Jeet Kune Do (JKD), meaning ‘way of the intercepting fist’, is described as a hybrid philosophy of martial arts that is heavily influenced by the personal philosophy of the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee founded the system in 1967; he referred to it as a “non-classical” martial art, with roots in Chinese Kung Fu. But unlike traditional Kung Fu, JKD lacks a true form but is instead a philosophy with guiding ideas. With its name being drawn from the Wing Chun concept of interception it is little surprise that JKD practitioners believe in using the combination of minimal effort and extreme speed for maximum effect on your opponent.
Bruce Lee’s Philosophy
When Bruce Lee set out to develop JKD he didn’t want to develop another rigid style of martial arts, with forms for students to learn and fixed movement to follow. He set out instead to “free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds.” Lee felt that many classical martial arts overload their students with movements; teaching them simple movements first, then teaching them more complex movements as they progress. Lee saw this as an inefficacy and implored his followers to “cast off what is useless” and asks them to adopt a sculptor’s mentality and carve away the “unessentials” of other martial arts until only the bare essentials for combat remain.
Jeet Kune Do’s Principles
JKD’s primary principle is its economy of motion. It is through the economy of motion that followers of JKD can achieve efficiency, directness, and simplicity. These principles are clear when watching Bruce Lee perform on the big screen. Throughout many of his on-screen fights you can see Lee’s irregular southpaw stance, which he adopts to allow himself quick straight lead punches with his dominant right hand. Lee also employs footwork that was inspired by Muhammad Ali’s boxing stance and traditional fencing. But most important of all, Lee implores his students to “be like water”.
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee