In the late 60's and early 70's the JKD clan was on the cutting edge of martial arts development in America. Bruce Lee's students were sparring full contact, and emphasized conditioning in their training. They had vigorous training similar to boxers and used equipment like hand pads, jump ropes, and kicking sheilds. They wore protective equipment and went 'all out' in the sparring. This is typical today but unheard of for martial arts karate people in the 60's and early 70's. Some well known tournament champions of the day took JKD ideas and introduced them as "kickboxing" to the American public in the 70s. Today the term kickboxing is in common usage. However, JKD was never meant to be a ring sport. Although it may have been the precursor to American kickboxing today, it always trained with the idea of self defense for the street.
The structure of JKD is like kickboxing in some ways and yet much more. A boxer or kickboxer uses his weak side forward. The jab is used as a setup, a minor blow to set up the major blows. The foot jab is used in much the same way. The lead jab and the foot jab are never used as the primary blow. The jab is used as a tool to work his way in, then deliver the other punches to knock the opponent out. Conversely, JKD puts the strongest side forward. The weak side is put back for more power so that there are two strong hands now instead of one like in boxing.
The lead leg and arm tools become the primary striking weapons. They are closest to the targets and the most coordinated and most accurate. The lead leg and arm will most often be the first tools the JKD man hits, blocks or grapples with. He will have the most confidence with his strongest side first engaging with the opponent. The JKD man doesn't want to slowly work his way in and exchange punches. The boxer-kickboxer also uses the jab as the measuring stick to know his distance. He uses the jab as a probe to determine his opponents skill and possible counters. Although JKD can and does use these similar tactics with the lead hand and leg when sparring, self defense happens quickly. There is no time for probing, testing, setting up and working your way in to try to deliver your knockout. It is a frantic,broken rhythm scramble for survival. The JKD goal is always to finish it as fast as possible, by any means.
In JKD the strongest most coordinated side of the body is used to throw the tools-the various strikes such as punches, kicks or finger jabs to the eyes. This is a strong and suprising first line of defense. The kicking is done from mobile, constantly shifting footwork. The lead leg low shin kick or knee kick is used to attack as well as intercept the opponent's forward movements. With the shoes on, this technique is especially painful. The fascinating 'trapping hands' of JKD support this structure well and it is 'hitting' that is the most important aspect. If the punch is blocked a JKD man traps the hand or arm only to hit again. If there is no resistance then he just keeps on hitting. JKD people also like to use the 'straight blast'. The straight blast is a trademark JKD tactic. It consists of a type of repeating alternating punching along the centerline that is useful to off balance the opponent and hurt him enough to clear the situation for a followup of some kind. The followup could be an elbow, a knee, a break, or a choke. If he uses a submission, it is to hurt or stop the man as quick as possible to end the situation, not try to control him and put him into a fancy lock. The strong side forward ,pushes,pulls and keeps the opponent off balance while constantly pummelling him with hits. These special tactics makes the art of JKD different than the kickboxing type sports.
The American martial arts scene has caught up with many of Bruce Lee's JKD ideas concerning contact training. Contact and realistic training has grown. Modern full contact karate styles have adapted the training methods and techniques of western boxing in order to survive in the ring, echos of Bruce Lee's ideas as far back as the 1960's. Muay Thai in America and Europe has fertilized kickboxing with its powerful concepts of kicking, elbowing and kneeing. The UFC, Extreme Fighting, Vale Tudo and Shootfighting have added the specific idea of submission to kickboxing and have a spectator format that is exciting and incredibly enjoyable to watch. They kickbox then grapple all the way to the ground continuing to strike. The original JKD concept of totality in combat for self defense expressed as a ring sport. Of course, JKD shall remain today and for the future as a useful street savy method. It's structure and continued development remains true to the original ideals..."totality in combat" to deliver self defense that is simple, direct and non-classical.