Jeet Kune Do is the martial art founded by legendary Sifu Bruce Lee.
It’s considered by many to be the original mixed martial art, or “MMA”.
Lee began his training in Wing Chun Kung Fu under Grandmaster Yip Man (Ip Man in the movies).
Over the years, his martial arts training evolved. He started calling what he taught “Jun Fan Gung Fu”–Jun Fan was his Chinese name, and Gung Fu was another way of saying Kung Fu. In other words, he called his style “Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu”.
Here’s an old video of him practicing Jun Fan Gung Fu with Taky Kimura.
Eventually he made a major shift in his martial arts training by adding elements of boxing and fencing, and he compared this new fighting style to that of “fencing without a sword”.
Muay Thai, Savate Kickboxing, and even Judo and Wrestling all had a major influence on Bruce Lee and the formation of a new martial arts style he named “Jeet Kune Do”.
Jeet Kune Do: The Way of The Intercepting Fist
Jeet Kune Do is the culmination of Bruce Lee’s martial arts research, training, and experience in the later years of his life.
It’s based more on principles and concepts rather than simply on techniques.
Here’s Lee describing Jeet Kune Do in an episode of Longstreet.
He chose the name Jeet Kune Do, or “the way of the intercepting fist”, because he felt that the most important principle in fighting is to end the fight as quickly and efficiently as possible.
All other principles were to be in service of this.
No wasted motion. No flashy movements. Everything was straight to the point.
The moment your opponent moves, you respond by shutting him down as he’s coming out of the gate if possible.
Jeet Kune Do is designed around being fluid, unpredictable, and able to adapt to your opponent’s movements.
Having No Way As Way
Bruce Lee could only become as great as he did by being willing to break with his traditional training and to explore other martial arts.
He absorbed what was useful, rejected what wasn’t, and added to it his own unique experience.
He taught a cohesive approach to combat, one with a specific underlying philosophy and set of training principles.
But he also stressed the importance of each student doing what he did and absorbing what was useful TO THEM and discarding the rest.
Carrying On The Legacy
There were only 3 people certified by Bruce Lee to teach Jeet Kune Do.
Perhaps the most influential was Dan Inosanto.
Most legitimate JKD instructors trace their lineage back to him, including myself.
Sifu Inosanto is an amazing example of someone who carries on the spirit of Jeet Kune Do, still continuing his own martial arts training even in his late 70’s.
He’s also a very notable practitioner in the Filipino weapons systems of Kali/Escrima, and most JKD instructors are also well versed in these weapons-based arts, which compliment Jeet Kune Do nicely.
“Jeet Kune Do Concepts” vs “Original Jeet Kune Do”
Because Bruce Lee encouraged everyone to create their own paths in the martial arts, Jeet Kune Do schools can vary drastically from gym to gym.
Many JKD schools are referred to as teaching either “Jeet Kune Do Concepts” or “Original Jeet Kune Do”, depending on how strictly they follow Bruce’s original teachings.
I’m personally grateful for both approaches, but if I were to categorize our own school I’d say that we lean closer to “Original JKD”, while the more you advance the more you are introduced to a “JKD Concepts” approach.
Be aware: some instructors get their certification from doing seminars rather than years of training under a qualified instructor, so this makes for a lot of things being taught as Jeet Kune Do that really don’t follow the underlying principles of Lee’s art.
So ask questions when searching out a school.
If you want to watch an amazing documentary on Bruce Lee, check out “I AM BRUCE LEE”.
It has interviews with everyone from original JKD students to MMA legends.