"En Garde" - JKD & Fencing Part 1

Discussion in 'Jeet Kune Do' started by YODA, Mar 27, 2008.

  1. YODA

    YODA The Woofing Admin Supporter

    Welcome to the first instalment in a number of articles in which I will examine in depth the role that Western Fencing played in the development of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do. In this first article I will establish some background information and give you an overview of the material that will be covered as the series unfolds. Bruce Lee borrowed heavily from Western Fencing, in fact his brother, Peter, was a high level fencing competitor. Bruce Lee's book collection included many books on Fencing and it is clear that he considered the art worthy of an in-depth study.

    From a personal standpoint, I originally took up fencing about eight years ago because I believed that it would be a useful complement to the other weapons based systems that I study, namely the Filipino Martial Arts of Kali/ Eskrima and the use of the Japanese Katana (Iaido & Iai-Jutsu). However, it quickly became apparent that there is little crossover between these systems - but what Fencing did do was give me a whole new understanding of the roots of Bruce Lee's physical art of Jun Fan Gung Fu & the theories & concepts of Jeet Kune Do.

    Anyone who has taken the time to study the classic work "Tao of Jeet Kune Do" will realise that, without an understanding of Fencing's basic concepts, it is impossible to understand much of the later parts of the book. In particular, the chapters on preparations & mobility are heavily laced with Fencing terminology & methodology. Passages like… "Sweep away the thrust from the target by the shortest route (with your shoulder relaxed) - counter of sixte is taken by moving the hand clockwise, while counter of quarte will require a counter clockwise rotation of the blade" are meaningless without understanding just what "sixte" and "quarte" are. What they are in fact is Fencing's equivalent to Wing Chun's "high outside gate" and "high inside gate", as we shall see in a future article! Pages 135 through 137 describe in detail the beat, bind, croise, envelopment & the pressure - all fundamental Fencing techniques.

    Many core principles found in JKD have counterparts found in Fencing, including…

    1. Interception - the stop hit is considered the highest level of skill in both systems. An attacker is most vulnerable when his mind is focused on his own attack. Bruce Lee considered the stop-hit so important that he named his system after it. Jeet Kune Do - "The Way of the Intercepting Fist", is a name that embodies the highest level of what a Fencer knows as "Attack on Preparation" or attacking as the opponent prepares his attack. As we shall see in Part 2 of this series, attacks on preparation are an important tactical skill, with differing methods used such as the simple stop-hit and the stop-hit in opposition. We may also discuss counter time, the method used to beat the stop-hit!
    2. Footwork - both systems use small economical step/slide footwork to give the practitioner a highly evolved system of mobility and tool delivery. Advanced footwork methods in both systems, such as JKD's "Burning Step" and Fencing's "Balestra" bear a striking similarity. It was the fencer's ability to gain ground so quickly that sparked much of Bruce Lee's interest in Fencing.
    3. Sliding leverage in JKD is found in Fencing as the coulé / glissade and in the froissement. The ability to simultaneously defend & counter is common to many systems including Bruce Lee's core art of Wing Chun. The realisation that the two systems shared common theories may have spurred on his research into the sword arts.
    4. The emphasis on timing, rhythm & cadence is a major factor in both Fencing & JKD. A fencer needs not only incredible speed, but also the ability to manipulate that speed. Great timing is needed to open up the opponent's defences with the calculated use of cadence. Once an opponent's cadence has been realised it is exploited by using broken rhythm and feints.
    5. The 5 Ways of Attack (Fencing equivalent in brackets)

    • Single Direct Attack - (Single Attack)
    • Attack by Combination - (Compound Attack)
    • Attack by Drawing - (Invitation / False Attack / Second Intention)
    • Progressive Indirect Attack - (Indirect Attack / Feint Indirect)
    • Hand Immobilisation Attack - (Attacks on the blade - Attack au Fer / Prise de Fer)

    Obviously JKD has a much larger field of application than Fencing - many of fencing's methods needed heavy modification to allow for the translation to unarmed combat, for example…

    1. The fighting measure - a good appreciation of the range of engagement is a key feature in both Fencing and JKD. Obviously a Fencer is "in range" a good deal further out than an unarmed fighter (unless you have the closing speed of Bruce Lee that is!) The classic "engagement in sixte" in Fencing is identical in all but range to the familiar "high outside reference point" often used in the early stages of trapping training. This gives both the fencer and the Jun Fan Gung Fu / JKD practitioner a base by which to appreciate pressure & sensitivity, or as we say in Fencing "Sentiment de Fer" - Feeling through the blade.
    2. Use of all limbs - A modern fencer has one weapon, his sword. The transition to JKD involves the consideration of other such as the other hand & the feet. These tools were, no doubt, part of Fencing at an earlier time. The use of the Rapier & Dagger, and the method known as "Florentine" in particular bear a close resemblance to many two handed trapping combinations, albeit at a longer range.


    Above we see a left hand parry & counter thrust using the sword. Remove the swords & close the fighting measure and we could quite easily end up with garn-sao / biu-gee (low outside block with finger thrust) against a straight punch.

    In summary - Fencing played a major role in the development of Jeet Kune Do, a role that clearly must be understood if one is to fully understand this development & it's resulting strategy and methodology.

    Until next time - Stay Sharp!
    Dave Green

    Photo Sequences: Indirect Attack from Fencing & from JKD

    Sequence 1: Fencing


    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Photo A: En Garde!
    Photo B: Dave attacks with a half lunge into quarte to draw Steve's parry.
    Photo C: Dave uses finger/ wrist motion to disengage his blade, allowing Steve's to pass.
    Photo D: while Steve's parry is still moving into quarte, Dave scores into the opening line of sixte.
    Photo E: foil-salut

    Sequence 2: Jun Fan Gung Fu / JKD




    Photo 1: En Garde!
    Photo 2: Dave attacks with a straight lead punch to draw Steve's woang pak sao.
    Photo 3: Dave uses wrist motion to disengage using huen sao.
    Photo 4: The resulting change of engagement & immediate start of…
    Photo 5: Pak sao da into the opening line
    Photo 3a: Because of the availability of the other hand, Dave has the option to
    strike with a rear sliding biu gee on the half beat whilst his huen sao is in motion
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2008
  2. greenhornet

    greenhornet Valued Member

    bravo! j' ai bien aimé
  3. DaeHanL

    DaeHanL FortuneCracker

    very cool. interesting read. thanks.

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