5 Ways of Attack In Boxing – Bruce Lee’s Attacking Philosophy

ways of attack - Bruce Lee & Boxing

In the 1960s, the legendary mixed martial artist Bruce Lee came up with his extremely unique combat philosophy in martial combat ‘Jeet Kune Do’ (JKD), translated as “The way of the intercepting fist”. This combat philosophy and system believes the best defense is a strong offense I will go into more detail on how Bruce Lee created the JKD principle and how you can introduce the 5 ways of attack into your boxing or MMA training and fighting style.

Bruce Lee & His Philosophy

Most people who love the fight game will know exactly who Bruce Lee is, but in case you are unsure he was primarily known for his starring roles in legendary action films Fists of Fury and Enter the Dragon in the 1970s (Highly recommend you check them out!).

Although known for these films, Lee was also an avid mixed martial artist and philosopher in the art of combat and was trained and studied in vast amounts of martial arts including Boxing, Karate, Judo, Wing Chun, Kick Boxing, and even Fencing.

The Legendary Bruce Lee

When Lee was originally researching many fighting styles he did not wish to come up with a specific fighting style for JKD. Instead, he very much wanted a style that would be formless as that would require fewer limitations when fighting.

Lee’s explanation

Bruce Lee explains in his own words:

I have not invented a “new style,” composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”. . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that.

There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune Do is simply the direct expression of one’s feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. – Bruce Lee

His principle and theory behind JKD are that you must be able to adapt to any scenario thrown at you while being able to react accordingly. It teaches you to know when to attack or go on the back foot, while it’s about being effective with your energy movements so you are not limiting yourself.

Be Like Water

Be Like Water - Bruce Lee

One of Bruce Lee’s most famous quotes regarding JKD or life itself is to “Be Like Water“.

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

In the case of fighting, it can be extremely unpredictable at any time and Lee really wanted us to understand that the best way to counteract this is to be fluid to react and adapt to any situation you may find yourself in.

Using ‘Jeet Kune Do’

In the case of this article, I will be focusing on boxing with this philosophy, but its important to identify that the following attack techniques are part of the JKD attack techniques:

  • Punching
  • Kicking
  • Trapping
  • Grappling

These attack principles are much more in line with MMA and you understand why mixed martial artists can really relate to how to use Bruce Lee’s principles in fighting. In terms of boxing, it relates more to distances you fight from to use certain attacks. Bruce Lee originally categorized these attack forms as short or close, medium, and long-range.

Economical Movement

Another very important factor for Jeet Kune Do is the way you use movement and timing. These come in three ways in JKD:

  • Efficiency: An attack that reaches its target in the least amount of time, with maximum force
  • Directness: Doing what comes naturally in a disciplined way
  • Simplicity: Thinking in an uncomplicated manner; without ornamentation

In the case of boxers using economical movements, it becomes vital very important if you are going to use JKD and specifically the 5 ways of attack.

5 Ways of Attack

In Bruce Lee’s JKD’s there are five ways of attack which are:

  1. Single Direct Attack (S.D.A.)
  2. Attack By Combination (A.B.C.)
  3. Progressive Indirect Attack (P.I.A.)
  4. (Hand) Immobilization Attack (H.I.A.)
  5. Attack By Drawing (A.B.D.)

Below I will go into more detail regarding how each attack should be carried out along with examples or attacks that should be carried out.

1. Single Direct Attack (S.D.A)

In boxing, an S.D.A. typically takes in the form of a Jab, but it is important to identify how the jab is actually thrown. When boxers throw a jab it usually closes down the distance between you and the opponent. It is also used to apply pressure or create openings within the competitor’s guard so you can strike them more effectively. Here are some examples below of how S.D.A. can be carried out.

When throwing a jab it’s important that some sort of defensive maneuver is taking place when thrown. E.g.

  • Jab – Slip
  • Jab – Block/Parry
  • Lead Straight
  • Lead Hook

Another example of a single direct attack could be throwing an opposite straight hand or hook.

This S.D.A. can come useful as it is a way of closing the distance very quickly with a surprise straight hand or overarching hook. This can be devastating for your opponent as in most cases it will catch them off guard, however, used too often this will be easy for them to read and create a defensive maneuver over even counter you.

In terms of seeing the S.D.A. I highly recommend Larry Holmes who arguably had one of the greatest jabs in the history of boxing. He is a perfect example of using the single direct attack in boxing.

Some more recent modern examples I recommend you watch include Andre Ward or Gennady Golovkin.


2. Attack By Combination (A.B.C)

Using a combination attack in boxing is one of the most devastating ways you can exploit and hurt your opponent in the ring. Usually, when you use an A.B.C., your punches need to flow in a natural sequence with each other in a way for your body to maneuver effectively while also minimizing exposing yourself to punches.

First and foremost the A.B.C. is to exploit and create new openings in your opponent’s guard, the most effective combinations are usually the most basic.

Here are some examples of some typical attack combinations you will usually see happen in the boxing ring.

Jab – Cross – Hook

Jab – Jab – Cross

Jab – Cross – Jab – Cross

Jan – Cross – Hook – Cross

Jab – Cross – Left/Right Uppercut – Cross

These are just some examples of combinations that can be used in the ring, but it’s important to remember that the target area of where you throw the punch is the way you create openings against your opponent. E.g. punching to body or guard. Mixing up where you strike will without a doubt help you hit the opposition more precisely.

Sugar Ray Leonard was a brilliant example of using combinations in his offensive and would frequently mention how Bruce Lee was a massive inspiration behind his fighting style. I also think you should check out Juan Manuel Marquez or a more recent example of using combinations is Jorge Linares who I feel is underrated for it.


3. Progressive Indirect Attack (P.I.A)

A progressive indirect attack in boxing is best described as throwing a feint or uncommitted punch to create an opening depending on how your opponent reacts. This is a great way of measuring out your competitor’s reactions, so you can strike them more cleanly.

Using a P.I.A. is probably best used against someone with a strong proactive defense because it can manipulate and cause uncertainty when a punch is thrown.

All the top boxing champions have been true greats at progressive indirect attacks (feints) and it is a skill that does take some getting used to. I highly recommend you check out the video below of Bernard Hopkins breaking down how to use feints in boxing properly and the benefits.


4. Hand Immobilization Attack (H.I.A.)

Hand Immobilization attack in boxing I feel is a very underrated skill in boxing and is one of the best ways of manipulating and opening up your opponent’s guard.

One of the higher-profile boxers who has used this technique recently is Lomachenko. When the Ukrainian is up against an opponent with a tight or high guard he will very intelligently slap down on his opponent’s gloves which will create an opening for him to land a punch to the head, causing panic and creating further openings.

Another great example of the H.I.A. taking place is when Lennox Lewis knocked out Rahman in their rematch where he slaps his guard out the way to land a thundering right hand to KO him.

The last way this technique can be used in boxing is by controlling the opponent’s body with your wrist and forearms. Holding and hitting are obviously illegal in boxing, but this technique makes it a lot more subtle to control your opponent, and once again create openings. I recommend you check out Lee Wylie’s video at the bottom of this article where he shows Floyd Mayweather Jr use this technique masterfully when he came up against Hatton.


5. Attack By Drawing (A.B.D.)

The final way of attack is arguably one of the hardest to master and also the one I imagine Bruce Lee would have rated very highly if you wish to truly master in “Jeet Kune Do”. This is what he had to say about it:

The counterattack is not a defensive action, but a method of using the opponents’s offense as a means of the successful completion of one’s own attack. The counter attack is an advance phase of offense…it is the greatest art of fighting, the art of champion” – Bruce Lee

A.B.D. for boxing is obviously counter punching, this has the main aim of drawing an attack from an opponent, which in turn creates an opening itself that results in them getting counterpunched.

Usually, it is an opponent that has been lured on purpose, due to the body position or guard opening that is being presented to them. This usually results in a fully committing attack which means there is no way of getting out the way of a counter.

Check out the video below to really see different methods of A.B.D. in action.


Lee Wylie’s Take

To finish off this article on Bruce Lee’s 5 ways of attack, I highly recommend you take the time watch Lee Wylie’s in-depth look at this philosophy applied in boxing.

It is 25 minutes long, but it will really give you a greater understanding of JKD and how it is applied in boxing. See below:


Final Thoughts

In my opinion, Jeet Kune Do is truly a philosophy every boxer and mixed martial artist can truly take and learn something from. Fighting takes years to master and the more you practice you start to understand Lee’s principles that by being able to “Be like Water” and adapt to any situation in the ring, you will without a doubt become a better fighter inside and in life itself.

I highly recommend you check out the “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” to really learn Lee’s principles in more detail.

Thanks for reading!

If you would like to read more articles like make sure to check out the following:

Or why not check out my boxing fighter styles article here.

Tao of Jeet Kune Do – Bruce Lee.


Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method – Bruce Lee

Jamie - Boxing Life

I'm a boxing analyst, amateur boxer, and blogger looking to pass on my boxing experiences and passion to anyone looking to learn or find out more about the sport of boxing. Whether that be gear reviews, fighter analysis, news, training tips, or my own personal journey, I'll be covering it on 'Boxing Life'.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts