I remember being in that position. I encountered the following problems:
- An overwhelming sea of information and options
- Confusion – why are there so many different accounts of Jeet Kune Do?
- Lack of instructors in my area
- No idea where and how to start
In all, JKD seemed like an extremely heavy topic to manage all by oneself. It was a daunting task, especially for someone who really had a strong interest in the art and wanted to get off on the right foot.
Without a legitimate and credible mentor, and without experience with martial arts, it would really be easy to proceed on the wrong track and waste valuable time.
I was extremely fortunate to have met some of the best mentors. Here, I would like to pass it forward by producing a simple guide — the guide I wish I had when I first started.
1. Search for an Instructor
Unless you are a martial arts prodigy, a genius or someone with an independent ability to figure things out on your own, it will be an uphill battle trying to figure out the entire Jeet Kune Do puzzle all by yourself. You can learn from DVDs, YouTube videos and whatnot. You’ll still gain an operational understanding of the basic techniques, you might be able to piece them together, and if you research deeply and test relentlessly, there is always a chance that you will “arrive” at the Ideal. I am not saying this is impossible.
However, what if I told you, that there are already people that have the results you want, and all you have to do is seek them?
Perhaps you will agree with me when I say that only Sijo Bruce Lee himself is truly qualified to teach the Ideal. Unfortunately, he is no longer around to do that. What then, is our second best option?
Lee’s first generation students. This includes Dan Inosanto and Taki Kimura, who are currently still alive. They were personally trusted and certified by Lee to keep the JKD flame alive. Also consider Lee’s second generation students, who are every bit as solid. My mentor is Sigung Mark Stewart, a student of Ted Wong (Bruce Lee’s protege). And lastly, third generation instructors (such as myself) can help you figure the way about this niche craft. The important thing is this: we all have a common quality that outsiders do not, and that is lineage. Lineage is something that needs to be protected and respected, especially at this day and age where overnight instructors and YouTube gurus run rampant, you really want to make sure that your instructor has an immediately traceable lineage back to Sijo Bruce Lee.
Otherwise, how did your JKD instructor even become one in the first place?
Investigate this thoroughly before taking up classes.
2. What if I cannot find an Instructor in my area?
The solution to this is simple. Reach out to a first or second generation instructor, introduce yourself clearly and respectfully, and request for a list of their certified representatives. Chances are, you’ll eventually find one that’s the nearest to you. I do not mean nearest like across the street; you’ll probably need to travel or even fly to meet these representatives, but it’s worth it. Jeet Kune Do is a dying art and if you are serious about it, get your hands dirty. Do proper research, be willing to travel and pay your dues.
Within my own country, I have met a handful of students that told me that my gym was “too far” from their house. Singapore is a really small country – you can pretty much get to anywhere within 90 minutes or so, so what I’m really hearing is “I am lazy” or “I do not want this badly enough”.
3. What if I have no money?
Instructors that do martial arts full-time / for a living will always come with their professional rates. It is the same as engaging the services of a piano teacher, a language teacher or a dating coach. The solution is not to complain or ask for a discount, but instead learn to be self-sufficient. When I was still a student, I would give English language classes to finance my own training needs. The mentality of “I have no money” will only lead you to exactly that. “How can I learn to be financially self-sufficient?” is a better way to go for the long-term success of your development as a martial artist.
4. What if I have no time?
Contrary to what most people think, you do not have to be training like Bruce Lee. He was hardcore, extreme and his work ethic eventually burnt himself out. Is that ideal for you?
Jeet Kune Do is not a sprint, it is a marathon. It is not about having one intense session for a day and then tiring yourself out for the rest of the week.
The key lies in small but effective and incremental steps. Deposit a little every day. Is 30 minutes of training every alternate day impossible for you to achieve? If you can’t start and keep this process, maybe martial arts isn’t for you.
Understand this: the average person will never be a Wing Chun master, or Judo black belt. The truth is, most students drop out as the months and years pass. There is nothing wrong with making changes, but you will never become a master of anything if you constantly switch around or quit. The secret to mastery in any discipline is deliberate practice, and persistence. I really do not believe in talent – nothing can triumph solid hard and smart work, year in and year out. The ones who succeed have one thing in common – they never give up.
“The successful warrior is the average person, with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee
Assuming that you have found a legitimate instructor to train with, we can now discuss the training itself.
5. Establish a Training Rhythm
Have you ever met someone who claimed that he has been practicing his craft for, say, more than ten years and when you observe closely, his work doesn’t really seem to measure up? And then you see a kid who has significantly lesser elapsed time under his belt but yet he seems to be more on point? The reason is simple. The “amount of time” that one claims to have spent in his art does not reveal true mileage, the sustained rhythm and intensity does.
Are you looking at daily practice? Alternate days? Two or three times per week? Block out specific time slots and reserve them for your JKD training. Most importantly, stick to it. Show up.
Consult your instructor on how to plan and structure your training as you move forward. It is best to be training at your club or school, but you can always train with a partner as well as accordance with yourself.
6. Plan Your Progress
At any point in time, you should always have a clear goal of how you want to be progressing in JKD. Where are you at right now? What should you be learning? What are the progressive milestones? When do you intend to hit them? How will you know if you have made true progress? Document and reflect upon your training sessions as you go along. Keep a JKD journal. Video your own progress. Consult experienced individuals.
Do not take feedback personally.
7. Do Your Own Research
Do not be confined to a single source of learning, and do not depend on your instructor to feed you everything. Keep an open mind and eye out for additional resources, even if you do not like or are unable to relate to them initially. Just study them without judgement and keep them in “different folders” within your information bank. Someday, they will be of use.
8. Test Everything Under Pressure
Everything you think you know needs to work under pressure. Never take anything for granted! Always be on the lookout for opportunities to test your research findings. Spar with your friends. Have them simulate a tough self-defense situation with you. Test your skill against people of various skills and disciplines. Be willing to take hits without escalating. Be willing to take hits in order to learn. Forget about “winning” and “losing”. Just go ahead and “lose” your first 200 exchanges and get it over with. You’ll very quickly see that nobody is a master – everyone is always trying to advance their skills.
If your Jeet Kune Do instructor isn’t actively testing his material under alive situations, perhaps you might want to find out why.
Do not test for the sake of testing. Test so that you may do things in a more effective way going forward, even if it means eliminating something completely after you have digested it.
9. Make It Your Own
“When I move, techniques are born.” – Morihei Ueshiba
Until you own your martial arts, you will always be duplicating the moves that you learnt in the dojo. You might be an effective mirror of your seniors or mentor. Regurgitation is only a scaffolding of true expression. And guess what is the most effective way to synthesize everything you have learnt?
Unless you can effectively teach somebody what you know, you haven’t really consciously understood it yourself. You haven’t explicitly encoded it yourself. Try teaching a family member, a friend, a junior something for the sake of really helping them to get forward and you will see the magic it does for yourself. Maybe a basic technique, or a basic concept. Learn, and the more you teach, you learn.
If learning Jeet Kune Do has been something on your mind for some time already, perhaps it’s time to take action. Write me an email and tell me how can I help.
Did this guide provide effective clarity for you? Do you have something that you would like to add to it? Let me know in the comments.
Do you know of someone that could benefit from this start-up guide? Drop him or her a link!