Black Belt contacted prominent martial artists to learn what they regard as the most essential teachings of jeet kune do founder Bruce Lee. Here's what Dan Inosanto, Tim Tackett, Kelly McCann and Joe Lewis had to say.

The concept was simple enough: We contacted 16 prominent martial artists who either teach jeet kune do or were inspired by it, then asked them to identify the single most important thing Bruce Lee taught. To liven it up a bit, we told them it didn’t have to be a punch or a kick; it could also be a concept or a philosophy. The hardest part, most everyone reported, was picking only one thing. In fact, some people disregarded our instructions and selected two or three — and we’re kind of glad they did because all the answers are fascinating.

— Editors


Photo by Rick Hustead

DAN INOSANTO First-Generation Bruce Lee Student Founder of the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts Four-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer Since my first meeting with sifu Bruce in 1964, throughout my years as head instructor at our Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute and the nearly 60 years since that day when we became friends, teacher-student and collaborators, I’ve continued to teach the lessons taught to me by my best friend and instructor. I’ve been asked this question countless times, and the answer is always the same: self-expression through self-discovery.

Learn from Bruce himself! Order a copy of Bruce Lee's Fighting Method: The Complete Edition today!

Sifu Bruce had many “no fail” techniques and principles, and they changed on a regular basis. The one that never failed was his quest for self-expression through self-discovery. That’s because self-expression and self-discovery lead to self-perfection physically, mentally and emotionally. The never-ending process of self-expression and the belief in oneself [determine whether] what students chose to execute at any give time will work. I could list an encyclopedia of techniques that Bruce used and favored from month to month and year to year, but that wouldn’t benefit anyone as much as the true lesson and meaning of his art.

Photo by Thomas Sanders

TIM TACKETT Second-Generation Bruce Lee Student Author of Chinatown Jeet Kune Do and Chinatown Jeet Kune Do, Volume 2 Star of Chinatown Jeet Kune Do: Essential Elements of Bruce Lee's Martial Art DVD Since jeet kune do means “way of the intercepting fist,” intercepting an opponent’s attack is what I would stress to a JKD student. With interception being the goal, I’d focus on the stop-hit or the stop-kick. While any punch can be used as a stop-hit and any kick can be used as a stop-kick, I prefer the straight lead and the shin/knee side kick, respectively. If I had to pick one, it would be the stop-kick. The reason: If you stay on the outside of your opponent’s attack (the fighting measure), he’ll have to step toward you to strike or kick. That leaves his front leg vulnerable to your shin/knee side stop-kick. As far as concepts go, I’d focus on what Bruce Lee told his student Bob Bremer: Take what is offered to you. If your opponent steps toward you, he’s “offering” you his front leg to attack. It’s an important part of the basic idea of intercepting your opponent’s attack.

Photo by Robert Reiff

KELLY MCCANN JKD Student Author of Combatives for Street Survival Star of Kelly McCann's Combatives Self-Defense Online Course Black Belt Hall of Famer There are many characteristics of how I practice combatives that are similar to those of jeet kune do. It’s almost impossible to single out only two or three that are emblematic, but if pressed, I’d have to choose the simultaneity of attack and defense. In combatives, blocking isn’t an isolated event. Using a well-developed guard, you only “block” in order to (or as you) attack. Blocking is a fractional movement that facilitates a strike. In JKD, it was Bruce Lee’s intention to acknowledge the necessity of blocking (or avoiding) strikes — but not to the extent that blocking distracted from attacking. This approach ensures that you quickly reverse roles with your attacker — you become the predator, and he becomes the prey. It also provides you with more opportunities to gain and maintain offensive momentum. Kelly McCann’s Combatives Self-Defense Course, a new remote-learning program from Black Belt, will help you fine-tune your street-defense skills using your tablet or smartphone! Another essential is interception. In combatives, we call it “pre-emption.” Basically, Lee’s assertion that you should intercept aggression in stages (mentally, vocally and physically) is analogous to the combatives approach of first, being avoidant by using situational awareness; second, warning off by taking some type of early physical action to avoid an altercation; and finally, in the most threatening circumstances, launching your attack before your adversary’s attack is fully manifested. It’s pre-emptively attacking — essentially, stop-hitting. Lee’s combative perspective remains as refreshing today as it was decades ago. His intensity, dedication to challenging convention and reductionist approach will always distinguish him as a martial arts innovator.

Photo by Rick Hustead

JOE LEWIS First-Generation Bruce Lee Student Former World Karate Champion Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer I would choose Bruce Lee’s way of firing the forward-hand straight punch, which when he did it was the fastest technique in the martial arts. His mind-set (use of appropriate preconsciousness) and his skill at using independent motion (a broken-rhythm trigger squeeze) made it impossible for any opponent to detect his well-timed punching attacks. I’ve stood toe-to-toe with the fastest fighters in the world, and I can say that Bruce Lee, with his sharp mental attributes, executed the quickest lead-hand punch of all. (Read Part 2 here.) “Bruce Lee” is a registered trademark of Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC. The Bruce Lee name, image and likeness are intellectual property of Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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