Want to Maximize Your Fighting Ability? Try Combat Chess!

by Harinder Singh Sabharwal

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you know that attachment to any one idea ultimately will limit your options and make you more predictable in battle. With that said, there is a move that's perhaps the most versatile technique for use in personal combat, and Bruce Lee knew it well.


Jeet kune do is a scientific approach to street fighting, a method for developing complete martial artists who are not bound by any style or system. Rather, they're able to adapt to all styles, systems, situations and circumstances. JKD, of course, is the result of Bruce Lee's search for the truth of combat, and part of that truth is that those who have mastered attacking the eyes and groin while weaponizing their awareness will have a distinct advantage in a street fight.

A street fight is like a very brief game of combat chess involving two strategists. In this context, the “queen of all moves," the most versatile technique of all, is the bil jee, or thrusting finger jab executed with the lead hand. Simply put, it's the fastest, most effective strike in the martial arts. It can be found in all traditional styles and reality-based self-defense systems. It even appears in MMA — think about how many times you've seen an accidental finger to the eye stop a UFC fight.

With the bil jee, you don't need to pierce or penetrate the target; you just need to touch the eyeball. This offers an incredible advantage from a speed and range perspective. To strike with a boxer's jab, you must get closer to your opponent and hit “through"
the target in order to cause damage. That makes you slower because your fist must travel farther to make contact and then move past that point.

In chess, the aim is to attack with the queen while defending your king. The queen isn't limited to any set pattern and can strike from all angles, making it the most powerful piece on the board. Similarly, the bil jee can attack from any angle, and it can be adapted to work with any style. Further, the technique allows you to maintain the “fighting measure," or safe fighting distance, and effortlessly strike your enemy's eyes with the speed of a cobra.

Whether you choose to initiate the attack or use a counterattack, the bil jee offers an opportunity to create a flinch response or a moment of pain. This is your opportunity to steal the next beat in time and seize an open line of attack. For example, using a high-low-high strategy, you first attack the eyes (high) with a bil jee, then on the next half-beat, you attack the groin (low) with a lead-leg kick. Finally, you come back up to the eyes (high) for another bil jee.

The real power of the bil jee lies in its seamless integration with other striking, trapping and grappling tools. Depending on one tool or strategy as your be-all and end-all is not a good tactical approach. The chess master knows this, which is why he uses every
piece on the board and coordinates attack and defense in an integrated fashion.

In JKD, the idea is simply to simplify. Attack the eyes and the groin, maintain the distance and intercept the space between. Use elbow and knee destructions to defang the snake and destroy the opponent's punches and kicks. Be deceptive with footwork and timing, and draw him by setting and breaking rhythms. Weaponize awareness to connect to him, create opportunities and adapt like water. When the opponent expands, contract. When the opponent contracts, expand. Recognize patterns and seize openings by waiting, observing and reading his movements and intentions.

Read the whole story now in the February/March issue of Black Belt Magazine

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