by Ted Wong
On the subject of Jeet Kune Do, it would be incomplete without mentioning the training equipment used by Bruce Lee. The three people who helped Bruce make and modify equipment were James Lee, George Lee, and later in Los Angeles, Herb Jackson. Bruce wanted equipment with spring like qualities so they would react, absorb and strike back like a real opponent. This allowed the fighter to develop and improve not only power and speed, but timing and coordination as well. Bruce also wanted equipment that was good for training alone. Finally, he stressed the importance of full-body protective equipment to make it possible for fighters to spar full out and not allow them to get into the habit of pulling their punches, thereby testing the true effectiveness of their techniques.
I will introduce some of the training equipment that Bruce implemented over the years:
Spring-action and other special devices
When Bruce started serious training in Oakland, he was impressed by James Lee’s welding abilities; James subsequently designed and made equipment for Bruce which included a snap-back punching device, a wooden head for finger jabs and punches, a steel shin device for low kicks, and a metal dummy with springs. Some of these were later modified by Bruce to improve their precision.
Bruce was one of the first innovators to use a football shield for a kicking shield; these were the same shields linemen (in American Football) used to train. The first kicking shield was made by George who put handles on the back. This was later modified by Herb Jackson with extra padding for added protection for the holder. These types of shields are now in common use in martial arts schools.
The focus mitt was the same used by boxers. Bruce put it to use for developing the lead hand and punching, and for speed and precision as well. Since it is worn by the trainer or partner who moves about, it is also good for maintaining the fighter’s mobility. In addition, the focus mitt was helpful in developing accuracy of kicking.
Modified Wing Chun Wooden Dummy
The Wing Chun wooden dummy was modified by Herb Jackson, who mounted extra springs between the platform and the dummy to absorb the shock of greater impact. He also made it possible to change the hand position so that it was employable for both left and right stances.
The power rack was a device used for isometric strengthening; this involved a part or parts of the body being held in static position while a constant force is applied to it. This is useful for building forearm strength, which is, in turn, applicable in sticky hands and trapping. And, by pushing up against the rack with the shoulders, this equipment also developed springiness in the calves, thus increasing “take off” power in the legs.
Bruce considered the heavy bag to be one of the most important and essential pieces of equipment to developing power and the proper placement of punching and kicking; in addition, it is excellent for conditioning(as when used in long workouts) and for training alone. Later, Bruce practiced on the giant heavy bag to develop more power in his kicks. However, it was so heavy that a special attachment was required and made by Herb Jackson to hang it in place.
Protective Sparring Equipment
Sparring in JKD requires the body to be adequately protected so that full contact is possible. Sparring without sufficient equipment would require the fighters to hold back, which runs the risk of developing into a bad habit when confronted with a real-life situation. For full contact, boxing gloves are used, finger boxing gloves (first used in other martial arts) were implemented and modified for grappling and trapping. Other protective gear used are Navy boxing headgear, body protector, hockey shin guards, groin cup and mouthpieces. An essential part of JKD is to spar full out and in full protective equipment to test the true effectiveness of techniques; otherwise, all technique (as Bruce used to say) is as ineffective as swimming on dry land.
This article by Sifu Ted Wong was originally published in the June 1989 issue of IKF.
About the video: Training footage of Sijo Bruce Lee with kicking shield and heavy bag.
Filed in: Techniques