joe lewis

A Lesson in Prevention, Courtesy of
Joe Lewis

The first time I met Joe Lewis was in 1985 at a sparring seminar he gave in Corona, California.

It turned out to be a great experience — even though he lambasted all traditional stylists (like me) who used formal stances (the horse stance, for example) in their training. His comments didn't bother me, however, because by then I'd learned to regard statements from martial artists with his impeccable credentials as constructive criticism. So I listened intently as he spoke, even though I never stopped doing those stances.

The next time I sat down face to face with Lewis came a decade and a half later. By that time, I was a regular writer for Black Belt, and I'd penned a few features about him after conducting telephone interviews. I had become a real fan — Lewis was a great champion, a smart fighter and a gifted teacher.

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Martial Arts Kick

Flying triple spinning tornado kicks are certainly impressive. Pull one off, and you'll get a ticket to the cool kids' table for sure.

Just check out the crowd reaction when a full-contact fighter successfully lands a fancy spinning kick. The deafening cheers are enough to inspire any kid to make a midnight bedroom window escape and camp out in front of the local dojo's front door. Admit it: When you started training, you dreamed of these flashy kicks.

The problem is that these kicks, although impressive, aren't very practical. Even at a high skill level, there's only a small likelihood of them succeeding.

But effective kicks are boring. What martial art teacher worth the salt in Bruce Lee's sweat wants to teach boring stuff? And what student wants to spend their hard, long training hours learning boring kicks?

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Lots of martial artists claim to be street fighters. Full-contact pioneer Joe Lewis isn't buying it.

Whenever access to facts is limited in such a way that people cannot investigate claims others make, myths arise. Of course, everyone in the martial arts already knows that.

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The details of Bruce Lee's jeet kune do have filled numerous books, leaving newcomers wondering where to begin. Here, Joe Lewis, Leo Fong, William Cheung and Burton Richardson share what matters most.

Black Belt contacted 16 well-known martial artists who teach jeet kune do or were heavily influenced by it to get their thoughts on the most important part of Bruce Lee’s art. Part 1 features replies from Dan Inosanto, Tim Tackett, Kelly McCann and Joe Lewis. Part 2 offers the answers we got from Burton Richardson, Matthew J. Numrich, Teri Tom and Richard S. Bustillo. Part 3 includes Leo Fong, Bustillo, Paul Vunak and Gary Dill. Part 4 focuses on the thoughts expressed by Lamar M. Davis II, Dr. Jerry Beasley, Matt Thornton and Thomas Cruise. In this conclusion, we highlight Lewis, Fong, William Cheung and Richardson.

Photo Courtesy of Black Belt

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