Jeet Kune Do (JKD) is the name Bruce Lee gave to his combat system and philosophy in 1967. Originally, when Sijo Bruce Lee began researching various fighting styles, he gave his martial art his own name of Jun Fan Gung Fu. However not wanting to create another style that would share the limitations that all styles have, he instead gave us the process that created it. Essentially, The concept of combining the elements of multiple martial arts was pioneered and popularized by Bruce Lee in the late 1960s to early 1970s via his system and philosophy which he called Jeet Kune Do. Lee believed that “the best fighter is not a Boxer, Karate or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt to any style.”
With Wing Chun at the core of his system, Bruce Lee incorporated a modification of various techniques from Northern Praying Mantis, Southern Praying Mantis, Choy Li Fut, Eagle Claw, Western Boxing, Savate, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Fencing, Aikido, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, and some of the more refined kicks of the Northern & Southern Chinese styles. Innovative and radically ahead of his time in his training and teaching methodology, Bruce Lee developed a martial system and fighting strategy that has lost none of its effectiveness over time.
JKD as it survives today – if one wants to view it “refined” as a product, not a process – is what was left at the time of Bruce Lee’s death. It is the result of the life-long martial arts development process Lee went through. Bruce Lee stated that his concept is not an “adding to” of more and more things on top of each other to form a system, but rather, a winnowing out. The metaphor Lee borrowed from Chan Buddhism was of constantly filling a cup with water, and then emptying it, used for describing Lee’s philosophy of “casting off what is useless”. He also used the sculptor’s mentality of beginning with a lump of clay and hacking away at the “unessentials”; the end result was what he considered to be the bare combat essentials, or JKD.
One of the theories of JKD is that a fighter should do whatever is necessary to defend himself, regardless of where the techniques come from. One of Lee’s goals in Jeet Kune Do was to break down what he claimed were limiting factors in the training of the traditional styles, and seek a fighting thesis which he believed could only be found within the reality of a fight. Jeet Kune Do is currently seen as the genesis of the modern state of hybrid martial arts.
Sijo Bruce Lee incorporated several key principles into Jeet Kune Do including: 4 Ranges of Combat, 5 Ways of Attack, Economy of Motion, Centerline Principle, Absorbing What Is Useful and “Be Like Water”. He felt these were universal combat truths that were self evident and would lead to combat success if followed. The “4 Combat Ranges” in particular are what he felt were instrumental in becoming a “total” martial artist.
JKD practitioners also subscribe to the notion that the best defense is a strong offense, hence the principle of “Intercepting”. Lee believed that in order for an opponent to attack someone they had to move towards them. This provided an opportunity to “intercept” that attack or movement. The principle of interception covers more than just intercepting physical attacks. Lee believed that many non-verbals and telegraphs (subtle movements that an opponent is unaware of) could be perceived or “intercepted” and thus be used to one’s advantage.
Jeet Kune Do students train in the 4 ranges of combat which include: Kicking, Punching, Trappling and Grappling. According to Lee, this range of training serves to differentiate JKD from other martial arts. Lee stated that most but not all traditional martial systems specialize in training at one or two ranges. As a historical note, the ranges in JKD have evolved over time. Initially the ranges were categorized as short or close, medium, and long range.
Absorbing what is useful is perhaps the least understood and most confusing principle in Jeet Kune Do. This principle does not mean choosing, collecting, compiling, or assembling the best techniques from various diverse styles and slapping them together to form a new style. To do so is to miss the point of Jeet Kune Do. Absorbing what is useful is about immersing oneself in style or system and learning and grasping its essence. It is only through a holistic approach that one learns techniques in their proper context. Styles provide more than just mere techniques; they offer training methods, theories, and mental attitudes to name a few. Learning all of these factors allows a student to experience a system (in what Lee would call) its “totality”. It is only through its totality that one can “absorb what is useful”. Applying what is learned in real combat training situations is what allows the student to figure what works or doesn’t work for oneself. It is at this point that one can “discard that which is useless”. The critical point of this principle is that the choice of what to keep is based on personal experimentation with various opponents over time. It is not based on how a technique may look or feel or how well one can execute it. In the final analysis if the technique is not beneficial in combat it is discarded. Lee believed that only the individual could come to understand what worked for oneself based on critical self analysis and by “honestly expressing oneself; without lying to oneself”.
Although Bruce Lee officially closed his martial arts schools two years before his death, he allowed his curriculum to be taught privately by the 3 students he personally certified as instructors in Jun Fan Gung Fu/ Jeet Kune Do. Those individuals were James Lee, Taky Kimura and Dan Inosanto. Currently only Taky Kimura and Dan Inosanto are alive. Since 1964, Taky Kimura has been the instructor of the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute of Seattle, while Dan Inosanto teaches The Art and Philosophy of Jeet Kune Do, Filipino Martial Arts, Shoot Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Silat, Mixed Martial Arts and other arts at his Marina del Rey, California school, the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts.
Sources: Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Inosanto.com, AndyKimura.com