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Hacking away the unessentials


Just throw it away

"It's not the daily increase, but daily decrease. Hack away the unessential." - Bruce Lee


This profound quote from Bruce Lee describes a very important topic in Jeet Kune Do. It actually applies to any martial art, or even to life. It is the pursuit of perfection, the goal of ultimate efficiency. What's being referred to here is the stripping away of what is not needed. It's like making the highest horsepower, best cornering, and most fuel efficient vehicle you can make, by streamlining it through the process of elimination.

Through this process of eliminating the unnecessary, it can be anything from the most obvious to something minute and innocuous. In any physical endeavor, there are excess movements that are unnecessary to the end goal. Whether you're a pole vaulter, a basketball player, or a fighter, there are things that can be stripped away.

With practice, the human body has an innate ability to make common movements more efficient with time. This process is very natural but, in many cases, additional thought and analyzation is needed to fine tune.

Let's talk about a basketball player shooting a basket for instance; In approach, he dribbles the ball, past opponents, to the correct position. He initiates the jump, pushing off the ground, the elbows bend, and with a snap, thrusts the ball forward towards the basket. Let's say this basketball player has a slight hitch in his method, when bending his elbows to launch the ball forward, the right elbow comes out to the side a bit too far. The result could be that he misses the basket because the trajectory would be a little to the left. Again, with practice, the human body makes up for this by compensating with the left to correct that imbalance, resulting in a minor inefficiency. Even though with this imbalance, his body has figured out a way to make the basket, it still is not the most effective way in which it could be done. Correcting the elbow position would make it a straighter, faster, more explosive path.

This same thing can be seen in any physical motion. With a punch or kick, the end goal is to land with the utmost accuracy, speed, and power. Throughout any movement, there lies a chance of inefficiency. Each and every technique or skill should be felt and analyzed from initiation, all the way to recovery.

Classical martial arts is littered with non-essential movements. Throughout the years, many martial arts have been seen as a beautiful display of human movement. Some movements are pretty, flowery, and extremely graceful. With spinning this, and flying that, a martial artist can seem magical and awe-inspiring. While this can be an excellent display of someone's agility and physical ability, it is not always the best, in terms of the fight.

In martial arts example, the throwing of a kick for instance, it is completely natural, while throwing a kick, to use the arms for added balance and momentum to create power. You will see many martial artists, regardless of style, swinging their arms, every which direction, as the kick is thrown. This motion is something that is completely unnecessary and creates other problems. When the arms are dropped and pulled away from the face, it creates an opening that the opponent can take advantage of. If you were to attempt to punch after the kick, it would require re-positioning of the hand before the punch could be thrown. Also, it creates a "tell", a chance for the opponent to see what's coming. Elimination of this habit yields several benefits.

In JKD, the goal is to strip away, to uncover the hidden effectiveness. It is not always pretty, unless seen from a different perspective. To me, there's is an incredible amount of beauty in simplicity and ultimate efficiency.

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