Core JKD is a complete martial art in that it has a specific ground-up methodology for training each individual to be able to defend themselves in life-threatening situations against single or multiple opponents with or without weapons in a variety of environments.
How a student expresses themselves in that moment-to-moment flow of survival against resistance is their style. Core JKD helps them reach their full potential in this expression.
Core JKD isn’t a style in that sense because there isn’t anything other than optimum functionality against resistance using a variety of tools in a variety of environments.
It might be considered a neutral style (even a style of no style) in that, in and of itself, each individual trained in it becomes capable and functional to use their own trained expression for surviving. This means that Core JKD is a foundation for freeing personal expression.
It is a martial art in that there are distinct, foundational methods of training with a specific understanding of physics and a deep understanding of the human being and of motion against resistance over time. These concepts undergird functional techniques that work for the majority of students who train in it.
The techniques themselves are minimal and are able to be modified to accommodate the large variety of individuals using them.
Individuals do not have to conform to a rigid set of techniques and work toward the perfection of the technique. It’s that each technique can be modified within certain requirements for functionality that help release the individual’s full potential.
The techniques I use and the ones I’ve developed have to meet the following criteria:
- They have to work fluidly with the other techniques.
- They have to support stability in transition from technique to technique, person to person, person to environment.
- They have to allow for their absence, meaning dropping it in an instant should it not be working in a particular moment—but not to where its absence compromises your functionality.
That’s a brief list, but should give you an idea of what goes into it.
If Core JKD has a style, it’s adaptability: the ability to adjust—in the moment—to changing conditions, using a functional set of tools and techniques from well-conditioned individuals. And conditioned in this case means stress-tested. As are the techniques.
If the technique can’t allow the individual to function under resistance or it only works for a few individuals on the planet under a very minute set of conditions, then it most likely will not be in Core JKD.
Now, some of what I show on Youtube and Facebook comes from other arts that some people wish to see. I do my best to modify their techniques to emphasize within them some functionality against a resisting attacker. Or I’ll blend them so people can see that many of the techniques aren’t an island unto themselves, but can be part of a dynamic structure. So that’s why you’ll sometimes see things that aren’t in the Core JKD functional toolset, but if you look closely, you’ll understand a flow and continuity of expression that is inherent to Core JKD.
I am happy to help people who are training in these other arts to try and find a way to make their techniques work for them as they branch out into other areas their martial art generally won’t cover or for which they don’t have efficient responses.
As in Jeet Kune Do itself—contrary to what some people believe—you can’t actually tell a JKD fighter by looking at them in a fight and watching which technique they are using.
There is a misconception that a JKD fighter will be known by a strict set of techniques Bruce Lee taught from a specific period of time. The belief that those and only those techniques define the JKD fighter. That if you sparred and fought, but didn’t exhibit those techniques, then you aren’t trained in JKD or aren’t using JKD.
Quite simply, this is absurd. It also shows a great misunderstanding about what Bruce Lee was doing and what he was continually refining.
Bruce Lee had a particular style, a movement and character to his expression that defined him. That is style.
It is something many have tried to imitate, but it is not what he would have wanted people to do. His overall message wasn’t one of “copy what I do so you can be just like me.” That is a complete bastardization of what he was trying to get across to people. It is something people who are used to institutional learning and lack of self-confidence in their own expression—their ability to stand as a truly creating individual—simply don’t understand or don’t have the nerve to try.
True artists in any field know that their unique expression is what defines them separate from other artists. Their style, whether it’s a particular flare in their brush strokes as they move across canvas with a particular color or whether it’s J.J. Abrams having too many damn blue lens flares in his earlier movies—each lets you know who the artist is.
The technical aspects that anyone can learn and perform is the specific art form. For example, painting is an art form, but each painter has a unique style of expression emerging from that form.
Bruce Lee was both a creator of a martial art form (of no form—the circle without circumference) and had a particularly unique expression of his training and application of skill in the moment that defined his style.
To this day, people still grapple with understanding what he was truly doing with what he was teaching. They have difficulty understanding that his teaching and refinement were evolving. Many get caught up in “style” or “martial art” or “techniques” and spend their time on this planet convincing other people that doing exactly what Bruce Lee did at a specific time in his life is the only true expression or martial art Bruce Lee was creating.
Creating: actively working, not created, as in done.
Evolving: refining into something more efficient, inclusive, direct.
He wasn’t finished.
If that’s something you don’t understand, then knowing whether something is a martial art or style isn’t going to help you in learning and knowing the expression of Jeet Kune Do.
Or Core JKD.