Thursday, December 2, 2010

JKD Theory and Weapons

While it is true that weapons were not a central part of Bruce Lee's curriculum, the principles that are central to JKD apply broadly and are very useful for weapon methods. I have no doubt that many in the Filipino martial arts ("FMA") crowd will immediately talk of these principles as being old news because of the long history of the FMA and its being battle-tested over time and so on: that means essentially nothing in this discussion because, for one thing, a system's training can change in a single generation, and for another thing, much of what is being passed down now I doubt has been battle-tested.

Let me be specific about several essential issues...

while many FMA practitioners may talk about long, medium and close range, they rarely define the fighting measure in any kind of ready (non-striking) position. That is, long range is defined as being able to strike or cut each others extended arm, but not whether you are in reach of a strike (INCLUDING THE WEAPON-HOLDING HAND) without the opponent taking a step in when you are in a non-striking or ready position. In JKD, we would consider this too close, because if the opponent strikes non-telegraphically, then we are unlikely to have time to respond well. I have certainly found this to be consistently true with knife and stick as well. It would be humorous how close many knifers stand in their training were it not so misguided. And yes, I understand and acknowledge that surprise attacks happen and we can't always be at "ideal" range, but in training we have to start somewhere and most people's view of basic fighting distance is lacking.

Economy of Motion: it's curious that many contemporary FMA folk also practice some kind of kickboxing-based empty hand art where it's understood that telegraphing (some kind of visually readable preparation) of strikes is a no-no to be guarded against, but somehow this is overlooked when they pick up their weapon. To prove my point, take any ten DVD/videos or Youtube clips on stick or knife, both where an instructor is showing the striking/cutting angles as well as drilling/sparring, and I doubt if you will find even one where the telegraphing is not obvious! Even built into the system! Any movement of a strike that does not involve the business end of the knife or stick going towards the target is a telegraph. Some will say that you need the prep for a fully powerful stroke, but you don't always need a maximally powerful strike to smash a hand, and smaller strikes can be developed to a nicely functional degree. (In a future post I will define the four features of a proper strike.) Also included in the principle of "economy of motion" would be the "passive/active" analysis: that is, how much motion is defensive ("passive") and how much is attacking ("active")? Again, I do acknowledge that we are not always together enough to catch our favored responses, but if a weapon system focuses on a defensive maneuver such as a roof or sweep blocks rather than striking right off the bat (the basic tactic of "largo" systems), then they are lacking in economy of motion.

There is never a point at which we shouldn't ask ourselves whether something we are practicing couldn't be done in a more efficient way, and this is something that is part of the best "traditions."