Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jeet Kune Do: Focus JKD Nashville: Nashville, TN

Background: When you ask most people what Jeet Kune Do is they will tell you, “It’s Bruce Lee’s Martial Art.” Now ask someone to elaborate what “Bruce Lee’s Martial Art” is and you will receive a series of non-committal answers. I was the same way. JKD had always been a mystery to me until earlier this year. It is rare to see JKD fighters on the tournament circuit and so my exposure to them was reasonably shallow.

In late 2013 I meet a gentleman by the name of Nik Farooqui who runs the Xtreme Training Academy out of Chicago, Illinois. His conceptualization of JKD is a program that he calls Ballistic Fighting Methods. He opened my eyes to what JKD is and how it could be applied in a real world environment. With this taste I decided that I really wanted to learn more about it. Via the powers of Youtube I got turned onto Focus JKD. After watching an interview by Dominick Izzo with Mike VanBeek I liked what I saw and hammered “Focus Jeet Kune Do” into Google and actually came up with the Nashville branch.
Kevin slips my jab and comes over the top with a cross.

As a frequent traveller to the Nashville area I saw this as a great opportunity and reached out to them. I was immediately welcomed by Kevin Collier and Langston Glass to come get a deeper feeling of what Focus JKD was. If you look at Focus JKD’s winter training facility you will find a compact little building that is utilitarian and spartan. There is no real décor and everything has a place and purpose as it should in a small area.

I get asked why I will bounce between types of facilities. Some people equate size with the quality of a Martial Art and as such a bigger facility must be better. In my experience this is not the case. Great Martial Artists can be found in all areas and their skill is not reflective of their facility. Focus JKD is not a commercial operation and as such they have dedicated a huge amount of personal resources to their school. They train indoors and outside, on mats and in mud, and if you have never tried your techniques outside your dojo you should. Does what you do work outside when it is wet? Can you fight in a tight space with multiple partners bearing in on you? The guys at Focus JKD know.
Langston thrusts at me with a stick while working on weapon defence.

What did I learn: You never know where you will pick techniques up and there is always something to learn at another school, even during the warm up. I was introduced to the pivot bag which is essentially a speed bag inverted on top of a metal pole. The bottom of the pole is attached to a swivel with springs to pull it back up. The pivot bag is wonderful for building striking mechanics because of the movement it simulates. If your punches have any loop to them then the bag begins to sway back and forth making it very hard to hit. This swaying represents an opponent bobbing and weaving in a fight working your timing and coordination. Finally if you want to maintain a high volume of hits you need to be right on top of the bag and actively engaging it rather than waiting for it to return to its original position. It is a great tool to develop good technique, proper timing and aggression.
 Kevin shows me how to use the pivot bag while making sure to keep up aggression. 

Another great lesson was how to use “destructions” in combat. A destruction is very simply aligning a hard point on your body with an incoming strike in order to inflict pain on the attacker. The most current example is Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva in which Silva snapped his leg against Weidman’s knee. Focus JKD taught me the basics of how to setup a proper destruction. First you learn to block. A destruction does you no good if you are knocked out by the first punch. The second step is to learn how to avoid a punch by slipping. You just move out of the way allowing the punch to slide past you. This trains your reflexes and timing. Finally, as the attack comes in you slide out of the way and replace your opponent’s target with something hard.
I throw up an elbow to intercept Kevin's hook with a destruction.

As you put together these steps you began to have a great idea how all the pieces fit. You weren't trying to block punches with your elbow. This is how I had always interpreted destructions in the past and I was sceptical of their effectiveness. After all, if you are minimizing your blocking area in favour of a harder surface you run a much higher risk of being knocked out. The way that Focus JKD teaches you makes much more sense. Because they either block or slip out of the way the destruction changes from being a necessary technique to survive into a functional technique that doesn't endanger you. In short, if you miss a punch with your elbow it doesn't matter. The punch will sail past or glance off a block and you are free to continue engaging your opponent. I really enjoyed the focus on assuring your personal safety before concentrating on an offence.

What was similar: “We don’t need to be the best, we just need to be good enough to cheat.” This was a comment that Langston told me as we were training and it rings true. When I gave an interview with Dominick Izzo on his Youtube Channel I talked about how the biggest difference between sport fighting and the street was the ability of the sport fighter to prepare ruthlessly in advance of the fight. However, things are a little different for the “street fighter.” One of the gentleman* I trained with told me once that on the street “you don’t have to win you just have to avoid losing.”
I throw up a hand to intercept a knife thrust. 
Not technically what you are supposed to do, however, I was backed into a corner and panicked. 

This was exactly the mentality of Focus JKD. They aren't training to be the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. or to fight George St. Pierre. They don’t need to win a knife fighting tournament or weapons competition. Instead they are the great generalists of Martial Arts. When I call Focus JKD generalists it pertains to the way they conduct their training. They won’t out box a kickboxer, rather, they now enough to bring the kickboxer into an area where he is not comfortable like ground or weapons fighting. This “Jack of all trades” approach to training is perfect for the street where there are no fixed scenarios and adaptability is more valuable than specialization.
A great night training with Focus JKD Nashville. I learned a lot and made some great friends.

Conclusion: Focus JKD is a great place to go if you are looking for combat training that you can apply in your everyday life. If you want to experiment and test yourself in a wide range of scenarios than this is the place for you.

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

*I can't remember the gentleman that left me the quote “you don’t have to win you just have to avoid losing.” 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. On Facebook:
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