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Elements of Bruce Lee’s Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do

jkd taijitu

As far as I know, these are the arts researched by Bruce Lee in his development and synthesis of his Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do.

  1. Wing Chun 詠春 (The nucleus)
  2. Western Fencing (Foil)
  3. Western Boxing
  4. Northern Praying Mantis 北螳螂拳
  5. Southern Praying Mantis 男螳螂拳
  6. Choy Li Fut
  7. Taijiquan/Tai Chi Chuan  太極拳 (Wu and Yang Family style)
  8. Baguazhang 八卦掌
  9. Xingyiquan 形意拳
  10. Bak-Hoo Pai (White Crane) 白鶴拳
  11. Bak-Fu Pai (White Tiger)
  12. Eagle Claw
  13. Ng Ga Kuen (Five Family System)
  14. Ny Ying Ga (Five Animal System)
  15. Bak Mei Pai (White Eyebrow)
  16. Northern Shaolin 北少林
  17. Southern Shaolin 男少林
  18. Bok Pai (White Crane)
  19. Law Horn Kuen
  20. Chin Na 擒拿
  21. Monkey Style
  22. Drunken Style
  23. 12 Routine Shaolin Tan Tui
  24. Western Wrestling
  25. Jujutsu/Judo 柔術/柔道
  26. Escrima / Kuntao / Kali / Silat / Filipino Sikaran
  27. Savate (Boxe française)
  28. Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) มวยไทย

This post is a living document which I will update as I learn more about the martial arts Bruce Lee researched.

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Some Thoughts on the Subjective and Objective Aspects of Combative Rhythm

Distance, timing, and rhythm are the three foundational points of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do Principles. The following article focuses on the latter principle: rhythm. Here are some of my thoughts regarding the realistic rhythm in combat with a distinction between objective and subjective aspects.

1. Subjective rhythm (or rhythmic sense): the attacker’s personal sense of combative rhythm
By a person’s very contemplation of attacking or defending in X kind of way necessarily implies that there is a rhythm to their extrapolated movement. And because this contemplation is coming from their cognitive processes, there must have a sense of combative rhythm, however naive, undiscovered and unexplored.* So since virtually everyone has a natural sense of combative rhythm, then the only question is whether or not that feeling is efficacious for combat or not. This leads to an interesting question because we find that in martial arts training halls, it is oftentimes a technically and rhythmically unrefined participant is still very dangerous. But even in the world of refined martial artists, combative sportsmen and combative training methodologies, we find boxers like Wladimir Klitschko who win in spite of their technically awful rhythmic sense as well as whole martial art systems devoted to apparently clumsy rhythm such as Mízōngquán 迷蹤拳 “lost track boxing” and Zuìquán 醉拳 “drunken boxing”. Therefore in combat, it is not as simple as having a superior rhythmic sense to that of your attacker, but it is your ability to adapt to your attacker’s rhythmic sense whatever that may be.

2. Objective rhythm (or situational rhythm): the rhythm that occurs in a particular combative encounter
When the attacker’s rhythm becomes regular and repeated, an artist must intercept of half beats. This does not mean that one waits to be attacked with several skirmishes for the sake of identifying the attacker’s rhythm. That being said, readily available footage on websites such as YouTube show that even someone flailing or stabbing with a knife tends to have a rather regular, unbroken rhythm which presents the opportunity for the defender to intercept on half beats. Use your sensitivity to follow the knife out, control the arm and counter-attack with the viciousness of the tiger and the ferocity of the dragon to preserve life and thwart evil.

* This is the case even if there the attack has only one beat. However, just like in music, every beat has subdivisions. One may ask, “but what about the situation wherein the attacker pulls ‘a .45 and BANG!’ settles it?” This perspective presupposes a failure to dissect this attack into at least three phases (1) preparation, (2) attack, and (3) recovery. These three phases of attack signify some sort of rhythmic triplet. The temporal intervals between them give us sufficient data from which to interpret our opponent’s rhythm and whatever rhythm is presented by the attacker, it is the defender’s job to break that rhythm.

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Jeet Kune Do Practitioners Should Train in a Gi

The reason why Jeet Kune Do practitioners should train in a gi is quite simple: because we are a self-defense combat art. Bruce Lee emphasized combat totality and as long as human beings express their aggression by grabbing the garments of others, we should train for those scenarios. Gis are the best way to do this because they are durable and don’t rip (at least not until after a quite a few training sessions). It only took one time for my t-shirt to be ripped in a training session for me to be convinced… I paid money for that shirt!

I recommend judo or jujutsu gis for this purpose as the single-weave and the double-weave variations are durable enough for good grappling sessions.

If your lineage of Jeet Kune Do doesn’t use a belt ranking system, you can just use the white belts that normally come with these gis, or you can have students wear white belts and instructors wear another color. The Gracies originally light blue belts for instructors and dark blue belts for chief instructors before jujutsu in Brazil had a more detailed ranking system at the founding of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). If you ask me, this isn’t a bad system.

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The Relational Approach to Martial Arts Training Development

We as martial artists end up feeling that our training is a bit stale and we want more, or perhaps just something different. Or perhaps, in the search for totality, we notice that perhaps our clinch is missing something or the kicking tactics may not work for you as taught. I believe that the answer isn’t necessarily to ditch your teacher and start learning another martial art. If you have a good teacher, stick with them (perhaps you can train with multiple instructors, if one doesn’t want you to train with others, that’s another issue altogether). A good solution to your problem may be the relational method.

So the basic concept goes something like this: when looking for training ideas, research tactics, strategies, training methodologies and techniques that are more closely related to your current area. How does that end up playing out? I’ll give an example.

I practice Modified Shorin-Ryu Karate, but I want to expand my knowledge of clinch range techniques, so I do some research and I find out that originally Karate was the fusion of Indigenous Okinawan Tegumi Wrestling and Chinese Kung Fu (功夫). Learning about Tegumi helps me look at kata as a matrix of techniques from the clinch rather than merely techniques executed from Kickboxing range.

I may decide to take it even further and ask, “how can other wrestling styles enrich my understanding of combative application?” So I start looking at other related styles including Sumo, Shuai Jiao, and even Judo and Greco-Roman Wrestling. Now things are getting really interesting. I will never run out of training methods and perspectives and I didn’t go far away from the roots of Karate.

This is one way I expand my knowledge and training regimen. Give it a try. Let me know how it goes.

 

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Nishioka-Ha Shōrin-Ryū is not your Average Karate

not-karate

In anything learned, names are helpful indicators for people to have a good idea what a school or instructor teaches. Karate (空手) has a particular set of strategies, tactics, methods and techniques and a way that it approaches grappling. It is my belief that the foundation of the curricula of both the United States Karate Organization (USKO) and it’s child school the Pro-Am Martial Arts Academy  (PMAA) includes Karate, but it is not only Karate.

Argument #1: The Nishioka Foundation

Walter K. Nishioka Shihan, founder of the International Karate League (in Japanese, 国際空手連盟 or Kokusai Karate Renmei) in Hawai’i is the foundation of the modified Shōrin-ryū (少林流) of the USKO. He is the teacher’s teacher of the founder of the USKO, Sensei Joe Pagliuso. Additionally, he is the source of the major modifications to traditional Shorin-Ryu that we find in the USKO-style curricula.

Nishioka Shihan’s contributions include the following: The base system for biomechanics is derived from his studies of Wadōryū (和道流) with founder Hironori Otsuka. Wadōryū is not properly a style of Karate. Due to the fact that it is a synthesis of Shindō Yōshin-ryū jūjutsu (新道楊心流柔術), Shōtōkan Shōrin-ryū (松濤館少林流), and Motobu-ryū (本部流), it is often recognized as a style of Karate Jūjutsu (空手柔術) and this is appropriate. The jūjutsu element is reflected in the performance and interpretation of kata (kanji: 型, hiragana: かた), and in the Kihon Kumite (基本組手 or きほん組手, basic self-defense sequences) of the USKO.

Argument #2: The USKO Alteration

In the 1990’s, the Board of Senseis at the USKO sought to modernize the Shōrin-ryū passed down from Shihan Pagliuso. The Board made the following motions with regard to curriculum:

  1. They removed the Naihanchi kata, Pinan Sandan and Pinan Godan from the curriculum. These kata were arguably superfluous in light of Kensei (hiragana and kanji unknown) and Kushanku-Dai (hiragana: クーシャンク, kanji: 公相君大).
  2. They integrated strategies, tactics, methods and techniques from Jūdo (柔道 historically referred to as Kano Jūjutsu 嘉納柔術) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Portuguese: jiu-jitsu brasileiro; also BJJ for short) into the curriculum.

They could have simply offered a grappling program on the side but found it important to impart these jūjutsu skills to their students (however the USKO now has a separate BJJ program for those who want to go deeper than the scope of the jūjutsu in the Shōrin-ryū curriculum). These actions further increased the jūjutsu foundation of the system and further evened out the karate-to-jujutsu ratio of the curriculum.

Significance: The Ryū Reclassification

Due to the Nishioka Foundation and the USKO Alteration, I believe that the art taught by the USKO her child organizations should be renamed. The synthesis of various styles of jūjutsu into the curriculum warrants that the curricula be properly reclassified as a style of Karate Jūjutsu (空手柔術). So in a phrase, the curricula of USKO and PMAA should both be called Modified (kanji unknown) Shōrin-ryū Karate Jūjutsu (少林流空手柔術).

What do you think? Am I missing something?

Further Reading

Featured image designed with the Vecteezy Editor

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Towards Combat Totality


One of the main principles that Sijo Bruce Lee emphasized in Jeet Kune Do is the concept of combat totality. Combat as it is. Training every part of your body for every range. Sifu-Guru Dan Inosanto stepped out of the boat and greatly investigated the Malaysian, Filipino and Indonesian Martial Arts (among other arts). He then established the Lacoste-Inosanto Kali method and Maphilindo Silat. This is perhaps the most complete combative system on the planet. Ever. I mean it.
The following is a list of Guro Inosanto’s twelve areas with sub-categories. As my understanding increases, I will add more sub-categories and further refine these categories. The purpose of this list is to help myself and like-minded martial artists develop complete personal combative systems.

1st Area:  Single Weapon

1) Single Stick

2) Single Sword

3) Single Axe

4) Single Cane

2nd Area: Double Weapon

1) Double Stick

2) Double Sword

3) Double Axe

3rd Area: Long & Short Weapon

1) Stick & Dagger

2) Long Stick & Short Stick

3) Sword & Dagger

4) Sword & Shield

5) Axe & Shield

4th Area: Double Short Weapon

1) Double Dagger

2) Double Short Stick

5th Area: Single Short Weapon

1) Single Dagger

2) Single Short Stick (between 12″ and 15″)

6th Area: Double-Ended Short Weapons

1) Palm Stick

2) Double-End Dagger

7th Area: Empty Hands

1) Hand Tools

2) Leg Tools

3) Stand-up Grappling

4) Ground-Grappling

4) Trapping

5) Bite & Pinch

8th Area: Long Weapons

1) Staff

2) Oar

3) Spear

4) Spear & Shield

5) Spear & Stick

6) Spear & Sword

7) Spear & Dagger

8) Heavy Stick (Two-handed method)

9) Long Stick (Two-handed method)

9th Area: Flexible Weapons

1) Sarong

2) Belt

3) Whip

4) Rope

5) Chain

6) Scarf

7) Head Band

8) Handkerchief

9) Olisi Toyok

10) Tabak Toyok (nunchaku)

11) Yo-Yo

10th Area: Throwing Weapons

1) Spear

2) Dagger

3) Stone / Rock

4) Sand / Mud / Dirt

5) Pepper

11th Area: Projectile Weapons

1) Bow and Arrow

2) Blow Gun

3) Sling Shot

4) Portable Cannon/Firearms

12th Area: Mental/Spiritual/Emotional Training

1) Healing Arts

2) Spiritual Arts

3) History, Philosophy, Ethics & Traditions

4) Music & Rhythm Training

photo credit: Vee-BY Governor’s Palace via photopin (license)

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A Rare Kata: Kensei Dai

I train Modified Shorin-Ryu Karate at the Pro-Am Martial Arts Academy in Murrieta, CA. When I got to the blue belt curriculum, my instructors introduced me to the kata “Kensei.” (kanji unknown) Anytime I learn a kata after getting the basic sequence, I go into research mode to learn as much as I can about the particular kata. However, gathering information concerning Kensei has proven rather difficult.

I found two katas called “Kensei Sho” and “Kensei Dai” in this kata list from Hayashi Shito-Ryu which made me wonder, “which kata, if any, is the “Kensei” I’ve been learning.” Then, a few months later, I found the following video:


This is the very kata that I knew as Kensei! To show the similarities in this kata and the kata as I was taught it, have a look at this:

The preliminary significant differences are as follows:

(1) the steps up the “I” of the embusen (Japanese, “pattern” referring to the kata’s footwork pattern); mine includes a half-step which is less mechanically stable than this karateka’s full front stances, and

(2) the hand sequence at the end of block-punch-kick sequence back down the “I”, which is not included in the previous karateka’s performance.

Historical Significance

My lineage goes as follows: Stanley Lara-Keller & Travis Seay > … > William Bartholomew > Joe Pagliuso (founder of USKO) > Richard Nakano > Walter Nishioka > Various. The most significant innovators in this lineage are

  1. Walter Nishioka Shihan (founder of the International Karate League (IKL) in Honolulu, Hawai’i) developed “modified Shorin-Ryu” are “primarily Wado-Ryu Karate with some Shotokan and Shito-Ryu Influences” further modified by Judo, Jujitsu, Aikido, White Crane Kung Fu, Goju-Ryu, and his background in military self-defense.
  2. Joe Pagliuso, who with the United States Karate Organization (USKO) board expanded the scope of Nishioka Shihan’s modified Shorin-Ryu with the inclusion of kickboxing and submission grappling to the curriculum. The site for the USKO board is http://uskotraining.com

With the inclusion of this kata in the Hayashi Shito-Ryu and none of the other lineages in which Nishioka Shihan trained, I believe that he most likely learned Kensei Dai from his Shito-Ryu instructor. These are merely educated guesses.

This is the start of my research into Kensei Dai. Do any of you practice Kensei Dai or have more information on this kata or its corresponding kata “Kensei Sho”?

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Jeet Kune Do Probably Isn’t What You Think It Is

jkd taijitu

Many martial artists have sought to define 截拳道 (Jeet Kune Do, or JKD for short), the martial art which Bruce Lee (李振藩) invented. Some minimize it to kickboxing with trapping, others define it as the first mixed martial art. Still others hide behind the maxim “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is essentially your own” in order to say that whatever it is that they practice is “JKD for them.”

It is true that Jeet Kune Do is contains elements of kickboxing and trapping; it is eclectic in its technical base; it holds similarities to MMA and it is personalized to those who practice it. However, it is a philosophy of martial art and martial art clearly defined by its founder. The following is Bruce Lee’s definition of JKD as formulated in a letter to his senior student Taky Kimura in February of 1967:

My mind is made up to start a system of my own – I mean a system of totality, embracing all but yet guided with simplicity. It will concentrate on the root of things – rhythm, timing, distance and embrace the five ways of attack. Wing Chun is the starting point, chi sau is the nucleus and they are supplemented by the FIVE WAYS. The whole system will concentrate on irregular rhythm and how to disturb and intercept the opponent’s rhythm the fastest and most efficient way. Above all, this system is not confined to straight line or curved line but is content to stand in the middle of the circle without attachment. This way one can meet any lines without being familiar with them.

Let’s dissect this line by line:

First, he defines the scope, principles, and tactics of JKD, beginning with the scope. JKD is “a system of totality, embracing all but yet guided with simplicity.” This means that JKD addresses all areas of human combat, but does so in an unnecessarily complicated manner. You may ask, “There are so many aspects of combat, surely the number of techniques must be great; how does JKD remain simple/uncomplicated?” Lee responds, “[by] concentrating on the root of things – rhythm, timing, distance and… the five ways of attack.” Take a moment and observe with me that Lee presents two types of things in this statement: (1) the core principles of rhythm, timing and distance, and (2) the tactics of combat: the five ways of attack.

Lee then defines JKD’s system of training (at least when he was developing it in 1967): “Wing Chun is the starting point, chi sau is the nucleus and they are supplemented by the FIVE WAYS.” This means two things (1) remove the foundational technical influence of Wing Chun, there is no JKD and (2) the expansion of Wing Chun lies principly in the five ways of attack. A particular iteration of JKD system may be developed beyond Wing Chun, but must never omit Wing Chun. The nature of the five ways must be left for another article.

Then he talks strategy: “The whole system will concentrate on irregular rhythm and how to disturb and intercept the opponent’s rhythm the fastest and most efficient way.” This is what a JKD man does during a combative encounter. This disturbing and interception concept is the 截 (“Jeet”) in Jeet Kune Do. If you are not training broken rhythm in your drilling and sparring, you are not doing Jeet Kune Do.

Then he talks about form/formlessness/adaptability.” Above all, this system is not confined to straight line or curved line but is content to stand in the middle of the circle without attachment. This way one can meet any lines without being familiar with them” So there are two things to be understood from this: (1) form is determined by the opponents movement, that is to say, it is adaptable and therefore (2) a JKD practitioner must train to react the different lines from which attacks come, you don’t have to train for each minutia of every instantiation of combative encounter. This is adaptability at it’s highest level. This is how you get to the point to where you “have no thought of opponent in front of you.”

So systematically, this is what JKD is according to its founder, Sijo Bruce Lee:

  • The scope is that of totality
  • The principles are distance, timing, and rhythm
  • The tactics are the five ways of attack
  • The (orthodox) system(s) of training Jeet Kune Do consists in Wing Chun, chi sao, and the five ways of attack
  • The strategy is irregular/broken rhythm/interception
  • The form is adaptable

These are the “without which not” of Jeet Kune Do. If these are not the principles and method of your training methods, you are not practicing Jeet Kune Do. Period.

I would like to thank one of the Dudes of Kung Fu, BIG Sean Madigan, for the inspiration for writing this particular article. His website is http://www.seanmadigan.com/ and he can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BIGJKD. Info on the Dudes of Kung Fu podcast may be found at https://www.facebook.com/dudesofkungfu

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On the Primacy of Ideas over Techniques

As a preliminary point, I want to say that I use the term “ideas” rather than concepts or principles because there are some martial systems that define these two terms very specifically and I presently endeavor to include concepts, principles and other abstractions. 

The principal argument for the primacy of ideas over techniques is that in practice, when we change a technique, it is due to some principle or abstraction. Follow me on a thought experiment: 

  1. A and B are training some technique (T) under some traditionally appropriate circumstance (T-AC) and criterion C. 
  2. A or B hypothesize that T is inconsistently reliable under T-AC and C. 
  3. A and B and others test T under T-AC and C repeatedly.
  4. A or B conclude on the correctness of (2) based on the catalogued outcomes of (3).
  5. If (2) is found true, A, B or some other agent postulates a revision to T, T-AC or C.

(4) is the point at which a generalization of the findings is formulated. This formulation is an idea rather than a technique and this formulated idea informs and in some senses determines modification, replacement or omission of a martial technique. 

What do you think? Do you disagree with my analysis? Do you think there is more to add?