Five Ways Bruce Lee Used to Defeat Any Attacker!

There are plenty of people training martial arts techniques. But many don’t ever train strategy or know how to use the techniques they are learning! They don’t pressure-test the techniques or spar. Often, they don’t have any real strategies for how to apply techniques in a way that work.

Let’s get something out of the way right now. The statements in this article are not meant to cover every self-defense situation, especially not surprise attacks or those concerning weapons.

These techniques work in many applications but the premise here is that you see the attack coming and are prepared enough to react in time. In other words, these will cover more of a “fair fight” and not every situation.

That being said, this article will help you lay out some strategies that will work in any art and with a wide variety of techniques, because these strategies are concepts and principles that can put your techniques into practice effectively!

First you need to understand a few things about Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee is widely held to this day as one of the greatest Martial Artists to ever have lived! Bruce Lee came up with his own philosophy and martial art called Jeet Kune Do [translates to “Way of the Intercepting Fist”] that took the best techniques from all the arts and blended them into one!

Bruce Lee was truly a martial arts genius and was well known for his speed, power, timing, and skill!

What many don’t realize is that you can have all those attributes but if you don’t have the strategy to implement them, all of that is useless! Of course, Bruce Lee had the strategy too! He called them the “5 ways of Attack,” and he used these in sparring, and in real street fights to defeat anyone who tried to fight him, and was virtually untouchable!

There are additional strategies that Bruce Lee used that are not listed here. They are subcategories of the five listed in this article. So, there are more than 5 if you add-in things like deception, feint, or distraction, but they all hinge from 5 basic ways as listed by Bruce.

Here are the five ways of attack that Bruce Lee taught:

  • A well-timed simple SDA can end a fight before it begins!

    SDA [or SAA] = Single Direct Attack [or Single Angular Attack]

    • This is one single strike taking a direct path to the target.  A very simple attack, involving no set up or preparation. Taking advantage of the ‘holes’ in your opponents’ defense.  Even though it can be difficult to land on your opponent it is one of the most important to practice.
    • Strong SDA’s make strong fighters.  If you can use SDA with consistency, you will outclass your opponent.  It takes precise timing, distance, speed, and keen awareness.
    • The purpose for SDA/SAA simply to get a quick strike on your opponent and gain the element of surprise. It’s an opener. It can stun the opponent and give you time to attack with follow ups [like one of the following five ways of attack]
    • Examples include:
      • A straight lead hit to the face if they drop their guard
      • A front snap kick to the groin
  • Sigung Bruce Lee practicing some combinations on the heavy bag with Guro Dan Inosanto

    ABC = Attack By Combination

    • An attack that utilizes a series of strikes together in combination with each other, designed to overload the opponent with a series of strikes to multiple targets.
    • Usually, they are done with punching combinations but kicking combinations are also considered ABC.  The list of combinations is virtually limitless.  With some practice, you will find combinations that work best for you.
    • An ABC is focused on overwhelming your opponent with superior force from different angles that are difficult to predict. You are trying to land several blows in an unpredictable sequence, or perhaps using your opponent’s blind spot to your advantage to land a hit.
    • Some examples…
      • Jab, rear uppercut, lead hook
      • Lead side stomp kick, lead hook kick, spinning back kick
  • HIA [also FIA] = Hand Immobilization Attack [or Foot Immobilization]
    • Temporarily “trapping” or tying up your opponent’s weapons [arms or legs] so they cannot be used against you.  This can be done by grabbing the person’s wrist and holding it or stepping on their foot – pinning it to the floor.
    • Trapping can become very complicated.  For those unfamiliar with trapping, it is best to use only the simplest trapping on the street to avoid confusion when your adrenalin is pumping.
    • HIA is particularly useful for clearing the opponents’ limbs out of the way if they have a tight defense.
    • Examples are…
      • As you punch and they throw an arm up to block, you grab and pull their wrist with either hand and punch with the other
      • As you move forward trap their foot with your lead foot, so they cannot retreat [FIA] and follow up with perhaps an SDA or an ABC [above]
  • Ex/ strike upwards first to open the bottom up for a kick.

    PIA = Progressive Indirect Attack

    • Unlike SDA, lighter hits are used at first working towards a final intended blow. In other words, you might not be trying to powerfully land the first one or two hits that you throw. With a PIA you may throw a fake or real attack towards a target drawing the opponents’ attention to that target to hit another target while the opponent is distracted.  As they respond to your initial attack, it will open the target you originally intended to hit.
    • A PIA allows you to choose a target and progressively work your way to it by opening it up through other means.  It is planned from start to finish.
    • PIA’s make an opponent with good defenses very busy trying to block you, so that it overwhelms them until eventually produces an opening to their defense.
    • Example:
      • You notice your opponent drops his hands when you attack low and raises them when you attack high… lead in with a low kick to the groin, when they block it, follow with a jab to the head, if this is also blocked, side kick their midsection


  • Muhammed Ali was one of the best practitioners of the ABD!

    ABD = Attack By Draw

    • This attack is very sophisticated and takes great timing, distance, and practice.
    • ABD relies on drawing the opponent to make an advance or attack into a situation where you can strike as a counter.  With this Attack you purposely leave your defense open in one area [EX/your head or stomach] to “draw” them or entice them to strike to that target.
    • By leaving yourself open in one spot, the opponent can be led into the direction YOU choose, so that you can intercept their hit.
    • They are a preplanned manipulation of your opponent’s actions.  Said simply, it is a ‘set up’ or a trap you are setting for them to fall into so you can ambush the opponent.
    • EX/
      • Purposely leave one side of your head unguarded, attempting to draw a punch from them.  When they throw the punch, you slip and punch low to their midsection

These five ways of Attack are a big part of why Bruce Lee was famous!  They really are that effective!

Once someone has a good understanding of our core curriculum, they begin to implement these strategies in various ways into sparring and drills. These methods are an essential part of our curriculum and training to make every student effective and proficient.

I can’t wait for you to start your training today!

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