remy presas

Jeet kune do authority Taky Kimura once described Kelly S. Worden as an “American icon of the progressive arts.” In this exclusive interview, Worden reveals how his mentors helped him synthesize arnis, JKD and other concepts to forge a system he calls “renegade JKD."

Jeet kune do authority Taky Kimura once described Kelly S. Worden as an “American icon of the progressive arts.” For more than 35 years, Kelly Worden has devoted his waking hours to blending and integrating a multitude of martial arts concepts to form a system of cross-training he calls Natural Spirit International. In this exclusive interview with Black Belt magazine, the University Place, Washington-based master reveals how his teachers and mentors helped him forge a system he calls “renegade JKD,” his unique path to martial arts self-discovery.

Black Belt: You started in boxing and catch wrestling before moving to isshin-ryu karate, but from the beginning, your focus has been on fighting. When did you find out your path was different from that of other traditional practitioners?

Kelly Worden: Almost immediately. I was undisciplined. There were six children in our family. My father was a disabled veteran from World War II, and much of his time was spent in a veteran’s hospital. I found myself running the streets early on and getting into a lot of fights. I enjoyed fighting, but that attitude created other problems and issues, and I left home when I was 15. Traditional isshin-ryu karate tempered my spirit and offered structured learning and self-discipline. At best, I was an aggressive, mediocre karate practitioner, but I persevered by training in different arts. Fighting was always the core of [my] approach.

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