How Bruce Lee Created His Famous One-Inch Punch Move
Where does Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch from? Here’s the true story of how the martial arts legend developed his most famous kung fu move.
The one-inch punch developed by Bruce Lee is without question the martial arts legend’s most famous move. As the name implies, the one-inch punch is a move that allows martial artists to strike at extremely short distances. What makes it so remarkable is the idea that when executed correctly, the attacker can generate enough force to knock down an opponent.
The popularity of Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch can be traced all the way back to the 1960s, almost a decade before Lee had become an international martial arts star. In 1964, Lee famously performed the move during a demonstration at the Long Beach Karate National Championship, an event that earned him widespread attention at the time from those in the martial arts community. As Lee’s fame grew, the one-inch punch attracted significantly more interest. Lee popularized it to the degree that it’s now used by many notable martial artists of various kung fu styles, but Lee is still the most well-known practitioner of the move.
Where Bruce Lee’s One-Inch Punch Comes From
Of course, the one-inch punch is not something that Lee invented overnight in 1964. It’s rooted not only in the teachings he received in his teenage years, but also in Chinese martial arts as a whole. Before developing his own system of kung fu, Jeet Kune Do, Lee was trained by Wing Chun grandmaster Wing Chun in the 1950s, making Wing Chun the foundation of his martial arts experience. The principles behind the one-inch punch stem directly from Wing Chun doctrine, as it’s a style designed for fighting in close combat. Thanks to his Wing Chun training, Lee was already familiar with moves meant for short-distance fighting.
James DeMile, one of Bruce Lee’s students during the 1960s, shed light on the process Lee used to develop the one-inch punch prior to its public unveiling [via City on Fire]. According to him, Lee took an existing Wing Chun technique and created an improved variation of it. Feeling that the original move would work better if used from a shorter distance, Lee tried to reduce it by experimenting with different stances and angles until they finally settled on a combination that worked. DeMile said they trained to perfect the one-inch punch in secret, as the actor saw it as his “ace in the hole.”
How Powerful Was Bruce Lee’s One-Inch Punch?
The effectiveness of the one-inch punch Lee came up with is evidenced by videos of his martial arts demonstrations. In one instance, Lee was able to showcase its power by knocking a person back by 16 feet, straight into a chair. How Lee achieved these results is owed by his perfection of the stance, the exact angle in which it’s executed, and his speed, an important quality the actor is renowned for today. Bruce Lee’s speed is a crucial part of what makes his version of the one-inch punch so powerful, thus making it one of the reasons why so few martial artists have managed to recreative it so efficiently.