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Using the Fitzsimmons “Killing” Shift in Your JKD

April 7, 2011

One of the hardest punchers in the old days of boxing was the great Bob Fitzsimmons. Weighing only 160 lbs, he fought for the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship against “Gentleman” Jim Corbett in 1897. Corbett had the advantage in weight versus Fitzsimmons. Even though he was knocked down in the 7th round, Fitzsimmons held his own through the rest of the fight and eventually wore down Corbett.

In the 14th round, it happened.  Bob Fitzsimmons delivered the knockout by using his famous “shift.”  He threw a left lead while in a standard stance (left foot forward) and then immediately did a shift bringing his right leg forward (in a southpaw stance) and simultaneously delivered a right hand strike to the solar plexus of Corbett.  He dropped and could not get back up.

The shift that Bob Fitzsimmons used comes from the earlier days of fighting in Europe, including Savate & Fencing.  Both of which Bruce Lee studied.  What we know of sports fencing today and in the movies was not what was taught in the old days.  In fact, the art of the fence was actually the art of fighting.  We know one area of it called “defense.”  The art of the fence incorporated “defense” and “offense.”  Bob Fitzsimmons was a master of both and especially offensive fighting.

His famous shift is not taught today.  Probably because most boxing trainers don’t know how to do it properly.  It takes some practice and timing.  It’s easy to learn and simple to apply when you know how.  It can be adapted in the way the strike is done too.  You can go from striking with the fist to striking using an open palm, finger strike, or any number of ways.

I think that most JKD Practitioners can easily use it because we tend to train with both a left and right lead.  One other thing about Fitzsimmons, he was a student of the human anatomy.  He understood the weak and most vulnerable areas.  You should do the same thing.  That’s probably another reason he was able to defeat fighters much larger than him in and out of the ring.

See how you can use this with your own skills.  Again, use what is useful and discard the rest.


Your Mental Toughness is Your Most Important Asset!

April 4, 2011

I remember one of my friends back in the 70s had just won the Los Angeles City Karate Championships. Back in those days the winner received a 6-foot tall trophy. He was jumping with joy. People looked up to him at that moment. Many thought he was a really “bad mutha.” Heck, back then, it was assumed that having a blackbelt in karate and beating all your competitors in a tournament made you a fighting machine.

After he left that day having won, he was challenged by some street thug. My friend thought it would be easy to beat somebody who had no formal training in the martial arts. And he had just beat some of the best. So he prepared by getting into a stance and as he was doing that, the thug suddenly rushed him. He punched, kicked, slapped, my friend until he went down. Not only did he go down, his mindset could not handle what just happened. He had not experienced anything like this in the dojo.

My friend had just been beaten to a pulp by somebody off the street. After this his confidence sank to almost nothing. Why did this happen? I talked to him about it later. He had experienced what most martial artists think about, “Will my training actually work in real life?” His had not. First and foremost, he was not ready mentally. He had a mindset that works in a safe and controlled environment that had rules. On the street there are no rules. People there have developed a toughness of survival.

More recently, a fan of the San Francisco Giants was in Los Angeles watching his team play. After the game, he was pushed and prodded by some punk fans of the Dodgers. He tried to walk away they kept pursuing him and his friends. He was attacked and severely beaten. He’s now in critical condition in a coma. His ex-wife describes him as always wanting to help, but passive when it comes to confrontation.

As a former Los Angeles Police Officer and having served in the Marines, I learned that having a tough mindset will help you to survive and to thrive against street thugs. It starts there. It’s your most important asset! All training that can be described as self-defense, should incorporate reality-based concepts that help to develop mental toughness.

Also, studying newspaper articles on victims of crimes and imagine what you could have done differently will help. Combine that with actual training, then you become better prepared when it actually happens to you.

I’ll have future articles on how to develop a tough and winning mindset. Start where you’re at and start creating that today.

-Bob Choat

10-Year-Old Pianist and How He Relates to JKD

April 3, 2011

Andrew Ma is an accomplished pianist living north of Seattle. Since the age of 5 he has been practicing for 2 hours per day. His skills are amazing and yet it’s not the reason why he is so good. As his piano teacher describes his piano performance, Andrew shows amazing emotional play that is very mature.

Andrew, himself, states that he doesn’t focus on the notes when he plays. Instead, he says that it’s the expression of the art that’s important. Now, where have we heard that before? Of course, Bruce Lee said the same thing about JKD. It’s not the technical parts of JKD that is important, but the expression of it. Once each practitioner knows the techniques, it’s very important to express JKD for his or herself. Put in the flow of the art as it works for you, not for other people.

Only through the expression can each practitioner truly begin to master it. Every person who has accomplished great things, have done so by expressing from their inner selves to the outer world. So it is the same in JKD and your martial arts. Once you have a good base, then begin the practice of expression. Andrew Ma did this instinctively and so did Bruce Lee.

Go beyond perfecting techniques to perfecting expression for you.

Resource: 10-year-old piano phenom wows Seattle on the keys

Simplicity is Most Effective for any Violent Street Encounter

March 31, 2011

One of the things that Bruce Lee stressed was the fact that keeping fighting simple is the most effective way to fight in a life or death situation.  When we are attacked, our brain will go into a fight, flight or freeze mode.  The HPA axis of the brain activates this.  Part of this is the adrenal gland responsible for the release of certain stress hormones, including adrenaline.

This is important when facing danger.  Adrenaline is immediately sent to the heart causing it to pump rapidly.  This, in turn, sends blood to the arms and legs.  The reason for this is to be to engage in the danger at that very moment.  That’s also one of the reasons training is essential to effectively use this.  First responders and those in the military are regularly trained in order to be their best in an adrenaline induced situation.

So should the martial artist in real situations.  When those that train in the safety of the dojo or for sports, it’s not the same.  Only through reality-based scenarios is where adrenaline can be released that activates the proper action to the danger.  And this is where simplicity comes into play.

Upon adrenaline activation and the rapid beating of the heart, motor skills start to change.  When you’re heart is beating under 115 beats per minute, you can use fine motor skills.  Those include putting a thread through a needle or doing brain surgery.  Over 115 beats per minute, your fine motor skills will start to deteriorate.  More complex motor skills, such as wrist locks, spinning kicks, sharpshooting, & unlocking a door start to deteriorate at 145 beats per minute.  Anything over 175 beats per minute may cause freezing, loss of one’s bowels, loss of gross motor skills, & loss of vision control. [Source: Grossman, D. (2004), On Combat]

Many times an immediate attack may result in the heart rate to go over 175 beats per minute.  If one is trained to deal with violent attacks, then they will be able to stay under that and take control.  Eventually getting their heart rate to between 115 and 145 beats per minute.  This is optimal for awareness to danger.

So in surviving and thriving a violent attack, focus on physical skills that use only gross motor movements.  The straight blast is one example of this.  Gross motor movements use natural body movements.  If you have ever watched videos of chimpanzees fighting each other, they do it very simply and effectively.  They attack the parts of the body that destroy who they attack.  Other wild animals will do the same.

Think about what you do now that can be simplified against a violent attack.  Practice, practice, practice…  Find out what works and what doesn’t.  Remember, it’s your life and the life of those you love.  One other thing is keep yourself in good physical shape.  That way you can respond quickly and more effectively.

Violent Chimpanzee Attack (and you thought we were violent)

Violent Beating caught on tape

Bruce Lee interviewed by Pierre Burton

March 29, 2011

Here’s the lost interview of Bruce Lee being interviewed by Pierre Burton. It’s just under 25 minutes and will give you some more insight for those that haven’t seen it.

Like I’ve mentioned before, Bruce Lee was a man of philosophy as well as a martial arts master. As you watch this, listen to what he says and even go out and discover for yourself what he meant. Learn to adapt your mind first before you adapt your body. And then adapt your body to further adapt your mind.

Living at a Higher State of Mind in Your JKD

March 28, 2011

As each of us practice in Jeet Kune Do, we have to go beyond just the skill-set and into the mindset. As you get stronger and stronger during your practice, it’s important to get just as strong in the way you think. We all know that the founder, Bruce Lee, was a student of philosophy. Philosophers have always been known at thinking at a higher level.

Bruce Lee understood that we all must think at that higher level in order progress as martial artists. We have to understand what it means and not just the physical fighting skills developed. While Sijo Lee studied the fighting arts of many different areas, he also studied the philosophy of both Western and Eastern masters.

Part of thinking is also looking at opinions versus the truth. Opinions are just. Many people have them and spurt them out all the time. While opinions of some help most people to make decision one way or another, it also hampers their ability to think. People are seduced by the opinions of some. Celebrities use their status to pitch a product, write a book, or push a political agenda. People will give them credence over the opinion of an expert in the respective field. People just don’t think and will repeat the opinion of these people as if they were the truth.

In JKD, I believe it’s time to add that aspect of what Bruce Lee was all about. Thinking at a higher level. Part of that is reading more. Bruce Lee had an amazing library. Now is the time to build yours and become a thinker too.

Hello Fellow JKD Practitioners and Martial Arts Brothers

March 28, 2011

This is the first of what is hopefully many upcoming posts regarding martial arts and especially Jeet Kune Do, Kali and combative arts.  While we pay tribute to those that have gone before us, there will be many more ahead who will continually improve  and bring about their own perspective as what it’s like to be a true martial artist and warrior.

Each and everyone of you have been on this worthwhile journey into a special land that has spanned many generations and centuries.  Be proud of what you’ve done and where you’re at.  Just don’t stop there.  For it is continually challenging yourself is where true growth comes in.  Bruce Lee was a proponent of continual learning in many areas of life.  He graduated with a degree in philosophy and applied it into his martial arts training.  This in turn helped him, in part, to develop Jeet Kune Do.  And especially the philosophy.

Go forth and make a difference in the lives of others as well as to yourself.  Protect those that need it and that includes teaching them.  Bullies need not apply here.  Be the way of the right.

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