(This is Sifu Todd Shawn Tei's article from Inside Karate's November 1995 issue, reprinted here by popular demand. Enjoy! -Kung Fu Los Angeles staff)
"Jeet Kune Do" on Trial. Is it Guilty or Innocent of Being a Martial Arts Style?
Many people believe Jeet Kune Do is actually a style and not just a concept. This is a debate that can go on for hours with many different points of views. It's been going on longer than many readers have been alive. Let's explore the Founder's point of view and see if we can find any evidence that can prove if Jeet Kune Do is a martial arts style or a concept.
Bruce Lee once said that calling his invention "Jeet Kune Do" was something that would typecast it as a certain system and he shouldn't have even given it a name. He explained repeatedly about his views on having "no way as way." Thus, you will not be limited or confined in a set Style of System of techniques.
When Bruce Lee was interviewed or talked about Jeet Kune Do he made it obvious to the Martial Arts community that his "style" was indeed not a style but a mixture of many different styles and elements, as well as training strategies. When Brandon Lee was interviewed he also stated that Jeet Kune Do was not a style but merely a concept of using elements from many different styles and taking what is most effective from these styles and combining them into a method of fighting that would never limit your moves.
Many contend that by adding a different technique to a Traditional style you've learned for years no longer makes that style Traditional, but taints the style and offends the "Masters." So combining many different Martial Arts techniques and using them simultaneously makes your style a sort of "Free Style" Martial Art. Aside from the fact that most modern styles are combinations or variations of previously existing styles, the ultimate goal of any style is to develop your own free fighting, instinctive pattern. So it is with JKD. No two people could possibly have the same style of Jeet Kune Do because each person would have his very own specialized style of it that would suit their own needs. Their likes and dislikes would exclusively be decided by the practitioner.
But How Can I Be Like the Dragon?
You can't. This would defeat the whole purpose of Jeet Kune Do. Merely following and imitating the unique patterns of Bruce Lee would be rigid adherence to a style. However, if you like Bruce Lee's fighting method and you want your style to be similar to his then you would have to follow an identical path of development.
With all the evidence of Bruce's training and books he has written we can safely come to the conclusion that Jeet Kune Do is Innocent of being a style, and that Jeet Kune Do is definitely conceptual in nature. This is not to say that it is unlimited, and that any old hodge-podge of techniques is JKD.
-- By Sifu Todd Shawn Tei
Inside Karate, November 1995