Bruce Lee

Learn the Most Important Martial Arts Lessons Bruce Lee Taught — From His Top Disciples! Part 5

Black Belt contacted 16 well-known martial artists who teach jeet kune do or were heavily influenced by it to get their thoughts on the most important part of Bruce Lee’s art. Part 1 features replies from Dan Inosanto, Tim Tackett, Kelly McCann and Joe Lewis. Part 2 offers the answers we got from Burton Richardson, Matthew J. Numrich, Teri Tom and Richard S. Bustillo. Part 3 includes Leo Fong, Bustillo, Paul Vunak and Gary Dill. Part 4 focuses on the thoughts expressed by Lamar M. Davis II, Dr. Jerry Beasley, Matt Thornton and Thomas Cruise. In this conclusion, we highlight Lewis, Fong, William Cheung and Richardson.

Photo Courtesy of Black Belt

JOE LEWIS
First-Generation Bruce Lee Student
Former World Karate Champion
Two-Time Black Belt Hall of Famer

The top three principles Bruce Lee emphasized for fighters were distancing, relaxed explosiveness and movement (rhythm). Although many of his students talked about broken rhythm, few understood what it really meant and almost no one could execute it. His indirect-angular-attack theory (progressive indirect attack) was primarily used to level the playing field when two equal combatants were engaged. As in the sport of boxing, this faking-type movement pattern is a last resort to disrupt the other person’s timing. Again, the problem was that few students developed the faking skills necessary to use this principle.

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Head, body and foot rhythm have always been a major weakness for martial arts practitioners. This rhythm principle (usually called movement) is used in all tactics. It’s the most important attribute of any strategy, both defensively and offensively. The two principles that are most useful in combat are distancing and controlling the set-point. Each requires the effective use of movement. Movement skills are the best way to control an opponent — to take away his best technique or challenge his will to fight. Bruce and I used to study the movement skills of Willie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson and, of course, Muhammad Ali.

Photo by Peter Lueders

LEO FONG
First-Generation Bruce Lee Student
Black Belt Hall of Famer
Author of Beyond Kung Fu

The most important principle is one that goes with the jab: progressive indirect attack. I used it to deceive my opponents. I never jabbed straight in; rather, I would shift slightly to the left or right before snapping out the straight front-hand lead. In other words, I would strike at an angle. Using this principle, I developed an entire repertoire of deceptive moves.

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The most important concept is using no way as way. When Lee shared this with us back in the mid-1960s, I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about. Today, I see it as meaning that once the technique is mastered, there are no boundaries or deliberation. It’s much like the relationship between a sound and an echo. In the elementary stage, you just do the technique and remain conscious of every detail. As you practice the technique over and over, it finds depth and becomes an expression and an emotional response to what is. You’re no longer self-conscious about whether you’re doing the technique correctly. You become the technique, so to speak.

Photo by Robert Reiff

WILLIAM CHEUNG
Wing Chun Master
Training Partner of Bruce Lee While in Hong Kong
Black Belt Hall of Famer

If I were to teach only one thing, it would be the wing chun vertical punch. The fundamental prerequisites in combat are keeping calm, using the eyes effectively, and achieving static and dynamic balance.

Why the vertical punch instead of the horizontal punch? The horizontal punch has only the elbow behind it. That doesn’t generate much power unless the whole arm is fully extended or you use your momentum by pushing your shoulder forward and putting your body behind it. Even then, if your opponent steps away or deflects your arm, you’ll be off-balance.

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Before wing …

Learn the Most Important Martial Arts Lessons Bruce Lee Taught — From His Top Disciples! Part 4

Black Belt contacted 16 well-known martial artists who teach jeet kune do or were heavily influenced by it to get their thoughts on the most important part of Bruce Lee’s art. Part 1 features replies from Dan Inosanto, Tim Tackett, Kelly McCann and Joe Lewis. Part 2 offers the answers we got from Burton Richardson, Matthew J. Numrich, Teri Tom and Richard S. Bustillo. Part 3 includes Leo Fong, Bustillo (again), Paul Vunak and Gary Dill.

Here, we present the views of Lamar M. Davis II, Dr. Jerry Beasley, Matt Thornton and Thomas Cruise.

— Editors

Photo by Thomas Sanders

LAMAR M. DAVIS II
JKD Instructor Certified by Five First-Generation Bruce Lee Students
Star of the Jeet Kune Do for the Advanced Practitioner DVD Set

I would teach the principles, attributes and skills necessary to strike from wherever you happen to be without first having to reposition yourself. JKD means “way of the intercepting fist”; you must strike quickly and decisively to intercept the opponent’s intention to attack. JKD is all about self-defense on the street. You must always be aware and alert, ready for whatever may come. If you need time to get ready, as opposed to being ready, it’s already too late.

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We have a position that’s referred to as bai jong, or on-guard. It’s our primary fighting stance. However, you may not always have time to get into that position — or you might not want to because it shows signs of pre-aggression. If you can strike without telegraphing from wherever you are, you’ll have the time you need to assume a more appropriate posture for the threat.

Photo by Rick Hustead

JERRY BEASLEY, ED.D.
Jeet Kune Do Instructor
Founder of Karate College
Black Belt Hall of Famer
Author of Dojo Dynamics

Bruce Lee was clear about what he considered essential training in JKD. He wrote, “There is nothing better than free-style sparring,” and “Sparring lives from moment to moment.” Therefore, I would teach a student to spar. Hard-contact sparring with protective gear and the intent to do harm is beyond style. It levels the playing field so that using what works becomes essential. It’s the time you get to totally experience your skills, “uncluttered by classical form.”

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Lee often referred to robotic martial arts drills as “organized despair.” He thought it was common for the classical martial artist to break an alive, spontaneous encounter into neatly organized parts, a method he called “dissecting a corpse.” In full-contact sparring, as in JKD, you don’t succeed by knowing more techniques or more arts than the other guy. You gain the simplicity of JKD by stripping away the useless baggage associated with a desire to accumulate more skills and perform more drills.

In a fight, your opponent dictates your choice of responses. Using no one’s way but your own, you’re free to “float in the totality” of all that you’ve mastered. JKD is the only art that insists that you move to the next level only when you discard the art and its inherent limitations, in favor of personal expression. You seek not to constantly add but to constantly free yourself of that which is not essential to your survival. The only way to find out what works specifically for you is to test it under fire. Sparring is the fire that burns away the unessential. Without sparring, the art becomes a museum in which your collection of skills and drills is neatly displayed. Sparring becomes your battlefield, your trial by fire. When the basics have been mastered and the cardio conditioning accomplished, it’s time to get it on.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Thornton

MATT THORNTON
Founder of Functional Jeet Kune Do

Without a doubt, the one thing I’d want to get across is the principle of “aliveness.” It’s the training method that makes the distinction between what works and what doesn’t. It’s what differentiates traditional Japanese jujitsu from an art like Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Once understood, [aliveness] will prevent you from ever being fooled again regarding what is functional and what isn’t. Once fully grasped, it will allow you to go anywhere and work with anyone and still create an atmosphere of safe, functional training.

Photo by Robert Reiff

THOMAS CRUSE
Jeet Kune Do Instructor Under Paul Vunak

Bruce Lee advocated striking the eyes, so for me, the most important thing is attacking the …

Learn the Most Important Martial Arts Lessons Bruce Lee Taught — From His Top Disciples! Part 3

Black Belt contacted 16 well-known martial artists who teach jeet kune do or were heavily influenced by it to get their thoughts on the most important part of Bruce Lee’s art. Part 1 features replies from Dan Inosanto, Tim Tackett, Kelly McCann and Joe Lewis.

Part 2 includes the answers we got from Burton Richardson, Matthew J. Numrich, Teri Tom and Richard S. Bustillo.

Here, in Part 3, Leo Fong, Bustillo (again), Paul Vunak and Gary Dill weigh in.

Photo by Peter Lueders

LEO FONG
First-Generation Bruce Lee Student
Black Belt Hall of Famer
Author of Beyond Kung Fu

I would teach the straight front-hand lead. It’s what we in boxing call the left jab — assuming you use a left-hand-forward or orthodox stance. It can function as an offensive weapon, a counterattack weapon or a defensive weapon. The punch won’t leave you completely exposed for your opponent’s counter.

One reason it’s so effective is the axiom that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The front-hand lead is the technique that takes advantage of that. It’s no coincidence that during my college competition years, the jab was my best weapon for setting up the left hook.

Photo by Robert Reiff

RICHARD S. BUSTILLO
President and Chief Instructor of the IMB Academy
First-Generation Bruce Lee Student
Black Belt Hall of Famer

To me, simple direct attack is the most important principle of self-defense. My fundamental rule is to strike immediately in response to an attack. In a street situation, there are no rules or officials to ensure a safe fight. You must train for accuracy and explosive speed so you can use the simple direct attack.

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The most important concept Bruce Lee taught is using no way as way. It gives you the advantage of an open mind, which enables you to express yourself freely in martial arts combat, business and life. You must train in all the combat ranges to be functional and to experience the concept. It involves acting mentally and physically in a natural way without limitation or bondage.

Photo by Cory Sorensen

PAUL VUNAK
Self-Defense Expert
Jeet Kune Do Instructor Under Dan Inosanto

Bruce Lee taught that one of the most neglected areas of the martial arts is state of mind, otherwise known as the “emotional dimension.” When you’re punching, kneeing, elbowing or biting someone, it’s safe to assume that you’ll be livid. The problem with fighting while you’re livid is that 90 percent of your skill and training goes out the window. There’s nothing you can do in life, even at a mediocre level, while you’re in this emotional state — imagine trying to play basketball, change a tire or play Ping-Pong.

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This is the paradox of the martial arts. Remember the axiom “Control follows awareness.” Your first step in resolving the problem has already been solved — by simply reading this article, you’re aware.

One time in the 1970s during the wee hours of the night, I asked Dan Inosanto how Bruce Lee solved this paradox. He said, “Bruce seemed to have a switch that went from livid to relaxed.” He was known to laugh, tell jokes and even give his opponents pointers while he was creaming them.

All martial artists should spend more time learning to identify, differentiate and process their emotions. The attribute will transfer to everyday life, and you’ll be on your way to spirituality.

Photo by Robert W. Young

GARY DILL
Jeet Kune Do Instructor Under James Lee
Founder of the Jeet Kune Do Association

JKD consists of numerous techniques, principles and concepts. The first thing I teach my students is how to punch, both the straight-line punch and the backhand. It’s not just about proper technique; it’s also about how to generate speed and power.

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You must have proper technique so your strikes are delivered in an efficient manner. Speed is necessary to deliver the attack before your opponent can respond. Power, which includes knowing how to shift your body weight, is required so you have knockdown potential.

(To be continued.)

“Bruce Lee” is a registered trademark of Bruce Lee Enterprises LLC. The Bruce Lee name, image and

Learn the Most Important Martial Arts Lessons Bruce Lee Taught — From His Top Disciples! Part 2

Black Belt contacted 16 well-known martial artists who teach jeet kune do or were heavily influenced by it to get their thoughts on the most important part of Bruce Lee’s art. Part 1 features replies from Dan Inosanto, Tim Tackett, Kelly McCann and Joe Lewis. Here, in Part 2, we present the answers we got from Burton Richardson, Matthew J. Numrich, Teri Tom and Richard S. Bustillo.

— Editors

Photo by Robert Reiff

BURTON RICHARDSON
Jeet Kune Do and Silat Instructor
Founder of Jeet Kune Do Unlimited
Black Belt Hall of Famer
Star of Burton Richardson’s Silat for the Street Online Course

If I had to teach only one element of Bruce Lee’s art, it would be the principle of training against a resisting opponent in all the ranges rather than merely doing isolated drills with a cooperative partner. Without complete sparring, you won’t be able to apply any of the techniques and tactics you need to defeat an attacker. Lee called this method “alive training.”

Particular moves and strategies are very important, but the most difficult and immediate obstacle to overcome in a real fight is the pressure and resistance offered by the attacker. If you don’t practice dealing with them, you won’t develop the ability to automatically adjust to the myriad of obstacles that a real opponent will present.

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Of course, I’d emphasize the need to keep that kind of complete sparring as safe as possible. It’s best to start with low-intensity sparring in all the ranges from the first day of training so the student learns how to deal with resistance. As he progresses, he must do as Lee admonished: Wear suitable protective equipment and go all out. High-intensity sparring is one of the reasons Lee stated that JKD isn’t for everyone.

Photo Courtesy of Matthew J. Numrich

MATTHEW J. NUMRICH
Jeet Kune Do Instructor Under Paul Vunak
Founder of Elite Defense Systems

There are two Bruce Lee/JKD principles I like to get across to my students. The first is the importance of physical training. About 20 years ago, I saw a Muscle & Fitness magazine story about Lee’s weightlifting workouts. His routines were so specific and challenging that they showed up some professional bodybuilders’ programs. I doubt any other martial artist’s “non-martial arts workout” has been so popular. That wasn’t the first article done on Lee’s training methods, nor will it be the last: Muscle & Fitness ran a cover story on his ab workout in April 2009.

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That brings up the concept of direct and indirect training. Lee showed the importance he placed on indirect training through his documentation of his workouts. His ab- and forearm-development workouts disgrace all those late-night infomercial routines. The message is clear: Technique alone doesn’t make a great fighter. The body that produces the technique is just as important.

The second principle is interception. I don’t know of anyone who can talk about JKD without discussing interception. Lee taught ways to not only react to an opponent’s attack but also interfere with it as early as possible. That stood in the face of those who taught only blocking, which is very reactive. Lee would intercept an attack, even before it was completed. That’s the sign of a highly skilled martial artist and what many of us aspire to be.

Photo by Rick Hustead

TERI TOM
Jeet Kune Do Instructor Under Ted Wong
Former Black Belt Columnist
Author of The Straight Lead: The Core of Bruce Lee’s Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do

The straight lead, of course! It’s a no-brainer. Bruce Lee himself declared it “the core of jeet kune do.” The core — you don’t need much more endorsement than that. Among the advantages he cited are speed, accuracy, frequency of hits, maintenance of balance, and safety.

[The straight lead] is key for bridging the gap, setting up attacks, maintaining the fighting measure and, in his words, “offensive defense.” True, it’s the most difficult technique in the JKD arsenal, but without a good one, you’re going to have a very tough time.

Photo by Robert Reiff

RICHARD S. BUSTILLO
President and Chief Instructor of the IMB Academy
First-Generation Bruce Lee Student
Black Belt Hall of Famer

If I had to teach one technique, it would be a combination of the front-hand strike and the front-leg kick. In JKD, we don’t have passive blocks; our blocks are our strikes.

We …

Learn the Most Important Martial Arts Lessons Bruce Lee Taught — From His Top Disciples!

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.

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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.

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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.…

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