Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bruce Lee's Principle "Power Side Forward?"

Vol 1, 103

I get many questions from on my web site about fighting strategies, in this email I would like to share an important one.

Question: Mr. Lewis, when training for MMA shouldn't you have your strong side in the rear? I know in boxing and kickboxing you have the strong side in the rear. Could you explain your thoughts on this and why you would or wouldn't want your strong side in the front for MMA fighting.

Answer: Let's relax and put on our thinking hats---this question has many parts. First, one must accept the premise that there is such a thing as power side forward or power side vs. non-power side. Some of the Tai Chi stylists accept this theory as do fencers that one's power side (stronger side) should always be facing one's opponent in combat. Therefore, some martial art fighters accept the theoretical possibility over the practical possibility that having one's stronger side forward gives one an advantage.

This concept has no scientific evidence we can use to support its hypothesis. We must remember that much of what is practiced in martial arts was created on someone's desk top, not in the field of actual combat. Personally, I do not believe in the theory of power side forward. Accepting this notion means that one has to believe that he only has power in one side and not the other. I had power in both sides and fought and won equally with both sides forward. In my judgment, if you cannot hit hard with either hand nor kick hard with either leg, you have a body mechanics problem; it is a lack of balance. That would be like a scrimmage line in combat with the troops on one flank being able to shoot like sharpshooters and the guys on the other end not able to hit anything.

Boxers and kickboxers fight orthodox because it is hard for professionals to get matches if they are known southpaw fighters. Some great fighters won world titles fighting with their "power" side forward. Gene Tunney, a lefty, beat the great Jack Dempsey for the Heavyweight Title fighting orthodox---using his left hand forward. Bill Wallace and Jeff Smith, both lefties, won world titles in kickboxing fighting orthodox---their left hand forward. This practice comes down to a matter of preference, not science. If something works, use it.

In combat or in an actual fight, there has to be a structure by which you use to train and to plan your fight strategy. First, you start with your objective, do I want to force him to fire or shoot first so I can use my defense, or should I plan to initiate the first attack and put him in a defensive posture? Your answer will help you to decide which side to put forward---and your answer will be determined by an objective strategy....not one's style or any "power side forward" theory.

Secondly, you must pre-calculate your odds ratio, called force ratio (a military combat term). This means what are the odds against you and which ones are in your favor? Should I assume a defensive posture initially or should I better set up first my offensive impetus? One side may be best for defense and the other may be best for your offensive initiative. Study fighters, and you will notice that many grapplers put their so-called, power side or right side forward. Some do this for defensive advantages and others do it for reasons to gain the offensive momentum. There is no prescribed cardinal rule.

Which side is forward comes down to preference and preferences unfortunately dictate patterns. Patterns can be studied and detected early. For example, unbalanced fighters who fire kicks from out of range, will usually plan to shoot low. Those that fire kicks as they enter the pocket (the correct range execution) are probably going to follow-up by shooting high, grabbing high, or attempting an upstairs hand attack.

Whichever side you ultimate use as your forward position, make sure you stay in control. Ultimately, all fighting comes down to who is in control. If you let or allow your opponent to fire or shoot of his own volition, then he is in control. However, if you are the one who forces him to initiate an attack, then you are in control. Either you make him or you let him.

"The real fight is not what takes place between you and your opponent, the real fight is what takes place inside your head." Joe Lewis

For a classic study of the “Power Side Use” check out this YouTube clip of “Dempsey vs. Tunney”

It was a very infamous fight back in 1926 yet shows the use of the forward hand (the left jab), especially during the first round on the clip. (You only need to see this round or part of it to get the picture and unless you understand Japanese turn down the volume)

Gene Tunney, the challenger in dark trunks, is denying the champion, Jack Dempsey, access to the pocket, catching him standing still, not letting him get set or allowing the champ to effectively cut the ring off (called squeezing), and corner him against the ropes.

It is obvious that Gene studied Jack's style; he prepared for six years to beat Dempsey. Tunney knew how to make Dempsey come to him while fighting going backwards in order to win. This proves that effective tactical footwork HAS to be exercised to keep an opponent off balance in order for the power side forward principle to work. Without Tunney's disciplined footwork, which was the real key-- not the power side forward-- saved him from getting killed by the hard hitting Dempsey. The power side forward is no greater in significance than perhaps having a single trick move. My point is---so what?

There will always be unanswered questions. Why didn't Dempsey bridge the gap better and explode underneath Tunney's headhunting punching style? The important insights which surfaced from our discussion of the original question have hopefully allowed us to understand that what is most important is not one's martial arts discipline, or favorite technique, or singular principle taken out of context such as the power side forward etc, but that he who controls the pocket, controls the fight. Either you deny your opponent access to the pocket, or if you enter the pocket, make sure you outwork your opponent.

Keep in mind that all of my material can be used to teach either self-defense oriented curriculums, or traditional mainstream styles, or cutting edge full-contact systems.

Don’t forget about my New Instructional Manual

This manual primarily focuses on teaching principles, strategies and mental attitudes. I do not advise anyone to change their style of executing basics. This is all black belt material, no basics.

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I look forward working with you at one of my seminars or at my annual conference in Tampa, Florida this Oct. 2nd thru the 5th.

Cum Corde Et Animis,
(our combat fighting motto)

Joe Lewis