Although Bruce died many years ago, all martial artists still know his name and the basic story of his life. Bruce studied Wing Chun as a teen ager in Hong Kong. Although he probably learned only about half the system, he trained very hard, had a lot of natural ability, and was able to beat other students who been training a long time and had completed much more of the system.

Bruce came to the US at age 18. Although he had only trained in Wing Chun in Hong Kong for about 3 years with Yip Man and Wong Shun Leung, after a while he started teaching martial arts. Originally he taught Wing Chun with some kicks added that he had learned from other styles. He called this “Jun Fan”. Eventually he created his own system, which he named Jeet kune do, literally translated as “the way of the intercepting fist”.

He created his new style from elements of Wing Chun, western boxing, and fencing, which he learned from his brother, who was a champion fencer.

Jeet Kune Do is based on the philosophy of simplicity, directness, and effectiveness

Actually Wing Chun, boxing, and fencing all have many of the same principles. Wing Chun, for example, favors straight line punches because the straight line is the shortest distance to any target. Boxing, although there are many variations at an advanced level, is essentially a very simple art, with only 4 techniques, the jab, cross, hook, and uppercut. Fencing uses very fast and direct straight line footwork and straight line attacks.

Jeet Kune Do practitioners believe in using the most efficient means of attack

While Muay Thai kicks to the thighs or calves can cause a lot of pain and wear the opponent down, Bruce thought that a kick to the groin, knee, or head were much more effective because they typically put the opponent down with one strike. He also felt that the finger jab to the eyes was the most efficient technique of all, as it was extremely fast, had the longest range of any hand technique, and if it landed would always put the opponent down.

Jeet Kune Do practitioners strive to be like water, adaptable and ever-changing

Bruce was a philosophy major in college, and also studied various philosophies, including Taoist philosophy and the philosophy of Krishnamurti, a world famous philosopher who became very popular in the US the 1960’s. Bruce incorporated many of Krishnamurti’s ideas into his theory of Jeet Kune Do.

Jeet Kune Do training emphasizes the use of all of one’s natural body weapons


Jeet Kune do uses practically every part of the body as weapons. In addition to punches, kicks, knee, and elbow strikes, jeet kune do also incorporates forearm strikes, head butts, and even biting.

Jeet Kune Do practitioners believe in being proactive and attacking their opponents before they have a chance to attack.

While Wing Chun emphasizes simultaneous defense and attack, Bruce went a step further and he believed it was more efficient to strike the opponent at the exact moment before the opponent is about to launch his attack. Bruce trained to be very aware of any telegraph type clues to show him this exact moment. He also trained himself to be able to attack extremely quickly from outside of the opponent’s range. His footwork and strikes eventually became so fast that he could almost always close the gap and successfully land his initial punch before the opponent had time to react.

Based upon his study of fencing, Bruce believed that it was much faster and thus much more effective to primarily punch and kick using the lead leg and foot, so he taught putting one’s power hand in the front, instead of in the back.

Jeet Kune Do training often includes the study of other martial arts

Although the core of Jeet Kune do was the three arts of Wing Chun, boxing, and fencing, Bruce also studied many other arts, including Savate and Praying Mantis Kung Fu. He also trained with the very top Karate fighters of his day, including Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis, Mike Stone, and others, and exchanged techniques with them. Towards the end of his life he became very interested in the grappling arts of Judo and wrestling.

Jeet Kune Do practitioners often use non-traditional training methods

During Bruce’s lifetime, very few eastern martial arts used either weight training or running as part of their training regimes. Bruce however started running to improve his own cardio, and trained extensively with weights. He also was the first instructor to use full contact sparring with protective body armor, which he thought was more realistic than no contact or light contact methods.

Many JKD instructors believe that the art should be always evolving

When Bruce died he had named no successor. Dan Inosanto eventually emerged as the most prominent figure in Jeet Kune Do, with the greatest number of schools and students. When Dan first met Bruce, Dan was already a long time Escrima expert. He incorporated the Philippino martial arts that he had learned into his own version of Jeet Kune Do.

Eventually the Jeet Kune Do schools divided into two main camps. “Original” Jeet Kune Do schools taught only techniques that Bruce used during his life. They believed that if additonal arts or techniques were incorporated, eventually JKD would devolve into a ‘hodge podge” of arts and would have very little to do with what Bruce taught.

“Jeet Kune Do Concepts” teachers believed that because Bruce himself continually evolved his art, and had written many times that he did not wish JKD to become a static or “dead” art, it made no sense for JKD schools to do limit themselves after Bruce’s death. The rift between these two camps finally reached a head in an ultimately successful lawsuit by Linda Lee, Bruce’s widow, about the use of the name “Jeet Kune Do”. Despite this lawsuit, there are still many schools that use the JKD Concepts approach.

Jeet Kune Do never became as popular as Judo, Karate, or Tae Kwan Do. This is largely due to the fact that, while the style was very advanced, the quality of instructors was quite variable after Bruce’s death. Many people found that it was easy to open a school just by using Bruce’s name, and there was no central governing body. Some of Bruce’s original students would issue instructor certificates to others based upon completion of a single weekend seminar.

While Jeet Kune Do included Wing Chun, Western Boxing, and elements of Fencing, most practitioners and even instructors, do not seem to be particularly skilled in any of the three arts. There are a few exceptions, who look very good, such as Yori Nakamura, Octavio Quintero, and Tommy Carruthers, shown in the videos above.

Tommy claims that he learned Jeet Kune Do on his own, just by watching and analyzing in great detail all available films of Bruce Lee. While this may seem impossible, it i no more impossible than the  fact that the great musician, Jerry Lee Lewis, famous for his amazing piano playing, also taguth himself how to play completely on his own.  When Tommy first started posting films, many viewere believed that the camera was sped up because his techniques were so incredibly fast. Other , more asstute viewers, pointed out that while Tommy’s hands and feet were moving so fast that it was hard to see them, other people in the background were moving at normal speed. 

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