What’s Jeet Kune Do?

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Jeet Kune Do is a martial arts concept created by Bruce Lee, emphasizing simplicity, immediacy, and freedom. It combines elements of various martial arts forms and emphasizes individuality in movement. The style focuses on intercepting attacks and driving them back at the attacker. Lee’s philosophy prizes the versatility of the individual combatant and has many followers in the 21st century.

Jeet Kune Do, or the art of the intercepting punch, is a martial arts style or concept originally conceived by famed actor and fighter Bruce Lee. It is based on a philosophy of simplicity, immediacy and freedom, and is often said to have no particular style. Lee’s creation relies on strong offensive action to be successful and is considered by many to be a predecessor of mixed martial arts forms.

Bruce Lee, best known for his spectacular fighting skills in many martial arts films, has trained in a variety of combat disciplines throughout his life. In addition to his early training in Wing Chun combat, he was also a skilled fencer and boxer. Lee began developing his own martial arts style in the 1960s that combined elements of many martial arts forms and his own training in other sports. The result of his background became Jeet Kune Do, which emphasizes doing the most effective thing in any situation, regardless of form or tradition.

Jeet Kune Do was initially viewed with considerable contempt by the masters of traditional martial arts forms. When Lee began training others in his own forms, he emphasized individuality in movement, practicing through matches rather than memorizing solo forms, and most importantly, simplicity of movement. In essence, the point of the form is to win a fight, not to prove you’re a well-trained fighter.

The name refers to Lee’s practice of intercepting attacks and driving them back at the attacker rather than dodging or simply blocking. Common moves in Jeet Kune Do include low kicks, moves that combine a punch with a blocking strike, and trapping your opponent’s limbs with yours to maintain control. Students are trained in four areas of movement: punching, trapping, grappling and kicking. The style contains many fencing and boxing techniques, often incorporated with martial arts moves.

Lee remained adamant that Jeet Kune Do was not a martial arts style, but rather a freedom from style. While he trained fighters in specific fighting techniques, he emphasized using what works versus what you’ve been trained to do. In many ways, the practice is close to the theory of fight choreography in film, where style and legitimacy of movement are less important than success. Training constantly insisted that there was no single correct way to fight, and if a move worked, then it was worth including.

After Lee’s death, Jeet Kune Do training was continued by high-level students and friends. Considerable controversy arose, as the Lee Estate wanted to maintain control of Jeet Kune Do training, while Lee’s students wanted to continue their own programs. Today the situation remains murky, with some schools run by Lee’s students and a new attempt by the Bruce Lee Foundation to create an “official” school for the form.
As a philosophy, Lee’s form utilized the principle that training should be done without preconceptions of right, wrong, or tradition. He prizes the individuality of the combatants, suggesting that the versatility of the individual can provide the greatest surprise to opponents. While the form has some detractors chafed by its nondescript style, Jeet Kune Do has many followers in both principle and practice, and is a popular fighting style in the 21st century.

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