Discover how JKD’s unique system makes an impact on mixed martial arts.
By Ty Cannon
For fighters, mixed martial arts presents situations unlike any other martial arts competition. In MMA, you’ll face a host of different fighting styles and plenty of diverse training philosophies. As more people cross-train from group to group, the old days of simply teaching “this is how you deal with a roundhouse kick…” or a right cross—and leaving it at that—are long gone. Today, fighters are becoming more and more intellectual about how they approach their fights. They have to.
The Jeet Kune Do Difference
As a Third Level Instructor under Steve Golden, I’ve fielded a lot of questions over the last few years about the relationship between Jeet Kune Do and MMA. When I started training Jeet Kune Do, it wasn’t my intent to learn a new system. My goal was to find something that would make what I already knew work better.
Of course, I’d heard all the martial arts phrases we’re all familiar with: be like water; move with a purpose; use force against itself, and so on. However, none of it was very helpful when it came to sparring. Then in training with the legendary Steve Golden, he would talk about a topic such as “moving with a purpose,” but would add something I’d never heard before: “…and here’s how.”
This is the big difference, and it’s what sets Jeet Kune Do apart from other martial arts systems. It isn’t just about the tools and techniques; instead the emphasis is on how to make them work in real situations. When you talk about distance, timing and rhythm in JKD, you’re not dealing with them as abstract subjects. You’re actually showing specific ways to use and exploit them in fighting situations.
Jeet Kune Do has a deep understanding of how people engage each other in a fight, and even though JKD is primarily a street martial art, this understanding is very useful in MMA. And it’s a primary reason why JKD is often referred to as “scientific fighting.”
Five Ways Of Attack
After studying countless martial arts systems and fights, Bruce Lee observed that there are five different ways that people engage each other in a fight. You’ll find that most martial arts systems and fighters utilize one—maybe two—of these ways of attack. There are a few that use three. Jeet Kune Do, however, is the only system that uses all five ways.
Bruce identified these ways of attack as:
- Simple Direct Attack
- Indirect Attack
- Combination Attack
- Immobilization Attack (aka. trapping)
- Attack by Drawing
The success or failure of using any tool depends on using the right method of attack against the right type of opponent. Let’s take, for example, Jeet Kune Do’s straight punch. We’re constantly reminded on how to develop this powerful tool. We’re told to work on our relaxed structural alignment for maximum kinetic power, non-telegraphing, and all the other fine points of the punch. The end result is a really good tool—that only works some of the time.
However, the straight punch can be used with any of the five ways of attack. The type of attack you choose to deliver your punch is “dictated” for the most part, by the type of attack your opponent favors. No matter how good your punch is, if you don’t have a clear idea of how you are using the punch, and why, you are trying to attack by luck and are completely missing the point of Jeet Kune Do.
Here is how the straight punch is used with the five ways of attack. Remember that in the following examples, it’s important to assume that both fighters are of equal skill.
Simple Direct Attack
This is a single strike developed with the objective of hitting an open target by the most direct route. This type of fighter has a single mindset: when you move, he hits, and with whatever he believes his best weapon is! You could start to throw a punch, or could be simply scratching your head and it doesn’t matter–he’s going to hit you. There is no thought of blocking or looking for the big set-up.
When properly developed, this method works well most of the time. However, a fighter who is skilled at Drawing can deal with this attack quite easily.
Series 1: Direct Attack against attacker using a wide punch.
The key to this type of attack is not to wait. The point is to intercept this attack, not to counter it.
[photo1] From ready position
[photo2] Opponent steps in with the beginning of a wide looping punch targeted at the head. As he initiates his movement, the opponent is intercepted with a straight punch.
[photo3] Followed with another straight punch.
[photo4] Followed with another straight punch.
This is a strike whose initial movement creates an opening and then changes course to hit the opened target, and is also known as faking.
You will commonly see people with a strong boxing background or kickboxing employ this method; however, more and more ground fighters are adopting this method to set up their takedowns. This works great against anyone who likes to block or cover before striking. However, this is probably the worst thing you could try against Simple Direct Attack.
Series 2: Indirect Attack
[photo1] From ready position.
[photo2] Attacker begins to shoot low for a take down.
[photo3] As the opponent prepares to defend the takedown, attacker rises and lands a straight punch to the head…
[photo4] …followed with another straight punch.
[photo5] followed with another straight punch.
Attack by Combination
This is a series of simple attacks designed to disorganize the opponent. A lot of Thai boxers like to use this method to overwhelm their opponent. This isn’t to say that all attacks shouldn’t be followed with effective combinations. In fact, you should never stop to inspect the damage after you land a blow, but should get in there and finish the job!
The difference is that the fighter uses combinations as a mode of engagement as well as follow-up. Immobilizing is a good option against this type of attack (see next section).
Series 3: Combination
[photo1] From ready position.
[photo2] The attacker throws a jab, which is parried by the opponent.
[photo3] It is followed with a cross, which is also parried.
[photo4] This is followed with a Thai kick, which lands successfully.
[photo5] Followed up by pulling the hand that parried across his body and delivering an elbow to the head.
Here you engage the opponent in a way that prevents them from striking, which offers you a safe place to strike from. This is commonly referred to as trapping and uses tools from Wing-Chun and other trapping arts. You also can see examples of immobilizing attack from MMA fighters who have strong wresting backgrounds when they are faced with opponents with superior striking ability.
If you don’t want to take a chance on trading punches, this is a good way of attack.
Series 4: Immobilizing Attack (aka, Trapping)
[photo1] From ready position.
[photo2] Attacker closes, enveloping both right and left arms momentarily, closing off his ability to strike.
[photo3] Attacker follows with a straight punch.
[photo4] Followed with a straight punch.
[photo5] Followed with a straight punch.
Attack by Drawing
This way of attack is by far the most difficult of the five ways. It works by creating the illusion of a perfect opportunity for your opponent to strike, allowing you to attack the opening line he creates as he tries to strike you.
This one works great in a number of situations when specific elements dealing with distance, rhythm and timing are properly applied. However, it is impossible to give any meaningful explanation without addressing other principles of Jeet Kune Do that will be covered in future articles.
Series 5: Drawing
[photo1] From ready position.
[photo2] Attacker enters opponent’s striking range with his head open.
[photo3] As the opponent strikes, the attacker moves off line and delivers a knee to the solar plexus.
[photo4] Followed with an elbow to the head.
[photo5] Followed with a Thai kick.
[photo6] Followed up by pulling back on the shoulder, positioning the body for an elbow to the head.
Keep in mind that these are very simplistic examples of the five ways of attack and how they might be used. It’s possible for any fighting style to use any of these methods, or a combination of them. Once you develop an understanding of how to use the five ways of attack and how to assess which ones your opponent favors, it simply becomes a game of rock-paper-scissors. Except, of course, you’re playing it in a cage and the other guy can rip your head off if you get it wrong.
Regardless of your martial arts background, having a comprehensive understanding of how people engage each other, and the ability to make an assessment of your opponent beyond “he is a stand up fighter,” or “he likes to go to the ground,” can give you a huge advantage.
You’ve heard that, “Style makes fights.” As fighters, we should add to that phrase “The ability to adapt your style makes champions.”
Author bio: Ty Cannon is a Third Level Instructor under Steve Golden and is available for private and small group instruction in Costa Mesa, Calif. For more information, he can be reached at TyCannon.com
I would like to thank our photographer Steve Butchko and Clark Kohanek for their help on this article.