The Importance of the Centerline
Followers of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do will know that the nucleus of the art was Wing Chun.
Yes, there are multiple pieces of evidence in history that clearly suggests that Lee himself asserted that “Wing Chun is out”; that Latter Stage JKD had almost completely deviated away from traditional Wing Chun.
However, as I have previously addressed one of my articles on What Discarding Really Means, not learning something in its entirety versus mastering something and then “discarding” it are two completely different matters.
Consider that at the time Bruce Lee was becoming his own man, and Jeet Kune Do had to therefore become its own art as well. Hence, it was perhaps in his best interests to publicly declare that: “Wing Chun is out”.
What about from a “technology” perspective?
A mind once stretched can never return to its old dimensions.
Lee had immersed himself in Wing Chun. It was his first and foundation martial art. How well do you think he knows and applies the cornerstone Centerline concept of Wing Chun?
Well, why don’t I just learn Wing Chun?
Important: I am not saying that Wing Chun is hidden within JKD.
I am saying that JKD has its own Centerline concept.
Unlike Wing Chun, the JKD method involves a “no touch” approach (think: boxers and fencers).
JKD has its own unique method and structure. In fact, I would go as far as to say that being the martial arts genius that he was, there is a very high probability that even without learning Wing Chun, he would eventually come to discover his expression of the Centerline.
Why do I say that with certainty?
Because the Centerline is a Law of Combat.
Physics dictate that the shortest distance between two points will always be a straight line. Like gravity, this law doesn’t take a day off — ever.
So now, you might think — “Well okay! I understand! So we just strike in a straight line!”
Easier said than done.
What if I told you that orientating and optimizing the body that has full of rounded joints to strike in a straight line takes years of refinement?
And what if I told you that there will come a time where both exponents in a fight will vie for the very same centerlines?
Well, one of them will have to dominate the center.
Am I making sense here?
What exactly is the Centerline?
In order to understand the Centerline, we must first break it down into three sub-concepts.
- The Centerline in accordance to oneself I.E. one’s own centerline.
- The opponent’s Centerline
- The interaction between the two various centerlines — which will involve several new lines of engagement
Most, if not all, of our vital body parts are located along the centerline. We do not want our opponents anywhere near them.
If you agree with me, you will also agree that any space that isn’t guarded is a void.
Now, re-look at the above three points — do you want any unobserved voids along your centerline?
I am assuming your answer is no.
If so — read this — you need to attack your opponent’s centerline.
That’s right, attack.
Being on the defensive will only expose your centerline even more. Even if you are really good, it will only delay the inevitable, which is your opponent eventually overwhelming you.
And the closer the opponent gets to you, the more important is your dominance of the centerline.
I am talking about fighting in enclosed areas — toilet cubicles, elevators, urban environment — you get the idea.
When there is much lesser room for mobility, a grounded centerline game is what you can always fall back on.
Most importantly, the crux of the entire Centerline concept lies in point #3:
How to perceive and cut through the correct lines of engagement,
so that you simultaneously attack the opponent’s centerline while protecting yours.
How can we learn to master the Centerline?
Fortunately, like any art in this world, Centerline Combat is a learnable process.
There are clear, actionable and progressive steps that I have learnt from my mentors to help us get there.
You will require the following tools:
- Understanding the first empty hand form of Wing Chun, Sil Nim Tao
- Closed-range trapping positions
- How to shift your weight / spine / location without telegraphing it
- How to blend and flow effectively through your obstacles
- Understand why Fluidity can never be rehearsed
- What “sticking” really means
- How to perceive and cut through the true centerline
How can I make this work for me?
Disclaimer: This method will 100% fail if you do not train with dedication and consistency.
I have to be very honest with you.
I know what you are thinking — that these ideas are all nice and fancy to read but understand the reality: without at least a thousand hours put into each of the above areas of focus, don’t expect to master any single one them.
You will only have an intellectual comprehension of them, which is an entirely different experience from actually tasting the fruits of your labour.
Dabbling gets you nowhere, and Jeet Kune Do is not for part-timers — I am sure you know this as well.
The scientific method does help to simplify matters, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
Are you willing to endure long periods of practice, fatigue and boredom?
Are you able to train with dedication, consistency and go the distance?
Otherwise, this concept isn’t for you.
Until next time,