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The Constructive Use of Constraints in Training

Jeet Kune Do is, as has been written many times, about complete freedom of expression for the individual practitioner. However, when it comes to training and developing ourselves, the use of what I call constructive constraints at times can offer us the opportunity to develop into creative martial artists. When you use constraints you limit what can be done during the training. For example, instead of saying “You can use anything to deal with it,” sometimes I will limit what a student can do in order to deal with some sort of attack against them. I’ll tell them things like, “You can only use your footwork “ or “You can only use evasion through body displacement” or “You have to intercept the opponent’s action with some form of stop-hit”, etc. Or in attacking their opponent I’ll limit the tools they can use and tell them such things as, “You can only use you lead hand and foot”, etc.

In some cases, constraints can actually be turned into allies that can lead to enhanced creativity and ingenious solutions that without them would not have been discovered or developed. When you say to a student they can’t do or use something, it will fire them up and they will find alternatives to achieve what they need to. They’ll start thinking in different, more creative ways. They will examine the situation, problem or challenge and ask themselves, “How can I solve this challenge or problem given the tools and actions that I can use?” What at first seems like a limitation can become a stepping stone to liberation.

Why not try incorporating the use of constructive constraints with your students in training and see how creative they become? I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

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