Jeet Kune Do is Cantonese for “Way of the Intercepting Fist”. It is not so much a “style” as it is a system or method of fighting. There is, however, a definite Jeet Kune Do way of doing everything. As suggested by the name of the art, the idea is to intercept the opponent before they have the opportunity to strike you. The interception could also involve a kick, or any other body tool for that matter. This interception can occur (1) upon intention, (2) upon initiation, (4) during their strike or (4) as they retract a missed strike. As you might imagine, this takes tremendous skill and a high level of attribute development. Bruce Lee was fanatical about fitness, and expected all practitioners of his art to be as well! Then there is the necessary training to have a backup plan in case you are blocked or parried on your initial attack. This is where energy/sensitivity training and what we call trapping hands come into play. Jeet Kune Do allows the fighter to be prepared in all ranges, ready to do whatever is necessary to end the conflict. Jeet Kune Do is best defined as Bruce Lee’s martial art as it existed during his lifetime.
There is a great controversy surrounding Bruce Lee’s art of Jeet Kune Do. This mainly exists because of the early passing of Bruce Lee at the age of 32. After his death, his students didn’t know which way to turn. Should they continue teaching what they had learned from Bruce Lee, or should they go in a different direction, using Bruce Lee’s methods as a foundation? This eventually led to the formation of two distinctive groups. (1) Original Jeet Kune Do, which is the preservation, promotion and perpetuation of Bruce Lee’s original teaching, training and fighting methods. (2) Jeet Kune Do Concepts, which is the exploration of other martial arts, using Bruce Lee’s principles as a guide. Some look at this as two sides of the same coin, while others look at it as two completely separate entities. Neither side is necessarily right or wrong. What is more important is what is right for the individual.
There is a lot of confusion in the Jeet Kune Do world these days when it comes to the actual structural composition of Bruce Lee’s martial art. Bruce Lee himself stated that Jeet Kune Do consists primarily of Wing Chun Gung Fu, fencing and boxing (in that order). While Wing Chun Gung Fu forms the very foundation structure of Bruce Lee’s martial art, there are groups that tend to downplay, or outright deny, the importance of Wing Chun within the art of Jeet Kune Do. Not only is it important, but absolutely necessary in order for what you are doing to actually be Jeet Kune Do. There are others who say that Jeet Kune Do is just an advanced form of Wing Chun Gung Fu. It is far more than that. While Wing Chun Gung Fu does indeed form the structural foundation of Jeet Kune Do, Jeet Kune Do is NOT Wing Chun!
Many of the movements in Jeet Kune Do come from the sport of fencing. Bruce Lee’s brother Peter was a champion fencer, so Bruce Lee got to watch him train (and sometimes actually help him train). While Jeet Kune Do is not for sport, and was not intended for sport or competition use, there are movements and principles from fencing that fit in well with the framework, leading to more direct, more efficient attacks. Some footwork from fencing is used in Jeet Kune Do, most notably closing the gap on the opponent. Many of the attack and defense principles applied in Jeet Kune Do come from fencing. The power side forward principle comes from fencing. We apply the lead hand just as the fencer applies their sword. This leads to very fast, very direct strikes using the lead hand, often applied with the lunge. Jeet Kune Do applies principles and modified techniques (empty hand rather than sword) from fencing, but it is NOT fencing!
Bruce Lee developed a fascination with boxing, and the speed and fluid motion of the boxer. He liked the combinations and the striking angles used in boxing, realizing that by adding the techniques of boxing, it greatly increased his striking options. He liked the body mechanics, especially the use of the waist and hips in creating torque and counter torque, increasing the power of the punches, especially when applied with footwork. He liked the footwork and the evasive skills of the boxer, how they avoided being hit, yet stayed just within range to return fire and strike the opponent. He took the jab, cross, hook, uppercut, shovel hook and overhand from boxing, working as many combinations as possible. The main difference is that he preferred to punch with a vertical fist, as in Wing Chun Gung Fu, and he preferred the power side forward, which is just the opposite of what is taught in boxing. Jeet Kune Do takes strikes, footwork and evasive skills from boxing, but it is NOT boxing.
Jeet Kune Do is not a sport or competition martial art. It was designed strictly for use in self defense situations. There are no rules in the street. When your life is in danger, you must do whatever it takes to survive and go home alive. This means strikes to the eyes, throat and groin, as well as kicks to the knees and shins that have the capacity to cripple or break the legs. There is nothing that is off limits as far as target selection or ruthlessness is concerned. Whatever it takes! Rather than a belt, trophy or cash reward, your prize is continuing to live! While some principles from Jeet Kune Do can be applied in the ring, that is not the purpose.
My comments on this might ruffle a few feathers! Jeet Kune Do is being referred to by some as MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). MMA was created primarily as a contact sport for competition use! Jeet Kune Do is a structured, legitimate system of martial art, not a hodgepodge conglomeration of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Some believe that since a statement exists (made by Bruce Lee) that Jeet Kune Do consists primarily of Wing Chun Gung Fu, European fencing and Western boxing, that Jeet Kune Do is a mixed martial art. If this were true, anyone could go out and learn Wing Chun, fencing and boxing and know Jeet Kune Do, but guess what? It doesn’t work that way! It was the reality based mindset and creative genius of Bruce Lee that created Jeet Kune Do. That is what makes Jeet Kune Do such an effective system of fighting, rather that just a mix and match martial arts method. Jeet Kune Do is about efficiently and systematically destroying the threat in front of you, not rolling around with someone trying to get them to tap out! There is no gi (or spandex), no mats, no bare feet and no gloves when the street is your reality. There is, however, bare knuckles, street clothes, street shoes and whatever surface you are forced to deal with … oh, and no tapping out or quitting! There is no title, belt or cash reward to be gained, but instead the God given right to continue living! The mindset is completely different!
This whole Jeet Kune Do/MMA controversy has spawned other negativity towards Jeet Kune Do among those in the sports related martial arts community. Many of them are saying that we use the excuse that Jeet Kune Do is “too deadly” for the ring, saying that we are actually scared of contact, so we use that as an excuse to keep from participating in UFC type matches. That analogy has more holes in it than Swiss cheese! Jeet Kune Do was born out of contact oriented training, with sparring being one of our primary training methods. We do wear more protective gear than what you see in the MMA events, but that is so we can “keep it real”, as the saying goes! Also, we spar with shoes on our feet, and that brings a whole different degree of contact to our training. It makes the sparring much more realistic and closer to what we would encounter in the street. We do have what is commonly referred to as a “kickboxing” phase to our training, where we wear protective gear and basically restrict our movements to punching and kicking. Normal gear includes finger gloves or boxing gloves, head guard with Face cage, hard style shin guards and a groin cup. This is done with the understanding that the lead hand punch could just as easily be a finger jab to the eyes, and that the kick to the shin/knee area with the protective gear on (street hockey or professional catcher’s shin guards) would be more penetrating if delivered for real. This approach brings a definite realism to our sparring, and helps us prepare for the harsh reality of the streets.
Regardless of who you are, you cannot deny the raw effectiveness of the finger jab to the eyes and the solid kick to the groin. Some have made the statement that they could take the kick to the groin and keep going, but that is definitely not true, especially with the intention for full contact with the Jeet Kune Do groin kick! To make this clearer, recently in an MMA fight, one fighter “accidentally” kicked another fighter in the groin. Not only was he down and unable to continue, but further examination proved that his left testicle had “exploded” on impact!
I am not saying that principles from Jeet Kune Do cannot be applied in a sport martial arts environment. The greatest karate fighter of all time, Joe Lewis, trained privately with Bruce Lee for several years. He used many of Bruce Lee’s principles and tactics in the ring and it made him a much more effective fighter. This proves that Jeet Kune Do training can make a more effective competition fighter, but the mentality is different. Of course we know that you cannot go into the ring with plans to break someone’s leg and jab their eyes, so Jeet Kune Do as it is originally intended cannot be adopted as a whole!
Some have misunderstood certain quotes from Bruce Lee, or some philosophical saying to mean that Jeet Kune Do is anything that you want it to be, and that you can just make up your own Jeet Kune Do. It is very easy to misunderstand something or take it out of context, especially when the founder of the art is dead. Many even erroneously quote certain sayings as being from Bruce Lee, when the truth is that they were statements copied word for word in Bruce Lee’s notes from someone else’s writings. An example of this is the famous book, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Most people thought this was the greatest thing ever when it first came out, including me when I was much younger. I think I was eighteen when it first came out. Later on they faced threats of lawsuits for plagiarizing the writings of other authors. When the put it together, they just compiled random notes from Bruce Lee, not knowing that he was not the original author of some of the material in the final published work. They had to go back and give credit to the quotes from other sources to avoid legal issues. This is the danger of trying to publish notes taken by someone after they have passed away. Also, many thought that the Tao of Jeet Kune Do was all there was, until many years later when the book, Jeet Kune Do: Commentaries on the Martial Way, was released by Tuttle Publications. This book, edited by John Little, contained the rest of Bruce Lee’s original writings that were left out of the Tao of Jeet Kune Do. This book turned out to actually contain far better and far more useful material for use by the Jeet Kune Do practitioner. We now know that you have to have both books to fully understand Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do.
There are many frauds out there, claiming to be legitimate Jeet Kune Do Instructors. Some claim that Jeet Kune Do is just a concept. Some claim that it is just a philosophy, or way of looking at combat. Some claim that it is a definite style of fighting. Complete FRAUDS present themselves online as if they are experts on this art, and most people do not know the difference between the frauds and the truly qualified instructors. Some of them even have expensive looking websites, special uniforms, personal logos and the whole nine yards, making themselves look as if they are really something special. People that have absolutely NO CLUE what Jeet Kune Do actually is come onto Facebook and online discussion forums spouting philosophy and quoting Bruce Lee as if they are really something, even further adding to the confusion. This is why mass confusion reigns when it comes to defining Jeet Kune Do … there are SO MANY ways that it is viewed as a martial art, and it is pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to get everyone on the same page as to what it actually is, especially with all of these frauds running rampant on the internet!
NO! Jeet Kune Do is NOT whatever you want it to be! There is a curriculum complete with a wide variety of techniques in place as well as a set of guiding principles used to apply these techniques. If you are not following the curriculum and obeying the principles as set by the founder, Bruce Lee, then what you are doing is NOT Jeet Kune Do! We have a saying … Jeet Kune Do is Jeet Kune Do! Anything else is not!
During Bruce Lee’s lifetime, Jeet Kune Do became known as “Scientific Street Fighting”. This is because of its raw, brutally direct effectiveness. Everything is designed for maximum efficiency and maximum result with minimum waste of motion. Bruce Lee was all about self defense in real world situations. Attack in Jeet Kune Do is all about emphasizing targets like the eyes, throat, groin and knees in order to get the fight over with fast. Efficiency is anything that scores! Remember, there is no such thing as a fair fight!
Hardcore Jeet Kune Do is the unique approach to training in Bruce Lee’s fighting methods developed by Sifu Lamar M. Davis II. Anytime that you hear the term Hardcore Jeet Kune Do, or see the Hardcore Jeet Kune Do logo, you know that Sifu Davis is somehow involved in the program. Hardcore Jeet Kune Do is a very serious approach to practicing, promoting and preserving the original teaching, training and fighting methods of the late Bruce Lee. The word hardcore is used to emphasize this! When you train in Hardcore Jeet Kune Do, you can be assured that you are learning the authentic teachings of Bruce Lee!