Do is extremely difficult to explain to those outside the
JKD family. Maybe the
best way to get the message across is to let Bruce
Lee tell you himself. The following quotes were written or spoken by
Bruce Lee and are divided in the following
Jeet Kune Do is training and discipline towards the
ultimate reality in combat.
Jeet Kune-Do is the only non-classical style of Chinese Kung Fu in existence
today. It is simple in its execution, although not so simple to explain.
Jeet means 'to stop, to stem, to intercept,' while Kune means 'fist' or
'style,' and Do means 'the way' or 'the ultimate reality.' In other
words--'The Way of the Intercepting Fist.'
I have not invented a "new style," composite, modified or
otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from "this" method or
"that" method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to
styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name
used, a mirror in which to see "ourselves". . . Jeet Kune Do is not an
organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or
you don't, and that is that.
There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and
non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every
movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial
about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune-Do
is simply the direct expression of one's feelings with the minimum of
movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less
wastage of expression there is.
Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune
Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing
resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally
is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits.
He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds;
pattern and awareness is never exclusive.
Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one
across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one's
To reach the masses, some sort of big organization
(whether) domestic and foreign branch affiliation, is not necessary. To
reach the growing number of students, some sort of pre-conformed set must be
established as standards for the branch to follow. As a result all members
will be conditioned according to the prescribed system. Many will probably
end up as a prisoner of a systematized drill.
Styles tend to not only separate men - because they have their own doctrines
and then the doctrine became the gospel truth that you cannot change. But if
you do not have a style, if you just say: Well, here I am as a human being,
how can I express myself totally and completely? Now, that way you won't
create a style, because style is a crystallization. That way, it's a process
of continuing growth.
To me totality is very important in sparring. Many styles claim this
totality. They say that they can cope with all types of attacks; that their
structures cover all the possible lines and angles, and are capable of
retaliation from all angles and lines. If this is true, then how did all the
different styles come about? If they are in totality, why do some use only
the straight lines, others the round lines, some only kicks, and why do
still others who want to be different just flap and flick their hands? To me
a system that clings to one small aspect of combat is actually in bondage.
This statement expresses my feelings perfectly: 'In memory of a once fluid
man, crammed and distorted by the classical mess.'
I believe in having a few pupils at one time as it requires
a constant alert observation of each individual in order to establish a
direct relationship. A good teacher can never be fixed in a routine... each
moment requires a sensitive mind that is constantly changing and constantly
A teacher must never impose this student to fit his favourite pattern; a
good teacher functions as a pointer, exposing his student's vulnerability
(and) causing him to explore both internally and finally integrating himself
with his being. Martial art should not be passed out indiscriminately.
Learn the principle, abide by the principle, and dissolve
the principle. In short, enter a mold without being caged in it. Obey the
principle without being bound by it. LEARN, MASTER AND ACHIEVE!!!
Knowledge in martial arts actually means self-knowledge. A martial artist
has to take responsibility for himself and accept the consequences of his
own doing. The understanding of JKD is through personal feeling from
movement to movement in the mirror of the relationship and not through a
process of isolation. To be is to be related. To isolate is death. To me,
ultimately, martial arts means honestly expressing yourself. Now, it is very
difficult to do. It has always been very easy for me to put on a show and be
cocky, and be flooded with a cocky feeling and feel pretty cool and all
that. I can make all kinds of phoney things. Blinded by it. Or I can show
some really fancy movement. But to experience oneself honestly, not lying to
oneself, and to express myself honestly, now that is very hard to do.
Question: What are your
thoughts when facing an opponent?
Bruce: There is no opponent.
Question: Why is that?
Bruce: Because the word ''l'' does not exist.
A good fight should be like a small play...but played seriously. When the
opponent expands, l contract. When he contracts, l expand. And when there is
an opportunity... l do not hit...it hits all by itself (shows his fist).
Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind
is obsessed with it.
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be
assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or
through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water
into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes
the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can
flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.
The highest technique is to have no technique. My technique
is a result of your technique; my movement is a result of your movement.
A good JKD man does not oppose force or give way completely. He is pliable
as a spring; he is the complement and not the opposition to his opponent’s
strength. He has no technique; he makes his opponent's technique his
technique. He has no design; he makes opportunity his design.
One should not respond to circumstance with artificial and "wooden"
prearrangement. Your action should be like the immediacy of a shadow
adapting to its moving object. Your task is simply to complete the other
half of the oneness spontaneously.
In combat, spontaneity rules; rote performance of technique perishes.
Do not be tense, just be ready, not thinking but not
dreaming, not being set but being flexible. It is being "wholly" and quietly
alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.
The danger of training with the heavy bag is that it doesn't react to one’s
attack and sometimes there is a tendency to thoughtlessness. One will punch
the bag carelessly, and would be vulnerable in a real situation if this
became a habit.
In JKD, one does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not
daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to
Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just
like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick
no longer a kick. Now that I've understood the art, a punch is just like a
punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing
special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the
minimum. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation. Jeet
Kune-Do is basically a sophisticated fighting style stripped to its
Art is the expression of the self. The more complicated and restricted the
method, the less the opportunity for expression of one's original sense of
freedom. Though they play an important role in the early stage, the
techniques should not be too mechanical, complex or restrictive. If we cling
blindly to them, we shall eventually become bound by their limitations.
Remember, you are expressing the techniques and not doing the techniques. If
somebody attacks you, your response is not Technique No.1, Stance No. 2,
Section 4, Paragraph 5. Instead you simply move in like sound and echo,
without any deliberation. It is as though when I call you, you answer me, or
when I throw you something, you catch it. It's as simple as that - no fuss,
no mess. In other words, when someone grabs you, punch him. To me a lot of
this fancy stuff is not functional.
A martial artist who drills exclusively to a set pattern of combat is losing
his freedom. He is actually becoming a slave to a choice pattern and feels
that the pattern is the real thing. It leads to stagnation because the way
of combat is never based on personal choice and fancies, but constantly
changes from moment to moment, and the disappointed combatant will soon find
out that his 'choice routine' lacks pliability. There must be a 'being'
instead of a 'doing' in training. One must be free. Instead of complexity of
form, there should be simplicity of expression.
To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The
easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special;
the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression
In building a statue, a sculptor doesn't keep adding clay to his subject.
Actually, he keeps chiselling away at the inessentials until the truth of
its creation is revealed without obstructions. Thus, contrary to other
styles, being wise in Jeet Kune-Do doesn't mean adding more; it means to
minimize, in other words to hack away the unessential.
It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential.
Too much horsing around with unrealistic stances and
classic forms and rituals is just too artificial and mechanical, and doesn't
really prepare the student for actual combat. A guy could get clobbered
while getting into this classical mess. Classical methods like these, which
I consider a form of paralysis, only solidify and constrain what was once
fluid. Their practitioners are merely blindly rehearsing routines and stunts
that will lead nowhere.
I believe that the only way to teach anyone proper self-defence is to
approach each individual personally. Each one of us is different and each
one of us should be taught the correct form. By correct form I mean the most
useful techniques the person is inclined toward. Find his ability and then
develop these techniques. I don't think it is important whether a side kick
is performed with the heel higher than the toes, as long as the fundamental
principle is not violated. Most classical martial arts training is a mere
imitative repetition - a product - and individuality is lost.
When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It
is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms;
when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.
In primary freedom, one utilizes all ways and is bound by
none, and likewise uses any techniques or means which serves one's end.
Efficiency is anything that scores.
Efficiency in sparring and fighting is not a matter of correct classical,
traditional form. Efficiency is anything that scores. Creating fancy forms
and classical sets to replace sparring is like trying to wrap and tie a
pound of water into a manageable shape of paper sack. For something that is
static, fixed, dead, there can be a way or a definite path; but not for
anything that is moving and living. In sparring there's no exact path or
method, but instead a perceptive, pliable, choice-less awareness. It lives
from moment to moment.
When in actual combat, you're not fighting a corpse. Your opponent is a
living, moving object who is not in a fixed position, but fluid and alive.
Deal with him realistically, not as though you're fighting a robot.
Traditionally, classical form and efficiency are both equally important. I'm
not saying form is not important - economy of form that is - but to me,
efficiency is anything that scores. Don't indulge in any unnecessary,
sophisticated moves. You'll get clobbered if you do, and in a street fight
you'll have your shirt zipped off you.
I refer to my hands, feet and body as the tools of the
trade. The hands and feet must be sharpened and improved daily to be
It is true that the mental aspect of kung-fu is the desired end; however, to
achieve this end, technical skill must come first.
The techniques, though they play an important role in the early stage,
should not be too restrictive, complex or mechanical. If we cling to them,
we will become bound by their limitation. Remember, you are expressing the
technique, and not doing Technique number two, Stance three, Section four?
Practice all movements slow and fast, soft and hard; the effectiveness of
Jeet Kune-Do depends on split-second timing and reflexive action, which can
be achieved only through repetitious practice.
When performing the movements, always use your imagination. Picture your
adversary attacking, and use Jeet Kune-Do techniques in response to this
imagined attack. As these techniques become more innate, new meaning will
begin to emerge and better techniques can be formulated.
In Jeet Kune-Do, physical conditioning is a must for all
martial artists. If you are not physically fit, you have no business doing
any hard sparring. To me, the best exercise for this is running. Running is
so important that you should keep it up during your lifetime. What time of
the day you run is not important as long as you run. In the beginning you
should jog easily and then gradually increase the distance and tempo, and
finally include sprints to develop your 'wind.'
Let me give you a bit of warning: just because you get very good at
your training it should not go to your head that you are an expert.
Remember, actual sparring is the ultimate, and the training is, only a means
toward this. Besides running, one should also do exercises for the stomach -
sit-ups, leg raises, etc. Too often one of those big-belly masters will tell
you that his internal power has sunk to his stomach; he's not kidding, it is
sunk and gone! To put it bluntly, he is nothing but fat and ugly.
A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to
endure or hire a bodyguard.
Forget about winning and losing; forget about pride and pain. Let your
opponent graze your skin and you smash into his flesh; let him smash into
your flesh and you fracture his bones; let him fracture your bones and you
take his life. Do not be concerned with escaping safely - lay your life
The main characteristic JKD is the absence of the usual
classical passive blocking. Blocking is the least efficient. Jeet Kune-Do is
offensive; it's alive and it's free.
The combatant should be alive in sparring, throwing punches and kicks from
all angles, and should not be a co-operative robot. Like water, sparring
should be formless. Pour water into a cup, it becomes part of the cup. Pour
it into a bottle; it becomes part of the bottle. Try to kick or punch it, it
is resilient; clutch it and it will yield without hesitation. In fact, it
will escape as pressure is being applied to it. How true it is that
nothingness cannot be confined. The softest thing cannot be snapped.
There is nothing better than free-style sparring in the practice of any
combative art. In sparring you should wear suitable protective equipment and
go all out. Then you can truly learn the correct timing and distance for the
delivery of the kicks, punches, etc. It is a good idea to spar with all
types of individuals--tall, short, fast, clumsy. Yes, at times a clumsy
fellow will mess up a better man because his awkwardness serves as a sort of
broken rhythm. The best sparring partner, though, is a quick, strong man who
does not know anything; a madman who goes all out, scratching, grabbing,
grappling, punching, kicking, and so on.
The first rule is to keep yourself well covered at all times and never leave
yourself open while sparring around the bag. By all means use your
footwork--side stepping, feinting, varying your kicks and blows to the bag.
Do not shove or flick at it. Explode through it and remember that the power
of the kick and punch comes from the correct contact at the right spot and
at the right moment with the body in perfect position; not, as many people
think, from the vigor with which the kicks or blows are delivered.
The old-fashioned punching speed bag teaches you to hit straight and square;
if you don't hit it straight the bag will not return directly to you.
Besides learning footwork, you can hit the bag upward too. Another important
function is that after the delivery of the punch, the bag will return
instantaneously and this will teach you to be alert and to recover quickly.
The bag should not be hit in a rhythmic motion but instead in a broken
rhythm. Actually fight the bag as if it is your opponent.
To develop proper distance and penetration against a moving target, use a
partner equipped either with a body protector or an air bag. He can either
stand still and take the brunt of the kick, or he can back away from the
attack. The former teaches proper application of the kick, especially
valuable in teaching beginners. The latter training is to teach penetration.
As soon as your partner thinks you will attack, he tries to back away as
fast as possible. This practice is valuable to both men; one learns to
penetrate and the other to back away quickly. The body protector is
sometimes used for sharpening the attack. The partner will not attack but
will maintain a correct distance in a ready fighting pose. As you begin to
attack, he will try to counter, block, or move away. You will have almost
the actual feeling of hitting your opponent in a real situation.