Another aspect of the sheer force used in Jeet Kune Do is that whereas many martial arts teach strikes and counter moves in equal measure – JKD does not. Whilst counter moves are taught, the emphasis is on striking another fighter; in this regard, parallels can be drawn with Krav Maga and other styles, where offence and force is the key.

Bruce Lee Jeet Kune Do (JKD)

Bruce Lee origins martial arts

A hallmark of Jeet Kune Do is its speed, and the high energy kicks and punches.

Bruce Lee‘s philosophy here was one of economy of movement; as little time and energy should be wasted between movements. The movements in JKD are therefore rapid and swift – but a very efficient use of punches and kicks, and parties and counter moves. Often, a party and a punch will be delivered together. That economy of movement also allows for increased speed, resulting in some very powerful kicks and punches being delivered.

That philosophy also teaches in JKD to “intercept” an opponents movement in such a way. So the defence immediately turns into an attack. Lee’s theory was that an attacker must approach a target first. Such an approach allows for, at the right moment, move to intercept and swiftly counter the initial attack. With punches being favoured in JKD, it is often the fist that is parried and countered. This is partly what gives the martial art its distinctive name, “The Way of The Intercepting Fist.”

Bruce Lee
Sal Ami,Flickr CC License.

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In line with the theme of speed, efficiency, intercepting and setting out to defeat another fighter, Bruce Lee believed that any attacks should be carried out with the aim to catch the opponent of guard and off balance. With no warning, an opponent could not parry or counter effectively.

Lee taught his students to initiate an attack without giving any warning, such as a changed stance, foot thrust forward, shoulders tensed a certain way, and similar. This was his famous “non telegraphic punch,” where the attacker gives no indication in their movements or expression as to what the attack will be.

Jeet Kune Do teaches that any twitch or preparatory movement could warn the opponent, and therefore negate any attack – in addition to wasting effort, energy and time. Perfected by Bruce Lee, the “non telegraphic punch” is the defining feature of JKD.

Bruce Lee Be Like Water

Bruce Lee

Despite that, the initial “On Guard” stance of JKD is considered to be a very effective and commanding pose. However, Bruce Lee also taught that the initial pose could be deviated from I necessary. This is in line with the flexibility and fluidity surrounding JKD.

Bruce Lee referred to JKD as “the art of expressing the human body”. Flexibility of mind and body whilst fighting was all important. Indeed, Lee was quite critical of very traditional and formal martial arts, stating that many martial art competitions of his time were “dry land swimming.” By that he meant that martial arts had developed to a level that was simply to rigid and formal to be effective; spontaneity was necessary in a fight.

A martial artist needed to be flexible, adaptive and able to predict and act accordingly, and not be constructed by set piece movements and rigid formality. In Lee’s famous words, a good martial artist should be like water – be able to move fluidly, without restrictions, and make full and flexible use of their body and range of movements. To be like water was an essential part of Bruce Lee’s teachings, with the adaptive,fluid philosophy behind it a key part of both his martial arts and his own life.

Philosophy of Jeet Kune Do (JKD)

ip man kung fu travel
By שילוני (自己的作品) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Another aspect of Yip Man‘s teaching involved freedom. JKD has less structured moves and techniques than some Oriental martial arts such as Karate and Aikido. When he was learning under the Master, lessons were both highly structured but also free. Endless repetitions of moves and drills with sticks were conducted in a seemingly haphazard manner in that few seeing followed a set format. Yip Man also favoured free sparring between partners.

As such, Lee learned martial arts in an atmosphere that was both free and innovative, but also disciplined and traditional. That can be seen in JKD, where the nature of the martial art encourages individuality, with each fighter utilising exactly the same kicks, punches and throws in a manner best suited to them.

Jeet Kune Do is essentially a blend of old traditions in a new style, and is a fusion and mixture with many origins. It is also more of a philosophy, and an ongoing process of discovery, as opposed to a fixed, finite martial art discipline. A similar statement can be said of its creator, Bruce Lee. Indeed, the philosophy and statement of Jeet Kune Do is “having no limitation as limitation.” The same statement applies equally to this flexible, powerful martial art and its colourful founder, Bruce Lee.

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