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Living on the Edge

A successful life is all about pushing the limits, stepping out of the comfort zone, and exploring the edge. The elite of the elite are always on the forefront of what's out of the norm, using every ability to the limit.

Jeet Kune Do is no different. Jeet Kune Do is all about being on the peak of performance, a top notch athlete. Bruce Lee spent his search for the ultimate martial art, the art against all arts, and free expression of the human body. What he found was simplicity. When you delve into simplicity, you find complexity. JKD is a physical endeavor. It is the search for peak performance using the human body, bound by and enhanced by the laws of physics. In order to tap into these laws and use them to their ultimate potential, we must explore the boundaries.

The learning process... When learning a skill or technique in jkd, it is a three stage process. First, you learn the form, training neural pathways. Next, apply speed while maintaining that form. Then the final result is power. These stages are crucially important. They tie together, one relying upon the other.

Form... With proper form, full utilization of speed and power become possible. Form is the law. It's the measurement of right and wrong. Within form come several factors; balance, precision, and recovery being the most paramount. Balance has three components. Balance in stillness, balance in motion, and balance in emotion. But, with correct form, balance is key in all three types. Precision is the measurement of accuracy, focus, the path in which a technique travels, and achieving the desired result out of each and every movement. Recovery is the return to the guard, the return to balance, and the return to a ready position. It is what brings us home to fight again. Good form can be seen from the outside, it is apparent to those who know. More important, is the feeling of proper form. What Bruce Lee called body feel. This is a step in personal self awareness. It is the key to progression and self betterment. Speed... Speed is something desired by all martial artist or other sportsman alike. Speed and form go hand in hand. Without form, speed is limited and restricted by opposing forces, whether muscular or directional. You cannot go faster than your body allows based on its structure. You cannot demonstrate blinding speed, being unbalanced, tight, or taking unnecessary movements. Although, there is immense untapped potential for speed in every one of us. Simplicity of form sheds light on the ability to go faster and faster. The more simple the movement, the less opposing forces you'll have. A simple form leads to few to no detours or movements taking away from the goal at hand. Simplicity is efficiency, efficiency is speed. Power... Power is derived, primarily, by proper form and speed combined. If you have the two, power comes on its own. With form, the path traveled is straight and narrow, the synchronicity of movements is perfect, the correct parts of the body align to create no resistance. With speed, velocity and momentum are used in conjunction with form to accelerate through the target, translating to power. The use of body weight, acceleration, and momentum create power. Form is essential to this in that it aligns the body perfectly to exert and absorb that force.

Living on the edge is the title of this article because with the above, speed, and power, can be used to their ultimate potential right on the edge of control. The body needs to remain in control for purposes of balance, precision, and recovery. Although, raw energy at its most is found just before that control is.

On the edge of power

Power is derived, as said before,with form and speed. Also, physics takes a huge part in the proper application of force. The propulsion of the body weight, gravity, and centrifugal force all come into play. A punch or kick should make use of all of these elements.

Using a punch step by step for an example;

The hand moves first, initiating the punch

The rear leg pushes off, propelling the body weight forward

The hips and shoulders twist, applying centrifugal force.

The punch hits the target, the body weight falls, pushing the strike through.

All of these steps create acceleration. Acceleration is what keeps the punch straight and the power focused. To get the most out of those motions, the body should be kept in control, to not lose balance or slow recovery. Although, being just slightly out of control for a minute second, all of the body weight can be utilized. Using the feel of the body, the follow through should be every ounce of energy and weight into the target and then quickly pulled back into control.

On the edge of speed

Speed should be thought of in the same manner. We want to be able to perform as fast as possible without losing control or form. With loss of control or form comes loss in power, accuracy, or precision. Speed, power and form all tie together.

In order to build speed in your techniques, it should be thought of as a threshold. The speed threshold you currently have is the fastest you can possibly go without losing control. Learn to recognize your speed threshold. Find the spot where you can go no faster without breaking form. In your practice, focus on that point and try to push just slightly beyond it, and then pull back. All speed practice should make use of that point. You will find that the more your practice at the edge of your threshold, next time, you’ll be able to go beyond. With each practice, you should be able to become faster while still maintaining control, the threshold becomes faster.

Another excellent exercise for speed, and finding that threshold, is using sound. Face off with a heavy bag and throw a combination as fast as you can without losing form. Listen to the sound of each strike hitting the bag. Find the timing in that sound. Now, progressively, try to make the time between the strikes shorter, using the sound. Continue faster and faster, until you feel that you are about to lose form. Again, find that point of almost being out of control, maintain it, practice in that zone, and you’ll find the next practice, you will be a little faster than you were before.

On the edge of defense

In defense or countering, that ‘out of control’ moment, just on the edge should be recognized as well. The movement a strike is thrown, you need to get out of the way as quickly as possible, while maintaining distance so that your counter is not far behind.

The best defense is avoidance,such as slipping, or bobbing and weaving, not being there to get hit. Parries and blocks have their moments but avoiding a punch puts you in a superior position, being able to counter with both hands.

Finding that edge; I’ll use a shoulder roll as an example. As the opponent throws the punch, you step back slightly, rolling with it, and turn to avoid the punch. In the roll itself, there should be a brief moment where you are slightly off balance in order to make full use of the motion. Again, slightly off balance but catching yourself quickly and returning to a balanced position will make full use of gravity and other physical forces. Using body weight and physical forces in this manner opens up a world of efficiency.

Living on the edge is not an easy place to be. It is uncomfortable, feels unnatural, and tests your own ego. It is something that takes practice, perception, and personal honesty. It is all about knowing your limits. You must explore the edge of peak performance in order to feel what you are physically capable of. Bruce Lee referred to this as ‘Body feel’, the intrinsic knowledge of the feeling of correctness. This ‘body feel’ and living on the edge is the key to becoming the martial artist you strive to be.

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