Cultivating Your Lead Side Tools
When I began training in JKD in Dan Inosanto's backyard in 1973, a great deal of emphasis was placed upon the cultivation and development of our lead side tools, both in training on equipment and also in sparring. I'm sure that most people have read Bruce Lee's notes concerning the use of the lead side; that the dominant side is better coordinated, that it's closer to the opponent and therefore faster and can be used with greater frequency, etc. But it goes further than that. It's about the attitude one takes toward developing those lead side tools.
When I questioned Sifu Dan about the stress on the lead side weapons when so many other arts put the emphasis on the rear side tools (in boxing, for example, the lead jab is primarily used as a 'distance gauge' or a 'probe' to set up other attacks -- rarely do boxers knock an opponent out with a lead straight punch), he explained to me that Bruce's attitude toward developing his lead-side kicking tools was, "See that guy's rear hook kick? Well I'm going to train my lead hook kick until it's stronger than his rear hook kick." It was the same with regard to the hands, "See that guy's rear cross? Well I'm going to train my lead straight punch until it's stronger than his rear cross." Then he went out and did the work necessary to achieve that goal. That work included developing his body and the muscles that were involved in a kick or punch to the maximum, and doing thousands of repetitions of the movement to develop the neuromuscular coordination to deliver the strike with maximum speed and power.
The utimate goal in cultivating your lead side tools is to develop the ability to, in Dan's words, "tear up an opponent" with those weapons. Then, if and when you choose to, you can bring your rear side tools into play as well. Now the opponent isn't just concerned primarily with your rear side tools. He has to worry abot your lead side tools inflicting great damage as well. Every lead side weapon in your combative arsenal should be trained from that perspective. The side kick, hook kick, inverted hook kick, straight kick, finger jab, straight punch, the backfist, hook, uppercut, etc. Training a weapon in this way gives you options. The lead straight punch, for example, can now not only be used as a probe or to set up different attacks, but can also be used to "take the opponent out" if an opportunity presents itself or is created.
While it's true that the lead side tools are closer to the opponent, they can and will be able to "tear up an opponent" only if they have been developed to do so. And if that's your goal then you need to cultivate each lead weapon with that perspective in mind. You should develop the ability to use your lead side weapons while moving forward, stationary, following or while retreating, and moving laterally or circling.
Finally, developing your lead side tools does not mean that you should forsake the
cultivation of your rear side tools. You need to develop all of the tools in your combative
arsenal. What you choose to develop and when you choose to develop them will be your