JUN FAN GUNG FU/JEET KUNE DO
Seeking The Knowledge
by Sifu Lamar Davis
During his career as a martial arts instructor, Bruce Lee preferred to operate his three schools (Seattle, Oakland and L.A. Chinatown) as private, non-commercial establishments. Referred to as Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute, they operated as a private club, with a few privileged members. Members were acquired by word of mouth, and usually you had to know someone to get in.
As his career progressed, Bruce Lee did very little of the teaching himself. He preferred to concentrate on his own personal training and his private students. He placed his assistant instructors in charge of the teaching duties. In Seattle the assistant instructor was Taky Kimura. In Oakland his assistant instructor was James Yimm Lee. In Los Angeles his assistant instructor was Dan Inosanto. With assistants teaching the classes, Bruce had more time for experimentation and development. This is one explanation for his rapid and consistent increase in skill.
As in Instructor of Bruce Lee’s Fighting Methods, I used to wonder why he preferred the non-commercial approach to operating his kwoons. After all, he was really making a name for himself in the marital arts community! He could have made a lot of money by opening up several commercial schools! So why didn’t he do it? It can all be summed up in two words. Quality control! He refused to prostitute his art of Jeet Kune Do just to make more money. He was truly one of the last of a dying breed!
Over the past forty years I have tried many different approaches to the teaching of Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do. I tried a couple of low profile locations. The training was good and we got many students by word of mouth but there was nowhere to set up equipment that we needed such as heavy bags, double-end bags and mook jongs. Then I tried a couple of high profile locations.
We finally had a place to set up all of the equipment, but then the problem was getting quality students! At first a martial art that is strictly for self-defense training appealed to them, but when they got in there and found out there was hard work involved it was a different story!
Most people that seek out a Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do Instructor already have some knowledge of the art and what it is all about. They stand a chance of one day becoming proficient. The biggest majority of people, however, don’t know Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do from tae kwon do, judo or aikido! In fact, to most of the general public, it’s all just “karate” or “kung fu”! This is the mentality that the average Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do Instructor has to deal with, unfortunately!
When this type of person comes to watch a Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do class in progress, they are usually lost! The first shock is that there are no fancy uniforms, no colored belts, no military type discipline and the students are wearing shoes instead of practicing bare-footed. Students are actually able to talk to each other during drills, giving each other feedback on their progress. The atmosphere of the class is more “open”. To some people, this is more appealing. To others, it is confusing. After all, this seems to go against everything they’re ever been told about the Asian martial arts!
The next surprise is that there are no forms being practiced (with the exception of the Sil Lim Tao form from Wing Chun Gung Fu, which is part of the Jun Fan Gung Fu curriculum)! Most of the schools they have visited before spent one third to one-half of the class time practicing forms. Most visitors seem to relieved to find out that if they enroll they will not have to learn a vast multitude of katas, kuens or hyungs.
Another aspect of Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do that most prospective students find surprising is its economical structure. They are used to seeing low stances, broad flowing or jerky arm movements, hard blocks, reverse punches and chambered kicks that you can see coming a mile away! In other words, a lot of wasted motion! Wasted motion is wasted energy. None of these things exist in Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do. Everything is based on simplicity, directness and effectiveness. Mobility is highly stressed, as are non-telegraphic, hand and leg techniques. Parries are preferred to blocks. Great emphasis is placed on being able to intercept the opponent with a swift attack at the earliest possible moment. These are some of the things that make Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do such a unique art.
One area of training that draws many to Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do is the trapping hand techniques. Most arts re somewhat limited when it comes to trapping hands. Maybe a grab here and there, and that’s about it! When people see trapping for the first time, when executed by a well-trained Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do Instructor or practitioner, they are amazed! “Show me that again”, they exclaim!
In fact, many practitioners of other martial arts come to Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do Instructors just for private lessons to learn trapping hands! The problem here is trapping may not fit the structure of the art they are accustomed to. One reason for this, in fact, the most common reason, is that they lack an understanding of the flow, which is developed by what we call energy/sensitivity training.
The most misunderstood area of Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do training is energy/sensitivity training. To a prospective student, viewing a class for the first time, it actually looks kind of weird! I have seen people walk into a class when energy/sensitivity drills were going on, watch for a few minutes with a puzzled look on their face, and then walk out with a strange look on their face without saying a word to anyone! The energy/sensitivity drills have to be felt to be truly understood. I can talk to you about them all day long, but to feel is to believe!
To really be good at trapping hands this training is absolutely necessary. Every movement you make, every movement that your opponent makes, has a certain kind of energy. It will be springing energy, static energy or dissolving energy. Energy/sensitivity training is what enables you to sense and react appropriately to that energy. You develop what is referred to as “contact reflex”, or the ability to react reflexively to whatever comes. This is a highly developed neuromuscular skill. Without this skill, trapping movements are only mechanics. In other words, you only know “how” to execute the trap. For trapping to be maximally effective you must be able to “feel” when to execute the trap. Without the energy/sensitivity drills, you will never achieve this ability.
Another shocking element to someone viewing Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do for the first time is the degree of body contact during some of the drills. Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do is definitely not for those who cannot handle contact! This is one of the reasons that Bruce Lee placed so much emphasis on physical conditioning with his students. It is very necessary! I have seen many students not return after the first class! As you can see, to someone who had no background or research experience with Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do, viewing a class in action for the first time could be quite confusing, even shocking!
One other aspect faced by the Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do Instructor attempting to establish a commercial school is what I refer to as “redneck mentality”. Several years back I decided to give the commercial approach one more chance. After a couple of years of dealing with the same problems I had been having before, I decided to go back to the private club approach. With an ad in the yellow pages, it’s just too easy to attract the wrong kind of people! I even had a few people call up and ask me if they would learn to “whip some ass”! This is what I refer to as “redneck mentality”. These are the kind of people that shouldn’t be allowed to learn any martial art! They are dangerous to the general public!
I made the decision to go back to a private, member’s only environment. My school is on the main highway through the city where it is located, yet you could pass it day after day and have no idea that a martial arts school was located there. I actually own the building, which is 2,500 square feet. This allows room for all of the equipment necessary to train your physical attributes and striking abilities to maximum skill level. Since changing back to a private club, we get most of our students by word of mouth. This is good, because my students know what I am looking for in a prospective member. There is an extensive application process, after which the decision is made as to whether they will fit in with the group. Things have been much better since switching back to a private club! Since I reserve the right to refuse membership to anyone that should not learn this art, I am left with only the serious, dedicated students that are there for all the right reasons. No animosity is allowed, and violation of rules can get a student expelled permanently!
There is also the responsibility factor to consider. Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do is a highly combative martial art! We train for realistic street self defense situations, not the tournament ring! This is why Bruce Lee’s martial arts methods are often referred to as “scientific streetfighting”. Since this art has no sport or competition application, and is all about serious, potentially deadly self defense, it is extremely important for the Instructor to know the student well. Why does he/she want to learn the art? Will he/she abuse the knowledge that they have obtained? The last thing that you, as a responsible Instructor, want to do is unleash a maniac on the unsuspecting public! Make sure that the student has the right motives for wanting to learn!
If you are a Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do Instructor, or if you are thinking about becoming one, these are some serious things for you to consider before you do anything definite! It is a hard path to follow if you want to do everything the right way! By right way, I mean in a way that honors the founder, the late Bruce Lee.
Learning Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do is like putting a large puzzle together. Some of the pieces come from Hong Kong. Some of the pieces come from Seattle. Some of the pieces come from Oakland. Some of the pieces come from Los Angeles Chinatown. But ALL pieces of the puzzle come from Bruce Lee! Unfortunately, most of those claiming to teach Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do today have a very incomplete puzzle! This is very unfortunate, because each period had much to offer.
Adding to the confusion is Jeet Kune Do politics! Who certified whom? Should you join this organization or that one? Who’s lying, who’s telling the truth? Which is better, “Original Jeet Kune Do” or “Jeet Kune Do concepts”? To all this I say, “What do YOU want to get out of your training?”! Each person is an individual. No two practitioners are exactly the same! This is the way it is supposed to be! You have some idea as to what you want to get out of this art. It is your right to choose! Choose your path and follow it! You should be doing this for you, not for someone else! Go for it! Just be sure that the person that you choose to train with is a legitimate Instructor and has the credentials (and more importantly the knowledge and skills) to back up any claims that they make regarding legitimacy! Sadly, there are many (WAY TOO MANY) out there that pick up a “bit of this” and a “bit of that” and suddenly claim to be a Jun Fan Gung Fu or Jeet Kune Do Instructor, when the truth is that they really have NO CLUE what this art is all about!
The road to becoming an Instructor of Bruce Lee’s Fighting Methods is a difficult path to follow. Very few have the patience and dedication to learn all of the necessary skills. Are you one of those people that has wondered why there weren’t many Jun Fan Gung Fu/Jeet Kune Do schools around? Maybe now you can understand why! Keep your eyes open, though. You could be walking right by one everyday and not even know it, like mine, for instance! Good luck with your search!
More information on Sifu Lamar Davis and Hardcore JKD: https://HardcoreJKD.com