Sifu Harinder Singh

Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

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.

Combat Chess

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.

The Bill Jee eye jab offers an incredible self defense advantage from a speed and range perspective and exceptionally effective.

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.

Defend The King

As Harinder Singh demonstrates breathing techniques and its importance on conserving energy.

As you attack with your queen, you must not forget to defend your king. The king, in this case, is your breath. In chess, the king can move only one square at a time. Similarly, breathing can be managed only one breath at a time. If you lose track of your breathing, you're doomed — in a fight and in life.

Proper breathing is important for two reasons: It allows you to conserve energy, and it helps you weaponize your awareness. When you fight, fear, stress and anxiety create tension, which can cause you to hold your breath. When you hold your breath, your energy gets depleted. Feeling slower and weaker, you start to panic. Obsessive thinking sets in, and the chatter in your mind robs you of the present moment, making you your own worst enemy.

Controlling your respiration in tense situations is a skill that must be developed. Learning to relax on demand during conflict, chaos and the ever-changing circumstances of a fight is often overlooked and usually undertrained.

Fighting changes from moment to moment based on you, your opponent and your environment. Victory is not in the end result. Rather, victory is gained by making the right decisions and adapting from one moment to the next. To effectively adapt to your opponent, you must learn to weaponize your awareness. To weaponize your awareness, you must learn to come from the center of time and space. The center of time and space is where you, the observer, should live. An observer has no thoughts, judgments or attachments. An observer knows without knowing and acts and reacts on his own. That may sound mystical, but it's really not. Consider:

While driving your car, have you ever swerved out of the way at the last moment and barely avoided an accident? It's almost like you moved before you had time to process the event, and only afterward did you realize what you'd done.

In sparring, have you ever just hit your opponent and then, in the next moment, realized that he was open? This is the phenomenon you're after. Awareness is always there; it's just that some people have lost touch with it. By reconnecting with awareness, you're not creating anything new. Rather, you're connecting with something you may have forgotten.

Weaponize Your Awarness

My tai chi master taught that to weaponize awareness and orient from the center of time and space, a martial artist needs to know the four pillars of the mind: imagination, sensation, intention and attention. They're considered the keys to weaponizing awareness because they teach you to task your mind with orienting from the perspective of the observer and not the thinker. Outlined below is the three-step process that I teach all my students, from military and law-enforcement personnel to civilian martial artists.

Step 1: Orient From The Still Point

Start by directing your intention and attention to your respiration. When you inhale and exhale, feel your abdomen expand and contract. Now focus on the still point of the breath, the pause between an inhalation and exhalation and between an exhalation and inhalation. During the pauses, direct your intention to your heartbeat. Feel the sensation as it ripples throughout your body like a stone rippling on a pond.

Count four heartbeats, then slowly increase the number. If you try to expand the duration of your still points too quickly, you'll introduce tension in your body. Your mind will start to panic because it thinks you're dying due to lack of air. Rest assured you're not going to die. Instead, smile, relax and let go of the tension. Don't force this. As you practice and relax into it, the time between breaths will increase naturally, and you'll develop internal awareness. Once this becomes comfortable, expand your awareness outside your body and listen to the sounds in the room.

Next, you must learn how to operate from the center of space. You need to extend your spatial awareness outward toward the six directions: forward and backward, left and right, and up and down. Extend your awareness by putting your intention and attention on these directions, and you'll be operating from the center of space. Remember that your awareness is a full 360 degrees, not just what's in front of you.

You can try it right now while you're sitting. Concentrate on extending your attention into the six directions. Let your awareness envelope the entire room. If it seems difficult, do two directions at a time until you feel comfortable, then integrate the others.

The next phase is to imagine your physical body melting away. All that's left is internal and external awareness, which merge into one "noticing awareness." As you practice removing yourself (mind and body) from the equation, you'll become familiar with this state of being. You'll create a new reference point, which is the center of time and space.

Heed The Wisdom of Musashi

Implement the wisdom of Miyamoto Musashi

Tactics, strategies and weapons are just knowledge, and knowledge without wisdom can be dangerous. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. You can learn about awareness, understand strategy and know the fastest move (the bil jee), but if you can't apply this knowledge, it's just useless information.

Miyamoto Musashi said, "The way is in training." Your confidence stems from experiential knowledge and knowing that you've embodied your tools and strategies so they can be adapted for use in changing situations. Only then can you be wholly in the moment and surrender to the experience by letting go of victory or defeat.

The best way to develop this ability is by using a training method that's fun and functional. It should develop your physical attributes, strategies and weapon selection while sharpening your awareness. It should be equal parts feeding drills, counter-for-counter drills and sparring against resisting opponents. Because a fight is a living exchange, your training must incorporate timing, angles, distance and progressive resistance. To help you with this, I have developed a method that gamifies the learning process.

Play Combat Chess

Develop your strategy for your own game of combat chess

To absorb all the benefits of training, you need a step-by-step progression that chunks pieces of information and installs them in your subconscious mind. The greatest chess masters isolate individual pieces — for example, a king versus a king and a pawn. Chess masters learn how these isolated pieces move together on the board, and this information is stored in their subconscious. This isolation method of training accelerates the learning process, which is why Rickson Gracie made it part of his Brazilian jiu-jitsu training philosophy. When you isolate tools or positions, you have fewer options and are forced to focus on energy, awareness, timing, and the space between the strikes and positions.

The four "games" listed below can be used to functionalize any tactic or strategy, but to mesh with this article, you should focus on bil jee attacks to the eyes and lead-leg attacks to the groin. For best results, experiment with opponents of different body types and martial arts backgrounds. Start by feeding each other techniques with no resistance so the correct mechanics can be learned. Next, introduce counters so you can start to understand timing and the appropriate responses. Finally, incorporate resistance and intelligently spar using the isolated weapons and positions.

Game 1: Coordinate Awareness And Movement

Your partner, wearing boxing gloves, is restricted to using only the jab. His goal in the first round is to hit you 30 percent of the time while feeding you 70 percent of the time. In the second round, he switches to hitting you 70 percent of the time and feeding you 30 percent. Your objective is to move, watch and breathe. When moving, reposition your feet, head and hands as one unit. When watching, extend your awareness in all six directions. When breathing, don't tense up or hold your breath.

Put The Art In Martial Arts

"Creation" refers to making something that didn't exist before. When you create art, there can be no fear of the outcome, just honest self-expression. By following the combat-chess methodology, you'll start chunking information and installing the chunks in your subconscious. Your subconscious has the ability to connect the various groupings of information and create responses without conscious thought, leaving you to be the observer of the experience.

Operating as the observer will make time seem to flow more slowly and allow you to "start after but arrive before" your opponent. It's the most freeing phenomenon that can be experienced in the martial arts. It's the instinctive response that Bruce Lee was referring to when he said, "It hits all by itself."

The master key to success in this fighting process is you. Remember that results rule. Question everything and always look to explore, discover, grow and create.

Sifu Harinder Singh

Portrait of Harinder Singh

Harinder Singh Sabharwal teaches jeet kune do, wing chun, tai chi, savate, kali, boxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He's the founder of the Jeet Kune Do Athletic Association and Black Belt University. For information about his new online course, visit jkdforblackbelts.com.


SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.
Yahoo! Sports

Dustin Poirier has knocked out Conor McGregor in the second round at the UFC 257 Main Event. This spoils McGregor's long-awaited UFC return after his win over Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone last January. Poirier hinted after the match that he would be open to another bout against McGregor, as this fight brings their rivalry to a 1-1 record. The impressive wins of Poirier and Michael Chandler on Saturday night set the UFC's lightweight division up for a very exciting future.

The Legendary Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame has never before been documented in a single location. Now, you can learn about all the icons that have achieved one of the greatest honors in all of martial arts.

Black Belt Magazine is proud to announce the NEW Member Profiles feature for the Hall of Fame. At the time of this article, the online records account for every inductee from the inaugural year of 1968 all the way through 1990 (upwards of 200 martial artists). The page will be updated continuously and will include every inductee through 2020 in the near future. For now, you can enjoy images and facts about the legendary members for each induction they received before 1991. Take advantage of this never-before-seen opportunity to learn about many of the martial artists who contributed to the lifestyle, culture, and community that every martial artist experiences today.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE BLACK BELT HALL OF FAME

Black Belt Magazine Subscriptions

A Closer Look at Mongolia's Naadam Festival

Mongolia's "three sports of men" — archery, horseracing and wrestling — were the featured attractions at the first Naadam festival convened by Genghis Kahn himself in 1206.

Fast-forward to the 21st century: The festivals, held nationwide in mid-July each year, still celebrate the formation of the Mongolian Empire and its achievement of independence from China's Qing Dynasty.

The highlight of modern incarnations of Naadam is the wrestling, and many boys who grow up on the steppes dream of one day being crowned a champion.

The wrestling competitions are single-elimination tournaments. Wrestlers wear trunks and an open-chest shirt with a rope tied around the abdomen, all of which opponents are allowed to grab. The most common colors seen are red, which symbolizes power, and blue, which represents the Mongolian sky.

The author (left) grapples with a Mongolian wrestler.

The grapplers also wear heavy traditional boots and a Mongolian hat. The four sides of the hat represent the four provinces of old Mongolia. The top knot is for the five regions of the Buddhist government. The silver badge attached to each hat bears the animal ranking of the wrestler.

In competition, the wrestlers have to win six matches to be crowned champion. There are no weight classes, which is perhaps why the top grapplers generally weigh 260 pounds or more. The goal is to make the opponent touch the ground with anything other than the soles of his feet.

Because of the coronavirus, the most recent Naadam competition in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar took place without an audience. Spectators had to watch on television or online.

At the competitions in the provinces, however, the action was live, and residents of nearby towns showed up to watch.

In a secondary subdivision called Temenzogt, located about seven hours' drive from Ulaanbaatar, I was fortunate to have a chance to wrestle in a Naadam event.

Author Antonio Graceffo (right) and his opponent.

After quickly sizing up my huge opponent, a former champion, I braced myself for a pushing and pulling battle of upper-body strength. I was surprised when he chose to use his heavy boots and massive thighs to kick my legs out from under me.

And with that, my Naadam experience came to an abrupt end. I was grateful, however, for the efforts of all my Mongolian friends who made it possible for me to fulfill my dream of wrestling in Naadam.

I learned a lot about Mongolia, the culture and the ground, so much so that I've decided to stay here another year and really dedicate myself to learning Mongolian wrestling.

Maybe at next year's Nadaam, I'll be able to last 20 seconds.

Antonio Graceffo writes Black Belt's Destinations column. Read more of his work here. His book Warrior Odyssey is available here.

Photos Courtesy of Antonio Graceffo

To read more about Mongolian wrestling, check out "Wrestling With the Descendants of Genghis Khan: Black Belt's Asia Correspondent Travels to Mongolia to Grapple!" in our February/March 2021 issue. Go here to order your copy from the Black Belt Store!

In a competition bereft of many of its top wrestlers, Daieisho was a surprise winner of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament Sunday in Tokyo. With the area under a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic and a post-war record 19 wrestlers withdrawing from the event, Daieisho pulled off the upset victory coming from the maegashira level, the lowest of five ranks in sumo's top division, to win the title.

It was Daieisho's first championship as he finished the event with a 13-2 record. Displaying a powerful pushing and thrusting style, he also garnered the prize for outstanding performance during the tournament as well as the prize for best technique.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter!
Stay up to date in the martial arts community with news from around the world, techniques of all styles and all around guiding you in your martial arts journey