The New Areas of Self-Defense: JKD's All-Inclusive Perspective
- By MATT NUMRICH, Kickboxx Magazine
Even those close to Bruce Lee, could not truly read his mind, to his exact thoughts about JKD. Many students and enthusiasts still ponder the meaning of many of his writings. We do know that Bruce did not want JKD to be categorized, labeled, or packaged in any way, saying "This is what JKD is or is not". However, JKD does represent an all-inclusive perspective of self-defense. Even Lee stated that it is "bound by nothing". Therefore, understand that it is accountable for any range, or other stimuli that could enter into an altercation. To see this, one needs a paradigm shift, to a model of self-defense that includes it all.
The Most Important Paradigm Shift
One of the most, if not the most important paradigm shifts that has to occur in self-defense is in the Areas (or ranges) of Combat. With the popularity of "No Rules" tournaments, and the realization that there really are "No Rules" in a street fight, one has to respect the need for muti-area (range) knowledge in self-defense. Outside of the ring, weapons, ground fighting, close quarters, and mass attack are all part of the game. If one does not make that distinction, they will suffer the consequences.
The "new paradigm" Areas of street fighting can be divided into six different categories. This is not categorizing JKD, but illustrating the major ranges (and then some), of street fights. Each of these areas may include characteristics of another area, but do have unique characteristics that separate it from the others. Therefore, the following are all the Areas of Combat that are only possible in a street fight. These areas are:
- Kick Boxing (Long Range)
- Close Quarters (Short Range)
- Ground Fighting (Grappling Range)
- Mass Attack
- The Mind (Conflict Psychology)
Do not see the above Areas as categories, but as aids to see the different distinctions of variables, situations, possibilities, and tools used. Describing self-defense in this way, makes it easier not only to learn, but to teach and even apply. Therefore, the following describes each Area, along with their specific differences and unique qualities.
The Six Areas
The first Area of street fighting is Kick Boxing. This is the Area that consists of two general ranges: kicking and boxing. It is understandable that these two ranges happen in a longer range, where the two opponents are at least three to four feet off each other. As a result, they are no closer than an arm's length away. In these ranges the participants are standing, fighting only one person at a time, with no weapons. This is the Area of Combat that is most commonly taught in self-defense, and represents a great portion of the martial arts. It is also the form of fighting that is mostly displayed in the movies. These are probably the three main reasons the general public, and much of those in the martial arts community, associate this Area with "self-defense".
The second Area is Close Quarters Combat, which takes place in a closer range. In this Area the opponents are no further than an arm's length away from each other. Some may call this "short range", while practitioners of JKD refer to it as "trapping range". Although some arts do include this range in their curriculum, many miss out on the effectiveness and efficiency of this Area.
The next Area of street fighting is Ground Fighting. The specific range that is used in this Area is grappling range. Again, only one person is fought at a time, with no weapons. As stated by the name, Ground Fighting is almost always done on the ground, however, grappling range can also take place standing up. Since the popularity of "no rules" fighting competitions, ground fighting arts have surely prospered. More so, it has taught the martial arts world a lesson, that self-defense must gain a wider perspective on reality combat. The problem is that, Ground Fighting is not the end all. Altercations out in the street include other Areas, such as the next two.
The forth Area of street fighting is Weapons. Traditional martial arts use everything including knives, sais, nunchuchs, escrima sticks, and staffs. Without this basis, philosophies as JKD could not progress to where it is today. Nowadays, one can use anything that is available out on the street. This includes hand held items such as pens, ashtrays, chairs, 2 x 4's of wood, garbage cans, and brooms. There are also structural items that can be used as weapons. Examples of these could include poles, walls, steps, bar tables, or doors. The next area of street fighting is Mass Attack. In short, Mass Attack is fighting more than one person at a time. It is not one-on-one combat, but it may be one-on-two, one-on-three, two-on-three, or six-on-twelve. It must be remembered that if a one-on-one turns into a one-on-two, the intensity does not just double, it increases exponentially. It increases exponentially because in a Mass Attack, a fighter can have opponents using many different ranges, and even weapons. The speed and intensity also makes this quantum leap, also increasing the painful possibilities.
The sixth and last area of street fighting is psychological combat, or what will be labeled here as Conflict Psychology. In this Area, the mind is one's main tool of combat. This includes, but is not limited to: relaxation, decision making, emotional state control, and stress management. During a conflict there may be an emotional storm of fear, anxiety, confidence, and memories of prior experiences. All of these play into psychological combat, or Conflict Psychology. All Areas of self-defense use this fifth Area, whether one is schooled in psychological combat or not. Along with finding the best physical training and conditioning, one must also seek out the most effective psychological tools and techniques.
A Strong Argument for Trapping Range
Bruce Lee concluded that Close Quarters (what he called Trapping Range), is by far, the most effective and efficient range of self-defense. Remember, this is the range where one is at a maximum distance of an arm length away from their opponent. Common tools in this Area include elbows, knees, head butts, eye gouges, foot stomps, shin smashes, sweeps, and even bites. What about kick boxing or ground fighting? They all serve a purpose, however trapping range has a strong argument to why street self-defense should focus on this range. It consists of twelve main reasons:
- The Amount of Options. The moves and tools used in trapping range simply outnumber the amount of options in any other Area (range) of Combat. There are only a certain amount of kicks, angles of punches, and even grappling tools used in the ranges other than Trapping Range. It is mostly due to the close distance that Trapping range is conducted in, which creates more options.
- Degree of Options. Because trapping range presents many options, it also presents a variety of options to injure to a degree. Instead of head butt, try a back sweep. A light foot stomp in place of a knee to the thigh. This is very helpful, when one needs to only injure to a degree, as police officers or people who are in a less intense situation.
- Quality of Tools. Would a person rather be punched or head butted? Kicked or kneed? It is obvious that the quality of trapping range tools are more effective than other types of tools, when in a serious confrontation. This is the main reason why "trapping range tools" such as elbows and head butts are not allowed in "no rules" competitions.
- Efficiency of Tools. Trapping range tools are also more efficient. Do not be mistaken, there are fast kicks and punches. However, the point is sheer distance. Compare the distance that a high kick to the face has to travel, compared to a knee to the groin.
- Easy to Learn. One of the reasons why law enforcement and military elite like this range, is the fact that the range is easy to learn. How hard it is to smash someone's face with a head butt, or to strike them with an elbow? Of course, there are proper body mechanics that must be taught, but they are quite simple, in comparison to most non-trapping range techniques.
- Little Maintenance. One of the best quotes from Sifu Paul Vunak (a student under Guru Dan Inosanto), when talking about this point is, "Are you going to head butt a bag for two hours a day". Meaning that, the tools used in trapping range need little upkeep. It is similar to riding a bike. One does not have to practice it, they just ride after they have learned how. Without maintenance, even reverse punches and submission holds get a little rusty.
- Size Does Not Matter. No jokes please, because actually in this case it does not matter. Bruce, being a smaller and lighter individual, needed to find a range that let him fight "equally" against those that were bigger than him. A great example is in women's self-defense. Trapping range permits a woman who might be under 5' and only 100 lbs. to severely injure a man who is 6'8", 350 lbs.
- Strength Is Not As Necessary. Of course, the stronger one is, the more they will be able to inflict damage (assuming proper body mechanics). The point is that even "weaker" people can inflict massive pain in trapping range. Imagine catching a knee in the groin from an 80 year old fragile lady! It will still put a person who can bench 500 lbs. down for the count! Would a thigh kick by the same little old lady put this "muscle man" down and out? Better yet, imagine these two grappling – who would win?
- No Space Needed. Trapping range tools do not need a ten foot radius cleared around the practitioner, like a spinning sidekick may, or even a double leg takedown. Once again, the tools are based in Close Quarters. If one is starting in a longer range (15 feet away - for example), Bruce used to inflict pain, by intercepting his opponent with an eye jab or groin kick - then follow up in trapping range. Trapping range simply works from any range.
- No Second Chance Needed. People get up from punches, kicks, and get out of many submission holds. One's opponent is definitely less likely to get up from head butts to the face, elbows to the temples, knees to the low line, or even continue fighting after a bite or eye gouge.
- Small Membership. Even with the strong growth of JKD over the last decade, it still remains a "hard to find art" in most of the world. Whether it is because of false stigmas or other reasons is unimportant. If there is any "good" result from this scarcity, one may be that of "trapping range ignorance". This means that those who do not know about this effective range, have a huge disadvantage.
- Easy Target. One has to be on some serious hallucinogen drugs to miss close range targets using such tools such as elbows, knees, and head butts. Once again, this is because these tools are launched from a short distance. How many tries would one need to hit a bull's eye from a foot away? The point is to stay off drugs, and use one of Lee's best discoveries - Trapping Range.
Trapping Range is Not Every Answer
Please understand that the overall message of JKD is to adapt. Therefore, trapping range is not the end all, or the answer to every scenario. The point is that one has to be able to adapt to all Areas of Combat. Lessons have to be learned from many arts, styles, and philosophies. True, Bruce laid a lot of the framework, but it is the practitioner's responsibility to continue to learn. Realize that Thai Boxing, Western Boxing, and Savate are great for the Kick Boxing Area, but what if one is taken to the ground. One then might use Brazilian Jui-Jitsu and Freestyle Wrestling, which are great for the Ground Fighting Area. But what happens when one is in a weapon's situation? Does the practitioner give up because there are no weapon's concepts in Western Boxing or Jiu-Jitsu? No, they then learn from arts as Kali, Escrima, and Arnis.
The bottom line is that there is something to learn from all arts and styles. One art is not "better" than another. As Bruce used to say, "there is a perfect art for each moment". Using the framework of JKD, one simply adapts, possibly using a concept from Praying Mantis, to a technique from Fencing, then adapting to the use of an attribute associated with Wing Chun. The transitions are done because of the changes in positioning, environment, and specific scenario: hence moments. Just respect the fact that Lee did not just pair arts together because they were trendy or looked "cool". He scientifically blended certain techniques and attributes, along with specific training methods. This is one reason why Lee looked almost flawless in his sparring, movement, and overall appearance. In the bigger picture, it is why JKD still enlightens the martial arts world as a whole.