Bruce Lee was selected four times for the American Black Belt Hall of Fame, and he was also known as the “Stick King of the Philippines,” Dan Inosanto, who once described Bruce Lee as the “Einstein of the martial arts.”
Why did he say that?
In his book “Jeet Kune Do: Bruce Lee’s Philosophy and Art,” Dan Inosanto wrote:
“Bruce Lee, throughout his life, had the insight of a martial arts philosopher, understanding the essence and the current situation. Like a martial arts scientist, he meticulously studied and analyzed various well-known martial arts techniques from both the East and the West, keenly distinguishing their subtle differences and finding their common essence.”
In the 1970s, Bruce Lee, with a strong foundation in Wing Chun, extensively explored various martial arts such as Karate, Taekwondo, Aikido, Judo, Muay Thai, and French Savate, and established his own martial art style called Jeet Kune Do.
One of the iconic techniques of Jeet Kune Do is the side kick.
Wing Chun has a technique called “side supporting kick,” which is a lateral leg technique used for attacking and defending.
Bruce Lee combined his knowledge of foreign martial arts and refined the essence and combat techniques of the side kick. He endowed the side kick with the characteristics of rapid initiation and preemptive strikes, especially emphasizing the use of the lead leg for side kicks, showcasing the agility and speed of the technique.
Among Bruce Lee’s side kick variations, the most powerful one is the step-up side kick.
The step-up side kick concentrates the entire body’s weight and utilizes the twisting of the waist and hips upon impact, often resulting in a one-hit kill effect.
As Bruce Lee’s fame grew in the international film industry, the side kick also gained popularity among martial artists.
In 2017, during an interview with the renowned Sanda fighter Liu Hailong, Bruce Lee’s step-up side kick technique was mentioned regarding its influence on their generation of martial artists and Sanda athletes.
Bruce Lee’s side kick was referred to as “kicking through the sky.”
In one test, Bruce Lee performed his signature move, the step-up side kick, and kicked a 200-pound man wearing protective gear, sending him flying 22.5 feet (approximately 6.75 meters) into a swimming pool. As this incident took place in a time when mobile phones with cameras were not yet prevalent, the story cannot be verified.
Bruce Lee demonstrated his side kick skills multiple times in his films, such as “Fists of Fury,” “Enter the Dragon,” and “Way of the Dragon.”
How to train the side kick?
In his recollection, Dan Inosanto said:
In the 1960s, the martial arts world hardly engaged in realistic dynamic target training. Bruce Lee and his colleagues pioneered the use of air shields and foam shields, which were borrowed from the defensive collision training in American football, as training aids for contact kicking and striking techniques.
This training method was groundbreaking. Bruce Lee said, “Many times, in the martial arts world, they kick at you with an inch of space, and you can’t really tell if the kick possesses the actual content of lethality.”
Bruce Lee emphasized that kicking and striking training requires three conditions:
First, power, obtained through running and strength training.
Second, flexibility, achieved through stretching and flexibility training.
Third, the most economical kicking and striking methods, control exercises (leg control), decomposition exercises, interactive training, constantly eliminating unnecessary movements, and mastering the most effective kicking and striking methods.
Nowadays, this training method is already applied in every martial arts gym.