Some people have labeled Jeet Kune Do as a ‘Chinese’ martial art. Others have called it an ‘American’ martial art. Personally I believe it is a mistake to label it as either. It is not a ‘Chinese’ art, nor is it an ‘American’ art. It is neither Eastern nor Western (although there are principles and elements from both cultures in its make-up). To me, it is an international art, or better yet, a ‘global’ art.
For example, when it comes to philosophy, from the Chinese and Asian mindset Bruce Lee absorbed philosophical principles of Taoism, such as the oneness of all things (symbolized by the Yin/Yang) as well as the philosophical precepts of Wu Hsin (non-fixated mind) and Wu Wei (non-interference with the natural course of things). He also drew from Confucianism as well as Zen Buddhism. In addition, he discovered much truth in the writings and words of the famed Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti.
From American and European philosophic tradition, Lee embraced principles of pragmatism, individualism, and, to a certain extent, empiricism in the sense of accepting as valid only things proved or established by the senses. He read and studied famed Western philosophers such as Frederick Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre, William James, and others.
In the realm of the combative arts, from the Chinese arts Lee trained not only in the Wing Chun system of gung fu, but also investigated other Northern Gung Fu systems. In addition he also looked at other Asian arts such as Judo, Ju Jitsu, and Muay Thai.On the Western side of things, Lee investigated such combative arts as Western Fencing, Western wrestling, Russian Sambo, Western Boxing, and the French art of Savate.
The information available today concerning martial arts around the world is vastly greater than that which existed in Bruce Lee’s lifetime. This is largely due to modern technology (the internet, etc.) which has dramatically increased access to knowledge on a global basis. And today, when it comes to the world of martial arts, many martial artists are crossing boundaries at will, investigating other arts and drawing various elements from them. They are taking Bruce’s comment, “I don’t care where it comes from…” attitude about learning to heart.
Jeet Kune Do is an art and philosophy that does away with “nationalities” in the same manner in which it does away with “styles” and “systems,” which is by transcending or moving beyond them.
I remember reading in a magazine interview that Andre Morgan, producer of Enter the Dragon, referred to Bruce Lee as “a man who walked in both worlds” with regard to the fact that he grew up in two different cultures; Chinese and American. However, Bruce’s wife, Linda, says she would just consider him a man of the world; that he belonged to the whole world. In the same way, I believe Jeet Kune Do to truly be a “global” art.