How Bruce Lee influenced Boxing

The President of the UFC, Dana White, once called Bruce Lee ‘The Father of Mixed Martial Arts’. The fact is that everyone who knows martial arts is synonymous with the name ‘Bruce Lee’. 

A NAME engraved in the world of fighting. A STYLE imitated by fighters across various fighting disciplines. A PHILOSOPHY embedded deeply into the combat sports we see today. Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do introduced the world to his five ways to attack philosophy.

Pioneer of Attack in Fighting

Bruce Lee was one of the first martial artists to provide the world-at-large with a cohesive structural approach in individual combat. He didn’t just go by his experience, even with his stature, he researched and studied the art of fighting in great-detail. After a humongous amount of research, Lee made use of ideologies of fighting which had been employed by fencers through ages.

What is the five ways to attack principle?

A universal set of principles designed to add clarity to the chaotic nature of fighting, particularly attacking. With the five ways to attack principles, Lee was able to single out each element and discuss each way in detail. These ways individually or in cohesion can change the nature of any fight if employed correctly. So, what are these five ways of attack as suggested by the legend – Bruce Lee himself?

Five Ways to Attack Principle by Bruce Lee

These attacks can be bifurcated into the following points:

  1. Single Direct Attack
  2. Attack by Combination
  3. Attack by Immobilization
  4. Progressive Indirect Attack
  5. Attack by Drawing

Having listed the five ways, let us study each aspect in detail.

1. Single Direct Attack or Simple Angle Attack (S.D.A or S.A.A)

A simple direct attack might look simple but it’s not easy. The idea of a single direct attack or a simple angle attack is to lunge in your opponent before they can react. Single Direct Attack (SDA) follows the Jeet Kune Do (JKD) principle of longest weapon attacking the nearest target. 

To simplify it further, the goal of this attack is to reach the target through a direct route. A single direct attack requires a combatant to cover the gap via a single move. This eliminates the need for a preparatory feint and thus necessitates the mastering of timing and understanding of distance. Single Direct Attack is mostly launched with the lead hand and works great when an opponent is nearby.

Application of Single Direct Attack in Boxing

Boxing makes use of the Single Direct Attack to a great effect. One of the most effective ways to instigate an SDA is through a combination of Jab and a slip or parry i.e. defensive maneuver. Herein, the timing and closing the distance is critical as you want to land an attack at the same time as you evade or check your opponent. A Single Direct Attack (SDA) is a great way to discourage your opponent’s advancement and it confuses them greatly.

For instance: In this clip above, Gennady Golovkin similar to Andre Ward is taking precautions against his opponent’s jab while trying to throw his own. However, instead of taking his head off the line whilst bending at the waist, Golovkin extends his rear end to check position which enables him to neutralize his opponent’s jab and land his own jab.

Attack by Combination (A.B.C)

According to Bruce Lee, a fight is only as long as a punch or kick, when you understand how to put everything together in a combination. With that said, once you got your basics down i.e. Simple Direct Attack, and the principles of longest weapon to the nearest target aligned, you are ready to Attack by Combination. A simple combination can be a kick to the thighs followed by a punch towards the chin. The possibilities in Attack by Combination (A.B.C) are endless.

Application of Attack by Combination in Boxing

In boxing, a combination amounts to a series of punches which follow a natural sequence and are thrown at multiple targets. These are thrown keeping in mind the body mechanics, maximizing positioning whilst minimizing target exposure.

Experienced boxers throw punches in rhythm. They don’t just throw them out of the blue. Similar to a snooker player who pots the ball in a way to set up his next shot, a boxer lines up his first attack to follow it up with a combination.

Combinations in boxing are a great way to exploit opening and create spaces in a tight contest. You can easily derail your opponent and make them feel vulnerable through a successful combination.

For instance: In the clip above, Hopkins throws a jab to blind his opponent rather than connecting with him. This does the trick as he blinds his opponent and follows it with a right hand.

When you punch in sequences, you ought to have ranges, rhythms, depths, angles, targets, and possibilities figured. Be prepared for everything that comes your way because the outcomes are endless.

Examples of Attack by Combination

  1. Hooks to the body often end up creating an opening as they force an opponent to lower his guard.
  2. Uppercuts are the perfect setup for hook if you’re looking to throw them in tandem

For instance: In this clip above see how Golovkin varies his contact levels. The Uppercuts being thrown are little more than brushing throw-away punches aimed at occupying an opponent’s guard. It helps Golovkin to conceal footwork and create a wider angle to deliver a debilitating left hook towards the opponent’s body.

Hand Immobilization Attack (H.I.A)

Jeet Kune Do is highly influenced by Wing Chun which involves a lot of trapping techniques. The Hand Immobilization Attack is trapping with the intention of overcoming an obstacle. Thus, it’s not just trapping for the sake of it but doing so with purpose.

Unlike Single Direct Attack (S.D.A) where there’s an opening, you’re required to create one for yourself with Hand Immobilization Attack (H.I.A). Herein, if something is sticking in front of your face, you want to get rid of that by using your opponent’s guard against him.

Regardless of how strong an opponent is, with perfect power and timing, you’ll be able to turn his body through simple hand movement.

Application of Hand Immobilization Attack in Boxing

As mentioned earlier, the Hand Immobilization Attack is nothing but using your opponent’s body against him to evade, block or nullify his efforts.

Against an opponent with a tight guard, you can create an opening by slapping down the gloves of your opponent. Though a small window, you can still utilize it to deliver a hammer blow.

Once you close the gap, Hand Immobilization Attack is great in close-range for follow up attacks. You achieve so by controlling your opponent’s head and limbs. If you learn to control your opponent’s body, you can make his movements predictable and make him feel vulnerable.

You might say, holding your opponent and hitting them is illegal. What about holding followed by hitting? Floyd seems to have mastered this trick and has successfully damaged his opponents over the years using this gaping loophole in unified rules of boxing. This technique presents him with a clear tactical edge on his opponent. You can see Floyd using the Hand Immobilization Attack to a great effect in the clip below.

Progressive Indirect Attack (P.I.A)

A Progressive Indirect Attack (P.I.A) as described by Bruce Lee himself is a process of feinting or using an uncommitted punch to create an opening. You can see this form of attacking in the majority of the sports, wherein an athlete runs in one direction and feints over to the other (such is the relevance of this move).

In fighting though, you move either in the opposite direction or away from your opponent. However, your intention is to catch your opponent. Thus, you’re progressing but not in a direct way as seen in Single Direct Attack (S.D.A). When up against a faster and stronger opponent, this helps you gain a mental edge over your opponent. 

Application of Progressive Indirect Attack in Boxing

When up against a boxer with the strong defense who can easily fend off your single attacks, a progressive indirect attack comes in handy. With Progressive Indirect Attack, you aim to create time and space with fake movements and then jump in to score a point on your opponent. A major different between Hand Immobilization Attack and Progressive Indirect Attack is that the latter focuses on deceiving the opponent whereas the former aims to unlock a tight defense.

For instance: In this clip above, Mosley throws a subtle jab feint and moves the lead foot forward slightly. He follows it up by shortening the distance and then changes his line of attack with a body jab. While doing so, he successfully baits Mayweather, who reaches low to parry it and falls prey to Mosley’s right hand which follows shortly.

For instance: In this clip above, Mosley throws a subtle jab feint and moves the lead foot forward slightly. He follows it up by shortening the distance and then changes his line of attack with a body jab. While doing so, he successfully baits Mayweather, who reaches low to parry it and falls prey to Mosley’s right hand which follows shortly.

All of this brings us to Bruce Lee’s final way i.e. Attack by Drawing (A.B.D). Before we move on to that, let’s check out his opinion on counterattacks. “The counterattack is not a defensive action but a method of using the opponent’s offense as a means of the successful completion of one’s own attack. The counterattack is an advanced phase of offense, it is the greatest art of fighting, the art of the art champion.” With that said, let’s move towards Attack by Drawing (A.B.D)

Attack by Drawing (A.B.D)

Attack by Drawing is one of the most advanced strategies in Jeet Kune Do. When up against an advanced/experienced martial artist, a single angle attack or combinations doesn’t work. Thus, you offer them a bait by making yourself look vulnerable and as they’re about to pounce, you leave them stunned. Now the reason why this way is advanced is that if you’re up against a smart fighter, a split-second opening is enough for him to finish you off. Thus, you need to be extremely vigilant and use this move with caution. However, if you do it effectively, you’ll bamboozle your opponent and leave them trembling mentally.

Application of Attack by Drawing in Boxing

Application of Attack by Drawing in Boxing

In boxing, a drawing attack lures a boxer to launch himself onto you whilst leaving himself vulnerable. Boxers provoke their opponents most of the time to bait them into advancing forward. And as soon as an opponent is committed, they adjust their position and respond with a good counter-attack. 

You can apply the Attack by Drawing principle simply by feinting or engaging in quick upper body movements. Here’s where the old saying, “When in doubt, throw a jab”, is put to bed. As a boxer, you can structure yourself in a way so that your opponent is tempted to move towards you.

For instance: In this clip above, Hopkins invites an attack to an area which seems unguarded and as soon as the opponent falls for the bait, he counters by taking a step back and landing a left hook over the top.

Through employing numerous postures, boxers can easily fool their opponents and manipulate the distance to their advantage. Floyd does a great job of enticing an opponent and then using their own tools against them. You can also exercise A.B.D by baiting your opponent into countering and then countering his initial counter yourself. 

As common psychology, opponents tend to reply with the same techniques that have been used on them. For example, when you throw a jab, your opponent is most likely to reply with a jab. If you master this, you’ll have a fair idea as to what might come towards you. Knowing that in advance, will help you prepare better. A.B.D, as described earlier, is a much complex technique when compared to the other four principles.

For instance: In the clip above, Hopkins subtle step forward i.e. jab feint elicits counter jab from his opponent. He then goes on to counter his opponent’s jab with his own jab. He follows it up by evading his opponent’s right-hand counter and easily escapes even after missing a right hand.


I hope this piece of art inspired you to incorporate Bruce Lee’s attacking principles into your fighting style. It’s crazy how relevant his research and studies are even in today’s time when the world of martial arts is evolving at a rapid pace.

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