Jeet Kune Do can be referred to as a hybrid martial art, but is more precisely a set of principles or "research program", backed by a life philosophy. It was founded by world renowned martial artist Bruce Lee in 1967. In the beginning, Bruce Lee referred to his teachings simply as "Jun Fan Gung Fu". Later he refined his combat system into a unique gung fu 'style' of its own, Jeet Kune Do.
Definition and Etymology
Lee used the Chinese martial terms jeet and kune to translate the idea of "stop" (intercept) and "hit". Do is a Japanese suffix that stands for "martial art way" or "style".
In later years Lee regretted the term Jeet Kune Do because he found it too limiting. In his eyes 'There is no such thing as a style if you totally understand the roots of combat'.
In order to distinguish Bruce Lee's authentic art from other branches, the Bruce Lee Foundation and heirs of Bruce Lee decided in 2004 to use the name Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (振藩截拳道) to refer to the 'authentic teachings of Bruce Lee, as taught and intended by Bruce Lee in his lifetime'. Jun Fan was Lee's Chinese given name, so the full term could be translated as "Bruce Lee's Way of the Intercepting Fist" (literally "Bruce Lee's intercept/stop-hit-way"). This branch is also known as Original JKD or 'historically correct school'.
Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo, Larry Hartsell belong to the JKD Concepts branch, also known as the conceptual school or modern JKD, which defends the concept that Jeet Kune Do was never meant to be a static art but rather an ongoing evolution. As such their proponents have incorporated elements from many other martial arts into the main core (most notably, grappling and Philippine or Indonesian arts such as Kali / Escrima) based on the individual's personal preferences and physical attributes.
Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do has kept close to Lee's original teachings in the belief that these principles suffice to construct one's own personalized system, while the JKD Concepts branch holds that it is inherent to JKD to be in constant evolution, varying from person to person and place to place, including as to the principles that can be added along the way, which in a way is closer to Lee's philosophy.
Bruce Lee's own ideas about the martial arts were not static but evolved during the different phases of his personal development. Consequently, his methods are often categorized as being associated with the Seattle phase, the Oakland phase or the Los Angeles/Chinatown phase of his evolution.
Unlike more traditional martial arts, Jeet Kune Do is not a fixed set of forms and patterns, but rather a philosophy with guiding thoughts. The central principle of Jeet Kune Do is interception, i.e. attacking your opponent while he is about to attack. Lee's primary concern was to develop pragmatically useful and efficient fight training, with economy of movement, not to design a coherent style. Therefore his art is often referred to as a "style without style". The way the moves and forms were executed was not important to Bruce Lee and could differ from person to person, what was important were the underlying theoretical principles.
The symbol of the Tao (Yin Yang) within the JKD symbol shows that opposites occur in nature and must occur. These opposites are in constant interplay; meaning nothing is truly an independent entity. So instead of opposing force by force, a JKD practitioner completes his opponent's movement by 'accepting' his flow of energy as he aims it, and defeats him by 'borrowing' his own force. A JKD practitioner should be soft, yet not yielding; firm, yet not hard, as represented by the a red spot on the golden half, and a golden spot on the red half.
The arrows emphasize that here is dynamic interplay between the opposites and that they are constantly changing.
The Chinese characters say 'Using no way as way, having no limitation as limitation', which is the philosophical essence of Jeet Kune Do.
Origin and Building Blocks
The nucleus of Jeet Kune Do was Wing Chun, with other methods evolving around that core. Dan Innosanto, one of Bruce Lee's first generation students, mentions Northern Praying Mantis, Southern Praying Mantis, Choy Li Fut, Eagle Claw, Hung Gar, Muay Thai, Western boxing, freestyle wrestling, judo and jujutsu and several Northern Gung-Fu styles.
Wing chun postures and movements were modified to allow striking at any range, but the core of direct linear attack, simultaneous attack and defense, vertical punches, forward pressure and "sticking hands" training (from which Bruce Lee derived Jeet Kun Do's trapping hands) remained. Sticky hands training means in keeping constant contact with your opponent's arms and through multiple short-range movements to deflect attacks and then strike hard, straight and fast. The trapping approach of jeet kun do is similarly hard and fast but is practiced at a slightly longer range and with the idea of trapping your opponents arms in a position where they cannot strike and you can. The Jeet Kune Do should be able to change instantaneously from defense to attack, with half a movement being defense and half being attack.
From European fencing and Western boxing Bruce Lee borrowed footwork, fluidity and economy of movement as well as motion at any range.
The idea of economy of movement made Lee reject any fighting sequence that took more than one move to complete. That's how he developed the characteristic Bruce Lee stance from which any kick could be delivered by the front leg without any preparatory stance adjustment.
The five ways of attack of Jeet Kune Do cover the four ranges of combat respecting principles of economy of movement, protecting the centerline, combat realism, with an emphasis placed on low kicks, not high kicks, combined with vertical fists for punching. The flow of energy should be continuous in attack and defense. Hard blocking is considered wasted energy and should be used only in a last resort.
A staple in Lee's fighting technique is the belief that the fighter who controls the centerline will control the fight. So protecting and maintaining one's own centerline while controling and exploiting your opponent's is crucial, in order to force attackers to try and strike from the outside in.
Jeet Kune Do students train in the four ranges of combat: kicking, punching, trapping, grappling. Drawing upon Wing Chun Lee believed in learning how to fight not only from a distance, as most point styles emphasize, but also on the inside.
Characteristic of JKD are the five ways of attack: single direct attack, attack by drawing, attack by combination, hand (and leg) immobilization attack, and progressive indirect attack.
Single direct attack (SDA) and Single angular attack (SAA). A direct attack is composed of a single motion, which, contrary to the attack by drawing, moves with no effort to conceal it. The objective is to aim directly to the target by the most direct route. Although it is the simplest of the attacks, it is the hardest to complete successfully because the speed and timing, as well as the penetration of the opponent's defenses must all be perfect. A Single Direct Attack (SDA) is made into the line of engagement or into the opposite line by simply beating the opponent to the punch, or by catching him in a moment of vulnerability. When executing a single direct attack, you aim to hit the opponent before he can parry, without any attempt to disguise the direction of the attack. Here, you would most likely use your longest weapon to the closest target. Such an attack can also be thrown at an unanticipated angle, sometimes preceded by a feint. This is called a Single Angular Attack (SAA). It is done by positioning your body in relation to the opponent such as to create an opening. A correct judgment of distance is of the utmost importance. Sidestepping or some kind of lateral movement is often used in this attack.
Attack by drawing should be interpreted in two ways. First, as drawing "in" the opponent into a committed attack by baiting him into a false opening (a false exposed target), then intercepting his motion (the conceptual interpretation). Or drawing "out" (invite) the opponent's fire by faking a motion that invites a counter, then counter attacking. For example, by forcing the opponent to react to a fake round kick, which creates an opening for a front kick. In conceptual JKD faking is seen as an element of progressive indirect attack. However, when viewed as a means to create a false attack which solicits an anticipated defensive reaction from the opponent, faking can be appropriately used in attack by drawing.
Attack by combination can be viewed as rapid, multiple attacks combining any two ways of attack, and not limited to only combinations of the single direct attack, with volume of attack as a means of overcoming the opponent.
Hand (and leg) immobilization ressembles the sequence as used by a boxer, relying primarily on footwork and a logical sequence of attack and counter.
The progressive indirect attack is interpreted differently in conceptual JKD vs. Jun Fan JKD. In conceptual JKD progressive indirect attack usually incorporates the use of a fake attack. In Jun Fan JKD, however, it does not include a fake but relies exclusively on a change in speed, timing, direction or distance. In this view a fake does not qualify as a progressive indirect attack because it is a completed technique. A progressive indirect attack must originate as an incomplete technique that changes direction or speed to find completion. It is a more sophisticated method as compared to attack by drazing or single direct attack, but nevertheless a common approach for beginners, as they heve a natural broken rhythm. That same 'natural' broken rhythm when employed and perfected by an expert becomes even more difficult to defend against.