Elements used in Combat Arts training – Part 4 – Jeet Kune Do

This is the final article about the martial art elements that Combat Arts founder, Gordon McAdam, specialises in and uses in his training courses and is all about Jeet Kune Do (JKD).

What is Jeet Kune Do?

“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. Empty your cup that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.”

Jeet Kune Do is more of a philosophy. A way. And that's exactly what founder Bruce Lee was thinking of when he formed it.

When interviewed by Black Belt Magazine he said: "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, and moulds."

In other words, Bruce Lee believed that only what worked should be used, the rest discarded.

Principles of Jeet Kune Do

As previously mentioned, in JKD use what does and eliminate what doesn't.

This also includes the individual JKD practitioner who, when practicing and formulating their martial arts plan their personal strengths and weaknesses are taken into account.

The following are principles that Lee incorporated into JKD as he felt these were universal combat truths that were self-evident, and would lead to combat success if followed:

Stance (Bai-jong) - Bruce Lee's 'on-guard' stance was a side southpaw horse stance, as he believed must have your power side forward. In this position, your most powerful weapons are closest to your target. This stance is highly mobile with good offensive and defensive capabilities. Instead of a common check seen in Muay Thai, Bruce Lee used an oblique leg kick to block a potential kick. He also adopted other defensive concepts found in many other systems such as slipping and rolling from Western Boxing and forearm blocks found in Eastern martial arts such as Kung Fu.

Footwork - as combat is a matter of movement, mobility more than anything is highly stressed in JKD. Footwork is light, quick and economical. Good footwork is essential to close the gap and attack your opponent with more power, or to counter an attack. Bruce Lee's nimble and agile skipping-like footwork, as seen in his movies, was adopted from Muhammad Ali's boxing stance footwork. This quick and agile footwork can be achieved from practice using a jump rope as jumping rope imitates this nimble, jumpy action that is a quick way to manoeuvre your way around and away from an enemy's strikes.

Three Ranges of Combat - rather than ignore certain parts of combat, Bruce Lee embraced them all and noted that the ranges of combat were close, medium, and long. Each of these ranges are practised equally and the practitioner well versed in the techniques applied in each range and how to use them effectively:

- Long Range - you are in a safe zone where you can test your opponent's reactions by using feinting or probing attacks, which appear real, without being in too much danger of being hit

- Medium Range - When your opponent moves into medium range you should already have intercepted and countered his offence with your own attack. In the medium range kicking, punching, trapping and grappling movements are used.

- Close Range - This is close quarter fighting and is a dangerous range due to the serious nature of natural body weapons that can be used, such as head butts, elbows, knees, chokes and strangleholds.

Economy of Motion – JKD seeks to waste no time or movement, teaching that the simplest things work best. Economy of motion is the principle by which JKD practitioners achieve:

1. Simplicity - thinking in an uncomplicated manner, doing only what is necessary to complete a task as quickly and efficiently as possible. This conserves both energy and time, two crucial components in a physical confrontation. This is not as easy as it sounds and requires a lot of thought and practice through continual drilling of all the basics.

2. Directness - doing what comes naturally in a disciplined way. That is, to follow the shortest and safest possible route to an opponent (normally a straight line) and doing as much damage as possible. The principle of directness in JKD can be found in the individual's ability to use his longest weapon (usually his lead hand or leg) against the nearest target on his opponent's body.

3. Efficiency - all the techniques are delivered in a practical manner, so an attack reaches its target in the least amount of time, with maximum force.

Five Ways of Attack - are the five ways JKD practitioners are taught to attack. These are Single Direct Attack (SDA); Attack By Combinations (ABC); Hand Immobilization Attack (HIA); Progressive Indirect Attack (PIA) and Attack By Drawing (ABD). Emphasis is placed on deception and counter striking in all of these.

Our next blog post will explain in more detail the 'Five Ways of Attack'

Centreline Control - the centreline is an imaginary line drawn vertically along the centre of a standing human body, and refers to the space directly in front of that body. The Wing Chun concept is to exploit, control and dominate an opponent's centreline whilst ALL attacks, defences, and footwork are designed to guard one's own centreline while entering the opponent's centreline space. Bruce Lee's Wing Chun training taught him to protect his centreline so attackers were forced to try and strike from the outside in. This is a staple of JKD.

The three guidelines for centreline are: (a) the one who controls the centreline will control the fight; (b) protect and maintain your own centreline while you control and exploit your opponent's and (c) control the centreline by occupying it.

Combat Realism

One of the premises that Lee incorporated in JKD was "combat realism."

Some martial arts styles ask practitioners to use pre-arranged fighting movements conducted in isolation whilst pretending to take on attackers.

Bruce Lee believed that learning in such a manner sometimes fooled martial artists into a false sense of combat security, as many of the moves being practiced did not work in real life. He insisted that martial arts techniques should be incorporated based upon their effectiveness in real combat situations.

Lee claimed that flashy moves might look good but were not often practical and at best ineffective in street survival and self-defence situations.

It is this premise that partly sets JKD apart from other martial arts techniques. 

The other premise is "aliveness". This is the concept of training techniques with an unwilling assistant who offers resistance. As Lee famously said: "Boards don't hit back!"

This approach to training allows practitioners to come as close as possible to real combat situations with a high degree of safety.

Who is Jeet Kune Do suitable for?

JKD is suitable for anyone as it provides you with the opportunity to explore the martial arts techniques that suit your personality and physical attributes while getting fit. It brings many fitness aspects together including body conditioning for impact, developing self-confidence, mobility, timing, power, reflexes, range awareness and the endurance necessary to succeed in confrontation.


If you are interested in getting in shape and back to feeling like you could take care of yourself, if the need arose, contact us now to check availability in our small groups classes, or book your FREE 1-2-1 session.