The Wing Chun foundation for Jeet Kune Do

I just the found the video below on you tube and I just could not resist to write this post.  Having read many books and articles about Jeet Kune Do (JKD) as well as having practiced wing chun solidly for over 5 years I was kind of giving for granted what I see in the video but it’s obvious that for some people it is not.

JKD is a concept and not a style; basic principle behind JKD is to learn various martial arts and just retain what works for the individual, discarding what doesn’t work.  This is somehow a precursor concept of MMA fighting, mixing styles to have a complete repertoire of techniques that cover all ranges of fighting including grappling and ground work.  In my opinion that is somehow fine for a person which has decent experience in one style, then moves on to the next one and so on.  Trying to learn at the same time different styles just creates confusion because a correct stance for one could be wrong for the other and you never know which one is which.

In principle different practitioners of JKD could have developed, given the hundred of martial styles available, completely different kind of JKD.  However if you join a JKD school, as long as it is authorised from one of the original students of Bruce Lee (Dan Inosanto, also portrayed in the video, comes to mind), you will learn from scratch techniques that seem to be unique of JKD but, apart from some simple adaptations of footwork and other details they replicate very precisely basic Wing Chun techniques and concepts.  Enjoy the video:

Be water, my friend

waterdropThis is the last post of 2012 and the title I chose for it is one the sentences that made Bruce Lee famous when, during an interview in the late sixties, he stated that:

“Water is inessential in terms that you cannot grasp it or hit it and damage it; it can drip or crash.  If you put water in a pot it becomes the pot if you out it in a glass it become the glass.  Be water my friend!”

This concept is well explained in many eastern philosophies: water and its versatility as well as its destructive power when floods or tsunamis occur are usually used as  examples.

The concept of being water or behaving like water is in fact well known and broadly used among many Taoists authors and scholars.  Bruce Lee made this concept famous because he was the first celebrity at that time speaking about ancient Chinese philosophy during TV interviews.

My thought for today is: when practicing martial arts, while punching, kicking and performing whatever other technique how often do we actually stop and think about this concept?  Do we ever do it?  Is this a concept we should actually think about when training or it should be used as one of the basic principles on which we base our lives in martial arts?

Happy New Year to everyone!  I hope 2013 will bring great new things to yourselves and those who are close to you.

The Way of the Dragon – Bruce Lee

Copyright to its original ownerAlthough I must have seen this movie tens of times every time I find it on TV I tend to watch at least a few scenes: last week was no different.

I have a great respect for Bruce Lee and what he managed to do during the few years of his intense career as martial artist first and then as an actor.  At the same time I have to say that I started noticing too many flaws in the plot, coreography and, actually, even in the fighting scenes of most of his movies.

As usual there are a few things that are generally contraddicting the whole story: the character played by Bruce Lee is sent to Rome where his cousins have a Chinese restaurant and they are having trouble with a local gang that, by the way, with all place in the Italian capital really need that restaurant to be the centre for an international drug traffic 🙂

Bruce is depicted as a Kung Fu champion, Chinese boxing as they define it many times: so the first question is why in one of the first fighting scenes against the gangsters he pulls out 2 nunchakus, a Japanese (Okinawan to be precise) weapon?

The whole movie has a very broken rithm (like Bruce Lee suggest to use when fighting) and it culminates in the final scene, the very famous one where Bruce Lee defeats Chuck Norris (the American Champion) in the Coliseum (see the clip below.

According to the movie “The Warrior Journey” Lee explains that this scene starts with him fighting Norris using traditional Kung Fu (I would be curious to know which style considering that Bruce Lee had a Wing Chun background with no high kicks while here most kicks are toward the face…) and is loosing.  So he changes strategy in the second part of the scene and using the basic principles of Jeet Kune Do he becomes adaptable (and kicking the legs) and manages to kill his opponent.  I mention this scene often as an example for a particular style of spinning back hook kick that Chuck Norris uses several times when I explain one of the common mistakes people can make when performing a hook kick.

I am going to conclude this by stating that for a Chinese production of 1972 this movie is great and there is no doubt that next time I will  find it on TV I’ll watch it again.  At the same time I fail to get as excited and inspired as I used to: perhaps I have seen live so many performances of good martial artist that Bruce Lee is no longer so special and unique?

I’ll let you judge what I am saying after you see the clip below:

Tao of Jeet Kune Do

I have been toying with the idea of writing books’ reviews for a long time.  Have an extensive library of martial arts and eastern philosophies books that cover a broad range of subjects.  I hope that what I am going to write about each of them will be enough to inspire some readers to read them, as well as writing some comments about what they think.

When reading a martial art book it is important to have a clear idea of what the main goal for the reading the book is: in my case I never intended to learn a martial art or a style but more to understand the main concepts and philosophy behind it.

The book 

Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Many of us consider Bruce Lee a legend that left a great legacy and inspired entire generations to start and keep training martial arts.  For me this is a precious book that I keep handy and go back to read on a regular basis.  It is obviously not a novel with a story but more a collection of notes and ideas: small paragraphs and some time single sentenced that describe a strong and deep concept and make you think for a long time.  Although the cover sheet states “Tao of Jeet Kune Do – by Bruce Lee” the book was put together by Gilbert L. Johnson and Linda Lee (Bruce Lee’s widow) based on Lee’s original notes.

Description

I see this book as a journal for Bruce Lee himself when he was thinking and refining the concepts behind JKD and how he felt this should have developed.  Tao has a strong meaning and multiple interpretations: it is written in Chinese with the same character that is used to write Do in Japanese and it has the same meaning: The Way.  This is to describe an approach that is not meant to teach a strict methodology to do this or that.

Each chapter describes a different aspect of the concepts behind JKD: Preliminaries, Qualities, Tools, Preparations, Mobility, Attack, Circle with Circumference and It’s Just a Name. In some parts of the book entire pages are full of hand written notes from Lee himself, in other cases there are drawing that are probably copied by other books at the time: I say this because the drawing style is consistent for some of the simple stylized pictures where an entire person or a limb is represented with a few lines.

JKD maintains and improves many aspects of Wing Chun that is the first martial art that Lee ever practiced when he was still in Hong Kong.  Bruce Lee probably wanted to improve what he considered the weak aspects of Wing Chun but, instead of simply adding the missing techniques, he saw an opportunity for a much greater picture, not limited by traditions, cultures, styles or country boundaries.  He wanted to define a new concept that many different people, with different backgrounds, could embrace and grow with it.

What I like of this book

Apart from the definitions of this and that technique Lee explores numerous details of the mental aspect of training: what you should think, the attitude you should have and how each of these should be prepared.  While he was against rehearsed techniques and combinations because fighting should spark naturally, from the martial artist experience and based on the opponents moves, he covers in details how each aspect of training should be practiced.  Considering that disciplines like coaching and motivation, the knowledge of sport science and sport psychology were hardly available at the time Lee was surely a great precursor of these concepts.  I also find fascinating the amount of wisdom contained in this book, considering that Lee was in his late twenties when he wrote most of the notes.

Conclusions

I would suggest reading this book to anybody that is interested in martial arts, from beginners to top ranked black belts.  Don’t expect to learn JKD by reading it but be prepared to a bit of thinking because each chapter will add some wisdom to your knowledge of martial arts.

If you are interesting in buying this book, or other interesting ones, please have a look at our book store that contain a little collection of the books I read so far.