Bruce Lee’s JKD: Interpretation for Everyday Life

In this post I offer an interpretation of Bruce Lee’s symbol for his martial art Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and attempt to generalize his concepts for everyday life applications.

  • The derivation sequence was:
      1. Research the internet, breaking the symbol down, and accumulating interpretations of them.  Most findings were combat oriented.
      2. Begin generalizing away from combat and refining
      3. Attempting to remove combat altogether and simplifying for everyday use .

I present my conclusions in reverse order.  In each refinement, I strove to clarify and combine similar elements from the initial search findings, but attempted to add nothing of my own.

  • Personal Take Away’s from Bruce Lee’s JKD Emblem:  Combat removed
    • From a Wing Chun man, to a Gung Fu Man, to a JKD man, to an individual human being
    • Through his evolution of martial arts, to creating his own art – JKD, Bruce Lee sought continuous improvement on how to be himself and express himself.
    • Practicing in various styles revealed the limitations of any style, in the inability to properly address the dynamics of a fight, and constrained the ability to be fully spontaneous and express oneself.
    • Properly aligned and integrated best practice concepts (Wing Chun, Boxing, and Fencing) produced something new, that frees us to trust and follow our own path.
    • Recognizing that we are participants in the duality of yin yang, expansion / contraction, hard / soft, one must recognize the whole and its dynamics.
    • Recognizing the  “dynamic oneness” necessitates certain criteria.
      • Flexibility, adaptability, speed, economy of motion,……
    • Although JKD contains the chaotic forces present in an physical encounter (Arrows around Tai Chi symbol).
      • Utilizing No way is the way
        • Your “style” needs continuous improvement.
        • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, it’s a subtraction process.
        • Your way is the way. It must be created individually.  An existing way is somebody else’s way.
      • No limitation as limitation
        • There should be no style, no mind.
        • Sophisticated spontaneity is the goal.
        • Fully express yourself in combat, as in life to obtain victory.
        • Open your heart, trust your feelings.
  • Summary conclusions of Bruce Lee’s JKD Emblem:  Generalizing away from combat
    • Taijitu 
      • Represents the realization of the supreme ultimate undifferentiated oneness before duality which is an indivisible whole.
      • The indivisible whole contains two characteristic seemingly observable forces of Yin Yang.
      • The interplay between the forces is spontaneous, dynamic, alive, and every changing millisecond to millisecond.
      • You and your opponent are part of a oneness and complement each other.
    • Arrows: represent your personal style or approach to the  oneness represented by the Taijitu
      • The arrows around the Taijitu signify an awareness and  recognition of the Taijitu realization about our existence represented by the symbol.
      • The requirements of a solution are determined here as they must address the Taijitu model of existence.
      • The solution must address the ”dynamic oneness” of yin yang forces of which one is a participant in.
      • To address the dynamic interplay where every situation is varied, the solution must be flexible and adaptable.
      • This necessitates a flexible and adaptable approach to deal with varying conditions.
      • To obtain victory, therefore, it is essential not to be rigid, but to be fluid and able to adapt to any situation. He compared it to being like water: “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. Lee’s theory behind this was that one must be able to function in any scenario.
      • Economy of time and energy are needed.  Jeet Kune Do seeks to waste no time or movement, teaching that the simplest things work best, as in Wing Chun
        • Maximum expression/effect with minimal movement
          • Maximized force seeks to end the battle quickly due to the amount of damage inflicted.
        • Economy of motion is the principle by which JKD practitioners achieve
          • Efficiency: An attack which reaches its target in the least amount of time, with maximum force.
          • Directness: Doing what comes naturally in a disciplined way.
          • Simplicity: Thinking in an uncomplicated manner; without ornamentation
        • Interception
          • Simultaneous parrying & punching utilizes the principle of economy of motion by combining attack and defense into one movement, thus minimizing the “time” element and maximizing the “energy” element. Efficiency is gained by utilizing a parry rather than a block.
          • Redirection has two advantages over blocking,
            • First that it requires less energy to execute and
            • Second that it utilizes the opponent’s energy against them by creating an imbalance.
          • Efficiency is gained in that the opponent has less time to react to an incoming attack, since they are still nullifying the original attack.
    • Chinese characters indicate:  Your personal style needs continuous improvement:  Where you are has limits, and there are no limits.
      • No way is the way
        • There is no standing method or system that can deal with full spontaneity.
        • You must be flexible and adaptable with speed to be victorious.
      • No limitation as imitation
        • Continuous improvement is required, every method has limitations that need improved.  Its a subtraction process.
  • Background details / Research Notes: Combat oriented
    • Taijitu:  Symbol representing the yin yang forces of existence
      • A commonly used version of a symbol for Taiji.
      • Taiji is a Chinese cosmological term for the “Supreme Ultimate” state of undifferentiated absolute and infinite potential, the oneness before duality, from which Yin and Yang principles arise.
      • Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts.[2]Everything has both yin and yang aspects (for instance, shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation. The yin yang (i.e. taijitu symbol) shows a balance between two opposites with a portion of the opposite element in each section.
      • In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole.
    • The arrows
      • Represent the endless interaction between Yin and Yang.
      • It is the awareness that both life and fighting can be shapeless and ever changing that allows one to be able to adapt to those changes instantaneously and bring forth the appropriate solution.
        • According to Dan Lee, “Bruce added two arrows around the Tai Chi circle to further emphasize that the JKD fighting techniques must contain the harmonious interplay of Yin (pliable, yielding) and Yang (firm, assertiveness) energies.” It is to emphasize the continuous, unceasing interplay between the two forces of the universe: Yin and Yang. “
        • Lee emphasized that every situation, in fighting or in everyday life, is varied. To obtain victory, therefore, it is essential not to be rigid, but to be fluid and able to adapt to any situation. He compared it to being like water: “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water.” Lee’s theory behind this was that one must be able to function in any scenario.
        • Real combat is spontaneous, alive, and dynamic, with circumstances changing from millisecond to millisecond.  Be unpredictable placing emphasis on efficiency, speed, and adjust-ability.
      • Economy of motion
        • Maximum expression/effect with minimal movement
          • This is meant to help a practitioner conserve both energy and time, two crucial components in a physical confrontation. Maximized force seeks to end the battle quickly due to the amount of damage inflicted upon the opponent.
        • Jeet Kune Do seeks to waste no time or movement, teaching that the simplest things work best, as in Wing Chun. Economy of motion is the principle by which JKD practitioners achieve:
          • Efficiency: An attack which reaches its target in the least amount of time, with maximum force.
          • Directness: Doing what comes naturally in a disciplined way.
          • Simplicity: Thinking in an uncomplicated manner; without ornamentation
        • Interception
          • A concept originating in Wing Chun where one attacks while one’s opponent is attacking.  Interception may occur before, during or after the opponents attack.  The concept may be extended to include understanding your opponents’ thoughts and intercepting them to your advantage. Interception
          • An opponents attack offers me an opportunity to intercept it. This means intercepting an opponent’s attack with an attack of one’s own instead of simply blocking it.
          • Simultaneous parrying & punching utilizes the principle of economy of motion by combining attack and defense into one movement, thus minimizing the “time” element and maximizing the “energy” element. Efficiency is gained by utilizing a parry rather than a block. By definition a “block” stops an attack, whereas a parry merely re-directs it. Redirection has two advantages, first that it requires less energy to execute and second that it utilizes the opponent’s energy against them by creating an imbalance. Efficiency is gained in that the opponent has less time to react to an incoming attack, since they are still nullifying the original attack.
    • Chinese characters indicate
      • No way is the way
        • Lee did not believe in “styles” and felt that every person and every situation is different and not everyone fits into a mold; one must remain flexible in order to obtain new knowledge and victory in both life and combat.
        • Fight circumstances change from millisecond to millisecond, thus pre-arranged patterns and techniques are not adequate and can be described as a “classical mess”
        • One is to approach combat without any preconceived notions, and simply respond to “what is.” In this way, the martial artist is adaptable and pliable enough to fit in with the opponent and situation instantaneously. He is using no particular or set way that was preconditioned in him. “No-mindedness” is a term often used to describe this state of unconscious consciousness or conscious unconsciousness. And, indeed, it is an ideal state that is difficult to attain but which one aspires to.
        • In addition, one tries to be like water when using this “no-way” approach. Water automatically assumes the container that it is poured in, thereby constantly fitting in with and adapting to the situation.
        • “All out Sparring” provides the right environment to determine if a technique is worthy of adoption
      • No limitation as limitation
        • To fully express yourself, you can have no limitations.  Traditional or classical styles of martial arts are limiting due to rigid and non – flowing movements.
        • By having no limitation as the only limitation, one can transcend martial arts boundaries that are set by style, tradition, race, individual preferences
        • One must never become stagnant in the mind or method, but always evolving and moving towards improving oneself
      • Combined effect of these phrases
        • Lee wanted us to search deep within ourselves to find what works best for each one of us.
        • No longer are we dependent on the teachings of various styles or teachers.
        • But by taking an honest assessment of our own strengths and weaknesses, we can improve our martial skill as well as our daily living.
        • Like he said, “Knowledge… ultimately, means self-knowledge”.
        • ” With this freedom to improve our skill and life in any way that we like, one is able to honestly express one’s self”

Suggested Next steps:

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s