knives is because the most common available/improvised weapons are short; pens, forks, hairbrushes, car keys.

5) Knife, starting at long range and working timing, distance and rhythm in attack and counter-attack variations, and eventually working in closer. I recommend drills that work at real time with broken rhythm rather than traditional flow drills.

6) Staff. Staff-like implements are not unusual in our surroundings, so learning staff is not just an "art" part of the FMA, but very practical.

7) Stick and dagger. While it is true that it's unlikely that any of us carry a stick and dagger or sword and dagger around with us, and even more unlikely that someone carrying stick and dagger would have to spontaneously fight someone else carrying stick and dagger, it's a fascinating discipline because of all of the intricacies involved and attention that must be paid. It's like four people doing counter-for-counter drills all at the same time, two with daggers and two with sticks.


  1. Wow. Great stuff and a refreshing change from the encyclopedia of techniques typically being showcased on blogs. Thanks!

  2. Excellent notes on combat!!! Sifu Steve you hit the nail on the head when it comes to combat and what can really happen if a technique is either misused or foiled. Good stuff keep up the great work, and know that there are alot of people who appreciate what your instruction and insight!!

  3. Your materials have had a huge impact on my training and understanding... especially in helping my ability to teach others. I have never had the opportunity to train with you in person but you are one of my teachers! Keep Growing and Sharing the Arts!