Today's Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Reflecting on Bruce Lee's Philosophies and Teachings
by David Kunz
Many readers searching on the subject of "Jeet Kune Do" are probably looking for the secret that does not exist to achieve mastering the "Way." Many articles have been written on this subject and I am sure it will continue, as long as readers are willing to keep searching for the "all knowing" and yet, not understanding anything they are searching for in "Jeet Kune Do"!
I have been studying the martial arts for thirty-three years and was just as perplexed as many readers today. I received my first black belt in kung-fu when I was seventeen years old. I then enlisted in the Army and earned my black belt in Tae Kwon Do in Korea. Upon returning to the States, I studied Kenpo Karate in Santa Barbara with Rick Avery, Chris Weidman and Dick Willet.
I was always fascinated with Bruce Lee and his way of self-defense that he portrayed in his movies. He was graceful, with simplicity and directness. At that time, I could not actually put my finger on why he was so enticing in his movies. I always felt that the traditional styles were missing something. Maybe, this is why he continued to study different styles?
I read many books on Bruce Lee's concepts and his philosophies of Jeet Kune Do. I practiced diligently his techniques and trying to imitate his moves. Of course, this led to nowhere but being more confused. It wasn't until many years later that I read in-depth Lee's concepts of the art and the philosophies of yin and yang as it pertained to the martial arts; then I finally got it. It took me several years to break my traditional habits of the martial arts and to look within myself for creativity and self-expression by keeping everything simple and direct. I learned that we are all different and that we are all talented in our own way. Yet, we must discover and express ourselves to know ourselves and understand that all things change and we must also.
I have been teaching for thirty years, and in that time have come up with some thoughts on today's Jeet Kune Do.
Through the many years of training in Tae Kwon Do and Kenpo I was taught so many katas, that even today I have trouble remembering some of them. My personal opinion is that they are useless. A kata is nothing more than a repetition of a mechanical technique that will never be used in any form in combat. In Jeet Kune Do, there are no katas. Only repetition in creativity and simplicity to reach the subconscious. An artist, after all, expresses their feelings and should in their art.
This is really the true art of Jeet Kune Do. Intercepting your opponent by way of jamming, feints and attacks. There is nothing better than an opponent who becomes unsure and confused in his action. Most traditional martial arts are nothing more than mechanical, repetitive action. There should be no thought of action, only action itself. A hit should hit all by itself.
They have little purpose in self-defense. They are great training aides in meditation and discipline. In Jeet Kune Do, there is no greater emphasis than sparring and self-expression. No technique is final. In each given fight, no one knows how an opponent's body position or placement will be. One must react to the given opening at any given moment, without delay. Traditional styles limit the student. This is more harm than good. A student must be able to break free and express himself by using whatever will work, be it a technique from another art or not. To express yourself, you need to become like a tree, a good root and trunk with branches and leaves that blow in the wind.
Students today only train during their schedule class times. This is not enough. To become very good at something, one must train on a daily basis. Too many black belts today have limited training and therefore are lacking in good technique. It amazes me how the majority of black belts today are only purple belts of yesteryear. This is due to lack of proper training and exercise. Always let your opponent decide how you defend yourself.
I do agree with the belt system in the martial arts. Many have criticized me because I have implemented a belt system in my teachings of Jeet Kune Do. However, many new students have no foundation of the martial arts and need to start somewhere. In America, all traditional styles and competition are based upon the belt system. Even Bruce Lee had a rating system that was equivalent to the belt system. Each student must prove himself worthy of promotion and should have the highest respect for its meaning within its own interpretation of school. My students do compete in tournaments in Southern California and all tournaments I have personally competed in have a rating systems by belt color.
In Jeet Kune Do, students spar with full contact gear with maximum effort. Sparring includes but is not limited to: kicks, hits, feints, draws, jamming, trapping, parries, timing, distance acknowledgement, grappling, take-downs, ground technique and self-expression. To become a great fighter, one must be trained in all aspects of contact. There are pros and cons with traditional styles of self-defense; they are a good place to start but not to finish!
My advice for the martial arts student:
Written by David Kunz for KUNGFUMAGAZINE.COM