One of the key points of development in Jeet Kune Do for Sijo Bruce Lee was learning how to hit with proper structure and form in order to be able to increase impact damage efficiently. He drew a lot of this wisdom from Jack Dempsey and the theory of the Falling Step. According to Dempsey, using gravity increases the impact of a strike by allowing the body to fall into the target. Here are a couple drills used in the JKDAA to develop the Falling Step and apply it to the Lead Punch.
1. Zombie Walk or Lurch Step
Walking itself is essentially coordinated falling. In the Zombie Walk drill, the fall is over-exagerrated in order to increase body awareness of this fall. Let your arms hang limp at the sides of your body and relax your neck and look and the ground. Begin to lean forward with your upper body until you reach the point of no return and start to fall forward. At the last moment, catch yourself by letting your foot step forward. Be sure to fall forward onto your flat foot, rather than walking forward heel-toe style. Continue this until you develop a sense of falling in your motion, from left to right, and back again. Moaning and rasping "Braaaaaaiiiiiins..." is optional.
2. Zombie Walk in Fighting Stance
Now, come to baijong, and allow your lead foot to fall forward and catch you, as your rear slides up. Think of stomping with the front foot flat and sliding the rear foot. Let momentum bring your foot forward as you slap your front foot down. Your body should be completely relaxed before you fall and catch yourself. Really try to smack the floor and catch yourself with your whole bodyweight, which causes your rear foot to slide forward.
3. Step Forward and Make Contact with a Pad
Have a partner hold a focus mitt to catch a jab. Make sure they are in the same lead as you are and are holding the pad on the rear hand. The pad should be at head height. The goal of this drill is not to hit the pad hard. Get used to simply falling forward and your lead hand making contact with the pad with just the slightest pop. Your arm should make no great motion to hit the pad, just fall into it. Do not push the pad backward with the punch. Just lightly pop it without any power. Use a vertical fist focusing on your bottom three knuckles.
4. Add Snap
Continue to move like you did in the last drill. Now we are going to begin to add power. Add a snap backward with your arm after making contact with the falling punch. Do not retract the hand, but rather retract the elbow back in line with the hip and lat muscle, into the "immovable elbow" position.
5. Fall Head First into the Target
Now, initiate the fall forward by leaning in with your head. Continue the rest of the drill as you have been, but let your focus be initiating just slightly with the head. The head is the heaviest part of the body. Where the head goes, the body follows.
6. Focus on Your Power Line
Now, add a new focus. The power line extends from the tip of your pinky knuckle to the end of your elbow. By striking with these two points in alignment, you fire your lat muscle when you punch, and allow your punch to move forward in a relaxed fashion. You can think of the pinky knuckle as the front site of a rifle, and the tip of the elbow as the rear sight. Both have to be lined up in order for a kill shot.
7. Add the Shoulder Whirl
Now, after developing everything from the feet up, we finally add the shoulders. The shoulder whirl is a rotation of the shoulders where the shoulder initiates the punch. This is contrasted from your fist pushing the punch and your shoulder coming along for the ride. So, continue the pad drill as above, but initiate the punching motion by pulling your opposite shoulder back as you whirl your lead shoulder forward. Coordinate this with your falling step.
News & thoughts from Maryland Jeet Kune Do!