Modern Jeet Kune Do philosophy
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 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. The dominant or strongest hand should be in the lead because it would perform a greater percentage of the work. Lee minimized the use of other stances except when circumstances warranted such actions. Although the On-Guard position is a good overall stance, it is by no means the only one. He acknowledged that there were times when other positions should be utilized.
Jeet Kune Do (JKD) the name Bruce Lee gave to his combat system and philosophy. Originally, when 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 described the process that he used to create it:
I have not invented a “new style,” composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from “this” method or “that” method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”. . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don’t, and that is that. There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune-Do is simply the direct expression of one’s feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one’s back.
— Bruce Lee
Lee felt the dynamic property of JKD was what enabled its practitioners to adapt to the constant changes and fluctuations of live combat. He believed that these decisions should be done within the context of “real combat” and/or “all out sparring” and that it was only in this environment that a person could actually deem a technique worthy of adoption.
Bruce Lee did not stress the memorization of solo training forms or “Kata”, as most traditional styles do in their beginning-level training. He often compared doing forms without an opponent to attempting to learn to swim on dry land. Lee believed that real combat was alive and dynamic. Circumstances in a fight change from millisecond to millisecond, and thus pre-arranged patterns and techniques are not adequate in dealing with such a changing situation. As an anecdote to this thinking, Lee once wrote an epitaph which read: ‘In memory of a once fluid man, crammed and distorted by the classical mess.’ The “classical mess” in this instance was what Lee thought of classical martial arts.
The following are principles that Bruce Lee incorporated into his Jeet Kune Do. He felt these were universal combat truths that were self evident, and would lead to combat success if followed. Familiarity with each of the “Four ranges of combat”, in particular, is thought to be instrumental in becoming a “total” martial artist.
JKD teaches that the best defense is a strong offense, hence the principle of an “intercepting fist”. For a person to attack another hand-to-hand, the attacker must approach the target. This provides an opportunity for the attacked person to “intercept” the attacking movement. The principle of interception may be applied to more than intercepting physical attacks. Non-verbal cues (subtle movements that an opponent may be unaware of) may be perceived or “intercepted”, and thus be used to one’s advantage.
The “Five ways of attack”, categories which help JKD practitioners organize their fighting repertoire, comprise the offensive teachings of JKD. The concepts of “Stop hits & stop kicks”, and “Simultaneous parrying & punching”, borrowed from épée fencing’s and Wing Chun’s concepts of single fluid motions which attack while defending, comprise the defensive teachings of JKD. These concepts were modified for unarmed combat and implemented into the JKD framework by Lee, to complement the principle of interception.
Economy of motion
Jeet Kune Do seeks to waste no time or movement, teaching that the simplest things work best as in wing chun. Economy of motion is the principle by which JKD practitioners achieve:
- Efficiency: An attack which reaches its target in the least amount of time, with maximum force.
- Directness: Doing what comes naturally in a disciplined way.
- Simplicity: Thinking in an uncomplicated manner; without ornamentation.
This is meant to help a practitioner conserve both energy and time; two crucial components in a physical confrontation. Maximized force seeks to end the battle quickly due to the amount of damage inflicted upon the opponent. Rapidity aims to reach the target before the opponent can react, which is half-beat faster timing, learned in Wing Chun and Western boxing. Learned techniques are utilized in JKD to apply these principles to a variety of situations
The four ranges of combat
Jeet Kune Do students train in each of these ranges equally. According to Lee, this range of training serves to differentiate JKD from other martial arts. Lee stated that most but not all traditional martial arts systems specialize in training at one or two ranges. Bruce Lee’s theories have been especially influential and substantiated in the field of Mixed Martial Arts, as the MMA Phases of Combat are essentially the same concept as the JKD combat 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. These terms proved ambiguous and eventually evolved into their more descriptive forms although there may still be others who prefer the three categories.
Absorbing what is useful
This is the idea that a martial artist can only learn techniques in their proper context, through a holistic approach. Styles provide more than just techniques: They offer training methods, theories, and mental attitudes. Learning these factors allows a student to experience a system in what Lee called its “totality”. Only through learning a system completely will an artist be able to, “absorb what is useful,” and discard the remainder. Real combat training situations allow the student to learn what works, and what doesn’t. 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 precisely the artist can mimic tradition. 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; based on critical self analysis, and by, “honestly expressing oneself, without lying to oneself.”
–taken directly from Wikipedia’s page on JKD