Jeet Kune Do is the martial art developed and practiced by, undoubtedly one of, if not the most, recognized martial artists of our time. Bruce Lee, in the public eye, was most noted for his films and charismatic display on screen. His true love was the martial arts. A multi talented man, he was a philosopher, a writer, and most notedly a supreme martial artist.
Jeet Kune Do directly translated to English means 'the way of the intercepting fist'. In the words of Bruce Lee, JKD is based on simplicity, directness, and being non-classical.
Simplicity, meaning free of complicated moves that are both cumbersome to learn, but also extremely difficult to execute in a live situation. Being simple also means cutting out unessential motions for both goals of efficiency and effectiveness. Simplicity teaches us to stick to what works, let go of distractions, and conserve energy.
Although there are variations of, JKD really only has one stance, four punches, and three primary kicks. There aren't a myriad of positions to learn, nor a quiver full of techniques that require mental possessing in order to figure out which one to use at which time. Also, because of this stripped down arsenal, you have time to work them individually, over and over, to point of perfection.
Many martial artists work off of what I call the "what if" principle. They attempt to create a counter, and practice a defense for every conceivable manner in which they could be attacked. "What if" the attacker throws a left hook? Then the "what-iffer" goes into a canned routine designed specifically for that situation. First, where the "what if" approach fails is in the idea that the attack will happen exactly they way they had practiced it. A real opponent is not subject to rules. They can throw that left hook an infinite number of ways. If the angle, distance, or timing is different than what is prepared for, the "what-iffer" ends up either freezing or using their response to no avail. Also, trying to create a response for every assumable attack is ludicrous. The simple approach is to practice attacks that work in any situation. This keeps it, not only simple, but realistic.
A simple approach, as I said earlier, allows the practitioner to spend more time on the few skills he wishes to develop. Repetition is the key. It's really a simple math equation. We have a certain amount of time in each day to practice. The fewer skills we have to focus on, the more time we're able to devote to each during the time we have to practice.
Simplicity is not a new concept. The acronym KISS (keep it simple stupid) was adopted by the US Navy in the 1960's. Lao Tzu from 570 BC, "I have just three things to teach you; simplicity, patience, and compassion". Krishnamurti discusses simplicity at great length, "Simplicity comes, as a flower opens at the right moment, when each one understands the whole process of existence and relationship.". Even Socrates spoke of simplicity in his 'Platonic arguments for immortality of the soul'
The idea of simplicity can take form in everyday life. I'm sure others have had similar experiences, but in high school I had a teacher that took simplicity to an extreme. He owned 5 suits. He would wear a different colored suit for every day of the week, blue for Monday, green for Tuesday etc.. He said that this cut out a decision he would have to make every morning and free up his mind for the day ahead. Although he was a bit eccentric, he did have a point.
It is human nature to over complicate things and make more of them than should be. Maintaining a simple approach is not always easy. I takes work and thought. Without further explanation, you will find that when you delve into simplicity, you find complexity.
Directness refers to taking the path of least resistance, staying on task, and sticking to the point. Directness and simplicity go hand in hand. A direct approach is one that doesn't take turns or detours in order to reach its goal. The idea of being direct is not to be distracted by things unnecessary to the end goal. It is focus, convergence, and fixation on the result.
In simple terms, if the goal is to punch the opponent in the face, you do exactly that, straight, fast, and accurately.
Roots of the martial arts can be traced back centuries, if not millennia. Fighting is human nature. Looking back in every culture, you can find evidence of some form of combat. Many of these practices from hundreds of years ago still are practiced today, for the most part, in their original form.
Jeet Kune Do does not deny these ancient forms of fighting. It merely chooses not to be bound by them. "The classical mess" as Bruce Lee called it, is a trap in which a practitioner can be caught, learning fantasy techniques and practicing skills just because that's the way it has always been done.
Classical martial arts, many times, restricts a person by creating patterns and specific "ways" in which things are to be done. It is easy to get caught up in the rules, forgetting about the big picture of the game.
As humans, we like to organize things in nice, neat, little packages. We name things, solidifying them as a thing. We create patterns of combinations of these things we've named in order to facilitate remembering them. This is another trap. It leads us to treat fighting as something static or still. Fighting is alive, ever changing, and unpredictable. Practicing patterns and prearranged movements may help develop physical skill, but without breaking these patterns, they become a crutch, hindering the ability to adapt to the situation at hand.
Within classical martial arts, lies some basic restrictions, and partial truths. Fighting, for the most part, has not changed since the beginning of man, nor will it. Human beings are limited to having two arms and two legs. They are restricted by gravity, friction, and other physical forces. They are also bound by human reaction, or feelings, such as fear, lack confidence, and pain. The basics of fighting have always remained the same. The one who hits hardest, and most frequently, wins.
No matter what form, or style, someone chooses to use, fighting is all the same. It comes down to simple principles. A man will hit another man and knock him down if timing and distance are correct, accuracy is true, and enough force is applied. It is really as simple as that. Getting locked into a specific style, just because, may hinder this simplicity.