By Sifu Lamar M. Davis II
Over the years there has been much confusion about Jeet Kune Do (aka JKD)! The main problem stems from the fact that there are so many different interpretations of this art being taught today, each claiming to be the right way! Then you have those who basically know nothing about Jeet Kune Do, but use the name in order to make money! These people are the frauds that are giving the art a bad name! No wonder the martial artists who wish to learn Jeet Kune Do are so confused!
Jeet Kune Do is one of the most popular martial arts in existence today. The problem is that there are so few people who are actually qualified to teach! There are schools claiming to teach Jeet Kune Do popping up everywhere and seminars being taught every weekend all around the country! So how can you tell who is legitimate and who is not? Much of the answer lies in the techniques and training methods of the instructor in question. Another factor to be considered is their lineage. Who have they trained with? Are they certified? Is their certification legitimate? If they are not certified, have they been authorized to teach by a first generation student? Do they have enough knowledge of the material to effectively teach it to others?
The two main groups who practice and teach Jeet Kune Do (or some variation of it) are the Jeet Kune Do practitioners and the Jeet Kune Do concepts practitioners. The group known as Jeet Kune Do prefers to concentrate on the original JKD teaching, training and fighting methods developed, practiced and taught by Bruce Lee. The Jeet Kune Do concepts practitioners use JKD ideas and theories and explore and add techniques from many other martial arts to their training.
Of the original Jeet Kune Do students, those most recognized as being active instructors of JKD are Taky Kimura, Steve Golden, Jerry Poteet, Bob Bremer, Pete Jacobs, Daniel Lee and the late Ted Wong. Those most recognized as being Jeet Kune Do concepts practitioners are Daniel Inosanto and the late Larry Hartsell. Then there are those instructors who have studied both ways and then chosen the way that fits them best. It is really up to the individual, as each practitioner will find their own truth in the art of Jeet Kune Do.
Many First Generation Jun Fan Gung Fu or Jeet Kune Do students prefer to keep a low profile and don't really promote themselves! Jesse Glover, who was Bruce Lee’s first student and assistant instructor in the United States, still lives and teaches in Seattle, Washington. He calls what he teaches simply non-classical gung fu! David William Cox, who spent much time training with James Yimm Lee and Bruce Lee in Oakland, maintains a low profile yet remains active with his training. Patrick Strong, who trained with Bruce Lee for three years in Seattle and three more years later on, stays in good shape and is extremely knowledgeable in Jeet Kune Do. Leo Fong, who trained with James Yimm Lee and Bruce Lee in Oakland, and later with Bruce Lee in Los Angeles, still trains and teaches on a regular basis. Joe Lewis, considered by many to be the greatest karate fighter of all time, spent much time training privately with Bruce Lee. There are several more, but these are the most well known.
Now, let’s get to the point! What is Jeet Kune Do? What is not Jeet Kune Do? What are the main theories, principles and techniques involved? What is the structure of this method? What training methods are used to enhance the practitioner's attributes and overall skill level? How can you get involved in the learning process?
Bruce Lee’s first actual school in the United States was the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, which was located in Seattle, Washington. During the Seattle period, Bruce Lee’s art was referred to as Jun Fan Gung Fu. This was a devastatingly modified form of Wing Chun Gung Fu, which Bruce had studied in Hong Kong for five years prior to coming to the United States.
The second Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute was located in Oakland, California and Bruce Lee’s assistant there was a man named James Yimm Lee. James was already an accomplished martial artist, having trained in many styles of traditional Chinese Gung Fu. After an altercation with a practitioner from another style didn't go as well as Bruce would have liked for it to have gone, he decided that it was time to change his system and make it even more effective. Thus, Jeet Kune Do, the way of the intercepting fist, was born!
Wing Chun Gung Fu still remained the nucleus of the system, but techniques and theories from other fighting arts were added to the formula. Bruce Lee liked the way that the fencer quickly and non-telegraphically closed the distance on his opponent. So some footwork, attack and defense theory were taken from fencing. Bruce Lee liked the way that the boxer got his whole body into the punch, moved around lightly and quickly, and successfully evaded incoming punches. So body mechanics, footwork and evasive tactics were taken from boxing. Bruce Lee also broadened his kicking arsenal by researching several methods of kicking. He came up with his own unique way of kicking, which was very fast and direct! There may have been a few more elements, but it is safe to say that Jeet Kune Do consists primarily of Wing Chun Gung Fu, fencing, boxing and Bruce Lee's own unique way of kicking.
Bruce Lee’s third Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute was located at 628 College Street in the Chinatown district of Los Angeles. Here, Jeet Kune Do flourished and continued to develop. This period of Bruce Lee’s life and the development of his art is the part of his career that people are most familiar with. The reason for this being of course that as he became a more prominent TV and movie star, he got more exposure for himself and his martial art of Jeet Kune Do. It was during this time that he wrote several articles for martial arts magazines and was interviewed extensively through all means of media. He also traveled extensively giving demonstrations of his Jeet Kune Do.
Unfortunately, on July 20th, 1973, Bruce Lee, the world's greatest martial artist passed away! After his death his students didn't know which way to turn. Some of them continued training, while others just dropped out and disappeared. Some of them went off on their own to teach and share their knowledge with others. Thank God that there are several students from each period who are alive and well and teaching this art! If not for them the knowledge would have been lost!
To date, I have personally trained with over two dozen of the original First generation Bruce Lee students! Each one of them got something unique from its founder. He had a tendency to work with the student on what they could do best and hone this aspect of their training to a fine edge! He also had a tendency to use certain students as guinea pigs to sharpen certain special skills of his own! Of course, these students didn't mind this at all because by participating in this, they were also learning it! The point that I am making here is that each of the original JKD students has something unique and special to offer. If nothing else, maybe just a variation in the delivery of a technique or another way to train a technique!
The learning of Jeet Kune Do is like putting together a large puzzle. Each period of development holds important pieces to the puzzle! The more that you learn about each period, the more complete your puzzle becomes. My goal has always been to make my puzzle as complete as possible so that I could share my knowledge with others and help to perpetuate Jeet Kune Do! I am certified as a Full Instructor of Jeet Kune Do by FIVE of the original Jeet Kune Do students!
To understand the development of Jeet Kune Do, you cannot learn just Jun Fan Gung Fu and claim to have full knowledge of the fighting method! You cannot learn just Jeet Kune Do and claim to have full knowledge of the fighting method! You have to research and explore Jun Fan Gung Fu and Jeet Kune Do, along with a healthy dose of Wing Chun Gung Fu to understand the whole picture. The term Jeet Kune Do signifies the totality of this learning process! It definitly helps to learn as much about Wing Chun Gung Fu as possible, so that you can better understand the roots of the system. I have trained with many Wing Chun instructors on several occasions and will continue to do so every chance that I get! It only solidifies my knowledge and understanding of Jeet Kune Do even further! I will also say this. Any Jeet Kune Do instructor that tries to tell you that Wing Chun is not important has some serious problems! This usually means that they are too lazy to try to learn any Wing Chun! After all, when a skyscraper is built, does the construction crew start with the roof or the foundation! Get the point! Wing Chun Gung Fu should be an important part of your training! If you can't find a Wing Chun instructor, I would suggest the books and videotapes by Sifu Tony Massengill, Sifu David Peterson, Sifu Gary Lam, Sifu Alan Gibson, Sifu Samuel Kwok and Sifu Randy Williams (in no certain order). They are by far the best that I have ever seen!
If you are interested in training in Jeet Kune Do and belonging to some organization, I would suggest that you join my organization, the Hardcore Jeet Kune Do Chinese Gung Fu Association! There are some organizations in existence right now that are run by downright frauds! Some of them even have elaborate websites. One of them even has “press releases” that were actually written and paid for by himself! In other words, even the press releases are fraudulent! This same individual has also done many smaller websites, all designed to appear authentic and factual, that lead directly back to his main website. Beware of the frauds!
I am not saying that just because an instructor does not belong to my organization they are not legitimate! It just means that it could take more research into their background and their methods to prove their legitimacy! There are several good Jeet Kune Do instructors who are not certified and don't care to be certified. This is due primarily to all the politics and confusion closely associated with this art these days! After all, a certificate is merely a piece of paper that can be easily destroyed at anytime. Knowledge and skill in Jeet Kune Do can stay with you for a lifetime! No one can take that away!
Much of the politics and confusion as to what Jeet Kune Do really is and who is or isn't authorized to teach stems from immaturity, jealousy and the quest for the almighty dollar! It has been said time after time that no two practitioners of Jeet Kune Do are exactly the same. That is the way it is supposed to be! If instructor A wants to learn and teach the original art and instructor B wants to take the "concepts" route, does that make one better than the other? No! They have simply chosen different paths, and neither one of them should be chastised for their decision!
The three major guidelines of Jeet Kune Do are: (1) Simplicity, (2) Directness and a (3) Non-Classical Attitude. Simplicity means that you do what is necessary to accomplish the task in the most efficient means possible without any non-critical motions or actions. Simplicity is not always easy to learn and is often very difficult to perform. Directness means that the attack should take the shortest route to the target without any preparatory, or telegraphic, set-up movements. As JKD's Founder would say, "Use the longest weapon to the nearest target!" Non-classical means that the technique is delivered in a practical, non-traditional manner, with the emphasis being placed on striking the target with the most speed and power. In other words, do damage! Don't worry about whether the technique looked "pretty" or not! Jeet Kune Do is concerned with effective REAL WORLD self defense, not winning forms competitions!
This does not, however, mean that ANYTHING is/can be Jeet Kune Do! There is a specific stance. There are specific footwork patterns, strikes, kicks, defensive movements, energy/sensitivity drills, training methods and attack strategies. Before I get too carried away discussing what Jeet Kune Do is, allow me to describe to you what it is not!
In a true Jeet Kune Do class, there are many things that you will and will not see. Below is a list of things that you should not see!
1. Classical uniforms with belts or sashes (Remember the non-classical attitude in training).
2. Barefooted instructors and students (Jeet Kune Do looks at everything from a practical standpoint; barefooted training isn't very practical!).
3. Stiff, low stances with one or both hands on the hip (Jeet Kune Do has the bai jong, or on guard, position which is highly mobile and effective for both offense and defense).
4. Striking from a position where the hand is at the hip or drawing the hand back for a strike (Jeet Kune Do prepares the student to strike from wherever the hand may be, with no telegraphic or preparatory motion).
5. Chambering the leg before delivering a kick (Jeet Kune Do kicks take the most direct route to the target, using proper footwork, waist and hip action for power).
6. Rigid, classical blocking movements (Jeet Kune Do prefers the stop hit, or stop kick, using a simultaneous parry if necessary).
7. Katas, Kuens or Hyungs (There are no forms practiced in Jeet Kune Do). NOTE: The Sil Lim Tao form from Wing Chun Gung Fu is a part of the Jun Fan Gung Fu curriculum, and should be learned and practiced by anyone wishing to maximize their structure for Jeet Kune Do training.
8. Striking, kicking and defending with the power side to the rear (Jeet Kune Do prefers to put the power side up front where it can be most effective).
9. Wide, looping or energy-wasting attack and defense movements (Jeet Kune Do movements are simple, direct and non-classical).
10. Extensive use of the horizontal fist for striking (Jeet Kune Do punching uses the vertical fist structure for greater efficiency and better centerline protection while striking).
11. Use of foreign terminology other than Chinese (Except in the "concept" schools where terminology of arts other than Jeet Kune Do is used).
12. Emphasis on grunting and bowing every time you turn around (Jeet Kune Do has a salute which is used before and after training, when a student enters class late and before and after a sparring match).
13. Footwork involving wide, sweeping patterns from a low, static stance (Jeet Kune Do footwork is light, quick and to the point with no telegraphic movement).
14. Noncontact sparring (Jeet Kune Do prefers contact to prepare students for the reality of the streets).
15. Practicing all techniques by striking in the air only (Jeet Kune Do training uses focus gloves, kicking shields, arm shields, the Wing Chun wall bag, the wooden dummy, the heavy bag, the double-end bag and other striking apparatus so that the student conditions their striking weapons as they learn to strike with speed, power and accuracy).
There are many more things that could be added to this list, but by now you should have a basic idea of things that you should not see in a true Jeet Kune Do class! There could be some exceptions to the things on this list, usually depending on whether the practitioner is training in original methods or Jeet Kune Do concepts. It mainly depends on the instructor, who they trained under and which period their knowledge comes from (Seattle, Oakland or L.A. Chinatown).
Now we will talk about things that you should see in a Jeet Kune Do class. The atmosphere should be more relaxed than in a traditional class. Students are dressed in comfortable clothing that allows them to move well while training. Students should be free to talk to each other during the training to give each other feedback to measure progress by. Everything being practiced should serve a definite purpose. In true Jeet Kune Do, nothing is done just for the sake of doing, everything serves a purpose!
One of the first things to be considered is the fighting stance, or weapon exercise position, as we sometimes call it. This is a touchy subject, because no one stance is perfect for every situation. There is, however, a position that is most favorable to start from. In Jeet Kune Do, we refer to this position as the bai jong (on-guard) stance.
According to Bruce Lee, in the fighting stance, the power side should be forward. This places your most powerful weapons closer to the target, where they can best be used in a non-telegraphic manner. A good fighting stance should be highly mobile and multi-functional, offering good defensive as well as offensive capabilities. Jeet Kune Do's bai jong stance (also sometimes spelled bi jong or by jong) has all of these qualities and more!
Mobility, perhaps more than anything else, is highly stressed in any Jeet Kune Do training program! The footwork is light, quick and economical. You must have good footwork to close the gap without getting hit, to attack with maximum speed and power with your tools and to evade and counter a powerful attack from an opponent. A good fighter will use linear, lateral, angular and circular footwork patterns. These skills are necessary to put yourself in and out of the range that you desire to be in! The major emphasis in the Jeet Kune Do footwork is explosive intensity. This intensity can be seen in the entering skill of the Jeet Kune Do fighter!
To maximize the use of the tools (striking weapons), three fighting ranges are emphasized in Jeet Kune Do. They are long range, medium range and close range. In a true Jeet Kune Do class, you should see elements of training in all three ranges. Once the fighter understands the tools applied in each range, and how to apply them, he is well on the way to the development of good offensive skill!
Part of long range is what is known as the fighting measure. This is the optimum distance that you want to maintain when you are not attacking. When you are just a step away from being able to reach the opponent with your longest weapon, it is referred to as being on the rim of the fighting measure. This gives you more reaction time against the opponent's attack, as well as putting you in a position where you are just a step away from the opponent. This will enable you to close the gap quickly with an attack of your own!
Long range is defined as the distance where no contact can occur to the distance where you can reach the opponent by using JKD's longest weapon to the nearest target principle. Examples of this would be the lead leg side kick to the opponent's knee or the leading finger jab to the opponent's eyes. Long range is basically a "safe" range where you can test your opponent's reactions without being in much danger of being hit. This can be done by using feinting or probing attacks that appear to be somewhat threatening!
Medium range is the primary combination range. Kicks, punches, trapping and grappling movements can all be applied from medium range. In other words, this is where you can really "mix it up" with the opponent. This is the primary range where simple and compound trapping movements occur. As a general rule, by the time the opponent is approaching medium range you should be all over them! If you have properly honed your interception skills, this is where it should be all over for the opponent!
Close range begins where you can strike the opponent with headbutts, knees and elbows. This is also where close quarter grappling movements such as chokes, strangles and neck-breaks occur! This is really a deadly range, due to the serious nature of the tools that can be applied at this range! If necessary, you could go to the ground with the opponent at this range but it is preferable to stay on your feet!
Many practitioners of Jeet Kune Do have gotten into the habit of referring to "four" ranges of combat (kicking, punching, trapping and grappling). In reality, these are not actually ranges, but categories of techniques. If you closely and thoroughly research all of Bruce Lee’s available writings, you will find reference to three ranges of combat, not four!
Although attack is the primary goal of the Jeet Kune Do fighter, sound defensive skill is also of great necessity. A good defensive movement has several definite characteristics. It will be quick, economical and effective. There should be no hard blocking! This is considered wasted energy and would be used only as a last resort by the Jeet Kune Do practitioner! The Jeet Kune Do practitioner prefers the parry, which is a redirection of incoming force. This allows continuation of energy flow in attack and defense.
The preferred method of defense in Jeet Kune Do is attack! The Jeet Kune Do fighter is always thinking hit, hit, hit and hit some more! In other words, “self offense” rather than “self defense”! The next preferred method is lin sil die dar, or simultaneous defense and attack. This is far better than the block first then counter approach advocated by so many martial arts today! Lin sil die dar is accomplished by parrying the opponent's attack while delivering an attack of your own to an open line. Specific movements, referred to as four corner drills, help the Jeet Kune Do practitioner refine this skill. An even more economical version is what is referred to as sliding leverage. As the opponent attacks, you fire a fast, powerful attack of your own onto the same line, deflecting his attack off course with leverage and allowing your attack to land successfully on target! The finger jab and vertical fist straight punch are most often used to accomplish this.
In more advanced stages, the Jeet Kune Do fighter simply intercepts the opponent's movement with a powerful attack. In this case, your attack is your defense! Jeet Kune Do is Chinese for "way of the intercepting fist." Using the hand for interception is referred to as a stop hit. Using the foot for interception is referred to as a stop kick. Interception is a highly desirable skill in the fighter's arsenal. Damage is done immediately to the attacker, psychologically and physically!
The most important factor in the training of the Jeet Kune Do fighter is energy/sensitivity training. Every offensive and defensive movement will have a certain type of energy and a certain angle of flow for this energy. To better understand energy and motion flow and how to use it to their advantage, the Jeet Kune Do practitioner has a series of energy/sensitivity drills. They are called sensitivity drills because they develop the fighter's ability to sense the various kinds of energy upon contact with the opponent. Sensitivity drills are sometimes referred to as "sticking hands." A high level of motion and directional sensitivity is necessary for good trapping hand skills.
Through chi sao, or sticking hands, the Jeet Kune Do fighter develops what is known as "flowing energy." This flowing energy can be compared to water. Flowing water will find the smallest crack and penetrate it. Flowing energy will enable the Jeet Kune Do fighter to feel the smallest opening in the opponent's defense and penetrate it with an attack. Seong chi sao, or double arm sticking hands, develops the fighter's sensitivity to circular motion. Don chi sao, or single arm sticking, develops the fighter's sensitivity to straight line motion. Chi gerk, or sticking legs, develops the sensitivity in the legs for sweeps, deflections and counter kicks. Other energy/sensitivity drills used in Jeet Kune Do training are the cross energy drill, harmonious spring drill, lop sao switch drill, lop sao cycle drill and various bridging drills. Higher level Jeet Kune Do practitioners can stick, trap and strike with blinding speed and incredible accuracy while blindfolded due to this highly specialized area of training! If the energy/sensitivity drills aren't there, then it definitely isn't Jeet Kune Do!
Sticking hand drills combined with reference point trapping drills develop in the Jeet Kune Do fighter what is known as "contact reflex." This is a highly refined neuromuscular skill. This enables the fighter to respond immediately with the correct movement based on the energy received from the opponent's movement. You can learn just the mechanics of trapping, but without the energy/sensitivity training you lack the ability to react to the opponent's energy with the correct trap. Then you will find yourself, as the old saying goes, "in the wrong place at the wrong time!"
Another important part of training and strategy in Jeet Kune Do is the five ways of attack. In the course of his development, Bruce Lee realized that there are essentially only five ways that you can attack an opponent. Every empty hand attack ever conceived will fall into one of these five categories, which were first clearly defined by Bruce Lee. They are (1) SDA-Simple Direct Attack or SAA-Simple Angulated Attack, (2) ABC-Attack By Combination, (3) HIA-Hand Immobilization Attack, (4) PIA-Progressive Indirect Attack and (5) ABD-Attack By Drawing. Many prominent fighters such as Joe Lewis and Dan Anderson have applied these five ways of attack to improve their performance in the ring!
Intense physical training is a must in Jeet Kune Do! JKD's founder emphasized fitness over and over with his students! This will include cardiovascular, flexibility and strength training. Cardiovascular conditioning can be accomplished through aerobics, running, cycling, rope skipping, running stairs, rowing, swimming, shadowboxing and footwork/mobility drills. Flexibility can be accomplished by implementing a serious stretching routine consisting of at least two fifteen-minute sessions per day. It is also a good idea to stretch before any intense physical activity such as cardiovascular training, strength training or sparring. For best results, the stretching movements should closely resemble the movements that you are about to execute. Waist, lower back, hip joint and hamstring flexibility are extremely important right before participating in a class! Strength training can be accomplished through the use of isometrics, static contraction training, free weights, weight machines, plyometrics, power training, gymnastics and calisthenics. A program combining all of the above is even better! Every Jeet Kune Do practitioner should also experience occasional sparring with protective equipment. This brings together the benefits of all the physical training, conditions the body for impact, develops confidence, mobility, timing, power, reflexes, range awareness and endurance of the fighter.
Training with special equipment is also necessary. This training sharpens the attributes and tools of the fighter. Jeet Kune Do practitioners use several unique pieces of equipment for this purpose. The focus glove is a hand-held target used to develop speed, accuracy and power in punches, kicks, head butts, knees, elbows and combinations. The kicking shield is used to develop accuracy and explosiveness in kicking techniques. Forearm shields are used to develop powerful, penetrating hook kicks that break legs and smash ribs! The double-end bag is used to develop timing, speed, power and reflexes. The speed bag is used to develop hand speed, timing, coordination and upper body endurance. The double-end bag and the speed bag are also great for development of eye-hand coordination. The heavy bag is used to develop power and accuracy in single techniques and combinations. The Wing Chun wall bag is used to develop power and accuracy in rotation straight punching and also conditions the knuckles for impact. Another useful piece of training equipment is a piece of paper or x-ray film. Hang the paper or film by a heavy chain or have a partner hold it for you. Since there is no fear of hurting your hand on impact, you can practice striking with full speed! Something else that can be used for this, and very inexpensive, are those plastic sheet protectors that can be purchased most anywhere that office supplies are sold. This is especially useful for training the finger jab!
One of the most useful pieces of equipment for the Jeet Kune Do practitioner is the mook jong, or wooden man dummy, from the Wing Chun system of Chinese gung fu. This is another piece of equipment that enables you to train alone when no partners are available. The dummy consists of a head, trunk, two upper arms, a lower arm and a lower extension that represents the lead leg of an opponent. All defensive and offensive movements can be performed on the dummy. It is great for developing your lin sil die dar skills! The dummy is an incredible tool for the development of trapping hand skill. Striking the dummy and performing defensive movements on it also conditions the arms and legs for impact. The mook jong was one of the JKD founder's favorite pieces of training equipment! If you are interested in an exceptionally nice mook jong, check out the Official Hardcore Jeet Kune Do Mook Jong shown on this site. It is built by master mook jong builder, Clark Thornton, owner of the Great Lion Company. You can visit Great Lion at http://www.woodendummy.net .
Hardcore Jeet Kune Do is my personal approach to teaching Bruce Lee's fighting methods of Jun Fan Gung Fu and Jeet Kune Do. We also have a generous helping of Wing Chun gung fu in our curriculum to make sure that all Hardcore Jeet Kune Do practitioners develop a strong base! I refer to it as “Hardcore” Jeet Kune Do because we are extremely dedicated to the preservation, promotion and perpetuation of Bruce Lee’s original teaching, training and fighting methods. My goal, and the main goal of my Hardcore Jeet Kune Do organization, is to see to it that Bruce Lee's authentic teaching, training and fighting methods are preserved for future generations, and that his art continues to thrive and grow throughout the world.
This extensive overview of Jeet Kune Do is not intended as a primer for the would-be Jeet Kune Do fraud. It is intended to educate the martial artist as to what to look for when searching for a Jeet Kune Do instructor. If we at the Hardcore Jeet Kune Do Chinese Gung Fu Association can be of assistance to you in any way, please feel free to contact us anytime by writing, calling or emailing us! We are looking for those who wish to one day be instructors of this incredible martial art! If you are seriously interested, we hope to hear from you! (Serious inquiries only, please!)