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"JKD -- Simple By Design"

JKD - Simple by Design Bruce Lee listed Simplicity, Directness and Non-classical as the three cornerstones of Jeet Kune Do. I like to think of these three cornerstones as fundamental design elements, and in this blog I want to look at the design element of “simplicity.”

Many people think design means how something look, but if you dig deeper, it’s really about how it works. Design is about solving problems or making a current product or process better – faster, more efficient, smarter, easier to use, etc.

To design something really well you have to get into it - you really have to understand and grasp what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really understand something, and I think it would be a safe bet to say that Lee was both passionate about and committed to martial art training. In design, simplicity is not just the absence of clutter. Simplicity is about defining the essence of something; reducing an element down to its most simplistic and essential basis, and getting rid of anything other than what is absolutely essential. Every element serves a purpose. Questions are asked such as “Do we need it? Is it essential?” It becomes reduce, reduce. Simplicity also relates to the principle of expressing the utmost with the minimum (like a Zen painting composed of only one or two lines). Famed aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery commented, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

With regard to JKD, simplicity also deals with such things as the absence of clutter (not “the more the merrier” but rather “the less the better”) and expressing the utmost with the minimum (In training, ask yourself, “If something I am currently doing takes three movements, can I simplify it to accomplish the same results with two moves, or even better, with a single move?”) Simplicity relates not only to techniques, but also to such things as training processes – the idea is not to see how much work your body can tolerate, but rather how you can achieve maximum results while expending the least amount of energy.

It’s important to keep in mind that simplicity isn’t something that can just be added on to a martial art - it is an essential design element. Simplicity requires work, and a willingness to take a long, hard look at things. Bruce Lee had an intense focus on usability and functionality of JKD for the individual. Out of his striving for simplicity came a very different art. JKD in essence, was a direct result of Bruce Lee striving for simplicity, directness, and non-classicalism. In closing, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

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