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November 27, 2022

Bruce Lee: “The art of Jeet Kune Do is simply to simplify.”

“The art of Jeet Kune Do is simply to simplify. Jeet Kune Do avoids the superficial, penetrates the complex, goes to the heart of the problem and pinpoints the key factors. Jeet Kune Do does not beat around the bush. It does not take winding detours. It follows a straight line to the objective. Simplicity is the shortest distance between two points. Jeet Kune Do favors formlessness so that it can assume all forms, and since Jeet Kune Do has no style, it can fit in with all styles. As a result, Jeet Kune Do utilizes all ways and is bound by none.” –– Bruce Lee

Jeet Kune Do was conceived by Bruce Lee, based on his experiences in unarmed fighting and self-defense. Originally, Lee studied Wing Chun as well as researched other forms of martial arts and would formalize a martial art named Jun Fan Gung Fu circa 1962. However, around 1964, following his encounter with Wong Jack-man, Lee came to realize the error of binding oneself to systematized martial arts. Following this, Lee began to passionately research in order to refine his way of practicing martial arts. In 1965, he outlined the basic concept of Jeet Kune Do.

Not wanting to create another style that would share the limitations that all styles had, he instead described the process which he used to create:
“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 a 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.”
Lee stated his concept does not add more and more things on top of each other to form a system, but rather selects the best thereof. 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.”

Lee considered traditional form-based martial arts, that only practiced pre-arranged patterns, forms and techniques to be restrictive and at worst, ineffective in dealing with chaotic self-defense situations. Lee believed that real combat was alive and dynamic.

Jeet Kune Do was conceived to be dynamic, to enable its practitioners to adapt to the constant changes and fluctuations of live combat. He believed these decisions should be made within the context of “real combat” and/or “all-out sparring” and that it was only in this environment that a practitioner could actually deem a technique worthy of adoption.

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