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The Martial Art That Ignited a Revolution

Chris Kent -- Dynamic JKD video series intro
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30 years before "mixed martial arts" came into existence... there was Jeet Kune Do, a revolutionary martial art training process innovated by Bruce Lee that advanced the principles of "totality" in martial art training, "realistic" and scientific training methods, and "complete freedom" for the individual practitioner. 

What exactly is Jeet Kune Do? The fact of the matter is that today there is no universally-accepted definition of what Jeet Kune is. The following is my personal definition of Jeet Kune Do, based upon my five decades of involvement with it:

"Jeet Kune Do is the art of expressing the human body in combative form without any limitation or confinement."

Jeet Kune Do is an art, a science, and a philosophy. Like the Yin/Yang which is the center of the JKD symbol, it's comprised of both  a physical component and a mental component.

Non-restrictive in nature, Jeet Kune Do is principle-based training process to cultivate your body as a 'martial instrument' and express  yourself with total freedom and the highest degree of efficiency and effectiveness. You are not learning a martial art “style” or “system”, but rather how to use your body to the maximum through the application of scientific disciplines such as bio-mechanics physiology, physics, etc.

Jeet Kune Do is a rational, well thought-out, dynamic process of "TOTAL" martial art training that is designed to develop every facet of the individual's combative arsenal and encompasses all elements of unarmed combat training.

However, Jeet Kune Do is also much more than simply a devastating martial art or a method of fighting:

 Jeet Kune Do  offers a dynamic, fluid set of operating principles an individual can use to actualize their full potential as a martial artist, as well as all-encompassing philosophy to help them live life to the fullest in all their capacities.

(For more detailed information concerning Jeet Kune Do see the "Commentaries on JKD" page).

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Jun Fan Gung Fu is the name identified with Bruce Lee's developments in the martial arts from 1959-1967. It is the name 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. Each of these non-commercial schools was referred to as "The Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute." (Note -- Jeet Kune Do may have existed in principle and even in training methods at an earlier date, however the name "Jeet Kune Do" was not brought into direct usage by Bruce Lee until July, 1967)

Lee knew that he could not teach under the name "Wing Chun" both out of respect for Ip Man as his Sifu and also because he was not recognized as an instructor in the style.  Furthermore, he had already begun making changes in what he was doing.  From the time Lee arrived in Seattle, he began to modify his classical Wing Chun method. He began to adjust the stances, angles and positions of his Wing Chun techniques, also adding longer-range kicking techniques from some of the northern gung fu styles, as well as several other striking techniques from different gung fu styles. 

While Jun Fan Gung Fu is considered the precursor to Jeet Kune Do, it cannot and should not be looked at as a separate art because it isn't -- it is simply an earlier stage of Bruce Lee's personal martial art evolution. Jun Fan Gung Fu and Jeet Kune Do are interrelated and connected.

(See FAQs below for the origin of the name "JUN FAN Jeet Kune Do")

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Frequently Asked Questions about JKD

Q: You call what you teach “Jeet Kune Do,” whereas other people I have seen say that what they are doing is “Jun Fan Gung Fu” and yet oftentimes they look like they are doing the same things you do. It confuses me. Can you help me with this?

A: A lot of confusion exists today with regard to the terms Jun Fan Gung Fu and Jeet Kune Do. The names do not refer to two different arts, but rather simply indicate two developmental stages of Bruce Lee’s overall martial evolution.  Jun Fan Gung Fu is the name identified with Bruce Lee’s developments in the martial arts from 1959 -1967. People who were with Bruce Lee during earlier stages of his martial evolution, such as those who trained at his Seattle school, refer to what they do as Jun Fan Gung Fu because that was the name given to his art at the time.


The name Jeet Kune Do came into existence in Los Angeles 1967, and it should be noted that from the moment Lee changed the name of what he was doing to “Jeet Kune Do,” in every magazine article, audiotape and television interview, Bruce referred to his martial art by that name, and that name only. When asked by one interviewer if he was teaching his private students such as Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Stirling Silliphant  Jeet Kune Do, his answer is “Yes.” 

Sifu Dan Inosanto has said on numerous occasions that he prefers to use the name Jun Fan Gung Fu to represent the physical/technical curriculum, and Jeet  Kune Do to represent the overarching philosophy. And those people who are instructors under him have followed suit and now use follow that line of thinking. However, it’s important (and necessary) to remember that it is Dan Inosanto who made the change in wording, not Bruce Lee, and it is a mistake to attribute this change to Lee. Other individuals, such as the late Ted Wong, always referred to what they practiced and taught simply as Jeet Kune Do.


With regard to myself, when I began my training under Dan Inosanto in his backyard in June of 1973, I was told that I was learning Jeet Kune Do at the Jun Fan Gung fu Institute. In the Institute rules and regulations which I was given, the very first rule states, “Any member, instructors and students alike, will be immediately expelled for teaching Jeet Kune Do without permission from the head of the school.” The Institute training notes we were given in our student handbook included such things as “The Jeet Kune Do ready Position” and “Beginning Jeet Kune Do Hand techniques.” There were even several “Non-classical Sets of Jeet Kune Do” listed, which dealt with various methods of shadow boxing (such as “all hand strikes” or “all kicks combined with footwork”). I also received a copy of the "12 Week Lesson Plan for JKD" which was put together by Bruce Lee.

Basically it all comes down to a matter of semantics. I choose to refer to what I practice and teach as Jeet Kune Do based upon my understanding of what it is. To me it is not merely a philosophy; it’s an art, a science, as well as a philosophy woven into one.

Q: Where did the name “Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do” come from?

A: In order to distinguish the efforts of the Bruce Lee Educational Foundation

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. In order to distinguish the body of technical and philosophical knowledge studied and taught by Bruce Lee from any other  other version of "Jeet Kune Do" that was being proliferated in the martial art world, by unanimous agreement from the members of the Board of Directors of the BLEF ( the "JFJKD Nucleus"), “JUN FAN JEET KUNE DOwas 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.

Q - Does Jeet Kune Do utilize any formal system of ranking such as colored belts or sashes?

A: No, it does not. Originally Lee did establish what he referred to as a ranking system of “no ranking” for Jun Fan Gung Fu which he also used in the early stages of Jeet Kune Do. The first rank was an empty circle which signified original freedom (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 (but at this level referred to as “unranked with sophistication”). Later, as Bruce Lee moved along his martial evolution path he discarded it because he felt that belts and other forms of ranking were non-essential to martial art training, and that they should not be the goal of why a person studies JKD (or any martial art for that matter). Lee believed that the motivation for meaningful improvement lies within the will of each individual as opposed to chasing after external accessories such as colored belts. (Supposedly, at one time this ranking system was going to be re-established by Taky Kimura and Dan Inosanto, however it never came to fruition).


There are, however, some schools around the world today that may teach aspects of JKD as part of their overall training curriculum who award their students colored belts or sashes. But the ranking  is usually in the school system or curriculum  and not the art of Jeet Kune Do, per se. 

Q - Do such things as "katas" or "forms" exist in Jeet Kune Do?


Not in Jeet Kune Do as Bruce Lee developed the art and taught it, especially during the final several years of his life. In the article he wrote for BLack Belt magazine, "Liberate Yourself From Classical Karate" Bruce wrote, "There are no prearranged sets or "kata" in the teaching of JKD, no are they necessary." And in numerous other notes commented on the non-necessity of forms. However, that being said, material was added and sets developed after his death by other individuals, and some members of the JKD community now teach a collection of various sets as part of their school curriculum. Most of these sets  center around elements from the Wing Chun Gung Fu system the Bruce utilized at various time periods in his evolution, such as the simultaneous cover and hit, and wooden dummy sets. Some JKD schools now require their students to learn and practice the forms taught in Wing Chun, such as Sil Lim Tao, as well as these various sets created after Bruce Lee's passing. It is interesting to note that no such type of sets were ever created or exist that are built upon other elements of JKD such Western boxing, kickboxing, etc. In these elements the idea of freelance "shadowboxing" is put forth and utilized.


As with colored belts or sashes, in JKD, forms or "katas" are considered 'non-essentials' which are unnecessary to true martial art training.  Furthermore, because of their understanding, a JKD student can literally create their own "freelance" forms on the spot with the material they've learned if they so desire. 

Q: Do all JKD practitioners fight out of a right lead stance?

A: No. Many people mistakenly think that JKD people only function out of a right lead. However, in Volume 7 of Lee’s notes “Commentaries on the Martial Way” he lists both (a) JKD Right lead Ready Position and (b) JKD Left lead Ready Position. The fighting stance is based on the principle of placing your strongest side forward. For example, if you're right handed, your right side will usually be stronger, faster, and more coordinated than your left side. This being the case, you would place your right arm and leg forward. The opposite would apply if you're left-handed.

Q - Why do you refer to Jeet Kune Do as "the next step beyond mixed martial arts"?


A: It's basically a matter of perspective. JKD has often been described by some  as a mixture or amalgamation of several different combative arts (Wing Chun Gung Fu, Western Boxing, Western Fencing, etc.), much like MMA is often described as being a combination of boxing, Muay Thai kickboxing, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. JKD has been referred to by many to be the "original mixed martial art" because it seeks totality in personal combat considering all ranges and aspects of fighting, something which is part of the physical makeup of MMA. However, while they may stem from a similar philosophical place, MMA is a combative "sport" with very clear-cut rules and regulations. JKD, on the other hand, is concerned with self-defense and combat without regard to any such rules or regulations. In MMA there are numerous techniques or actions which are not permitted, such as poking an opponent in the eyes or kicking them in the groin, all of which are utilized in JKD. 

I do not consider JKD to simply be a form of "mixed martial arts" because of my understanding of its true nature. I view martial art as a single unitary whole, in it's "totality," as opposed to various separated segments such as kicking, striking, grappling, etc., or 'this' art and 'that' art combined. A fundamental philosophical principle underlying JKD is not to create a melting pot of different arts such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and Western Boxing, or put a bunch of techniques from various arts together and call it "mixed martial arts," but to do away with the whole notion of styles entirely. It's about being free from styles or even combinations of styles. JKD is about cultivating your body as a martial instrument and then being able to express yourself with maximum efficiency and effectiveness, and without any restrictions or limitations. This is why I make a distinction between JKD and MMA.

Q: When I read articles or watch video material regarding  Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do, I often see or hear comments such as, “Only Bruce Lee could do that” - “None of us are Bruce Lee” - “We don’t have Bruce Lee’s speed,” etc. Why do people make these comments?

Very often the people who make such statements are simply repeating what they themselves have been told by someone else, or what someone else has written. I have heard and read these kinds of statements since shortly after Bruce Lee passed away. I’ve heard some people say that Bruce Lee was one in a million and his attributes were one in a million, or that they were unique to himself. Therefore they put forth the idea that what Bruce Lee taught or did himself either won’t work for you, or you will not be able to do it because you’re not one in a million. What they fail to take into account is that while Bruce Lee may well have made himself into such a one in a million type person, he wasn’t born that way. He wasn’t born being as fast as he was and he wasn’t born being as powerful as he was. Quite the contrary, he trained very diligently and very, very hard to develop his attributes and atta