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Are you a Mechanical Fighter or an Intellectual Fighter?

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Are you a Mechanical Fighter or an Intellectual Fighter?

During our first Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do session, Sifu Burton Richardson said, "JKD is a thinking man's art."

It the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee lays out a critical difference in the mentality of the prospective Jeet Kune Do practitioner.

"Fighters can be placed into two main categories: the “mechanical” fighter and the “intellectual” fighter. It’s easy for the mechanical fighter to give advice because his fighting techniques and tactics are the result of the mechanical repetition of strokes, bred of a lesson which was purely automatic and lacking an intelligent explanation of the why, the how and the when. Their fighting follows a similar pattern in each successive encounter."

The mechanical fighter is concerned about what he is doing.  This is actually a natural stage of learning but it is limited.  The beginning martial artist should be completely invested in learning the mechanics of the technique they are being taught.  However, they should understand that they do not actually begin Jeet Kune Do training until they after they have learned the technique or motion.  This is the rote work of memorization, and you will have a lot of it as you start out learning martial arts, but until you have a grasp of the mechanics, you are not yet ready to practice Jeet Kune Do.  Make it your personal goal to learn the mechanical motions of what you are being taught as quickly as possible so that you can begin to learn the why, the how, and the when of the concepts behind what you are being taught.

So how do you bridge the gap between being a mechanical beginner and an intellectual fighter?

Learn to pay primary attention to your teacher's explanation of "the why, the how, and the when" and strive to demonstrate that you heard and understood to your teacher and your classmates.

Let's say that your class is working on basic shadowboxing combinations.  Your teacher tells you to perform Jab-Cross-Hook slowly and smoothly, focusing on full extension of your strikes for relaxed whipping power.  The mechanical piece of your lesson is jab-cross-hook.  Right after your teacher told you what you were doing, he told you how to do it; slowly, smoothly, focusing on full extension of your strikes, and why to do it that way; to develop relaxed, whipping power.  If you focus on the how and the way, you move from just a mechanical understanding of martial arts, to becoming an intellectual Jeet Kune Do fighter.  You master your will and help your fellow students by your example.

If you're a beginning Jeet Kune Do student, or even an advanced one, you might make a mistake in the mechanical execution of the technique.  You throw cross-hook-cross instead of jab-cross-hook.  However, if you focused the how of your teacher's instructions, you are still progressing in Jeet Kune Do, because you performed that cross-hook-cross slowly and smoothly, focusing on full extension of your strikes for relaxed, whipping power.  If all you paid attention to was jab-cross-hook, you might perform the correct technique, but you might not perform the technique correctly according to your teacher's expectations.  In missing the how and the why, you remain a mechanical fighter and do not progress to becoming an intellectual Jeet Kune Do fighter.

Perhaps you are lined up across from another student, one who is not quite on your level yet, for a kickboxing sparring session.  Your teacher tells you in this round, you are focusing on learning how to use a shoulder roll pull-counter after being attacked with a cross.  If during the match you dominate the fight with lead leg kicks so your beginner partner never actually had the opportunity to throw a cross, you are still stuck being a mechanical fighter.  You missed the how.  Showing that you can defeat a beginning student is nothing to be proud of.  You robbed your partner of the chance to develop his cross, which also meant that you did not work on your shoulder roll pull-counter.  You did not become an intellectual Jeet Kune Do fighter who understands the how, what, and why of defending the cross.  More importantly, you missed out on Lesson #1:  "Approach Jeet Kune Do with the idea of mastering the will."  You were more concerned with the egoic desire to defeat your partner than mastering your will to learn the when, the how, and the why. 

If you only ever concentrate on the mechanics, you will not become an intellectual fighter.  Listen and show that you are fighting to apply your teachers instructions of when, how, and why and you will begin to practice Jeet Kune Do.  You don't have to get it perfect.  Jeet Kune Do is a path that never ends.  However, if you never try and fail, you will never make progress toward success.

Show that you are focusing on the when, the how, and the why, and you will show that you are mastering your will. - MuSsang


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