Q – Why do you refer to Jeet Kune Do as “the next step beyond mixed martial arts”?
It’s a matter of perception, really. JKD is considered by many to be the “original mixed martial art” because it seeks totality in personal combat considering all ranges and aspects of fighting. I don’t consider JKD as “mixed martial arts” because I view martial art as a single unitary whole, in its “totality” as opposed to various separated segments such as kicking, striking, grappling, etc., or ‘this’ art and ‘that’ art combined. The idea is not to create a melting pot of different styles such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and Boxing, or put a bunch of techniques from various arts together and call it “mixed martial arts.” The idea is to do away with the whole notion of styles entirely. It is to be free of styles or even combinations of styles. The point is that when you understand ‘motion’, you don’t need ‘style.’
Q -- “I’ve read that there is no form of belt-ranking system in Jeet Kune Do. Is that true, and if so, why not?
That is true. In Jeet Kune Do there exists no formalized ranking system such as the traditional colored-belts or sashes. Bruce Lee recognized that belts were non-essential to martial art training. While he initially did establish a ranking system for Jeet Kune Do (not belts or sashes, but rather a series of various colored Yin/Yang symbols) he discarded it because he believed that the motivation for meaningful improvement lies within the will of each individual as opposed to chasing after external accessories such as colored belts. In many cases, the “chasing after” the next belt or stripe often becomes more important to the student than the self-knowledge and personal growth they acquire through training.
The origins of the colored-belt ranking system came about when Dr. Jigaro Kano, the founder of Judo, wanted to get the art taught in public schools in Japan. In order to do that he had to create some form of standardized ranking that all the schools could use. In China, within the martial art school, family titles such as “older brother” and “younger sister” were used instead of rankings.
Teaching a training process without a belt system shocks many people because they tend to judge or label a person by the belt they wear -- “Oh, he’s only a green belt, he only knows this or that” -- And if you don’t have a belt then you cannot be any good -- “They don’t have belts so they must not be any good” -- These people have been entrained to think that way by the martial art industry, media, etc. When I discuss the subject with such people I always remind them that Bruce Lee never possessed a belt or sash. Does that mean that he wasn’t any good or didn’t know anything?
The bottom-line is that colored belts and sashes are tradition-based and have nothing to do with reality. When it comes to martial art, you can either apply the technique in a combative situation if necessary, or you can’t. It doesn’t matter how many belts you have, if you are not comfortable with it, and your ability to execute it when necessary, that you can do it reflexively, you can have as many belts that say the contrary, it doesn’t mean it’s true
At Kent Institute of Martial Art we remain true to Bruce Lee’s principle of not awarding colored belts or sashes as an indicator of progress in his method of martial art philosophy.
Q -- If you don’t have any kind of formalized ranking, how do students gauge their personal progress?
There is no formalized ‘advancement’ at the Kent Institute. Evaluation of each student’s technical skill, as well as their level of effectiveness is carried out by myself, and I will take into account a number of criteria that include such things as length of time training, the depth of the student’s technical knowledge; their ability to apply material in alive sparring sessions; and their mental and emotional attitude. At the Kent Institute, I tell my students that they are “testing” everyday. I am there, teaching, watching each person; their physical skills, their mental and emotional development. I don’t want a student to simply memorize material and take a test. I want them to know it, understand it, make it a part of their being, and be able to express themselves.
Q -- “Do you teach “katas” or “forms” at your school?
No, we do not. In Jeet Kune Do, forms or “katas” are considered another “non-essential” to true martial art training. Forms very often were created to serve as a “chronicle” of a particular style or system; an encyclopedia of the styles various movements such as punches, kicks, etc., and were primarily developed to pass down a style from one generation to the next at a time when they didn’t have videos, etc, to record things. Also, many times in forms certain actions were disguised or “flowered up” in order to keep them secret or to prevent a practitioner from being arrested.
From a combative standpoint, forms create situations that don’t exist. They are basically pre-formulated shadow boxing routines. Bruce Lee often compared doing forms without an opponent to attempting to learn to swim on dry land. Lee believed that real combat was alive and dynamic. Circumstances in a combative situation change from millisecond to millisecond, and thus pre-arranged patterns and techniques are not adequate in dealing with such a rapidly-changing situation. Because of their understanding, a student training in JKD can literally create a “freelance” form on the spot through shadowboxing with the material they have learned. The difference is that they also have a true sense of “relationship” with the actions they use because they have trained them against equipment and with an “alive” training partner.
Q -- Is “sparring” part of your Institute’s curriculum?
As Bruce Lee used to say, “No amount of ‘dry-land’ swimming will prepare a person for the water. They can stand at the edge of the pool all day practicing their various strokes, but in order to swim, they have to get into the water.” The same holds true with regard to martial art. Sparring is the “acid test” for all a student has learned during training. Only through free sparring can they learn proper timing, correct judgment of distance, and many of the other elements so necessary in fighting.
It’s important to define what we mean by “sparring” first. Sparring as practiced at Kent Institute of Martial Art is quite different than the traditional “point sparring” or “two-step” sparring taught at many martial art schools. At the Kent Institute, we practice “freelance” sparring with proper protective equipment and qualified supervision. True fighting is totally unpredictable, and freelance sparring is the only way to prepare a student for the ‘spontaneity of combat’.
Keep in mind, however, that although sparring is an important and essential part of preparing a student for real-life combative situations, it is only one facet of their overall training. Sparring may reveal a student’s strengths and weaknesses, but it is very difficult to correct a weakness while sparring because they can’t stop the action. They can only correct flaws in their performance after the sparring, in self-training.
Done correctly, sparring is a healthy form of competition. However, it is concerned with much more than simply the idea of winning and losing. If a student simply approaches it with the idea of beating an opponent and they do, that just means that they beat an opponent, that doesn’t mean that they’ve improved. How have they benefited? What have they learned about themselves? In sparring, a student is brought face to face with themselves; their strengths, their weaknesses, their fears, etc. Each sparring session offers them the opportunity to learn how far they can go, how they respond to pressure, where they need to improve, etc. And when the session is over they evaluate their experience to see what they did right, what they did wrong, what they need to change. Ultimately, for the martial artist, the competition is not with others, but rather with themselves.
Q – Does your school have a philosophy?
Yes, we do. The philosophical foundation upon which the Kent Institute is built is a non-restrictive philosophy of “personal liberation’’ and total freedom for the individual, not only in combat, but in all aspects of life. The thrust of our teaching is to reflect the power of martial art as liberating agent. Our school is about philosophy in action. We do not “give” you or “teach” our students a philosophy, but rather, help them develop their own living, dynamic philosophy.
Q – I’m intrigued by Bruce Lee’s philosophy of personal liberation and I would like to get in to better shape, but I have no interest in fighting or competing. What can Jeet Kune Do offer me?
Self-defense is simply one of the many facets of Jeet Kune Do. If self-defense or hand-to-hand combat holds no appeal to you, then you’ll be pleased to know that JKD yields plenty of other facets that are so critical to health and self-actualization. JKD will help you achieve personal excellence and allow you to become more efficient, creative and productive in whatever you are doing.
Q -- What do you mean when you say that you offer "FOUNDATIONS" not "FADS" ?
We don't rush to follow the latest fashionable trend or "fad" in the martial arts. Instead we help our students develop strong "foundations" by learning a martial art training process which will allow them to create their own "personal" martial art that they can use, practice, and adapt, wherever they are.