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Jeet Kune Do is Bruce Lee’s very own personal form of Martial Arts, a process of thought as well as combat. This is his unique insight into combat and self-defence.
Over many years as Bruce experienced the different martial arts and fight systems in existence, he learned to use and adapt the most effective techniques of each to react to different circumstances.
Bruce Lee’s initial interest in martial arts was grounded at the Wing Chun School of Martial Arts attending both Wing Chun and Gung Fu classes.
In 1958, he was noticed as a hot prospect by Brother Edwards at the Francis Xavier School in Hong Kong and entered for a boxing match against rival school King George V. Bruce Lee blasted his way through three preliminary rounds before coming up against the champion of the previous year, Gary Elms. Bruce Lee’s straight blasting Wing Chun punches confounded his opponent and he was declared the 1958 high school boxing champion.
In early 1960, after many years of teaching Gung Fu, Bruce Lee’s growing reputation led to an invite for him and fellow martial artist Fook Young to give a TV demonstration of Si Lum and Jeet Kune Do form for Seattle’s local TV station.
Following three more years of teaching at his own Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute (the name he now entitled his kwoons) in Oakland, Bruce Lee was beginning to rethink his Wing Chun Methods. He would still use the Wing Chun training dummy or ‘Mook – Jong’, for the remainder of his life but, he now began to incorporate other systems, such as Judo, under the tutelage of master Shuzo Katio.
In 1964, James Yimm Lee introduced Bruce to Karate ‘Luminary’ Ed Parker, who taught celebrities of the calibre of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Parker has been described in the U.S. as the Grand Father of modern day Kempo Karate.
On may 2nd, Bruce Lee gave a demonstration for Parker’s friend, Wally Jay, at his Judo Jujitsu Club for their annual Luau in Alameda, California.
The Kwoon in Oakland proved an initial success but raised eyebrows in the nearby neighbouring community of San Francisco, who dispatched a delegation to the Broadway school in January 1965. They demanded that Bruce Lee Jun Fan cease teaching Chinese Gung Fu to non-Chinese or suffer the consequences. A clear threat!
Bruce Lee was challenged to fight the spokesman of the organisation there and then. He won the duel within a few minutes, but with his extensive martial arts experience, even this was longer than Bruce had intended.
This led Bruce to re-evaluate his entire approach to martial arts, he began watching western boxing matches on film and incorporating the footwork into his training. He would run six miles daily to increase his stamina and he emphasised free sparring in his Gung Fu schools.
These thought processes and gradual adaptations eventually led Bruce to develop his own unique expression of martial arts. The explosive art of Jeet Kune Do – The way of the intercepting fist.
He explained: “Jeet Kune Do is the direct expression of ones feelings with the minimum of movement and energy….” His favourite analogy in explanation of this philosophy was “in building a statue, a sculptor does not add clay to his subject, rather he chisels away the surplus material until the ‘truth’ is revealed, without obstructions. Thus Jeet Kune Do is not a daily increase, it is a daily decrease”.
Bruce Lee coined the name of Jeet Kune Do from the fencing term ‘stop hit’; Bruce’s elder brother was a competitive fencer in 1948. In stop hit there is no parry and counter, it is one movement only. Precisely his concept of Jeet Kune Do.
In practice Jeet Kune Do means opening the mind and being more aware in the martial art. In doing this it is possible to extend knowledge and improve physical, mental and spiritual flexibility. Asking questions concerning each new experience and trying anything that can open up new experiences and new awareness in training and life are all ways that will stimulate change, growth and improvement. This is a very personal development. As Bruce Lee said “Your truth is not my truth and my truth is not your truth”.
Success is overcoming the obstacles that lie in our path, but it is the struggle itself that is important. The personal effort will yield its own rewards. Jeet Kune Do is the difference between knowledge and experience.