Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do: Bruce Lee's Personal Expression & Evolution in the Martial Arts

by Ted Wong and Tommy Gong

From the Bruce Lee Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Magazine, February 1998.

An individual has to understand Bruce Lee in order to fully comprehend Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do, his personal expression in the martial arts. By just studying his art, notes, letters, or video footage one could not get a complete view on Lee's creation. One has to know the person, Bruce Lee, and his history in order to understand where he came from, where he went, and where he might have gone in the martial arts. This article puts forth the premise that Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Bruce Lee's personal expression and evolution in the martial arts, physically and conceptually, during his lifetime. JFJKD, as well as any other martial art, can be utilized by an individual to reach his potential in the martial arts, thereby improving his own martial arts knowledge and development, not Bruce Lee's or JFJKD.

Representing Bruce Lee's JKD:
We can speculate forever on what Bruce Lee would have done had he lived, but to represent Bruce Lee properly, the only way is to preserve what we know for sure what he practiced and professed. Then there would be no chance for misinterpretation due to speculation. An excellent example would be to communicate Lee's original process of going from Wing Chun to Jun Fan, and later developing Jeet Kune Do. For instance, what were the circumstances and for what reasons did Lee ultimately abandon his Wing Chun roots and eventually develop what he later called Jeet Kune Do? This would really be teaching JFJKD, Bruce Lee's evolutionary growth in the martial arts. This is the definitive case study for the art of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do. The JFJKD Nucleus is in the process of documenting Lee・s art by accumulating all of Lee・s writings and creating an oral history based on the recollections of his direct students. It would be up to Lee's students to collectively establish what Lee actually practiced and professed in order to come up with a comprehensive standard. This combination of the written record of Lee・s notes regarding his art, with the help of his students to clarify and explain the notes, along with the student's remembrances of what Lee taught and emphasized to them will be an everlasting legacy to be passed down from generation to generation. One may learn JFJKD, that is Bruce Lee's personal expression and growth in the martial arts, and later teach it to a student. But if he passes off his own developments to a student, he would be teaching his own truth in the martial arts, not Lee's. In the same way, what he learned from others to help him reach his potential should be properly credited to those deserving people. To do Bruce Lee honor, each successive JFJKD generation should pass on that what Bruce Lee actually performed.

The Maturation of a Martial Artist:
Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do is Bruce Lee's own growth towards his potential in the martial arts, it's just that Lee gave it a name. Nobody can claim to own or possess JFJKD since it is Lee's creation. Therefore, the phrase "your JFJKD is not my JFJKD" is a misnomer since JFJKD is only Bruce Lee's. Rather, it is your martial art is not my martial art. Lee gave his followers the freedom to research and decide for themselves which would be the best way for each individual. In this way, you are no longer being JFJKD, but simply being yourself. This then sets the tone and inspiration for others to follow and find their own path. Just as Bruce Lee used Wing Chun as a stepping stone to further himself, we can utilize JFJKD to reach our potential. However, in regard to the maturation of a martial artist, what changes for the student is his/her own development or growth, not Bruce Lee's or JFJKD's. We can learn and use JFJKD, as well as other martial arts, to better understand ourselves and help us in reaching our martial arts potential. It's a self-reflective mirror. Furthermore, JFJKD is like the Suzuki violin method: an accelerated method of learning for rapid growth of an individual's potential. It aims to give the individual certain fundamentals and principles to abide by, then encouraged to grow beyond that which he learned. The violinist does not become world-famous by performing Suzuki fundamentals at the symphony hall. He performs one of the classics or an original composition, and what comes out is his own personal expression of that piece. In either case, the violinist or martial artists eventually develops his own style that transcends beyond that of what he originally learned. In JFJKD, the individual is given priority over any given system or style. Bruce Lee recognized the fact that what works for one individual may not necessarily work for another. This is why Lee did not want Jeet Kune Do to be described as a style, since styles tend to partialize and freeze combat, which is alive. The student is liberated from any style and given the freedom to search out what works best for him or her. He may choose to research other martial arts and/or to search deep within himself for his own growth and development. The main point is that the student will be able to think for himself and develop on his own without any external influences. Therefore, he transcends any martial art, including JFJKD. In other words, the practitioner must also eventually break free from the boundaries of JFJKD for his own personal growth. Utilizing this liberating aspect, he must also be rid of JFJKD to be truly himself. Yet JFJKD is still the same, it's the student that has grown and been liberated from it. There are some who believe that the only way they could do justice for their teacher, Bruce Lee, is to follow their own path, thereby advancing the art. And there is nothing wrong with this. It is wonderful there are those who are achieving their own personal growth. That is what Bruce Lee wanted. But what they are actually advancing is their own personal growth and excellence in the martial arts. Once they begin to pass off their own discoveries as Bruce Lee・s, they are not only doing a disservice to Bruce Lee, they are also performing an injustice to themselves and their own discoveries in receiving credit. It would be much better to call their own growth, discoveries, and/or truth a name of their own creation, or at most, call it :inspired by Bruce Lee and/or Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do.;

When Bruce Lee researched or investigated another martial art, it was not to look outside of his own system for techniques that would fill in the gaps of his current system. He did not simply add something to his art because it was good, but if it also fit his way of fighting. Even then, Lee modified a technique so much that it did not resemble the art it originally came from. It may have lost its original function, strategically or physically, by the time Lee would use it. In other words, Lee adapted the technique to his art, not vice versa (i.e. adapting his art to the technique). Of course, Lee researched other martial arts to increase his knowledge and to appreciate what each art has to offer. But the main reason why Lee studied other arts was to observe how they would deal with various combative situations, thereby understanding their strategies and tactics as well as their strengths and weaknesses. In this way he would know how to confront them if he ever had to. Lee looked into other arts for stimulation and enrichment, not supplement.

Self-Discovery in JFJKD:
However, JKD is not just research and development. Investigating other martial arts is but one process in JKD, the external one. But internally, each individual must take an honest inventory of himself, i.e. his strengths and weaknesses, limitations, potential, technical performance, psychological aggressiveness, and physical shape to decide what the next stage of training or development should be. This stage is actually more important: by using the JFJKD mirror, one objectively evaluates one's self. This is how JFJKD is individualized to the student. This is what JFJKD is all about: self-discovery through the constant process of methodical improvement of technique and fighting ability without boundary to become as simple and natural as possible. It is about doing what is instinctual and natural, thereby simply being yourself.

In the Spirit of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do,

The Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Nucleus.

© The Bruce Lee Educational Foundation  All rights reserved