The next attribute, after Coordination and Precision, in Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do, is Power.  I think there is often a lot of confusion about what power is and what it is not.  Because an individual is strong, it does not necessarily follow that he or she is powerful.  Whosoever can “exert his strength quickly” and efficiently, regardless of how many pounds he can lift in the weight room, is a powerful individual.  In combat, I am much more interested in applied strength; developing strength can certainly enhance what I am doing, and Lee states that “high levels of strength lead to excellence.” 


Lee talks about the athlete who completes a brand new task.  There is no coordination yet—the neuromuscular system has not learned the best way to accomplish the new movement pattern. . .yet.  Lee explains that muscles tend to be “overmobilized” in the beginning.  I see this all the time with new students.  Movement is gross, for the most part, and there is little efficiency until the finer details are learned and honed over time through tweaking and streamlining (with the attentive and determined athlete).  Many I see are big, and many are strong, but at first they just do not meet their own power potential.  If each was placed in a fighting scenario with a faster, low-drag opponent, these bigger and stronger individuals would be too slow to hit the mark.  The mark would hit them first!  Add superior conditioning into the mix, and it would be a very bad day for our student.  With males especially, I have observed that it takes a while to discover how to effectively employ the powerhouse: the hips.  Punches tend to be all arm, and they tire very easily. 


“Power equals Force times Speed.”  Projectiles can be very tiny, but with enough force and speed, they can cause quite a lot of damage to an individual.  This is good news for small people, and for women, in general.  Nevertheless, a big strong guy who learns how to utilize his size and strength towards the production of power, is truly a force to be reckoned with!




Lee, Bruce.  Tao of Jeet Kune Do.  (1975).  Valencia: Black Belt Communications LLC.








Last month we looked at Coordination, one of the essential attributes of any good martial artist, according to Bruce Lee in his book, Tao of Jeet Kune Do.  Coordination involves the effective recruitment of muscles towards a physical task, and determines the limitations of our speed, endurance, power, agility and accuracy.


The next attribute he discusses is Precision.  When we say precision, we mean accuracy: “the sense of exactness in the projection of a force.”  As with the wiring of the nervous system involved in coordination, precision of execution comes with lots of practice and training.  Lee explains that practice is ongoing, for the novice and the experienced fighter.  He recommends that accuracy be trained with speed before adding power and speed.


I would not disagree with any of this based on the way skills are traditionally trained.  Nevertheless, from what I have been studying about how adults learn and acquire new skills, and how the brain processes information, I would have to say that it is possible to wire our brains faster, given the right inputs/stimulus.  Research suggests that with a positive training environment (positive in the sense that training language is positive, feedback is positive, and mistakes are allowed), focus on the correct way to perform tasks (shift focus from what NOT to do), and using full emotional content when performing tasks (facial expressions, body language, feelings), the skills can be acquired rapidly.  This does not mean, of course, that training should not be ongoing after the precision benchmark is achieved.  Far from it!  We still need to wire different contextual elements into our memories so that we may act appropriately in varying situations, whatever they may be; this does take time and experience.  Nevertheless, when we train with emotion, the memory imprint is stronger, and our competency level with the skill goes up much faster.  The stronger the emotion, the more indelible the mark left on mind.  It is all part of the marvelous way humans have evolved over eons to respond to the unpredictability of their environment and survive.





Lee, Bruce.  Tao of Jeet Kune Do.  (1975).  Valencia: Black Belt Communications LLC.









In his book, Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee discusses many different “qualities” or attributes of the martial artist.  He considers the most important to be coordination: “the quality which enables the individual to integrate all the powers and capacities of his whole organism into an effective doing of an act. . .The effectiveness of this muscular teamwork is one of the factors which determine limits of speed, endurance, power, agility and accuracy in all athletic performances.”


Truly, coordination applies to anything we do physically with our bodies.  The more proficient and fluidly we perform a task, with ease–this is determined by repetition, and most importantly precision in the practice.  We can train things a thousand times wrong or a thousand times right.  I believe that we can start out wrong, and move toward right through body awareness and developing a kinesthetic sense.  Some people do seem to have natural ability that aids them in getting to right a lot quicker.  In any case, what are we really training?  The nervous system, of course.  Lee describes the process of learning new tasks, with a “demand that is different in intensity of load, rate, repetition, or duration. . .an entirely new pattern of neurophysiological adjustment must be acquired.”  New brain maps are being created, neurons are being created and/or recruited—you are rewiring your brain!  It takes time to create new pathways and wear grooves into the old gray matter (we are creatures of habit).  I remember someone telling me about learning to play the piano.  One begins by using the whole body.  Then, as he progresses and streamlines, he eventually gets down to using only the muscles that are truly necessary for the task.  He builds up, then, as Lee says, “hack(s) away the unessentials.”  Using less muscles of the body to perform tasks AND using them more efficiently (i.e. not applying the brakes when unnecessary) is mirrored in the brain as the brain map also uses less real estate.


So, what the heck does all this have to do with Gutterfighting?  The more you perform certain tasks, the easier it is to perform them.  You want your combative skills to be there for you in a crisis situation, right?  Isn’t it more likely your skills will be available to you if you’ve worn a veritable canyon into your brain through countless repetitions?  You also want to have good timing.  You may be a big, burly type, with lots of weight behind your punch, but will that help you if he constantly beats you to the punch?


  “The well-coordinated fighter does everything smoothly and gracefully.  He seems to glide in and out of distance with a minimum of effort and a maximum of deception. . .forces the reactions of his opponent. . .makes his movements with a purpose.”


In landing that slap, or that knee, or whatever. . .it would be nice if you already knew what you were doing, eh?  And, it would be nice if you could do it fast.  With students, we normally just let them move at first, making a minimum of corrections during each session.  They can only focus on so much at once, and overloading them with information is NOT helpful.  It is a stressful situation anyway when people are new at something and they feel so uncoordinated!  J  Getting some people to move at all is a blessing in itself!  Nevertheless, we should always be striving for precision, and it is an ongoing process to get to the simplicity.  Getting in the habit of listening to their bodies is a hard task, too, for some folks.  They’re thinking about a million things other than how their bodies feel.  This is crucial information, though, and requires focus to perceive.  All our bodies are different and we’re all wired differently.  What works for me is not going to necessarily be what works for you.  In the end, other people can guide you, but the truth lies within you (the essence of Jeet Kune Do).