Finding a JKD Instructor
written by Chris Kent
As interest in Bruce Lee’s martial art continues to grow, I am contacted by more and more people who are interested in learning and practicing Jeet Kune Do. Every day I receive e-mails and phone calls from people asking questions such as – “How can I find a JKD instructor?” and “What should I look for in a JKD instructor?”
The JKD world has changed a great deal since Bruce Lee’s passing. The human scale of the art has grown considerably – with new generations of students and instructors coming on the scene, as well as various and sometimes disparate JKD groups coming into existence. Numerous books and magazine articles concerning both Bruce Lee and his art have been written, and videos and DVDs have been created detailing various aspects of JKD. Over the years, this has resulted in confusion within the general public. If a person is interested in learning Jeet Kune Do, what sort of things should they look for in an instructor? There are several facets I feel are important with regard to any JKD instructor. These are:
Passion for the Art
To me, this is the most important element. Bruce Lee was passionate about the art he developed, and I believe that anyone teaching Jeet Kune Do should likewise exhibit a passion for the art; a passion that is clearly visible when they are teaching the art and/or discussing it.
Lineage – A qualified instructor should be able to trace their lineage back to a legitimate source, be it Bruce Lee himself or a legitimate student of Bruce Lee. I believe this is important because it is one way to ensure that the instructor you are thinking of studying with has a true and legitimate foundation for their knowledge. It is an unfortunate fact that around the globe there are some individuals who are exploiting Bruce Lee’s name and the name of his art whose knowledge is based solely, if not to a large extent on merely watching Bruce Lee movies or reading books about him. It is important to understand that there is a big difference between what is commonly referred to as “cinematic JKD” and “functional JKD.”
Training Background – An instructor should be open and transparent with regard to their personal training and development in Jeet Kune Do. What type of training has the instructor had? Have they trained for a significant period of time at a legitimate training facility? (Size of the facility is not indicative of legitimacy – the location may be a professional martial art school or it may be a small group that meets in a person’s backyard or garage). In the same way, is their instructor certification based primarily on seminar training or participation or consistent, in-house training? (Note – This by no means should serve as the sole metric upon which an instructor’s legitimacy should be based). The fundamental point is that when you are looking for an instructor it is important that you put forth the time and effort to find out WHO a potential instructor studied with and HOW LONG they studied with the person(s).
Technical Knowledge and Proficiency – An instructor should possess a good understanding of physical techniques and training principles of Jeet Kune Do. They should be able to convey the techniques and principles in movement and language. This also presupposes that an instructor should possess a good level of physical fitness. (Note -- Many of the original students of JKD are older now but it does not make their knowledge or instruction any less valuable. Through the use of assistants, the material can still be imparted clearly to students).
Philosophical Knowledge and Understanding – In addition to physical curriculum, an instructor should possess a good comprehension and understanding the philosophical principles and concepts that serve as one of the foundation stones of Jeet Kune Do, and strive to impart these principles to their students. When appropriate, they should be able to relate various philosophical tenets directly to physical techniques and actions which are being taught.
Professionalism -- Whether an instructor teaches in a commercial school or in a private backyard or garage environment, they should conduct themselves in an ethical manner, and following a code of ethics that includes but is not limited to the following:
• They should maintain complete transparency with regard to their qualifications, training, etc. They should represent themselves to the public in an honest manner – at no time misrepresenting their training and competence in any way that is false or misleading.
• They should strive to maintain and/or increase their knowledge and skills pertaining to JKD. This relates to such things as technical skills, teaching and training methodology, and philosophical understanding.
• They should show respect for other JKD instructors and practitioners, even if they disagree with their methods, ideas, etc. Negative behaviors such as fostering bad feelings in their students about other practitioners and asking students to participate in negative campaigns against other instructors only serve to create division the JKD community and create a negative personal practice and attitude for the people involved.
• They should endeavor to develop in their students an appreciation of the principles of JKD – and foster a spirit of inquiry into the acquisition of knowledge and understanding.
• They should endeavor through their actions as an instructor to enhance the public’s regard for JKD.
People are different and have different reasons for coming to the art of JFJKD, as well as different goals or objectives. Therefore, it is important that a person seeking to learn Jeet Kune Do find a qualified instructor that suits their individual needs and desires. When visiting a potential training facility or interviewing a potential instructor, in addition to the material we just discussed, some things you might want to look at are:
Does the instructor have a good attitude? Do they foster a positive attitude among their students and in their classes? Is the instructor encouraging and optimistic while challenging their students to be their best? What about the students, do they exhibit a good attitude during training?
Teaching and Communication Skills
Does the instructor communicate clearly when teaching? Do the students understand the lessons and what is being asked of them in class? Do the lessons being taught seem to make sense?
What size are the classes, big, small? (as with size of a training facility, class size is not indicative of quality).Does the class size fit well with you? Does the instructor give individual attention and feedback during lessons? Does the instructor adapt the teaching to the needs and strengths of individual students?
Finding a good, qualified instructor is important for anyone sincerely interested in learning Bruce Lee’s art and philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. So take the time, do your research, and arm yourselves with as much knowledge as possible before deciding on where to train.