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Transcending 'Technique'

“A good JKD man has no technique; he makes his opponent’s techniques his techniques.”

- Bruce Lee

There’s an old saying relating to technique that states, “Everything works and nothing works.” This is not a pessimistic statement but rather a simple statement of fact. Techniques work sometimes, and sometimes they don’t work. Nothing works one hundred percent of the time. There is no such thing as an infallible technique. I think every martial artist can remember one time or another when they tried to use a particular technique and for whatever reason, it failed.

As a JKD practitioner you must be able to “transcend” technique. To transcend technique you need to understand structure and energy as it relates to the opponent. While there are numerous reasons why a particular technique fails to work, the following are the primary ones:

- The hands or arms of the opponent are in a different position from where you need them to be.

- The body position of the opponent is different from what you need -- it’s sideways, front, angled left or right, etc. Or their lower or upper half of the opponent’s body is in a different position.

- The energy the opponent gives you is different -- it’s too soft, too hard, too jerky, too smooth, etc.

- The distance is incorrect -- you are too far away or too close.

- You have poor sense of timing or for some reason your timing is off.

- The point where you catch the opponent’s energy is off ( ¼, ½, ¾ point)

- The speed of the opponent.

Make no mistake, in JKD the learning of technique is important, because technique teaches you coordination and shows the options that are open to you. Techniques are the “what-to-dos,” specific actions that fit specific circumstances. Keep in mind however, that they are actions that work in one circumstance but not necessarily another. At times circumstances can change and a particular technique can become less than useful or may not work at all. It’s important to remember that in any combative situation, FLOW is the most important thing.

Adaptability and versatility are essential requirements for any JKD practitioner. JKD is a principle-centered art as opposed to a technique-centered art, and one of the fundamental tenets of JKD is that you are free to use technique or dispense with it as you see fit or as a situation necessitates. If we cling to techniques we can become bound by their limitations. This is why Lee cautioned practitioners of JKD (and practitioners of any style of martial art for that matter) that, “Any technique, however worthy or desirable, can become a disease if the mind is obsessed with it.” Don’t be a slave to technique. Make technique serve you. Transcend technique by understanding and utilizing the underlying principles of JKD, because those principles are the elements upon which applications or techniques are built. Furthermore, they will help you discern when and when not to use a particular technique.

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