The following is the first in a series of articles on “Channeling my inner Bruce Lee.”

Grip or hand fighting in judo is a fairly new development. It is an art in itself, and represents the very highest levels of competition. Modern Olympic judo competitors look almost like boxers, circling each other while jabbing and probing their opponent’s defenses, parrying the opponent’s grip attempts and countering by punching in their grip like a punch. Grip fighting is an important aspect of Judo and it requires some serious time in training. 

I look at my particular style of judo from the perspective that if judo is my chosen fighting system, then how do I implement it ballistically and efficiently in every possible situation or scenario. 

The Way of the Intercepting Fist

Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, meaning  “Way of the intercepting Fist”, often referred to as JKD, is a hybrid martial art that incorporates various techniques from different fighting styles, primarily Wing Chun, Boxing and Fencing. Jeet Kune Do’s emphasis is on practicality, adaptability, and efficiency. Bruce Lee looked heavily at boxing in his formulation of JKD, studying the great legendary boxers like Jack Dempsey, Sugar ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali.

Bruce Lee’s system of Jeet Kune do was similar to judo in the sense that both were born of innovation. However, that wasn’t the only similarity! To be able to fight effectively with judo be it competition or self defense, Jigoro Kano the founder of Judo, maintained that judoka should stand upright, in the style of a “western boxer! To remain relaxed and loose in this posture so that Judoka could move more fluidly in attack and defense.

Bruce Lee’s straight right lead in JKD

Bruce Lee literally took the very same perspective with Jeet Kune Do. Bruce’s On Guard stance was a strong side forward stance similar to that of a boxer.  “The on-guard position is that position most favorable to the mechanical execution of all the total techniques and skills. It allows complete relaxation, yet, at the same time, gives a muscle the tension most favorable to quick reaction time.”

Recently a friend of mine, Prof. Tony Pacenski who holds Black belts in both BJJ and Judo, stated that atemi is a form of Kuzushi, it takes uke’s balance and his mind. Atemi-waza (striking methods) is indeed a form of kuzushi (off Balancing) and can be combined with Judo nage-waza (throwing techniques). Atemi before nage for kuzushi! Strike before throwing to off balance can be in a number of forms:

a) physically knocking uke out of balance,

b) making uke evade or flinch from the atemi and by doing so unbalances himself,

c) creating a distraction – a mental kuzushi,

d) a combination of two or more of the above.

Keeping the perspective that Judo grip fighting is likened to that of a boxer who parries and then counters a punch and a punch can be used as form of off balancing both physically and mentally. What about combining it with Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do concepts and not only for the purpose of fighting and self defense but can some of the concepts of “The Way of the Intercepting Fist” be used for grip fighting in the sport of Judo?

Lead Hand Parry to lead hand straight punch to Osoto Gari

Osoto Gari is typically the first Judo technique I teach anyone. Predominately because most of the mechanics and body movement needed to execute most throws can be found in this basic throw.

Bruce Lee believed that his “On guard” position (strong side forward) was the most favorable for the initiation and execution of action. Ask yourself what is the stance for you? Find the stance that gives you a feeling of centeredness, knowingness, and confidence, that would allow you to move with ease, speed and power! In other words find the stance in which allows you to initiate and be the most BALLASTIC in movement in any direction needed….not just one.

1.) Blue is in a Jeet Kune Do strong side forward position (On Guard), white has taken a boxer’s stance. 2.) White throws a left hand straight punch. Blue parries the punch to the inside with his right hand. 3.) From the point of contact with the parry and without any initial draw back, Blue delivers a right straight punch (commonly referred to in JKD as the Straight Lead).  

4.) As the right hand punch retracts, 5.) pivoting clock wise on both feet punch in your grip with the left hand and drive off the heel of your left foot, striking the pocket of the opponent’s shoulder. The impact of punching in your grip should be hard enough to rock the opponent on his heels. 6.) Grab the jacket at the area struck and pull with the left hand bringing your left elbow down toward your left hip. As you begin the pull with the left hand and keeping your knees bent drive of your right foot and step toward 11 O’clock with the left foot. As you enter into the throw your belt line should be lower than your opponent’s belt line and your axis should be forward.

7.) Your right foot kicks through the space between you left leg and the opponent’s right leg. 8.) continue to pull with your left hand and swing the right foot back sweeping your opponent’s right leg to his front. 9.) twist your upper body to the left to finish taking the opponent to the mat.

Barron Shepherd Fitting in

Coming up in the Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu Style under Rafa Santos that encompassed all of traditional teachings of BJJ. One thing many Carlson Black Belts throughout the years also boasted were Judo Black Belts and or High Level Wrestling. As I continued my own training I always sought to enhance my own standup and found no better solution than Judo. Judo has many styles and variations in its application but none as progressive as Barron Shepherd Judo. I’ve proudly trained under Barron for the better part of 7 years. Learning to aggressively grip, dynamic entries and a unique one handed style of Judo has added many new options and facets to my game. I am happy to now get to continue to work with Barron ensuring the beautiful dynamic Judo style he teaches with the blended style of BJJ for ground work for a truly unique offering at Winter Haven Freestyle Judo. – Andrew Kinchen, 1st Degree BJJ Black Belt, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Instructor, Carlson Gracie Winter Haven 

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