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Probe... Set up... Punish... or Finish!

I usually steer clear of writing blogs concerning JKD techniques these days, as I have written more than enough about them in my books and magazine articles. However, every now and then I get the urge to write about something technical, and this is one of those times.

If you’re involved in JKD at all, you’ve probably heard or read the statement that “the lead straight punch is the backbone of punching in JKD.” However, it’s important to understand that there is a difference between the “lead straight punch” used in JKD and the “lead jab” that’s used in boxing. Many people think they are the same thing, and they’re not. I’m not going to go into details regarding the biomechanics of the two punches in this blog, but rather focus on the usage of each of them.

In boxing, the lead jab is primarily used as a rangefinder, or to probe and feel out the opponent, or as part of punching combinations. According to Edward Haislet in his book, “Boxing,” the jab works essentially like a feeler and is a light blow, which can sting and annoy, but also jar an opponent. In boxing, the jab can be used for both offense, counter-offense, and defense. It’s effective in keeping an opponent off-balance and creating opening by which the opponent can be hit by more powerful punches. It’s interesting to note that some old-school boxers such as world champions Jack Dempsey and Jim Driscoll were of a different mindset and believed the lead straight punch could be used as a finishing blow in and of itself.

Like the boxing lead jab, the JKD lead straight punch can likewise be used for both attack, counterattack, and in defense. However, Bruce Lee’s way of thinking was more in line with the older boxers just mentioned. Lee approached the development of the lead straight punch with the idea of being able to finish an opponent out with it. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, his attitude was, “See that guy’s rear straight punch? Well, I’m going to train my lead straight punch until it’s stronger than their rear punch. I’m going to train my lead straight punch to take the opponent out.” Then he put in the time and work to cultivate his capacities to do so.

Here’s the thing, if you cultivate the ability to take an opponent out with your lead straight punch, then, if you choose to use the punch as a probe or as part of a striking combination you can. However, if you’ve developed the punch primarily as a probe or to set up other strikes, it will be difficult for you to take the opponent out with it. The analogy I use is that if you develop a tool to 100 watts of power, and then choose to use only 50 watts, you can. But if you’ve only developed the tool to 50 watts of power, you cannot take it up to 100 watts.

The JKD lead straight punch is a combative tool that, developed properly, can be used to probe, set up, punish, or finish an opponent. Yes, it may a lot of time and work to cultivate, but I guarantee the results will make it very worthwhile.

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