PUNCHING YOUR WAY OUT OF A SCARY SITUATION
Bruce Lee said, “When in doubt during a self-defense situation, straight blast.”
When I first started training in the martial arts, the first art I took was an Okinawan form of karate called Uechi Ryu.
This art was based on power-oriented movements, basically a one blow or strike mentality. This mentality can be described as believing that a single strike will be able to kill, knockout, or break the bone of the opponent. As an inexperienced martial artist I perceived this mentality as truth.
As I continued my training in the karate school, I discovered a person who was practicing a completely different system of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do. At the time I knew nothing about other martial arts and the differences between training methods and philosophies. This person started to show me the difference between Jeet Kune Do and the karate practicing. It totally blew me away!
The speed and efficiency in movement was completely different than what I was studying. He was able to strike me and manipulate me at will. I was so impressed by what he had shown me that I began training under his tutelage.
One of the very first movements he showed me was the infamous “JKD Straight Blast.” He told me the system’s founder Bruce Lee told his students “when in doubt during a self defense situation, straight blast.”
So what exactly is the straight blast?
The straight blast is a series of alternating left and right vertical fist strikes intended to overwhelm the opponent by putting them into a defensive position. It’s also known as “chain punching.”
Executed at the right time, this barrage of strikes uses short range punching power and speed that is very difficult to deal with. Striking targets for these punches are the nose, chest, throat, side of the neck, base of the skull, and groin.
Anyone would agree that there’s a substantial difference between using a semi-automatic weapon and an automatic weapon like a machine gun. The karate that I was learning was the equivalent of the semi-automatic and the JKD Straight Blast is the machine gun.
The karate punches take a longer time to get to the opponent while the JKD straight blasts find their targets with devastating quickness.
A great thing about using the short range rapid punches is that you don’t get yourself off-balance as much as you would by using traditional boxing and karate-like hand strikes. This also assists you while striking a grappling oriented type of opponent who is waiting for you to expand and become off-balanced with a kick or punch before he tries to take you down.
The straight blast is great because it can be used while on your back, knees or in a standing position. It should be noted that the punches will not be as powerful when thrown from the ground up. However, they can help you create opportunities and openings to be able to escape the ground position so you can get back to your feet.
I am not implying that you don’t need long range punching and greater punching power. Versatility is an indisputably important aspect of combat. You need to use all ways and be bound by none in order to defeat your adversary or adversaries.
It is a great movement or technique, yet with anything that is taught, fundamentals need to be respected in order for it to be effective. These include drilling, proper timing, distance, and foot work. I must note that timing is the key for any kick, punch, elbow, knee, or take down to be effective.
So Where Does the Straight Blast Come From?
JKD’s Straight Blast is derived from Wing Chun Kung Fu, which is the mother art of JKD. The foot work and body position differs yet the concept is the same.
Wing Chun Kung Fu doesn’t own the straight blast. Other forms of martial arts like boxing have a short one-two attack that uses horizontal fists, basically a short jab/cross in combination alternating repeatedly into the opponent.
Actually there is a story that was told to me by Jerry Poteet, one of my instructors who trained with Bruce Lee privately. As the story goes, one day after a training session at Bruce’s home all the students were sitting and discussing different martial arts. One of the students was boasting that JKD was by far the best martial art, exclaiming that no other art could even compare to it. When Bruce overheard this he immediately questioned the student’s certainty in JKD’s superiority and offered an intriguing challenge. Bruce asked the student to spar him using JKD while he would use Shotokan Karate. While operating from a traditional Shotokan stance, Bruce proceeded to straight blast the student using alternating horizontal fist strikes, overwhelming him and his assertion about JKD’s complete superiority.
Jerry told me that Shotokan had its own version of the straight blast and Bruce’s point was to teach the student to respect and never underestimate any other martial art.
Although Bruce defied certain aspects of classical martial arts systems he never disregarded their useful aspects. He disagreed with systems that resisted change and compelled their students to practice “gospel truths” like prearranged movements and memorization.
In conclusion, Bruce’s lesson to the prideful student is twofold. First, he demonstrated that the straight blast was a phenomenally efficient and powerful tool in a spontaneous combat situation. Second, he demonstrated his responsibility as a teacher by redirecting a student whose view on JKD revealed his own limitations. It’s not surprising that the student was set straight by the man who included the phrase “having no limitation as limitation” under JKD’s symbol.