Saturday, November 30, 2013

Jeet Kun Do For Dummies: Volume 1

Jeet Kun Do- The Art of Intercepting the Fist 




Jeet Kun Do, or JKD in abbreviation, is a style that incorporates multiple styles(disciplines) of martial arts with an emphasis on not being confined to one specific style. Thus being referred to by it's sole creator, Bruce Lee, the style of no style. The techniques featured in the style are composed of linear, non- conservative movements. True practitioners regard Bruce's art as a philosophy. There is some controversy between whether JKD should be defined as a style or a philosophy. Bruce, himself, had no intention of making Jeet Kun Do as a style. His view on martial arts is that styles separate people, and it became law. According to Bruce, styles contained a fixed system of fighting and philosophy  to the point where it becomes standardized. Thus, lead to the creation of the unofficial motto by Bruce on JKD, "Either you get it or you don't."  

Bruce ,on the other hand, wanted to rid himself of those limitations set by martial arts  and become aqueous  as well as a more well rounded martial artist. The Jeet Kun Do method revolves around the belief on minimal movement with full exertion of power as well as speed . In terms of techniques, the JKD method emphasis on using only what works.  Techniques range from kicking, punching, trapping and grappling, with fluid  transitions between each consecutive move. These techniques disable the opponent as quickly as possible, extending its' practicality as well as making it perfect for street fights. Dan Inosanto, a close friend and pupil of Bruce, described JKD as being made for street survival. 

This clip from Youtube displays the techniques Bruce utilized as a part of his philosophy. He leaves no body part unused when attacking an opponent... well maybe some. Notice that the techniques he displayed are short and abrupt( enough to be practical), even shaking the man who was used as a dummy off his toes for a moment. The clip was actually part of an audition that Bruce did for a role as Kato, the Green Hornet's side kick honed in martial arts and faithful servant, for the television series the Green Hornet. 

The definition behind JKD is the art of intercepting the fist. Bruce believed in the concept of interception when participating in martial fighting. In context, interception in JKD is attacking your opponent before they have a chance to act. I refer to it as a preemptive counter. To Bruce, JKD is barely a term. He regarded Jeet Kun Do as " the art of expressing the human body," in various interviews and published works. After a period of time, Bruce came to the realization that the traditional martial arts of that age were to choppy and rigid. He expressed his disapproval even further on traditional martial arts by referring to their competitions that they staged (competitive sparring) as " dry land swimming." In his view, the contestants were not fighting for themselves, they were fighting for the judges and the points. In my interpretation of Bruce's thoughts, this totally voids he purpose on the applications of  martial arts.  He believed that martial arts competitions displaying sparring should contain no rules, which undoubtedly lead to the creation of modern mixed martial arts(mma).  Correlating this with the meaning of JKD, sparring is as realistic of practical combat as a martial artist could possibly do without actually actually engaging in violent brawls. Bruce believed that combat should be impromptus.  A martial artist should not anticipate or prepare but only react in that given situation. The qualities that define a good martial artist in Bruce's view, was that they should  "Be like water" and move fluidly without hesitation. 

                                       A scene from the  movie that made Bruce Lee's name known world wide , Enter the Dragon. Bruce gives a young pupil at the Shaolin temple a lesson on not letting emotion(such as anger) interfere with his fighting ability, again incorporating the philosophy of Jeet Kun do.

After the tragic death of Bruce, his teachings of JKD have been very much preserved and expressed by his pupils who felt obligated in doing so. Dan Inosanto and Taky Kimura, Bruce's best friend, managed to carry Bruce's teaching to the present era. Dan opened up the the Inosanto Academy not to long after the death of Bruce and continues to teach the JKD method and many other martial disciplines to this very day in California.  However, it is ironic that schools, aside from the one's approved by Bruce himself, indicating that they teach JKD exist. Bruce sternly emphasized that JKD was not a style but a way of fighting. I wonder if they truly embrace Bruce's teachings or want to capitalize on the style just because it was created by one of the greatest martial artists. Never the less, JKD manages to thrive even after Bruce's passing.

In 2004 , the Bruce Lee Foundation decided to give Bruce's philosophy an official term which would be called Jun Fan Kune Do. Jun Fan was Lee's birth name.

                                      A particularly favorite example on JKD that I like to watch from the anime series Cowboy Behop. This Youtube clip depicts Spike Spiegal, a former bounty hunter, teaching a pick pocket how to be aqueous in terms of fighting which is based heavily off the mind set of Bruce Lee.

Link to the whole series, courtesy of a Youtube poster:

Tao of Jeet Kun Do PDF( Your Welcome): Book(In PDF Format): Tao of Jeet Kun Do


  1. I like the large description of the techniques per post but some parts seemed a bit repetitive. However it was still useful with examples such at pictures and videos. Although some videos didn't load on the iPad, links were provided which was helpful. The actual posts are pretty cool in describing different techniques. A bit more details focused into a smaller post may explain the technique better but overall nice job.

  2. Wait, does this mean that Jet Li only uses JKD? Is he the only one, or do many people use this technique.

  3. JKD is not an individual technique but a philosophy, in answer to both responses. The art of Jeet Kun Do revolves on interception and the theory of being limitless in combat. Many traditional martial artists in Bruce's opinion tend to have a one- sided approach towards martial fighting. They believe that their style is superior, either on the ground( grappling/ wrestling) or stand up(boxing and karate). However, Bruce find's this to be a traditional martial artist's main hamartia due to the fact they are only skilled in one aspect of martial arts. Bruce believed that in order to become effective in fighting, you need to combine both grappling and stand up together. Jeet Kun Do is basically the solid form of Bruce's belief. But JKD itself is not a style. Bruce wanted to avoided the coinage of style since it separated everyone and presented limitations to their natural abilities. Jeet Fun Gung Fu, however, was indeed a style created by Bruce which thrived under the JKD method. However, Bruce felt that his Jeet Fun Gung Fu schools have been a popular chain such as McDonald's and subsequently had them all demolished by his subordinate students that Bruce had certified to become the advocates of the fighting method. Also he was occupied with his movie career and did not have the time to supervise the schools. The main reason Bruce decided to close his schools was his fear that his philosophy may fall into a category of being a style, which would have made him a hypocrite in some sense. Jeet Kun Do means how can a person most effectively and efficiently take down an opponent. This thought motivate Bruce in further developing his style as his life progresses.

    Honestly, I do not believe Jet Li follows the Jeet Kun Do philosophy. His approach on martial arts is more spiritual and his fighting style is choreographed for movies. However, he did use Bruce's footwork and adopted JKD in tribute to Bruce in the remake movie( Fist of Legend) of one of Bruce's most famous films, Fists of Fury, as he resumes the role of Chen Zhen( a Chinese martial artist who avenges the death of his master at the hands of the Japanese imperialists during world war 2.)

    In contradiction, mixed martial artists abide Bruce's philosophy of JKD as the sport purpose. MMA fighters utilize striking and grappling, as it is essential to their success on the ring or the so called " octagon." The JKD philosophy practically fits their skill set. Every successful mma fighter uses the Jeet Kun Do method, no matter how unique their fighting style may be. Some of them may go out guns- blazing. While other fighters may intelligently play an elusive game of ninja, catching the opponents reaction and delivering a strike that will knock them out. Mixed martial arts generally contains little to no rules and to be able to thrive as a top contender in a weight division or even survive a match, a mma fighter's essential tool is his or her ability to adapt and improvise. Bruce was one of the earliest pioneers of the modern day mma. He basically tweaked the art forms of the traditional martial arts of that decade and refined them to their deepest roots. In the movie, Fists of Fury, Bruce's character could not enter the front door of the dojo( who were his enemies) since it was blocked off, he took the back door as an alternate plan. This is the type of philosophical message Bruce was trying to confer to the world, which has been beloved by the martial arts community ever since.