In Jeet Kune Do, one of the big concepts was the lead straight punch. It’s very similar to what’s known as a “stiff jab” in boxing, with the main difference being that you are doing this punch with your dominant hand– so whereas the leading hand in boxing is usually your weaker hand (usually a left punch for most people) and the big hand is the rear hand (the big right cross), in JKD you are performing the big punch with your lead hand.
The philosophy is a bit different, because in boxing, the size of gloves makes the game particular– it’s easy to just cover up and absorb damage with your forearms up and your gloves braced against your forehead. As such, the jab in boxing is a tool more for creating openings for more heavy-handed attacks. Yes, it’s true, some people have nuts jabs and can win with just that, but for the most part it’s not the jab that seals a boxer’s win– it’s just the lead in to something else. That jab is to psychologically disturb the opponent, to set your pace, to gauge distance, and to commit your opponent’s guard to certain positions so that you can smash through with the follow up. A jab is almost as useful blocked or dodged as it is landing, because it sets your initiative up (assuming you haven’t been countered).
JKD’s straight lead though is a bit different. First of all, it’s your dominant hand– this is the power hand. When you go in with the power hand first, it’s because you mean to land it. The straight lead in JKD is not nearly as combo friendly as a jab, because there is a whole lot more body commitment to it. If it’s blocked, that kinda sucks. The thing though is that JKD normally isn’t taught as a sport, so without gloves on your hand making it fat, and without gloves on your opponent’s hand making his guard cover a lot more space, it’s actually surprisingly a lot easier to land a straight lead than one would think, if it’s done properly. Or rather, dodging or blocking a small fist is a lot harder than it is to block a fully gloved one.
My point isn’t about JKD being better than boxing or vice versa. They’re apples and oranges. Conceivably, for all the power of your dominant hand in a JKD straight lead punch, you don’t even need it– to me, the main advantage of the dominant hand is that it has more dexterity to more accurately eye jab, throat strike, hair grab or ear rip.
The reason why I mention this actually has nothing to do with martial arts. What I was thinking about rather is the ability to get an entire body behind a motion– to “burst” forward.
The thing about a JKD lead straight, more than a boxer’s jab (because the JKD straight has more commitment) is that it’s really a do or die technique. IF you’re jabbing, a good jab has body commitment, but it also needs to have superior recovery time to either combo onto more jabs or crosses. The JKD lead straight is a KO punch from the start, aimed at the chin or nose (or the eye, if you can really stuff a vertical punch in there). As such, you have to make sure that the movement isn’t telegraphed and that you close distance as instantaneously as possible.
I was playing badminton with [CM] this morning, doing mostly drills. She’s been interested lately in getting better to beat some of the people we play with, so normally when there’s just two of us, we spend a fair amount of time just working on technique instead of playing games. We corrected quite a few things.
Like many casual badminton players, the main thing that I think she needs to work on is burst speed. I feel that hitting technique is one thing, but if you can’t get to where you need to be on the court, even the best hitting techniques are suppressed just beause you can hit from an ideal position. If you have fast footwork, you can create opportunities and you have a lot more options– you can also fake a lot more, and causes enormous psychological strain on your opponents if they’re forced to wait for your racket to hit, rather than them being able to predict your weak, late return.
The proper footwork for badminton in many ways resembles the footwork from JKD. Short, compact steps to get around. And the hitting motion needs to be a whip which builds up all the way from your pushing foot to your racket hand. Your whole body must be like a whip.
Unlike JKD, you are allowed a few liberties since you don’t have to worry too much about telegraphing your feet– I mean, the opponent knows that you will have to hit the bird, there’s no way around that. So the footwork in badminton allows you a few liberties to make your burst super effective.
The split step is one of the important things. As your opponent hits the bird, you do a slight “hop” that spreads your feet to shoulder width or wider… your feet should come down at about the same time the bird is leaving your opponent’s racket.
The split step loads your weight down slightly. Kind of like hitting the brakes on a car to load the weight forward and give you more traction, a split step is basically giving you a temporary boost in traction by storing the kinetic energy of gravity into potential energy. As the bird comes off your opponent’s racket, you make a quick estimation of where the bird is going, then release the potential energy, using your calf muscles, quads, and back as a spring to dash in the direction of the bird.
Most people who don’t get good at badminton don’t get good because they are so focused on hitting that they don’t work on very simple things that are probably more important. The split step, and the transition to the bursting dash, are a very good example of things people overlook, either because they’re so obsessed with the sound of a good smash or just don’t know any better. By using a split step, you necessarily develop the habit of starting to move to get the bird sooner.
There’s a key difference here– physical limitations being what they are, it’s not only important to move faster but to move sooner. The distinction I’m making here is the difference between acceleration (metres per second squared) versus time (seconds). Basically, a split step buys you more time, because you’re starting sooner, so if you do it properly, you won’t have to work twice as hard just because you’re late.
Of course, if you’ve got speed AND you react sooner, then you’ve got everything! But most people only have half the equation.
CM is improving quite quickly, but the main thing that needs constant work is the footwork.
We started workin on interecptions (cuts, or cutoffs). As a result, she’s gotten in the good habit of keeping her knees bent and her racket up while at the net, which is a start. The more she takes basics like ready position seriously, the faster she’ll get all this.