Bruce Lee’s 1973 classic Enter the Dragon is known to most as a great Kung Fu movie. And though Lee was formally trained in the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun, he did bill himself in the U.S. as a Kung Fu teacher.
That said, the actual martial arts sequences in Enter the Dragon involve far more than just Kung Fu. More than 20 years before UFC came out, the movie offered a clear display of Mixed Martial Arts.
Consider this scene, which introduces the film:
In the video, Bruce Lee displays four important pillars in modern day MMA:
- Strikes with punches and kicks.
- Take downs and throws.
- Jiu Jitsu (the arm bar at the end)
- Tap out, by submission.
Bruce Lee knew his take on martial arts was unique—he named it Jun Fan Gung Fu, which translates literally to “Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu”. The discipline’s blend of techniques went against centuries of martial arts orthodoxy, in which practitioners claimed their art was complete and dominant over all others.
Like Lee, modern martial artists are not shy about incorporating techniques from other disciplines. Today’s focus is more utilitarian than aesthetic—practices are built around tactics like:
- Eye gouging
- Neck twisting
- Finger bending
- Fish hooking
- Hair pulling
These techniques aren’t pretty, but they work. It doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve spent honing your boxing or BJJ—if someone jabs their thumb in your eyes, it’s pretty much game over.
So that’s the style of combat I teach students when our focus is self defense. If the situation is life or death, it’s best not to focus on executing a roundhouse kick or triangle choke. Instead, follow these three steps:
1. Project strength
Use authority. In your loudest possible voice, command a potential attacker to get back and immediately yell for help. Attackers are often young, addicted, and already afraid—presenting yourself boldly may be enough to scare them off.
2. Avoid confrontation
Never instigate an attacker with demeaning words or violent actions. While assertive behavior may scare them off, taunting and aggression are likely to provoke a violent response.
If you see an avenue of escape, take it. Even if you feel sure that you could handle your attacker in a confrontation, always choose flight before fight.
3. Fight well (and fight dirty)
If you’re unable to avoid a violent confrontation, you will want some basic martial arts skills. If you get a change to work with an instructor, I suggest you perfect these techniques”
- Basic boxing skills (proper punching stance and blocks)
- Basic wrestling skills (specifically the double-leg takedown)
- Fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (how to avoid arm bars, chokes, etc.
- How to get your thumb deep into an attacker’s eye socket (this one is really only for life and death situations)
Take any chance you can to exit the fight and call for help. Remember, the point of self defense is not to prove yourself the superior fighter—it’s to get out alive.
Obviously this advice is simplified. Your situation could involve weapons, multiple attackers, or any number of other complicating factors. But the basic concepts—project strength, avoid confrontation, fight well, and disengage—provide a road map for any situation that may turn violent.
I recommend everyone spend some time with a teacher learning the basic martial arts techniques listed in the piece. If you spend minimum of six months to a year practicing these basic skills, it might save your life.