HISTORY & BACKGROUND
Concerning the name "Jeet Kune Do"
Definition of Jeet Kune Do: “Jeet” literally means to “intercept” or “stop” -- "Kune" means “fist” -- "Do" means “way." Hence Jet Kune Do is translated as “The Way of the Intercepting Fist" or The Way of the Stopping Fist."
Note -- “Jeet Kune Do” is Cantonese -- in Mandarin it is "Jeet Quan Dao."
Although Bruce Lee was reluctant to put a name on his personal martial expression, he nevertheless christened the art "Jeet Kune Do" in 1967. This was because he understood that he had to call it something when speaking or writing about it. But he also knew that names could become potentially restrictive agents, limiting the scope of a person’s thoughts to only those areas that fall within the general definition of the words used to describe it, and crystallizing the art's essence. Recognizing that words can often be poor symbols for what they represent, in his notes concerning the name Jeet Kune Do he wrote, “The title is not important. It’s only a symbol for the kind of martial art we study. The emphasis should not be put on its title.”
Note -- From the time the name "Jeet Kune Do" came into existence, Bruce Lee specifically used that term whenever discussing or writing about his martial art.
Concerning the name “Jun Fan Gung Fu”
Bruce Lee's Chinese name was "Lee Jun Fan." Jun Fan Gung Fu literally means “The Gung Fu of Lee Jun Fan."
Jun Fan Gung Fu (also Jun Fan Martial Arts) was the name Bruce Lee assigned to the art he was teaching after he arrived in Seattle, Washington, and that he taught at the schools he opened in Seattle and Oakland. (Note -- While Jeet Kune Do may have existed in principle and even in training methods at an earlier date, the name "Jeet Kune Do" was not brought into direct usage by Bruce Lee until July, 1967).
Lee knew that he couldn’t teach under the name Wing Chun out of respect for his teacher Ip Man, and the style itself. Furthermore, he had incorporated some of the more refined kicks of some of the Northern Chinese styles, as well as incorporating hand movements such as the “chop chuie, gua chuie” (low hit to backfist) from Choy Lee Fut.
According to those who were his students at the time such as Jesse Glover and Taky Kimura, Lee taught them a modified version of Wing Chun, and was familiar with many other gung fu styles such as Praying Mantis, Choy Lee Fut, Hung Gar, etc.
The "Jun Fan Gung Fu Institutes"
While Bruce Lee initially taught in various locations, he established three primary schools in Seattle, Washington -- Oakland, California -- and Los Angeles, California respectively. All three schools were non-commercial" to the extent there were no signs anywhere outside to identify them.
Who were Bruce Lee's assistant instructors?
Although other notable martial artists such as Jesse Glover and James DeMile training with Bruce Lee, according to Bruce Lee himself, he had three assistant instructors. Here is his written note on the matter --
"So far I have only three assistants teaching for me when I find I cannot personally be there – Taky Kimura, a friend and quality assistant (and most capable pupil/teacher)for over ten years , teaches occasionally in Seattle. James Lee, an ex-gung fu instructor, closed his school and has a club in Oakland, and Dan Inosanto teaches as his hobby here in his home in Southern California. Both Taky and James are more steeped in the (Wing Chun) Chinese system because they met me at the earlier stage of my development. and, consequently, whenever I see the two of them, I try to liberate the more from one way to walk the pathless path. Dan, a dedicated professional, met me during the midst of my evolution, though he has less training than Taky or James.”
Jun Fan Gung Fu and Jeet Kune Do Officially Recognized
On March 27, 1981, Jun Fan Gung Fu (Jeet Kune Do) was inducted into the official Academy of Chinese Boxing, a division of Taiwan’s Republic of China, Ministry of education (Kuoshu Federation of the Republic of China), making it a legitimate and recognized martial art. (It is a recognized “art” like Tai Chi Chuan, not a particular “style” such as “Wing Chun” gung fu or "Shotokan" karate).
Concerning the name “Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do”
In order to distinguish the efforts of the Bruce Lee Educational Foundation (see notes below) from the many diverse uses of the name “Jeet Kune Do,” and to alleviate confusion among the public and the media, a resolution was adopted concerning the name of Bruce Lee’s art and philosophy. By unanimous agreement from the members of the Nucleus, “Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do” was chosen as the official name to represent Bruce’s art. Jun Fan is the name identified with Bruce’s developments in the martial arts from 1959 to 1967. Jeet Kune Do was the name Bruce Lee gave to his art in 1967. There is no slash or hyphen between Jun Fan and Jeet Kune Do because the development of Lee’s art was a continuous and indivisible process.
Formation of "The Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Nucleus"
On January 10-11, 1996, a select group of 19 individuals (the majority of whom trained directly with Bruce Lee, as well as several high-level second-generation students of Dan Inosanto, and Ted Wong) gathered for a two-day summit to discuss the preservation and perpetuation of Bruce Lee’s art and science known as Jeet Kune Do.
It was decided that the organization would be set up as a non-profit organization established for the purpose of preserving and perpetuating all facets of Lee’s art. Furthermore, it was decided by the individuals in attendance that the official name of the group would be the “Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Nucelus.” The word “Nucleus” was chosen to describe this “core” group, because it is a term Lee often used in describing the “totality” of combat or the “circle with no circumference.”
The people in attendance at the inaugural meeting were:
Linda Lee Cadwell Shannon Lee
Taky Kimura Dan Inosanto
Allen Joe George Lee
Greglon Lee Ted Wong
Daniel Lee Richard Bustillo
Larry Hartsell Herb Jackson
Bob Bremer Pete Jacobs
Tim Tackett Chris Kent
Andy Kimura Tommy Gong
John Little Jerry Poteet (invited but did not attend)
Official Logo of the Bruce Lee Educational Foundation and the Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Nucleus
Ranking Systems in Jun Fan Gung Fu and Jeet Kune Do
Bruce Lee did establish a formalized ranking system that he used in Jun Fan Gung Fu, and also used it when he first created Jeet Kune Do.
Originally Lee did establish what he referred to as a ranking system of “no ranking” for JeetKune Do. The first rank was an empty circle which signified original freedom (according to Dan Inosanto it was also known as “unranked without sophistication”). This was followed by his school’s emblem in 6 different colours, finishing in red and gold. The eighth level, the highest, was again an empty circle, which symbolized the return to the original freedom (also, according to Dan Inosanto this was referred to as “unranked with sophistication”). Later Lee discarded it because he felt that belts were non-essential to martial art training.
(Side Note) -- Many people in the JKD world now use what is often referred to as “Phase Levels” to differentiate between various levels of proficiency. Here is a little history about the origins of the Phase Program. When Dan Inosanto opened the Filipino Kali Academy in 1974, his approach was to use the same kind of structure as a college or university. He explained that in the same way that a college has Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior, at the Kali Academy we would use 4 training levels, which he decided to call Phases 1-4. As in university, each succeeding phase would build upon the previous in terms of knowledge, etc. If a person successfully completed all four training phases, they could then be voted into the "JKD class", which at the time was a closed-door class. At the time, there were no awards, no certificates, nothing which indicated who was a phase one student and who was a phase three student. The individual's training attitude, skill would represent that. There was no guaranteed time of how long it would take for an individual to move from one level to another. There was no formality. Dan or Richard would simply walk to a student and inform them something like, "Starting tomorrow you're in phase four" and shake their hand. And that was it. As time went by, different instructors developed their own phase systems. Some stayed with four levels, others expanded, some to ten or more levels.
What is the “root” of JKD?
Many people consider that the “root” of JKD is Wing Chun gung fu. This is primarily because it was the first martial art that Lee studied in depth. However, as Lee evolved Jeet Kune Do, he discarded many “core” essentials of Wing Chun methodology, as well as developed his own principles, unique technical elements, training methods and philosophy that formed a massive breach between Wing Chun and JKD. It would be more accurate to say that Wing Chun served as the nucleus from which Lee evolved Jeet Kune Do, and that the real "root" of JKD was Bruce Lee himself.