The essentials of Jeet Kune Do as a concept
Many people think that they can make there own version of Jeet Kune Do without taking a Jun Fan class. This is a serious mistake. Jeet Kune Do is a process, not a product, and it begins with Jun Fan. There is a strict process that you go through while taking classes in Jun Fan that will teach you the fundamentals that lead to Jeet Kune Do. In my studies early on I was taught that Jeet Kune Do is not a system; rather it is a concept. This is no simple matter, and is not amenable to a simple explanation. To follow the path Bruce Lee cut, we must begin with the fundamental elements Bruce Lee developed. Only when these Jun Fan fundamentals are mastered, can a JKD student begin to experiment with different styles, such that, over time, he or she can create an approach that is truly his or her own. This is not simply a matter of “add styles and stir”. Rather, there are defined concepts that one follows in developing a personal “style” based on the fundamentals of Jun Fan.
This “concept” expression of JKD became taboo in the 90’s when many Bruce Lee wannabes started telling the world that every “concept” person is not really doing “authentic” Jeet Kune Do. It was said that since they are doing Filipino Kali, Thai Boxing or Pechak Silat they were practicing arts that Bruce Lee did not know. Since he did not do it, neither should we. JKD, they said, should remain just exactly as Bruce Lee practiced it and never change. Nothing could be further from the truth. My instructor always encouraged us to grow and experiment in the same manner that his instructor (Bruce Lee) told him. We were instructed that the art should continue to evolve, that it had no boundaries. The evolution of JKD should not die with Bruce; but rather it is a living art, living in the hearts and minds of JKD practitioners everywhere. It was taught to me that Bruce Lee was forever researching different martial arts and that he himself was constantly changing with the times and different influences around him. Ask anyone who knew him and they would tell you that the 18-year-old Bruce Lee they knew was not the same as the 32-year-old man they had known before he died. Commonsense would tell you that there would naturally be changes in a teen maturing into a man. So why is it so hard for everyone to come to terms with Bruce Lee’s concept of Jeet Kune Do providing the intellectual foundation for the continued growth of the art even after the man is gone? Bruce Lee founded a school of thought as much a martial style. Like anyone who founds a way of thinking, be it Sigmund Freud inventing modern psychology or Margaret Meade inventing modern Anthropology, theirs is only the first word on the subject, not the last. The subject continues to grow through those who follow their lead and apply their concepts. For us life goes on, just as Bruce Lee wanted it to.
Bruce said that the only thing you can be sure of is change. So, my instructor continued on with this philosophy and continued to grow and develop the art, bringing in new influences and new ideas. My instructor started to research other methods just as his instructor (Bruce Lee) had done. Bruce Lee talked about the martial artist as being the sculptor. But in order to begin sculpting one needs a mass to start chiseling at. This mass would be the systems you study. It is not acceptable to look at one system and say that I like their roundkick and to look at another system and say I like that punch, so now I have just created my own system of Jeet Kune Do. This arbitrary association of preferences ignores the key concepts of JKD. What Bruce wanted was for the student to go through a system thoroughly, and only after he or she understood the system fully, its advantages and disadvantages can he or she really start to chip away at it. Only someone who has mastered one or more systems can begin to add and remove what does not work specifically work for that person. Student must know that no two truths are the same. Everyone is unique; this is concept one and, for some reason, very hard for many to understand. This is why my instructor teaches Jun Fan and Jeet Kune Do Concepts. Jun Fan does not change; it is the foundation and will remain forever the gift Bruce Lee left us. On the other end Jeet Kune Do is not a system and it is not bound by the same rules as Jun Fan; so it is forever changing. Jeet Kune Do, because it is just a way of thinking, is an approach, an attitude taken by the individual based on Jun Fan principles. For this reason every Jeet Kune Do instructor will look different and perform differently. Since they are being true to themselves, and individualizing the art to truly create a system that will serve them, no two will look the same. But if the artist starts with a solid foundation in Jun Fan, and follows the concepts as they develop what works for them, that practitioner will know Jeet Kune Do as Bruce Lee really meant it to be known.