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:
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:
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.