The Existence of Jing Mo Jee (aka Iron Finger)
According to Tony To Wai-Tung, senior media man and ex-GH promotion manager, he personally witnessed Bruce performed his Jing Mo Jee or Iron finger Kung Fu in an unofficial foreign press’ gathering at a HK country club. Bruce told Tony To he was developing “Jing Mo Jee (JMJ),” a term he coined or simply known as the “Iron finger Kung Fu.” (Jing Mo literally means Proficient in Martial Arts; it is also the famous name of Jing Mo School founded by Grandmaster Fok Yuen-Kap’s) Bruce said his 1-3 inch punch would generate force within a very short distance but if he mastered this JMJ Kung Fu, his finger would be like a bullet firing out from the gun and could jab through a person’s chest. He continued explaining that he was learning to poke through an aluminum beer can (note: the can was much thicker in the early days). Bruce told him it was no easy task to accomplish because if the can is empty it would not be able to take on or absorb the force of the jab and would be thrown back once it was jabbed. However, if the can was unopened, the force inside would be strong. Another consideration was if the finger poked through the can, the flesh on both sides of the finger would roll up and the finger would be seriously injured. Hence, Bruce was still thinking on how to poke through the target without hurting his own fingers.
Upon explanation, Tony To then witnessed Bruce demonstrated his new skill in front of the eye-watchers. He put a can of unopened beer on the table and clenched his fist for a couple of seconds in order to generate the internal force (Chi). Suddenly, he held his finger out and thrust forward vehemently. “Bang!” The beer can flew backwards and hit the opposite wall. Luckily, it was a wall not a mirror otherwise the beer can would have exploded and cracked the mirror. Tony To picked up the beer can and found Bruce did not poked through the can but there was an at least half an inch hollow on the dented can. Tony To thought in fighting, even if the finger did not jab through the chest but it would surely hit the vital pressure point and stop the opponent from breathing. This force is really incredible. Bruce said he needed some more time to master this deadly technique.
In another similar incident, HK stuntman Steve Lee Kar-Ting witnessed Bruce’s JMJ. It happened that one day, Bruce, Steve and a few other stuntmen went to a night club. When he arrived, the people there were all so excited and wanted Bruce to demonstrate something special and had yet been shown before. Bruce agreed and got someone to get him a can of unopened sweetened condensed milk. It was “Eagle Brand and in those days, the milk can was made of hard steel which was much thicker than the ones we saw today. Bruce stood up and gradually raised his right hand with his finger jab resembled a spear. He placed his finger jab a few inches away from the milk can. After several seconds, his fingers suddenly hit the milk can like a bullet. “Bang!” Bruce withdrew his fingers in a nick of moment. The force of his jab was so powerful that the milk can was thrown backward and then hit the wall. The cover of the can was forced opened slightly and some milk seeped out and spilled over the place. All the people who witnessed Bruce’s amazing feat were all stunned! Though there’s no hole but a deep hollow was found on the can where he hit. Surprisingly, Bruce’s finger was totally unhurt. It was truly spectacular!
Like Bruce always said, “The strike must be fast, accurate and powerful.” His new iron finger Kung Fu or JMJ basically showed them all. After Bruce’s death, Steve Lee said he tried to master this iron finger Kung Fu by himself for 10 years but was unsuccessful.
The Myth of Jing Mo Jee (JMJ)
Tony To pointed out that after Bruce’s death, movies, magazines and books had exaggerated Bruce’s Jing Mo Jee (JMJ). A very good example was the movie, “Bruce’s Deadly Finger” starring Bruce Le, Nora Miao and Wong Shun Leung. In this film, Bruce Le was the student of Bruce Lee who returned from the U.S. to retrieve his late Sifu’s secret manual, “Jing Mo Jee.”(JMJ) Bruce Le imitated Bruce Lee and used his newly learnt JMJ to do a lot of crazy stuff like poking through the Cola can with his index finger, hitting the wooden dummy, striking the vital points rag dummy and killing his enemies with the iron finger. Apart from this movie, another film, “Bruce Lee, The Man & The Myth” also showed Bruce Li imitating Bruce Lee in using electrical training devices to practice his JMJe. This high-tech electrical training device still looked advanced even till today. In this movie, Bruce Li vowed to master JMJ. These scenes lent themselves to audience’s allusions to Bruce Lee’s JMJ.
Furthermore, there were some 70’s Bruce Lee’s special magazines that featured Bruce’s Iron Finger Kung Fu. One of them called “Jing Mo Jee” which published several Bruce’s own drawings of the human’s head and vital body parts. The claims of attacking targets using the JMJ, a deadly touch Kung Fu seem ridiculous and amusing. These were not any great martial arts manuals but only some greedy publishers who attempted to cash in on Bruce’s reputation after his death. Although Bruce’s students in the U.S. denied any knowledge about JMJ but according to one Bruce’s Wing Chun’s brother, Koo Sang, JMJe appeared in the scene at the last stage of Bruce’s life in HK which was no wonder his U.S. students were unaware of it. Further witnesses of JMJ include Bruce’s stuntmen, co-workers, pressmen and Tony To.
Near the end of his life, Bruce was still practicing JMJ. However, due to his untimely death, it was not as prominent as his JKD kicks, 1-3 inch punch, nunchaku skills etc. In his surviving martial arts notes, there were also not much specific writings about JMJ and its training methods. This might mainly due to Bruce’s busy filming schedule in HK. Many Bruce’s fans were mesmerized by the myth of JMJ, which in fact, was nothing special but just a kind of advanced level finger jab Kung Fu. Frankly, it is meaningless to pursue the myth of JMJ and ignore the learning of the martial arts as a whole. Just like Bruce once said in ETD, “Don’t concentrate on the finger, or you’ll miss all that heavenly glory.”
From Wing Chun’s Biu Jee (WC-BJ) to JKD Biu Jee (JKD-BJ)
Though Bruce was Ip Man’s student but most of the time, he was trained under his Siheng, Wong Shun-Leung. So, Bruce’s Wing Chun Kung Fu was more closely related to Wong’s Wing Chun Kung Fu as compared to other Ip’s students. Bruce learnt many Wing Chun skills from Wong. Some of JKD’s techniques were also originated from Wing Chun. For instance, JKD 1-3 inch punch was originated from Wing Chun’s Jat-zi Power Punch and Bruce’s JKD Biu Jee (JKD-BJ) was originated from Wing Chun’s Biu Jee (WC-BJ). The only difference about Jing Mo Jee (JMJ) is that it is no longer the traditional form of WC-BJ, and is completely different from JKD-BJ attacking method. It is able to bring out the implicit or innate qualities of the martial arts as a whole.
The name of WC-BJ was derived from the Shaolin’s Buddhist scripture. In the scripture, there is a phrase that mentioned the Biu Jee (BJ) to the Moon. It roughly means that when the finger is pointing to the moon, one’s own eyesight is being blocked by his own finger and thus, not able to see the full moon. In other words, in our life, we should look far and not let our view be obstructed by any obstacles. Do not be over steadfast instead we should possess a great vision ahead. Also, in Wing Chun’s Siu Nam Tau, there is this technique called Biu Jee (BJ) or finger jab, i.e. both hands extend forward with the fingers pointing ahead and reach the level of the eyes. Many people view BJ as a very brutal or vicious technique that would blind the opponents. It is the last set among the 3 sets of Wing Chun Kung Fu and therefore, some practitioners think that it is the best set among the rest. Bruce revised WC-BJ and made it into a flexible attacking and defending tool during fighting. So, it became the so-called JKD-BJ later on.
An extension - From JKD’s Biu Jee (JKD-BJ) to Jing Mo Jee (JMJ)
If JKD’s Biu Jee (JKD-BJ) is originated from Wing Chun Biu Jee (WC-BJ), then Jing Mo Jee (JMJ) is an extension of JKD’s Biu Jee (JKD-BJ). Actually, JMJ is very similar to JKD’s BJ in terms of training methods, attacks and defense in fighting. The only difference is that it is more brutal and devastating than JKD-BJ. JKD-BJ only strikes the eyes of the opponents whereas JMJ not only could finger jab the eyes but also hit many vital parts of the body including the chest, stomach, throat, head, temple, nasal bridge, philtrum, groin etc. If the force of JKD-BJ is like a flying spear, then the force of JMJ is like a bullet firing off the gun. Actually, JMJ bears resemblance to the Shaolin One finger Zen (Yat Jee Chan), an incredible one finger Kung Fu.
JMJ strike is similar to JKD-BJ and Bruce once said, “To protect yourself from damaging your fingers, if you should ever miss and hit a hard object like the head or a bone of your enemy. Learn to form your hand properly. Align the tip of your hand by slightly bending the longer fingers to adjust to the shorter and tuck your thumb in. Your hand should resemble a spear.” Bruce would always make his BJ “aim like a spear” and “strike like a snake.”
JMJ and JKD-BJ, like the knee side-kick, are the first line in offense or defense. It allows you an additional 3 or 4 inches in reach and provides a fast strike because it travels only a short distance to the target. Both the BJ is usually executed from an on-guard position. Just before thrusting, the fingers of your striking hand should be extended. The BJ is the fastest attacking weapon available to you and it is also the longest hand weapon accessible to you. Since you do not clench your fist but have your fingers extended, you add several more inches to your reach. The jab is a threatening and dangerous weapon to the adversary because it does so much damage and is so difficult to defend against.
JKD-BJ & JMJ In Combat
In “Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method,” it reiterates that to attack a skilled fighter with a JKD-BJ is quite difficult. Similarly, JMJ addresses this concern. Thus, JMJ should be used with a feint first. For instance, try to feint low by crouching slightly and moved forward as if to attack the opponent’s midsection. This would cause the opponent to lower his guarding or rear hand. As soon as the opening developed, quickly thrust your fingers into the opponent’s eyes and other vital parts of the body. A feint is a preliminary motion to entice your opponent to react. You draw him to parry to a particular lines and then you deliver an attack in another line or path.
In combat, the leading JKD-BJ and JMJ are both good defensive and countering weapons to stop an attack before it unfolds and as a consequence, it frustrates your opponent. As Bruce said, “It is easy to employ and is so quick, that the opponent gets it in his eye before he can deliver his punch. It is thrown with your fingers outstretched, an added extension of your hand. It is also a good stop-hit weapon and you should use it at every opportunity during the course of fighting. It enables you not only to score effectively and create openings but it can quickly demoralize an aggressive opponent.”
In offense, it is used to keep the opponent off balance and to create openings for more punishing blows. In defense, it is an effective maneuver to stop or meet an attack. For example, you can “beat your opponent to the punch” by throwing a quick jab to his face just as he is about to launch an attack. It can also be delivered from an extended arm to “stiff-arm” or keep your opponent at a distance – prevent him from close-in fighting. JKD-BJ is mostly focused on the face because it lacks force and does little damage to the body. It is a weaker, pestering stroke, good for a stratagem. It is thrown with looseness in your arm and a snap before impact. On the contrary, JMJ which is stronger and could cause much damage to the body, focused on the vital parts of the body as described earlier on.
The Internal Power of JMJ
In his teenage years in HK, Bruce appreciated the power of Yi-Chuen and Liu-He-Ba-Fa Chuen (aka Water Boxing or Six Harmonies Eight Ways Boxing). He then learnt many internal style theories from Grandmaster Liang Zi-Peng (1900-1974), an internal style Kung Fu master. Bruce also studied extensively on the two books given by Grandmaster Liang, i.e. “Ortohodox Zimen Style” and “Chang Nai-Zhou's Boxing Manual.” It is because of comprehending the internal arts principle and theories, and through self-learning the inner martial arts, Bruce was able to execute his JKD tools with devastating power which was totally different from other martial arts practitioners.
Since Bruce practiced “Ngang Gung” or “Chi Gung,” he was thus, able to generate such an enormous power given his small body frame. If One-Inch Punch was derived and improved from Wing Chun’s “Jat-zi Power Punch,” then like his invented Accupunch/kick, JMJ was Bruce’s own developed personal weapon that could destroy the opponent instantly.
Training methods of JMJ
As illustrated in “Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method,” there are many ways in JKD’s BJ training which puts a light on JMJ too. Speed, timing and power are crucial in executing BJ. Bruce said, “To develop speed in the finger jab, you need a great deal of practice and most of this will be the result if your own initiative. Speed relies on economy of motion and the jab is one technique with which you have the opportunity to experiment. The jab, like all the blows in JKD, must thrust forward without any retracting motion. It is like a snake darting at its prey without warning.”
“The more hours you spend in speed hitting, the faster your hands will travel, as times goes by. Like the boxer who whips out his hand while jobbing, you must also take solitary training seriously. One excellent training device for this is the paper target. It is so inexpensive and easy to construct and yet very valuable to anyone who wants to enhance his speed in jabbing.” Besides the paper target, Bruce used to practice on a thick leather strip to toughen his fingers. He also worked heavily on the bouncing head dummy which is excellent for finger jabbing. The head is padded and resilient, to take any hard blows. Bruce said, “It gives when struck but is solid enough to harden the fingers. Although the wooden dummy is too solid to jab your fingers into, it is a valuable apparatus with which to practice the finger jab combination. It presents almost a real-life opponent with its arms outstretched and its leg impeding your approach.”
HK Stuntman Steve Lee Kar-Ting personally witnessed Bruce did his JMJ training by jabbing the A4 size paper and bouncing head dummy continuously for 3 hours. In addition, to practice his JMJ, when Bruce was having his breakfast, he would usually eat with one hand and clenched the newspapers with the other hand. The fingers kept scrunching until the newspaper became crumple and ultimately crushed into bits and pieces. After he crumbled the newspaper with his left fingers, he would then do the same with his right fingers. He kept switching his hands each time he crushed the newspaper into bits and pieces.
Furthermore, Bruce would train his finger strength by using grip training devices custom made by George Lee. Bruce also jabbed fingers at the iron shots, hit on the punching pad, and toughening his fingers using wall canvas bags or train with a sand or gravel box. Other supplementary exercise includes finger push-ups. But it should be done first with clenched fists. Place the knuckles of your index finger and the two small fingers on a hard floor so your palms face each other. This is an excellent exercise for beginners as they can gradually toughen their knuckles without risk of injury. Later, increase the difficulty by doing five fingers push up with one arm and gradually reduce the number of fingers. As we all know, Bruce could do two fingers push up with one arm for many times. It was no wonder that his students and friends ever commented that Bruce’s fingers were hard like steel when he applied the force. An interesting note is that Bruce’s 2 fingers push-up skill strike a resemblance to to Shaolin 2 Fingers Zen. However, the former uses the thumb and index finger while the latter uses the index and middle-finger. Research also showed Bruce probably might have self-learnt Siong Style “Yi Jin Jing,” a kind of Shaolin internal arts because both the fingers’ push-up training looked almost the same.
“Tao” of Martial Arts
After Bruce’s death, a rectangular iron wire frame attached with a stack of A4 size papers was found hanging in Bruce’s training room. The surface of the papers was full of finger jabbing traces. Also, there were two small finger holes that were believed to be poked through using the internal force (“kin”) from a close distance. These were most likely left behind by Bruce who was practicing his Iron finger while he was alive. From here we can see, though Bruce had attained his fame and fortune, yet he had never stopped his martial arts training until his death. Also, he was continuously evolving and creating new ways of training his skills. Hopefully, this kind of fighting spirit could be an inspiration to all martial arts practitioners.
As for JMJ, before analyzing this skill, one should try to look at the entire spectrum of Bruce’s martial arts and its evolution in general — from Wing Chun to Jun Fan Kung Fu and ultimately to JKD. In the process of researching and analyzing JMJ one should make use of his wisdom and understanding towards Kung Fu and not just through blindly experiments. It should not be bounded by the circle of JMJ, instead, one should walk out of the circle of JMJ to appreciate the core-essence of other martial arts and then review JMJ. This is not just about a skill but also the “Tao” of Martial Arts.
Photos of JKD-BJ & JMJ: https://postimg.org/image/fjw2kh62d/