I was preparing for last week's classes when I came across the quote above. In the JKDAA, we consider the two simultaneous aspects of our training to be self-protection and self-perfection. Sometimes training tends toward the former, other times the latter, but we also try to keep both in mind. We can see how this mindset echoes the mindset Sijo Bruce Lee wanted to lay out for those following the path of Jeet Kune Do through his words above.
Last week in class, we were focusing on the JKDAA's military combatives curriculum, called Rapid Assault Tactics. The first purpose of our tools would seem to be the one we should have in mind then. Self-protection in a combative situation, be it the battlefield or civilian self-defense, can involve the annihilation of the opponent in front of us. The first purpose of our tools; kicks, punches, chokes, would be use in literal, physical combat. That is then contrasted with the second purpose of internal development that Sijo speaks of. This contrast is not wrong, the first use of our tools does certainly involve actual application in hand to hand combat...but to end the discussion there is to ignore the further clarification that Sijo explains, "the annihilation of things that stand in the way of peace, justice and humanity."
Certainly, for the soldier, annihilation of the things that stand in the way of peace, justice and humanity may involve engaging in actual combat to remove a dictator from power. For the rest of us, there may come some point in time in which we need to actually fight for these lofty goals, but to say that our training to annihilate the things that stand in the way of peace, justice and humanity is limited only to actual physical combat is reductionist and limiting. It would seem to create a false dichotomy between the two purposes that Sijo lays out.
While the language of these goals may seem conceited, it is actually very much fitting with both the Zen Buddhist aims of Jeet Kune Do as well as the Southern Chinese martial arts views of martial virtue and the Confucian emphasis on the individual's roll in society. The two aims of your natural weapons that Sijo lays out are not necessarily just a contrast of physical versus mental, but of external forces and internal forces. Seen in that light, these two aims aren't two separate things, but parts of a united whole.
So how does training in Jeet Kune Do help me to annihilate the things that stand in the way of peace, justice and humanity? By by destroying impulses toward base self-preservation, I learn to seek the preservation of my neighbor as well, instead of placing myself in conflict with him. By destroying the things bothering my mind, I become at peace with myself, rather than becoming a force of aggression in my community. By overcoming my own greed, angry, and folly I put myself in a place from which I no longer stand in the way of peace, justice, and humanity. From this place, I can act in my own community to sue for peace, to work for justice, and stand for the virtues of human decency.
The opponent in front of us may be a literal person. For those of us not involved in military or law enforcement, it is hopefully something that never happens. So do you spend your life training for a few moments of actual fighting, or does following the path of Jeet Kune Do have an impact on every moment of your life every day?
There is no dichotomy in sport training methodologies and self-defense training methodologies. It is absolutely true that any sort of training needs to match the venue being trained for. If I am training for a boxing match, spending time drilling takedown defenses is not likely necessary. That said, training for the venue of self-defense absolutely requires sport training methodologies.
I love the eye jab or biuji. I am a Jeet Kune Do man after all. I have entire strategies built around it and teach it to every student who comes into my school. It is a technique and tactic that will not fly in any sort of sportive venue, MMA, boxing, or kickboxing. It is advocated by many instructors who say that training for the street is different than training for sport. Here in lies the fallacy.
I cannot throw a biuji with any sort of accuracy or assurance in self-defense if I haven’t learned to box. A boxer trains to throw a jab against moving targets, his opponent’s face, while his opponent is actively trying to jab him back. A jab can target an entire face, which in a boxing match, is actually hard to hit. How can I rely on my biuji hitting an eye, which much smaller than a face, if I can’t throw a jab?
It is for this reason so many legitimate self-defense instructors have background in sport training systems and incorporate sport training methodologies into how they teach self-defense. I had the opportunity to train with Kelly McCann last year. A good portion of the Combatives training was spent on developing basic boxing skills. I know I can face smash an opponent because I know I can throw a cross. My Jeet Kune Do sifu, Harinder Singh, is known for teaching the dirty grappling system of Kina Mutai, which incorporates biting and eye gouging. Many say that if they had to fight a trained grappler, they would rely on dirty tricks like biting, but the difference between what Sifu teaches and what others teach is that he actively trains Brazilian Jiujitsu in a sportive fashion to develop his skills and abilities in grappling, so he knows with absolute assurance that he can employ those nasty bites when he needs to.
Will strategies and tactics require different approaches in training for a sport competition versus a self-defense situation? Absolutely, but that line is nowhere near as hard, the issue is nowhere near as black or white as some would have us believe.
When I was studying Korean Zen, we had a different term for this sort of intellectual honesty, Choshim. Choshim can be translated as the original intent, or more frequently, beginners’ mind. No matter how much we learn there is always more. No matter how good we are, there is always someone better at what they do. Why claim to be more than what we are, when we can keep learning, growing, and sharing?
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