Jeet Kune Do – Just WHAT is it?!

Bruce Lee (Photograph courtesy of the Bruce Lee Foundation archive)

If you were to ask 10 martial artists what Jeet Kune Do is, you’d probably get 10 different answers.

It’s a style developed by Bruce Lee.

It’s not a style! It’s having no style!

It’s a way of thinking!

Doesn’t matter it’s not BJJ and all fights end on the ground and I’d shoot in and…

If you can’t tell, this subject and these replies come up often on a few Facebook groups I’m in, so I thought I’d give my two cents.

Bruce Lee came to the US midway through 1959, an 18 year old kid with a background in Wing Chun and a passion for martial arts. I highly recommend the book Bruce Lee: A Life by Matthew Polly for more a detailed look at his life. Through refinement, teaching, studying and fighting, Bruce coined the term “Jeet Kune Do” while driving with Dan Inosanto in 1967. The Way of the Intercepting Fist.

Martial arts in the US at this point was not as it is today. Today we have MMA, popularized by the UFC, and an unlimited source of information provided by the internet. In the 50s and 60s however, Judo was brought back by US servicemen, as were forms of Japanese Karate and Korean Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do. Styles defined everything. The answers were hidden in secret forms and sparring often resembled a game of tag.

Bruce Lee dunked on all of this.

So, just what IS Jeet Kune Do, JKD, anyway?

A style? A concept? A way of thinking?

In my opinion, the answer to all of that is yes.

As Bruce Lee’s personal way of fighting, Jeet Kune Do is heavily influenced by Wing Chun, Western Boxing, and Fencing. It’s predicated on the concept of intercepting your opponents attack and at the highest form of the art, intercepting his intention to attack.

Here’s where things start to get thrown in a blender.

Original JKD vs. JKD Concepts

Unfortunately the world of JKD has turned into something Bruce Lee warned against many years ago. Infighting over linages and who is teaching ‘real’ JKD. There are people out there who will train in Karate and throw in 4 kicks from Thai Boxing and then say it’s “Their own JKD”.

There are instructors out there who can trace their training back to those first generation Bruce Lee students. Taky Kimura, Ted Wong, Jessie Glover, Dan Inosanto, Jerry Poteet, Daniel Lee, among others.

The Original JKD Camp teach the methods as Bruce Lee taught them, with recognition that Bruce Lee taught everyone a bit different based on their skill and body type or athleticism. They often say they are ‘preserving Bruce Lee’s art’, and they are.

The Concepts method of JKD can generally trace it’s linage back to Dan Inosanto. Guro Dan is an amazing man and martial artist. Encyclopedic in his knowledge, humble and kind.

Unfortunately for the world, Bruce Lee passed away in 1973 at a young age of 32 years old. While his personal method of fighting may have consisted of the arts of Wing Chun, Western Boxing and Fencing concepts, he never stopped learning and researching martial arts, the human body and the way that relates to combat.

Guro Dan, similarly, encourages his students to do the same. Built on a foundation of Jun Fan Gung Fu (JKD), Filipino Kali, Silat, Wing Chun, Muy Thai, and other arts, the Concepts method of JKD is more philosophical in nature, encouraging the student to find what works for them.

Again, this doesn’t mean take Capoeira and mix it with BJJ and call it JKD. To be ‘your own JKD’, you still need to adhere to the founding concepts of the art.

Simplicity. Centerline. Interception. Controlling distance, timing and rhythm via the 5 ways of attack.

If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing JKD. Original, Concepts or whatever ‘your JKD’ is



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