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Doing Your Own JKD Thing

By Cass Magda
JKD has its own identity and follows a design with a purpose. It is a system. A JKD man's movement is definitely different and distinguishable from other martial arts such as Thai kickboxing, wing chun, or karate. The physical structure of JKD fits together in a certain way which defines its identity as JKD. If we add too much to this design, it could become a burden, the different parts not really working with each other. That's why the idea of simply putting together the "best of the martial arts" is not what JKD is about. We cannot take the best parts of certain cars and put them together hoping they will work well, because they are not designed to fit together. Putting together separate techniques from different arts so they flow, is in reality difficult because the structures of these arts are so different from each other. Flowing in a flight results from having a system that has become internalized and organic. One does not have to change structures or theories or even think about techniques - one just fights.
Bruce Lee used boxing, wing chun, and fencing as the main seminal elements of JKD. When we see JKD in action, we don't see any sign of fencing techniques! One the various theories of fencing are applied such as broken rhythm and the five ways of attack. In JKD we see a dynamic version of trapping hands that sort of resembles wing chun - but not the postures, stances, footwork, or body movement. The structure of wing chun is not there. The footwork and evasive body movement resembles that of a boxer but the stance is wider for kicking. The infighting, at times, is very much like boxing but the tactics of getting in are completely different. The structure of the classical boxer is not there.
Changing the design by absorbing the ideas and techniques from other martial arts into the JKD structure may or may no be OK. If the added techniques and concepts of the other martial arts changes the structure of JKD, then how can JKD fulfill its purpose and design? Is it still JKD? A speedboat, if loaded up with cargo, may be able to carry that cargo successfully--but is it still a speedboat following its original design and purpose, or is it now a cargo boat hauling a large load slowly? Slow and sure is not the purpose of a speedboat. It is not designed to carry a lot of cargo.
If we use this analogy for JKD then we see the obvious parallels. If we stray form the cornerstones of simplicity and directness and pile on too many techniques, theories, and strategies from other martial arts, then we have changed the essential nature of what we are doing into something else. We are no longer following the original design and purpose of JKD, so we can't call it JKD any more.
In the spirit of the philosophy of JKD, can we say we're doing our own thing now--our own JKD? This may be going too far. We need to be careful. If we added the theories and techniques from Kali stick-fighting and French savate into our judo structure, I don't think what we'd have could be called judo anymore. The judo structure would have to change. Would you now say you are doing your own judo? I don't think so. It is the same with JKD. The structure of JKD must be there to call it JKD.

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