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The Power of Surprise: Never Show Your Hand Before You Act - A Jeet Kune Do Rule

In the history of warfare, you'll notice a similarity with all the armies who won their battles. You'll notice that the winners often won by using the element of surprise. They hid their true objectives from the enemy, and by the time they launched their attack, it was too late. Remember the Normandy Invasion during World War Two? It was the greatest surprise attack in the history of the world. It succeeded because the Nazis had no clue where the Allies were going to invade. In the end, it wasn't overwhelming firepower or sheer brute force that won the war: it was intelligence, covert operations, and advanced technology.

You might be asking yourself, "What does any of this have to do with martial arts or self-defense?" Everything. In this article, I'm going to show you how and why the surpise attack is such an important part of fight strategy and how to incorporate it into your fighter's playbook. By the time you've finished reading this article, you'll become enlightened to the Truth.

Truth #1 - The Non Telegraphic Motion Principle

In Jeet Kune Do, we study Bruce Lee's concepts and apply them to our physical training and combat techniques. One very important concept that Lee taught was the Non Telegraphic Motion Principle. This teaches that "You must never show your opponent what you're about to do before doing it." You must never communicate, or telegraph, your intentions before you take action. For example, you must never show your opponent that you're about to punch him before you punch him. Why? Because he will resist your attempt to punch him, like any sane person would. He might block you, step away from you, evade you, or just plain resist you. When that happens, you just wasted your time and energy on a punch that could never score.

In Jeet Kune Do, we don't believe in wasting time and energy during a fight because both are precious. You want to score on every hit, you want to succeed with every objective. Or at least increase the chances that you will. But if your opponent sees your intentions, your chances of scoring decrease. Which brings us to the next tip.

Truth #2 - You Must Avoid Doing These If You Want to Succeed

Here's a list of things you must avoid doing, so you don't communicate your intentions (remember that communications is 80% non-verbal):

  1. Never pull your arm or elbow back before you punch. Never chamber a punch. He will see this coming and stop your attempt. The you failed and will keep failing, if you keep doing this.

  2. Don't make an angry face, or show emotions on your face, before you launch your attack. Keep your face calm, cool, and unemotional. Keep a poker face. Don't give it away. If you show anger, or that you're about to hit him, he will stop you.

  3. Don't make a fist. If you come up on someone with fists clenched, what do you think they're going to assume you're going to do? They're going to expect punches getting thrown. Instead of making a fist, relax your hands and arms. Don't give it away. The when you punch, make a fist the moment right before impact. That's when you make a fist, never before.

  4. If you're going to kick, never chamber your kicks. If you chamber your kick, he will see you coming a mile away and resist you. If you bring your leg backward so you can swing it forward, you'll ruin the surprise attack. Instead, just kick straight into the target, like the groin, as fast as you can without any preliminary motion. Think "My foot up your crotch as fast as possible."

  5. Never yell, or KIAI! right before you do your action. If you do that, he'll hear you coming and resist you. And you'll fail again. But worse than that. If your mouth is open during a fight and he hits you in the mouth or across the jaw with a powerful punch, he will shatter your jaw, guaranteed. You'll get knocked unconscious, end up in the hospital, and get locked into a neck brace for 3-4 months. The moral of the story is, always keep your mouth shut when you fight. Best time to hit someone is when he's talking, by the way.

"Power doesn't mean anything if you can't hit your target"

-SIFu Adrian Tandez

Truth #3 - If You Don't Hit Your Target, Your Power Means Nothing

The biggest problem I notice when I train beginners is that most of them are so obsessed with the power of their strikes. They punch really hard, they kick really hard, and that's all they care about. But if you think about it, there's a massive difference between hitting an inanimate object, like a wooden board, a heavy bag, and hitting someone who's moving around, dodging you, and not allowing you to score. The truth is, hitting a wooden board or breaking a cinder block, although very impressive in itself, has nothing to do with actual power. In a real fight, you have to take your board-breaking punch and try to hit a moving target who's also trying to hit you back! Remember Bruce Lee's words:

Boards don't hit back.

What does this mean? It means you need to focus less on power against objects, and more on actually scoring a hit on the target while the target is moving. To accomplish this, you have to improve your Non-Telegraphic Motion Principle skills. You have to disguise when you're about to hit. You have to focus on training accuracy, timing, and speed.

Think about this: If you always try to hit your opponent with 100% full power, you increase the chances that you'll miss because power shots often get telegraphed very easily, unless you set them up or create a distraction first, like a jab.

But what if you hit with 60-70% power but you score much better because these are lighter, and faster hits that are harder to see. Hitting with 60% power but landing, is much better than hitting with 100% power but missing. Think about it. Overwhelm him with 50 punches at 60% power each rather than one punch at 100% power, because that last one is hard to pull off successfully.

Truth #4 - A Surprise Attack is Your Best Strategy

As I've said in a previous blog, if he underestimates you, then you have a strong advantage.

An attacker won't bring up his full strength defenses if he thinks you don't pose a threat. In fact, he'll most likely LET HIS GUARD DOWN, and that's what you want. Once he's let his guard down and laughed at you and looked down at you, then you have him. Don't let him see the coming storm, then when the time is right, let him have it. Surprise attack! Hit, hit, hit, and keep hitting until he's down and incapacitated (a fancy word meaning he's unable to get up). Then run as fast as you can. This rule applies to men as well as women. There's nothing better than seeing that look in their eyes when they know they've been tricked, and they know they've made a big mistake with you, and there's nothing they can do about it. Make him cry.

Truth #5 - Observe People and Think About All the Ways We Communicate Our Intentions

Learning to apply the Non-Telegraphic Motion Principle means being a keen observer of people and their behavior. Also, being aware of your behavior. What are you doing that is unconcsiously telling your opponent, "Hey I'm going to beat your face in if you don't stop!" There are hundreds of way we do this. Instead learn to develop a poker face and a poker body. This will also help keep you calm, cool, and collected even in the worst of times.

The Truth: If He Can't See You Coming, He Can't Stop You. If He Sees You Coming, He Will.

Your goal is to score your hits, end the fight and escape. The more you waste your valuable time and energy on actions that won't score, the higher the chances are you'll lose the fight. Power means nothing if you don't hit your target, so change your training focus to areas like speed, accuracy, and timing instead. If you're interested in learning Jeet Kune Do, please contact me. I'm available for group classes and private lessons. Visit us at Tandez Academy of Martial Arts.

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