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.”
Many martial artists have sought to define 截拳道 (Jeet Kune Do, or JKD for short), the martial art which Bruce Lee (
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