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Bruce Lee’s JKD Doctrine

The JKD CONCEPTS are theories developed by the legendary Lee and propagated by his students. Richard Bustillo, an original student of JKD, one of the leading instructors in JKD & Teacher to the Rao couple.

The concepts are explained below as we understand it :


Train in all ranges of combat, Kicking, Punching, Knee Elbow, Grappling & Matwork, Discover aspects of combat you have not experienced before. (Use in Life Philosophy: Research various aspects, advantages & disadvantages of the problem, situation or decision under guidance of a competent authority. Without guidance of a competent expert, your research could be based upon personal bias)


based upon 6 principles below


based upon 6 principles below

a. SIMPLICITY – ”HACK AWAY THE UNESSENTIALS” Work with Fewer strikes, weapons or smaller degree of effort & movement (Use in Life Philosophy: Use lesser resources)

b. DIRECTNESS – “SHORTEST DISTANCE BETWEEN 2 POINTS IS A STRAiGHT LINE” Be non telegraphic (Use in Life Philosophy: Be Direct, don’t beat around the bush, go straight to the heart of the problem without detours)

c. EFFECTIVITY – “LONGEST WEAPON – NEAREST TARGET & HARDEST WEAPON – SOFTEST TARGET” Attack Primary Targets i.e. Eye & Face, Groin, Knees & Shins. (Use in Life Philosophy: Whatever you do, it must work. Be efficient)

d. OPEN MINDED – “NO WAY AS THE WAY, NO LIMITATION AS LIMITATION”  Be Open to any technique or tactic that will work. (Use in Life Philosophy: Open your mind to every possibility)

e. FLUIDITY – “BE SOFT YET NOT YIELDING, BE FIRM YET NOT HARD” If he pulls-push, if he pushes-pull, take him where he wants to go! (Use in Life Philosophy: Don’t oppose or Don’t give way completely to force)

f. NON CONDITIONAL (NON TRADITIONAL) ” (Use in Life Philosophy: Don’t make decisions based upon previous conditioning of thought, attitude & behaviour)


• IF YOU ARE HEAVY – Adapt techniques to the Grappling Range
• IF YOU ARE FLEXIBLE – Adapt techniques to Kicking Range
• IF YOU ARE LONG LIMBED – Adapt techniques to Punching Range

(Use in Life Philosophy: Whatever has been absorbed, adapt & tailor make it to suit your resource, situation & requirement)


Enter and Exit to Ideal Range, where you have the advantage & do what is appropriate without hesitation or fear (Use in Life Philosophy: Apply what ever you have concluded)

Principles & Practice of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do (JKD) Doctrine in Unarmed Combat

The JKD Ideology is based on the following principles, applicable to Combat as well as to Life. If you are smart, you wil learn to use JKD in combat, but if you are wise, you will also learn its application in Life.

Mechanically, the more parts a machine has, the greater the chances of it breaking down. Accumulation of techniques only adds complications. Being simple in nature, JKD believes in few tools practiced to the point in which they are extremely efficient. Hence simple tools like the lead jab and lead side kick to the groin or knee are perfected.

A line, being the shortest distance between two points, is the most logical path rather than a curved detour to reach the final destination. In being direct, no excess motion is exerted.  For example, If an assailant grabs your wrist, some forms of martial arts may teach you to stomp on their foot, lock the wrist, take them down to the ground, and then finish them with a strike to the throat. The direct approach would be to strike them in the throat right in the beginning. Hence there is no punching from the waist.

Also, Interception is preferred to Counter & parry as it is a more direct path to the goal.

JKD believes in absorbing the useful and rejecting the limitation. Only techniques which work are taken. For e.g. the sport rules of various fighting are discarded and the foul techniques are imbibed. JKD uses any means necessary to accomplish this task.  If grabbed you may bite, scratch, or pull hair or whatever best fits the situation.

Non Classical
Practitioners do not wear uniforms, they do not practice forms, and they don’t waste time with complicated techniques simply because of tradition. Shoes are worn, and training with equipment is given a lot of importance. Kata was vertical death, joked Lee.

Open Mindedness
JKD is open to newer ideas and concepts which work. It is a constantly evolving art. Principles from Filipino Martial arts now are a regular part of JKD teaching curriculum worldwide.

JKD believes in flowing, there is never an opposition to the forces and energies exerted by the opponent. All JKD techniques and responses are in accordance with the ‘flow’. JKD does not rely on one specific technique or another to counter an opponent.  You should be able to adapt to the situation at hand.  As an attack approaches, you adapt to it with the appropriate response.  The opponents attack becomes your attack, as you fit into the opening created.  Deflective parrying is preferred to rigid blocking. The rigid and unbending is the disciple of death, the soft and yielding the disciple of Life.

Economy of Motion
Use the least possible movement to achieve your goal. Evasion is preferred to parrying and Interception is preferred to Counter & parry. Trapping from close quarters is preferred to moving away from an attack and then stepping in to counter. Sidestepping is preferred to retreat.

No Pick & Choose
In the beauty of spring, there is no for or against. All branches grow, some short, some long. Make a hairbreadth difference and heaven and earth will fall apart. JKD does not distinguish between one technique and another, favoring neither but supports a better and simpler  application of every technique.

JKD is balance of opposites. Meet hardness with softness. Meet softness with hardness. Opposite’s compliment each other not oppose. Therefore domination has to be complimented with yielding wherever necessary. Be soft, yet not yielding, be firm, yet not hard.

Comfort in all Ranges
JKD teaches you to be comfortable in all ranges. One learns to accommodate to the situation. Lee says “Be like water. It is insubstantial. It assumes the shape of the bowl.” Thus the JKD man fights and adapts to Long weapons range, Kicking, Punching, Knee-Elbow-Trapping, Grappling & Groundwork ranges. He also is the master of entry & Exit into & from  all ranges

JKD can “fit in with any style”. This does not mean that JKD can be added to any style to make it more efficient, or vice versa.  What it probably does mean is that JKD can counter an adversary regardless of their style or system. JKD believes that the basic body movement of all techniques from various different styles is always similar.

Longest Weapon on nearest target
Use your longest and strongest reach on the opponents nearest and most vulnerable target. In the words of Winston Churchill ‘If you hit your opponent, hit him with all your might or don’t hit him at all’. Thus the lead hand and lead foot is preferred to using the rear hand and foot.

Strongest Weapon Softest Target
Use your most powerful weapon on the weakest & most vulnerable area of your opponent. Like the side kick to the opponent’s knee

Non Conditional
The JKD exponent defies conditioning. The JKD man prefers to condition his opponent to a regular rhythm and then break it, he himself remaining free and resistant to conditioning.

Non Telegraphic
All JKD attack comes without forewarning or pullback. The punches do not start from the waist and the kicks do not start from the hips.

Individual more important than the system
All systems are incapable of pliability and adaptability. The truth is outside of all fixed systems. So to find liberation in the arts, one must go beyond the system, beyond Judo or karate or Boxing, one must even go beyond JKD. As JKD is just a concept and not a fixed gospel.

Experience over Technique
In JKD experience is valued over and above technique. Experience teaches response and this is valuable compared to executing conditioned technique. The JKD man has experienced boxing, kicking & grappling instead of having learnt techniques from Boxing, Kicking and grappling arts.

Teach how to Find Technique
If you fish for a man, you will fend him for one meal. But, if you teach a man how to fish, you will fend him for life. Thus the fighting principles take precedence over individual technique.

If there is a tactic, a strategy that makes you reach the goal faster, it must be resorted to. However one must distinguish between strategy and technical cunning. Therefore almost all attack in JKD is indirect, with feints & deception.

Absorb what is useful
Take what is useful to you, what works and develop from here. So develop what comes naturally to you rather than learn complicated technique. If you are big framed and heavy and have a natural penchant for grappling, well start your journey from there and develop further.

Hack away the unessential
Reject the rules, the limitations. Absorb the foul techniques of sport martial arts and use them to make your fighting more effective. So JKD teaches you to punch the kidney, the groin and jab the eyes, use headlocks and hammerlocks in grappling.

Individual Uniqueness
JKD is unique for each individual. The techniques that work for a big burly man are not the same as those which work for a small lean man. Each individual has to travel his journey to find something exclusively his own. His experiences which are unique to his self must form the core of his responses and his art.

Muen Munshi. One thought. One Action. No Mind. For every thought there are two actions. Doing & Non doing. And for every thought and resultant action, there are a hundred doubts & uncertainties, a hundred minds. Buddha concluded under the Bodhisattva tree ‘Hack away the mind, it is the cause of all trouble’ the JKD man does not think technique, he does not hit. ‘It’  hits. The ‘It’ here refers to the No mindedness of the great origin.

No Limitation as Limitation
In JKD there are no limitations. For every rule there is an exception. The only limitations are those which you impose on yourself. So instead of this is better than that, the JKD man feels, This is another way of doing it! Hence JKD is a no Holds barred fighting.

No way as the Way
There is no fixed way. All routes lead to the same destination. Liberation. “Your Way May Not Be My Way, Nor My Way Be Your Way”.  In JKD You find your own way. The JKD man is no styles, but all styles.

All inclusive, excludes nothing
JKD is not limited to only punching, or only kicking. During training, comfort is to be developed in all ranges. It is fighting with any ability you may have…

Full Belief, Total Conviction, Commitment & Discipline
We are here to question the answers and not answer the questions. Total knowledge is to question the Teacher, the teaching and the textbook.  Once the debates are resolved, one must have full belief and conviction in his doctrine, unless proved otherwise. Complete commitment and rigid discipline must be exercised in its practice. Once the path is decided upon, there is no looking back.

Forever Evolving
JKD is forever evolving, getting better, losing its handicaps. The JKD practiced today may be different from JKD practiced yesterday as the individual may evolve. The Principles laid down in JKD may never change, though our understanding of their execution will better with time.

Applicable anywhere
JKD principles are applicable to Combat, Life and every possible place where greater effectivity is desired.

JKD is towards personal Liberation
JKD is one of the avenues through which life opens its doors to us. The goal of JKD is to know our ignorance. Knowing our ignorance is the best part of knowledge. In the words of Sun Tzu, If you know your self and the enemy, there is no fear in a hundred battles. If you know your self, but not the enemy, the odds are even. If you know neither yourself, nor the enemy, there is fear in a hundred battles.

It is just a word. The concepts outlined is a boat used to cross the river, once across, discard it.