A Philosophical look at the 5 Methods of Attack

This, the last paper in the series of six that takes my philosophical look at The 5 Methods of Attack. It’s not a cumulative last paper or a roll up of the 5 Methods of Attack. But it’s going to guide you to a point of where you’re letting it all go of what’s no needed for you to succeed.


In the book, Jeet Kune Do, the Art and Philosophy of Bruce Lee, Dan Inosanto shares a Lee quote; “In JKD, one does not accumulate but eliminates. It is not daily increase, but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. It is the half way cultivation that runs to ornamentation.” (1)


Lee continues; “Learn the principle, abide by the principles and dissolve the principle. In short, to enter a mold without being caged in it and OBEY THE PRINCIPLE WITHOUT BEING BOUND BY THEM.”


Thus for us, begins the process of acquiring knowledge, understanding how to apply the knowledge and finally simplify that knowledge by eliminating the classical boundaries of traditional (martial arts) learning and retention. How is that accomplished?


The concept of elimination or peeling away unneeded layers isn’t for every martial artist. It’s about a person who has put in the time, done their own work and is ready to move on and raise their standards of understanding of their own art. I believe at a very high training level, this concept of eliminating the unnecessary can be taught and utilized with every lesson. Why keep any information that won’t be necessary? Can we learn something just to throw it away afterwards?


As an individual progresses through the learning of a martial art, one tends to accumulate knowledge, experience, rank and hopefully more. It is through this gathering of information, working through it, testing it and as it begins to be a part of ourselves it is then we see boundaries begin to take shape.


Those boundaries are style, system, rank requirements, loyalties and even politics. That means normally, with traditional martial arts, that the program or curriculum is bound by legacy and history, coming with records dating back many years and with their disclaimer; “We’ve always done it this way.”


For martial artists, stagnation or lack of growth is partially the result of being locked into a set of predefined requirements. Those requirements are normally based on an older curriculum (set of requirements), on the instructor’s level of experience, how it was originally taught, retention abilities or even how some elements are held back from you until the right time or rank level.


The aforementioned method of learning or passing on of knowledge becomes a burden when after so long you are actually trapped by it. (Possibly your system has limited growth potential and the feeling of “Is that all there is?) Any remaining elements of stagnation are completely the responsibility of the individual who allowed themselves to become bored, trapped or worse.

There are also the political martial barriers that for some, reaching outside an organization for information and additional skills is against the rules and ones rank, recognition and support are pulled within that group. Pretty harsh actions for groups that communicate their system is about self-improvement.

Up to this point, all I have mentioned are famous quotes about accumulation, cultivation, ornamentation and those growth barriers caused by what I believe are outside influences. But what I’ll try to share from this point on, is an idea about the theoretical elimination of certain information and the non-value added elements of over learning and retention.


Moving on, let’s look at this custom graphic I designed to show you a lot more of what I’d like to share with you, that I call, ” The Methods of Attack, Pyramid of Understanding”


The Methods of Attack, Pyramid of Understanding



Contained within the pyramid, you’ll see the “Building Blocks” of the 5 Methods of Attack (MOA), SDA, ABC, IA, PIA and ABD. (See the previous 5 MOA articles) (2)


Starting at the bottom of the pyramid, supporting the pyramid base and layered between the building blocks are the mortar qualities of martial attributes. These attributes of footwork, movement, punching, kicking and grappling form the base of our pyramid and the root of our martial skill set. These are the essential elements that give our attacks and defense the proverbial teeth.


Placed on top of those five mortar qualities are the first three of the five methods. These are believed to be the most important in a staged progressive development. These three, SDA, ABC and IA are usually the first taught to new students with their references to single attacks, combinations and trapping.


On top of those building blocks are the additional mortar qualities of speed, rhythm and timing. These attributes are developed over time with practice and become invaluable for the first three attacks while also providing the roots of excellence for the remaining two methods.


Next up are the two MOA building blocks, PIA and ABD. Along with the original five mortar qualities, these two definitely rely on speed, rhythm and timing to enhance the effectiveness of an attack that is progressive in nature and/or is used in a counter-fighting application.


Now I’ll ask you to notice the progression and layering of our pyramid. Each mortar quality and building block grouping or individually, sets up the next layer for learning and understanding how it can all come together.


From here, moving upward, are the mortar qualities of Sensitivity and Awareness. Through learning of the five methods and the previous mortar qualities, one develops the sensitivity to feel and adjust to the opponent’s energy, reactions and the awareness to look for it in all the right places, for all the right reasons.


Stacked above the five methods and our ten mortar qualities are the (Applied Concept) building blocks of Attack and Defend. These two last blocks represent the ways in which to apply the knowledge contained within all the previous building blocks and mortar qualities.


It is the building blocks of Attack and Defend that represent the idea of beginning to look at our accumulated information in a more intellectual sense. Not in the sense of the fifteen attacks and attributes but in an idea of just two ways. Attack and Defend is really what we have learned and practice gives the reasons we know it will work. In looking forward it starts the idea of having two instead of fifteen and thus begins the evolution of Elimination.


Now continuing to move up the pyramid is the top building block of Knowledge, Understanding and Elimination. This block holds it down and all together. The sheer magnitude of the conceptual weight of the idea is a solid, grounding aspect to the pyramid as a whole.


It is with our Knowledge and Understanding that we can begin the Elimination of the now non-valued information that we’ve carried with us from within the learning phases. It is these cumbersome limitations of holding to a structure or way that hold so many people back. It is only the Understanding of what we possess that we actually apply in the period of Attack or Defend that allows us to eliminate. Knowledge is just information, but “Applied Knowledge is Understanding.”


Lastly, is the tip of the pyramid, the “Pyramidion.” (3) It, for us, holds the highest level of attainment. This is where Simplicity resides. Here, after all your hard work of learning, attaining, practicing, evaluating, removing and stripping down the…classical mess, is your place of understanding.


This is the last element in refining what you do. Doing all you can, knowing all you can, and making what you are doing and what you are trying to achieve easy to understand and Simple to You.


This pyramid will represent all your studies, your training, what you’ve mastered and in a way, how you will share with others. But in the end, all road should run towards Simplicity.

I’ll leave you with this last famous Bruce Lee quote that really does fit this writing and is about you the individual; “Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, Reject what is useless. Add what is essentially your own.” (4)


Where does this leave you in your mind, your training and your life?


  1. Jeet Kune Do, The Art and Philosophy of Bruce Lee, Dan Inosanto, Know How Publishing, 1980

  2. https://www.amsnorthwest.com/blog

  3. The uppermost piece or capstone of a pyramid is called "pyramidion"

  4. https://www.brucelee.com/philosophies


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