The Politics of JKD Training
By Carlos Arena Marina
If you are interested in training in Jeet Kune Do and wish to belong to any organization, be careful with fraud and internal politics!
It is not to say that an instructor who is out of the so-called “JKD Nucleus” or not from a direct Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do group is not legitimate. It only means that it could carry over into his background search and training methods to prove legitimacy. There are several good instructors who are not formally certified and do not even care to be certified. This is mainly due to some of the politics and confusion all intimately associated with the art of Bruce Lee these days. After all, some may consider a certificate as just a piece of paper that can easily be destroyed at any time. Knowledge and skill in Jeet Kune Do can stay with you a lifetime! Nobody can take that away from you.
Although it has been said time and again that no two practitioners of Jeet Kune Do are exactly alike, it is often debated that if an instructor wishes to learn and teach in the original art form, the instructor may want to precisely follow the exact path of teachings as set forth by Bruce Lee himself up to his death? Is that better than a practitioner who chooses to teach the more progressive “Concepts” approach? Perhaps, not. Some of Lee’s original students argue that had Lee lived longer he would have chosen to imply new and different paths, continually evolving his JKD, instead of only encompassing what was taught up to his demise.
This debate is an ongoing subject argued between certain members of the Bruce Lee Foundation and some of the surviving original students of Lee’s.
Much of the politics and confusion related to JKD really refers to the ongoing debate on who is and who is not authorized to teach it and the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
Here are three key points of Jeet Kune Do training: 1) Simplicity. 2) Be direct. 3) Non-Traditional.
“Simplicity” means you do what is necessary to achieve the task at hand in the most efficient means possible without any wasted movement or action. Depending on who is teaching it, the simplicity is not always easy to learn and is often very difficult to implement.
Being direct means that the attack should take the shortest route without any preparatory or telegraphed movement. As Bruce Lee would say "Use the longest weapon with the nearest target."
“Non-traditional” means that the technique is developed in a practical way, not traditional or rigid, with an emphasis on hitting the target with greater speed, fluidity and power. In other words: hurt your opponent! Do not worry about whether the technique is "beautiful" or not. Jeet Kune Do has to do with effective self-defense, not to win sporting competitions forms.
This does not mean, however, that anything is Jeet Kune Do. There is a certain amount of specifics. There are specific movements, hitting, kicking, defensive techniques, energy / sensitivity training methods, strategies of attack and more.
In Jeet Kune Do, there are many things seen and not seen that are effective. Below is a list of things that you may not see...
1. Uniforms, belts or classical insignia.
2. Barefoot Instructors and students. (Jeet Kune Do looks at everything from a practical standpoint; training barefoot is not very practical).
3. Stances or rigid forms with one or two hands to the hip (Jeet Kune Do often uses a Bai Jong stance, or the guard, a position that is highly mobile and effective for both attack and defense.)
4. Hitting from a position where his hand is carried back a beat before striking outwardly. (Jeet Kune Do prepares the student for hitting from wherever the tool is, without telegraphed intent.)
5. Adjournment of the knee before launching a kick. Kicking in Jeet Kune Do uses the most direct route to a goal, Jeet Kune Do prefers staging the coup, often using interrupting “Stop-Kicks,”, if necessary (JKD uses evolved footwork and appropriate Bio-mechanical waist and hip action to achieve power.)
6. Rigid movements (Kata, Poomse, Kuens or Hyungs) are rarely practiced forms in Jeet Kune Do. (JKD attempts to flow without excess or wasted effort.)
7. Exclusive use of a horizontal fist to strike. Punching in Jeet Kune Do often uses the vertical fist (Chun Chuie) for potentially greater efficiency and protection of the center line when striking.
9. Wide-footed “Horse” or “Long-Stances”, lowering ones gravity often makes it easier to be swept into a Takedown. (Jeet Kune Do footwork is always light, fast and flowing.)
10. Sparring without much real contact. (Jeet Kune Do prefers full contact to prepare students for the reality on the streets.)
11. Practicing techniques pounding only air. (Jeet Kune Do training use focus gloves, kicking shields, PAOS of Thai Boxing, hanging Wing Chun sand bags and wooden “Mook Jong” dummies, heavy bags, and other appliances, learning to hit with speed, power and precision so that the student becomes a prime weapon.)
There are many more things that should be added to the list, but for now you should already have a basic idea of the things you should not see in a Jeet Kune Do class. There may be exceptions with some things from this list, usually depending on whether or not the practitioner is trained in original Jun Fan Gung Fu or progressive Jeet Kune Do “concepts”. Also, if the individual has trained under a legitimately certified instructor who has proceeded to gain direct knowledge of a particular JKD period? (Seattle, Oakland or Los Angeles’ Chinatown.)
Now let’s talk about things that should be seen in a Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do class...
The atmosphere should be more relaxed than in a traditional martial arts class. Students will be dressed in comfortable clothes (Sweat pants & T-Shirts) that allow them to move well while training. Students should be free to talk to people during training to discuss the measure their progress. All practice should serve for a defined purpose. In a good Jeet Kune Do class, nothing is wasted, everything becomes useful.
One of the first things to consider is the position of struggle, or pursuing weapons of superior position, while considering that no position is perfect for all situations. There are, however, positions which may be more favorable to the individual fighter. According to Bruce Lee, he favored the stronger side forward. This puts your most powerful weapons closer to your goal where they can best be used. A good position to fight from should be highly mobile and multifunctional, offering good defensive skills both as offensive and defensive Many feel that the “Bai Jong” stance has all these qualities.
Mobility, perhaps more than anything else, is much more pronounced in any Jeet Kune Do training program, with an emphasis on becoming “light-footed”, fast and economical. Having good footwork to close the gap, without being beaten to the punch or kick, to attack with maximum speed and power against a powerful attack from an opponent is vital! A good fighter uses linear patterns of displacement, lateral, angular and circulars movements. These skills are necessary for the purchase at which you want to be. The increased emphasis on footwork in Jeet Kune Do can create more explosive intensity!
Many Jeet Kune Do practitioners have the habit of referring to "four" ranges of combat (Kicking, Punching, Trapping & Grappling.) Actually these are not levels, but technical categories.
To maximize the use of tools (weapons), emphasis is placed on three ranges of fighting in Jeet Kune Do. They are the referred to as the long, medium and short ranges. In Jeet Kune Do, you should see elements of training in all three of these levels. Once the fighter understands the available tools applied at every level and is able to flow freely between them, they are able to develop a good offensive.
Part of the “long” range is what is known as the extent of fighting. This is the optimal distance you want to stay when you are not attacking. When just a step away from reaching an opponent with your longest weapon (Usually a kick), It's called being on the verge of your fighting measure. This gives you more reaction time to attack the opponent and to get into a desirable position to defend, allowing you to close the gap quickly at will. Examples of this would be the Side-kick with the lead leg to the knee, or even a finger-jab (Biu Sao) with your hand attacking the opponent's eyes. This concept is basically serves as long-level "insurance" where you can test the reactions of the opponent without running into too much danger of being beaten. This can also be done using feinted attacks to mislead your entry.
The “medium” range tends to work best using combinations of attack. Feinting, Pak Sao (Slapping), punching, and “catch-as-can” movements can be applied from this level. In other words, this is the level where incoming attacks are set up to be trapped. If Trapping-Range skills are refined for interception, this is where an opponent can be hurt badly!
The “short” or “Inside-Fighting” range is where you should be able to hit the opponent with severe Boxing punches, hooks, uppercuts, gouges, knees and elbows. It is also where the Grappling-Range begins. Gripping, suffocating chokes, eye-gouges and neck cranks can be applied there. This is really a fatal level, due to the nature of the disabling tools that can be used at this range. If necessary, you could go down to ground with the opponent at this level, but it is sometimes preferable to keep on standing, depending on the scenario of the environment.
Although the attack is the main objective of JKD fighter, a sound defensive ability is also of great need. A good defense has clearly defined characteristics: It will be fast, direct yet elusive, economical and effective. There should be little or no wasted energy or movement. The practitioner of Jeet Kune Do prefers a redirection of incoming force whenever possible, but is not restricted to this. This allows the continued flow of energy in attack and defense. The preferred method of defense in Jeet Kune Do is the attack! The Jeet Kune Do fighter is always thinking about hitting, hitting, and more hitting!
Simultaneous attack and defense (Block & strike) is often the preferred method. This is much better than step by step; block first and then hit, which is the classical approximation by many martial artists today. The term: Lin Sil Die, refers to “stop giving into the opponent's attack” while developing your own attack to an open line. The specific movements, known as the “exercises of the four corners”, helps the practitioner to refine this own skills. Another definition is what is known as elusive leveraging. As the opponent attacks, a JKD fighter launches a fast and powerful Counter-attack on the same line, shifting his attack with leverage thus allowing your attack to successfully reach its target, defusing the opponents’ attempt. Perfect timing is essential to achieve this!
Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do uses the nomenclature called: "The Way of the Intercepting Fist”.
To simplify, the JKD fighter intercepts the movement of the opponent with a powerful attack. In this case, your attack is your defense. The goal is used to immediately stop an opponents’ attack, psychologically and physically disrupting his intention. Here, interception refers to staging a coup.
The more important fact in the training of a Jeet Kune Do fighter is the training of directing energy along with sensitivity. Each offensive and defensive movement will have a certain kind of energy and a preferable angle to his flow of energy. To better understand the energy and flow of movement and how to use it for their benefit, the practitioner of Jeet Kune Do has a series of (energy & sensitivity) exercises. They are called “Sensitivity Drills” because of the fighter's ability to feel the different types of energy while in contact with the opponent. These sensitivity exercises are sometimes called "Sticky Hands". A high level of sensitivity and directional movement is necessary to effectively trap hands against a good Boxer.
In Jeet Kune Do; Chi Sao (Sticky-Hands) enables the fighter to better develop what is known as "energy in flux”. This energy flux can be compared to the flow of water. Water finds the smallest crack and enters into it, taking its shape. This may allow the smallest opening to bypass the opponent's defenses and penetrate with an attack,. Seong Chi Sao, or double arm “Sticky-Hands”, develops the sensitivity of the fighter in a circular motion. Don Chi Sao develops the sensitivity of the fighter in moving in a straight line. Chi Gerkan develops “Sticky-Legs”, often utilizing the feeling in his legs to execute sweeps and trips. Other such exercises used in Jeet Kune Do training are called “crossing” energy, harmonious exercises , and several specific conditioning exercises. Practitioners at higher levels in Jeet Kune Do can catch, trap and hit with blinding speed and incredible precision. Sometimes, exercises are even done blindfolded to further this highly specialized sensitivity.
Reflex exercises are a benchmark developed in Jeet Kune Do. This is a highly refined neuromuscular skill allows the fighter to respond immediately to correct movements based on the energy emanating from the opponent. You can learn the mechanics of Trapping, but without sufficient sensitivity training, it lacks the proper ability to react to the opponent's energy. Without this training, you may face the old adage: "In the wrong place at the wrong time".
Another important part of strategic training in Jeet Kune Do is Bruce Lee’s “Five Roads of Attack”. In the course of its development, Lee realized that there is essentially only five likely ways you can consistently attack an opponent. Many direct JKD students such as, Joe Lewis and Chuck Norris, have applied these five ways of attack within their performances in the ring. Refer to the book “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” by Bruce Lee for more on this subject!
Intense physical training is required to perform at an optimal level in Jeet Kune Do.
Bruce Lee emphasized the need for complete physical preparation. This would include cardiovascular training, flexibility and strength training. The cardiovascular conditioning can be conducted through aerobics, swimming, athletics, cycling, jump rope, stair-climbing, and cardio-training drills. Flexibility can be achieved by introducing a consistent stretching routine. Strength training can be achieved through the use of isometric, weight machines, and free weights. Every practitioner of Jeet Kune Do should also experience a lot of good hard sparring with protective gear. This brings together all the benefits of physical training to fully condition the body and increase confidence, mobility, timing, strength and reflexes. This training tunes ones attributes and tools to become a better fighter.
This extensive review of Jeet Kune Do training and some of it’s politics is aimed to educate and assist the individual martial artist in relation to what they may look for when seeking a decent instructor of JKD.