Ip Man and Li Tsing (Bruce Lee)

Ip Man and Bruce Lee practicing Chi Sau

Li Tsing  (Bruce Lee)  Jeet Kune Do


Bruce Lee‘s philosophys

Jeet Kune Do (JKD) is the name Bruce Lee gave to his combat system and philosophy in 1967. Originally, when Lee began researching various fighting styles, he gave his martial art his own name of Jun Fan Gung Fu. However not wanting to create another style that would share the limitations that all styles have, he instead gave us the process that created it.


Bruce Lee said:

I have not invented a ‘new style’, composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from ‘this’ method or ‘that’ method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see ‘ourselves’... Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don‘t, and that is that. There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune-Do is simply the direct expression of one‘s feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one‘s back.


- Bruce Lee


Modern Jeet Kune Do philosophy

JKD as it survives today — if one wants to view it “refined” as a product, not a process — is what was left at the time of Bruce Lee‘s death. It is the result of the life-long martial arts development process Lee went through. Bruce Lee stated that his concept is not an “adding to” of more and more things on top of each other to form a system, but rather, a winnowing out. The metaphor Lee borrowed from Chan Buddhism was of constantly filling a cup with water, and then emptying it, used for describing Lee‘s philosophy of “casting off what is useless”. He also used the sculptor‘s mentality of beginning with a lump of clay and hacking away at the “unessentials” the end result was what he considered to be the bare combat essentials, or JKD.

The core concepts of JKD are derived from Wing Chun (such as center line control, vertical punching, trapping, and forward pressure). Through his research, Lee incorporated the fluidity of European boxing and fencing stances. Lee stated that they allowed him to “flow” rather than being stuck in stances. For instance, instead of using footwork to position the body for maximum fighting position versus the opponent, Bruce Lee used flowing “entries” that do not require “bridges” from Wing Chun. Bruce Lee wanted to create a martial art that was unbounded and free. Later during the development of Jeet Kune Do, he would expand that notion and include the art for personal development, not just to become a better fighter. To illustrate Lee’s views, in a 1971 Black Belt Magazine article, Lee said “Let it be understood once and for all that I have NOT invented a new style, composite or modification. I have in no way set Jeet Kune Do within a distinct form governed by laws that distinguish it from ‘this’ style or ‘that’ method. On the contrary, I hope to free my comrades from bondage to styles, patterns and doctrines.”

One of the theories of JKD is that a fighter should do whatever is necessary to defend himself, regardless of where the techniques come from. One of Lee’s goals in Jeet Kune Do was to break down what he claimed were limiting factors in the training of the traditional styles, and seek a fighting thesis which he believed could only be found within the reality of a fight. Jeet Kune Do is currently seen as the genesis of the modern state of hybrid martial arts

Jeet Kune Do not only advocates the combination of aspects of different styles, it also can change many of those aspects that it adopts to suit the abilities of the practitioner. Additionally, JKD advocates that any practitioner be allowed to interpret techniques for themselves, and change them for their own purposes. For example, Lee almost always chose to put his power hand in the “lead”, with his weaker hand back, within this stance he used elements of Boxing, Fencing and Wing Chun. Just like fencing, he labeled this position the “On Guard” position. Lee incorporated this position into his JKD as he felt it provided the best overall mobility. Lee felt that the dominant or strongest hand should be in the lead because it would perform a greater percentage of the work. Lee minimized the use of other stances except when circumstances warranted such actions. Although the On-Guard position is a good overall stance, it is by no means the only one. Lee acknowledged that there were times when other positions should be utilized.

Lee felt the dynamic property of JKD was what enabled its practitioners to adapt to the constant changes and fluctuations of live combat. Lee believed that these decisions should be done within the context of “real combat” and/or “all out sparring”. He believed that it was only in this environment that a person could actually deem a technique worthy of adoption.

Bruce Lee did not stress the memorization of solo training forms or “Kata”, as most traditional styles do in their beginning-level training. Lee often compared doing forms without an opponent to attempting to learn to swim on dry land. Lee believed that real combat was alive and dynamic. Circumstances in a fight change from millisecond to millisecond, and thus pre-arranged patterns and techniques are not adequate in dealing with such a changing situation. As an anecdote to this thinking, Lee once wrote an epitaph which read: ‘In memory of a once fluid man, crammed and distorted by the classical mess.’ The “classical mess” in this instance was what Lee thought of classical martial arts.

Bruce Lee’s comments and methods were seen as controversial by many in his time, and still are today. Many teachers from traditional schools disagreed with his opinions on these issues.

The notion of cross-training in Jeet Kune Do is similar to the practice of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in modern times - Bruce Lee has been considered by UFC president Dana White as the “father of mixed martial arts”. Many consider Jeet Kune Do to be the precursor of MMA because of its syncretic nature. This is particularly the case with respect to the JKD “Combat Ranges”. A JKD student is expected to learn various combat systems within each combat range, and thus to be effective in all of them, just as in MMA.



The following are principles that Lee incorporated into Jeet Kune Do. He felt these were universal combat truths that were self evident and would lead to combat success if followed. The “4 Combat Ranges” in particular are what he felt were instrumental in becoming a “total” martial artist. This is also the principle most related to mixed martial arts.

JKD practitioners also subscribe to the notion that the best defense is a strong offense, hence the principle of “Intercepting”. Lee believed that in order for an opponent to attack someone they had to move towards them. This provided an opportunity to “intercept” that attack or movement. The principle of interception covers more than just intercepting physical attacks. Lee believed that many non-verbals and telegraphs (subtle movements that an opponent is unaware of) could be perceived or “intercepted” and thus be used to one’s advantage. The “5 Ways of Attack” are attacking categories that help Jeet Kune Do practitioners organize their fighting repertoire and comprise the offensive portion of JKD. The concepts of Stop hits & stop kicks and simultaneous parrying & punching were borrowed from European Fencing and Wing Chun’s theory of simultaneous defending and attacking, and comprise the defensive portion of JKD. These concepts were modified for unarmed combat and implemented into the JKD framework by Lee. These concepts also complement the other principle of interception.


Be like water

Lee believed that martial systems should be as flexible as possible. He often used water as an analogy for describing why flexibility is a desired trait in martial arts. Water is infinitely flexible. It can be seen through, and yet at other times it can obscure things from sight. It can split and go around things, rejoining on the other side, or it can crash through things. It can erode the hardest rocks by gently lapping away at them or it can flow past the tiniest pebble. Lee believed that a martial system should have these attributes. JKD students reject traditional systems of training, fighting styles and the Confucian pedagogy used in traditional kung fu schools because of this lack of flexibility. JKD is claimed to be a dynamic concept that is forever changing, thus being extremely flexible. “Absorb what is useful; Disregard that which is useless” is an often quoted Bruce Lee maxim. JKD students are encouraged to study every form of combat possible. This is believed to expand one’s knowledge of other fighting systems; to both add to one’s arsenal as well as to know how to defend against such tactics.

Economy of motion

JKD students are told to waste no time or movement. When it comes to combat JKD practitioners believe the simplest things work best. Economy of motion is the principle by which JKD practitioners achieve “efficiency” describe in the three parts of JKD. Utilizing this principle conserves both energy and time. Energy and time are two crucial components in a physical confrontation that often leads to success if employed efficiently. In combat situations maximizing one’s energy is beneficial in maintaining physical activity. Likewise minimizing the time to execute techniques because of traveling less distance is beneficial in that the opponent has less time to react or counter attacking.


Three parts of JKD

JKD practitioners believe that techniques should contain the following properties:

  • Efficiency - An attack that reaches its mark.

  • Directness - Doing what comes naturally in a learned way.

  • Simplicity - Thinking in an uncomplicated manner; without ornamentation.


The centerline refers to an imaginary line running down the center of one’s body. The theory is to exploit, control and dominate your opponent’s centerline. All attacks, defenses and footwork are designed to preserve your own centerline and open your opponent’s. Lee incorporated this theory into JKD from Wing Chun. This notion is closely related to maintaining control of the center squares in the strategic game chess.


The three guidelines for centerline are:

  • The one who controls the centerline will control the fight.

  • Protect and maintain your own centerline while you control and exploit your opponent’s.

  • Control the centerline by occupying it.


Combat realism

One of the premises that Bruce Lee incorporated in Jeet Kune Do was “combat realism”. He insisted that martial arts techniques should be incorporated based upon its effectiveness in real combat situations. This would differentiate JKD from other systems where there was an emphasis on “flowery technique” as Lee would put it. Lee claimed that flashy “flowery techniques” would arguably “look good” but were oftentimes not practical or prove ineffective in street survival and self-defense situations. This premise would also differentiate JKD from other “sport” oriented martial arts systems that were geared towards “tournament” or “point systems”. Lee felt that these systems were “artificial” and fooled its practitioners into a false sense of true martial skill. Lee felt that because these systems favored a “sports” approach they incorporated too many rule sets that would ultimately handicap a practitioner in self defense situations. He also felt that this approach to martial arts became a “game of tag” which would lead to bad habits such as pulling punches and other attacks; this would again lead to disastrous consequences in real world situations. Because of this perspective Lee utilized safety gear from various other contact sports to allow him to spar with opponents “full out”. This approach to training allowed practitioners to come as close as possible to real combat situations with a high degree of safety. Lee objected to these “sport” versions of martial arts because of this emphasis on combat realism.


Absorbing what is useful

This is perhaps the least understood and most confusing principle in Jeet Kune Do. This principle does not mean choosing, collecting, compiling, or assembling the best techniques from various diverse styles and slapping them together to form a new style. To do so is to miss the point of Jeet Kune Do. Absorbing what is useful is about immersing oneself in style or system and learning and grasping its essence. It is only through a holistic approach that one learns techniques in their proper context. Styles provide more than just mere techniques; they offer training methods, theories, and mental attitudes to name a few. Learning all of these factors allows a student to experience a system (in what Lee would call) its “totality”. It is only through its totality that one can “absorb what is useful”. Applying what is learned in real combat training situations is what allows the student to figure what works or doesn’t work for oneself. It is at this point that one can “discard that which is useless”. The critical point of this principle is that the choice of what to keep is based on personal experimentation with various opponents over time. It is not based on how a technique may look or feel or how well one can execute it. In the final analysis if the technique is not beneficial in combat it is discarded. Lee believed that only the individual could come to understand what worked for oneself based on critical self analysis and by “honestly expressing oneself; without lying to oneself”.



Although Bruce Lee officially closed his martial arts schools two years before his death, he allowed his curriculum to be taught privately. Since his death, Jeet Kune Do is argued to have split into different groups.

Allegedly they are:

  • The Original (or Jun Fan) JKD branch, whose proponents include Taky Kimura, James Lee, Jerry Poteet, and Ted Wong; these groups claim to teach what was believed to be only what was taught by Bruce Lee, and encourage the student to further develop his or her abilities through those teachings. The inherent training principles of this branch are shaped by the static concept of what was “originally taught”, just as the training systems of “traditional” martial arts have been taught for centuries and become recognizable as “styles”, except it is referred to as a philosophy of “style without style”.

  • The JKD Concepts branch, whose proponents include Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo, Larry Hartsell; these groups strive to continue the philosophy of individual self-expression through re- interpretation of combat systems through the lens of Jeet Kune Do, under the concept that it was never meant to be a static art but rather an ongoing evolution, and have incorporated elements from many other martial arts into the main fold of its teachings (most notably, grappling and Kali / Escrima material) based on the individual’s personal preferences and physical attributes. The entire JKD “system” can be described through a simple diagram, and the concepts can then be applied to a variety of contexts in a “universal” way.


To understand the branches of JKD it is important to understand the difference between the two “types” or viewpoints of Jeet Kune Do:

  • JKD framework This type of JKD provides the guiding principles. Bruce Lee experimented with many styles and techniques to reach these conclusions. To Lee these principles were truisms. The JKD framework is not bound or confined by any styles or systems. This type of JKD is a process.

  • JKD Personal Systems This type of JKD utilizes the JKD framework along with any techniques from any other style or system to construct a “personal system”. This approach utilizes a “building blocks” manner in which to construct a personalized system that is especially tailored to an individual. Lee believed that only an individual could determine for themselves what the usefulness of any technique should be. This type of JKD is thus a product.


Lee believed that this freedom of adoption was a distinguishing property from traditional martial arts.

There are many who confuse the JKD Framework with a JKD Personal System (i.e. Bruce Lee’s personal JKD) thinking them to be one and the same. The system that Bruce Lee personally expressed was his own personal JKD; tailored for himself. Before he could do this, however, he needed to first develop the “JKD Framework” process. Many of the systems that Bruce Lee studied were not to develop his “Personal JKD” but rather was used to gather the “principles” for incorporation in the JKD Framework approach. The uniqueness of JKD to Lee is that it was a “process” not a “product” and thus not a “style” but a system, concept, or approach. Traditional martial arts styles are essentially a product that is given to a student with little provision for change. These traditional styles are usually fixed and not tailored for individuals. Bruce Lee claimed there were inherent problems with this approach and established a “Process” based system rather than a fixed style which a student could then utilize to make a “tailored” or “Personal” product of their own. To use an analogy; traditional martial arts give students fish to eat (a product). Lee believed that a martial art should just teach the student to fish (a process) and gain the food directly

The two branches of JKD differ in what should be incorporated or offered within the “JKD Framework”. The Original (or Jun Fan) JKD branch believes that the original principles before Bruce Lee died are all that is needed for the construction of personalized systems. The JKD Concepts branch believe that there are further principles that can be added to construct personalized systems. The value of each Branch can be determined by individual practitioners based on whatever merits they deem important.

Original JKD is further divided into two points of view. OJKD and JFJKD both hold Wing Chun, Western Boxing and Fencing as the cornerstones on Bruce’s JKD.

OJKD follows all Bruce’s training from early Jun Fan Gung Fu (Seattle period) and focuses on trapping with Wing Chun influence.

Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do is a signature version of JKD as Bruce taught privately to Ted Wong. This is a later time period and practices a greater emphasis on elusiveness and simplified trapping unique to Bruce’s later approach to combat. The focus is with Fencing and Western Boxing.

“In Jeet Kune-Do, physical conditioning is a must for all martial artists. If you are not physically fit, you have no business doing any hard sparring. To me, the best exercise for this is running. Running is so important that you should keep it up during your lifetime. What time of the day you run is not important as long as you run. In the beginning you should jog easily and then gradually increase the distance and tempo, and finally include sprints to develop your ‘wind.’ Let me give you a bit of warning: just because you get very good at your training it should not go to your head that you are an expert. Remember, actual sparring is the ultimate, and the training is only a means toward this. Besides running, one should also do exercises for the stomach — sit-ups, leg raises, etc. Too often one of those big-belly masters will tell you that his internal power has sunk to his stomach; he’s not kidding, it is sunk and gone! To put it bluntly, he is nothing but fat and ugly.”


Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee studied the martial arts style of Wing Chun and was a student of Yip Man in Hong Kong. Later, he learned other arts as well as the sports of western boxing and European fencing. The term Jeet Kune Do occurred in 1968 while Dan Inosanto and Bruce Lee were driving around in his car. The conversation involved European fencing and Lee commented that; “the most efficient means of countering in fencing was the stop-hit... When the opponent attacks, you intercept his move with a thrust or hit of your own..” Lee then said “We should call our method the ‘stop-hitting’ fist style, or the ‘intercepting fist style’”. Dan Inosanto then said; “What would that be in Chinese?”, in which Lee replied “That would be Jeet Kune Do”.

A relevant video source of Bruce Lee discussing his Jeet Kune Do appeared in the first episode of the television series Longstreet. The first episode was aptly titled “The Way of the Intercepting Fist”. The episode was written specifically for Lee by his friend and long time supporter Stirling Silliphant.




“The usefulness of a cup is its emptiness - Be prepared to accept new knowledge and not be hindered or biased by old knowledge.”
This quote originates from the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism.


“Using no way as way. - Don’t have preconceived notions about anything.” 
This statement is embedded in the Jeet Kune Do logo. It was also used by Bruce Lee often to describe JKD.


“Having no limitation as limitation. - Don’t be confined by anything, achieve true freedom.”
This statement is embedded in the Jeet Kune Do logo.


“From form to formless and from finite to infinite. - Don’t be confined by limitations and forms. By not having specific form all forms can be included.”


“The consciousness of ‘self’ is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action.”
This is actually a Zen or Chán maxim which means to “be in the moment” and not be distracted by your own thought process.
The Zen quote is: “If you seek it, you will not find it”. The ‘Western’ counterpart to this is the term “Being in the Zone”.


“If people say Jeet Kune Do is different from “this” or from ‘that’, then let the name of Jeet Kune Do be wiped out, for that is what it is, just a name. Please don’t fuss over it.  Don’t get hung up on labels and parameters. JKD is alive and therefore always changing; JKD embodies all and no style simultaneously, thus cannot be compared.”


“To reach me, you must move to me. Your attack offers me an opportunity to intercept you.” - Lee explaining the principle of interception to Duke Paige from the television show Longstreet.


“Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, or it can crash! Be water, my friend.” - Lee explaining the principle of being like water in a Hong Kong television interview.


“Duke Paige: What is this thing you do? Li Tsing (Bruce Lee): In Catonese, Jeet Kune Do - the way of the intercepting fist. - From the “Longstreet” television show pilot.