Fight fans hear plenty about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Karate, Muay Thai and Boxing. From time to time they will hear about Jeet Kune Do and Bruce Lee, but what is Jeet Kune Do? Is it a functional martial art? Is it practiced today? Can you take Jeet Kune Do classes just like you can for BJJ or Boxing?
We got some answers from Sifu Marcus Charles, who teaches Jeet Kune Do and Kali at Southside Kali in Chicago. Charles learned under the tutelage of powerhouses like Dan Inosanto, Larry Hartsell, Paul Vunak, Rick Faye, Erik Paulson and Greg Nelson.
“Jeet Kune Do combines techniques taken from other martial arts. The trapping and short-range punches of Wing Chun, the kicks of northern Kung Fu styles as well as Savate, some footwork found in Fencing and the techniques of Western Boxing, among others. It should be noted that JKD is not a hybrid system, rather, it is Bruce Lee’s individual ‘interpretation’ of the martial arts,” Charles said.
Bruce Lee introduced the world to Jeet Kune Do in 1967, which relies on quick movements and speed. Charles described the uniqueness of JKD.
“Jeet Kune Do in its literal term means way of interception. It was a term coined by Bruce Lee, however, as it is taught it represents a concept of find what particular style and or fighting method works for each individual. Every person is unique in there own way and will not fit into a certain martial art as well as another. This class is taught to help each person find there own way of in discovering what fighting method works best for them. We focus not on technique but drills and training methods in order to get students functional and helping them apply what they learn to any self defense and or sport situation,” Charles said.
So can it be used by modern day MMA fighters and students? Yes. Lee wanted to teach and use actions that would be useful in a fight, which makes it perfectly suited for MMA. UFC fighter Ben Saunders started training JKD at age 14, and he incorporates many of the concepts into his game. Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres also has a JKD background.
When Chris Weidman checked the kick that busted Anderson Silva’s leg, he was using what coach Ray Longo called “The Destruction,” a technique he learned as a JKD student.
Charles says that JKD is a great martial art to practice for MMA. “MMA is always evolving looking for new training methods, just like JKD and Kali.”
One of Charles’ teachers, Paul Vunak, teaches what he brands “Filthy MMA.” He describes it as a contemporary version of JKD, which combines Bruce Lee’s Methods, Kali, MMA and SEAL TEAM 6 combatives.
Charles incorporates Erik Paulson’s Combat Submission Wrestling and MMA with JKD and Kali for what he calls a “complete self-defense system.” It also relies heavily on athleticism.
You even see JKD in movies, and not just the films starring Bruce Lee. If you thought the fight sequences in the “Bourne” movies were slick, it’s because they featured plenty of JKD and Kali techniques courtesy of fight coordinator Jeff Imada.
When Lee is called “The Godfather of MMA,” it’s because of Jeet Kune Do. JKD is alive and well in MMA and in martial arts schools around the world.