The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Forbidden Kill Strikes

How to Teach Yourself Martial Arts

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Jeet Kune Do (JKD) is an evolving art. Bruce Lee himself felt that it wasn't a style at all, but a process. He believed that even naming JKD might have been an error - it made it easier to mistake his process of exploration for a finished result.

While Lee didn't favor stagnation in the martial arts, he did believe that he had stripped his fighting style down to a core of simple, useful techniques applicable to all humans. Yet he also felt that martial arts were about "honestly expressing yourself," and that each person would have to learn about him- or herself through the arts - not simply study another's way. His paradoxical endorsement of both the individual need to explore and learn and the idea that all humans have the same tools to fight with led JKD to develop along two different paths after his death.

Some schools teach a fairly rigid curriculum in an attempt to match Lee's style as it was at the time of his death. They believe that one should not throw away Lee's experience, teaching, and knowledge in favor of new developments. Other schools heavily add to and subtract from JKD, and maintain that the true lesson of JKD is that it must continue to grow. Ironically, both types of schools have often added additional techniques and skills to the JKD syllabus, while Lee saw JKD as a process of subtraction - like a sculptor removing what's unnecessary to depict his subject.

With the GM's permission, players should be able to add to or subtract from the techniques listed under Jeet Kune Do (p. 165) to represent the curriculum of their school. JKD/Escrima and JKD/grappling-style blends are especially common. Other schools may teach another style but import a few tools or techniques from JKD and use the JKD name. These schools should simply add Style Adaptation (JKD) to their main style; they don't teach the full version of JKD.

Jeet Kune Do fighters typically put their "power side" (dominant hand) forward. This is the opposite of what most styles counsel, including Boxing. Stress is on the attack, even when on the defensive; the Counterattack technique and the Riposte option (pp. 124-125) are favorite tactics. Deceptive Attacks stacked with feints are also common, as Lee was a great believer in "progressive indirect attacking": throwing a series of strikes and using each attack to draw an opening for the next. JKD practitioners aim kicks at the legs to bring down the opponent, and hand strikes at the eyes, face, vitals, and groin.

Martial-Arts Uniforms

The stereotypical martial-arts uniform is the ubiquitous Japanese gi (slang for dogi). Worn by judoka and karateka, it consists of loose, string-drawn cotton pants and a wrap top, cinched with an obi (belt) denoting rank. The traditional gi is white, but many schools wear black, blue, or even multicolored gis - either for style (black became popular during the ninja-crazed 1980s) or for practical reasons (black doesn't show stains!). Asian and Asian-derived styles often use the gi.

Many other styles have trademark garb. Boxers wear shorts, sumotori wear a mawashi, wrestlers wear a singlet, and Tapak Sutji Pentjak Silat students wear a red uniform with yellow striping. There are countless other examples.

Some Aikido, Aikijujutsu, and traditional Japanese budo schools (teaching Kendo or Kyudo, for example) use the hakama, or split skirt. Worn over a normal gi, this is split front and back to allow free movement of the legs.

Kung fu schools often adopt the pajama-like silk shirt common in China, along with gi-like drawstring pants. These uniforms are likely to be brightly colored, not white or black. Most have sashes instead of belts.

Mixed martial arts practitioners commonly wear shorts and gloves (women add a sport top) - the expected uniform in no-holds-barred matches. Typically, students train in shorts and t-shirts. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu stylists are a notable exception, usually training (and competing) in a gi, which they regard as an important part of their art.

Modern schools emphasizing "street use" or self-defense often train in street clothes. Students of historical schools -especially in styles that teach skills meant for actual combat - also tend to wear day-to-day clothing, not a uniform. This may be fairly uniform in nature, but such martial artists don't change into special clothes to train!

Uniforms in Combat: The crucial difference between fighting in and out of clothing - including uniforms and armor - is that nudity offers fewer handholds, making it easier to break free. If you're naked or in a skin-tight outfit, you get +1 to break free. Increase this to +2 if sweaty (at least 1 FP lost to exertion or heat) or +3 if oiled (lasts for one fight and costs $2 per application). Elaborate garb, including traditional Japanese costume, has many handholds and gives -1.

If JKD has a signature attack, it's the "straight blast." This starts with a front-hand straight punch with the striker's full body weight behind it - often a Committed Attack. It's frequently used to intercept an attacker (see Stop Hits, p. 108). The opening blow is then followed by a series of Rapid Strikes to disrupt and overwhelm the victim.

Lee built JKD from a number of styles. It draws heavily on Wing Chun (pp. 203-204), and also on Boxing (pp. 152153), Escrima (pp. 155-156), fencing, other kung fu styles, and Lee's own extensive experience and experimentation. He added spectacular high kicks for their cinematic impact, but primarily used low kicks in practice. The central philosophy of JKD was reduction - not addition. Lee experimented with many techniques from other arts but only kept a tight core of broadly useful ones. JKD fighters don't have a wide range of techniques but rather an extensive range of applications for the small set they practice. Recognizing his art's stripped-down nature, Lee sometimes referred to JKD as "scientific streetfighting."

While Lee demonstrated his ability with weapons on film, JKD is an unarmed martial art. Nevertheless, some schools offer weapons training - and cinematic Bruce Lee clones should possess numerous weapon skills to better match his movie exploits! Lee also enjoyed tameshiwari, or breaking, but regarded it as an amusing stunt and not a combat skill. JKD is a combat style. No sport version exists, although Lee chose his moves on the set as much for how they looked as for how well they would work in a fight.

Lee had little regard for the special powers that some traditional martial-arts masters claimed. This didn't prevent admirers from ascribing such abilities to him - a result of his charisma, skill, and fame. The cinematic components below reflect Lee's exploits in the movies.

Skills: Judo; Karate.

Techniques: Counterattack (Karate); Ear Clap; Elbow Strike; Eye-Poke; Feint (Karate); Head Butt; Kicking; Knee Strike; Stamp Kick.

Cinematic Skills: Power Blow; Pressure Points; Pressure Secrets; Push.

Cinematic Techniques: Flying Jump Kick; Lethal Eye-Poke; Lethal Strike; Pressure-Point Strike.

Perks: Biting Mastery; Style Adaptation (All); Technique Adaptation (Counterattack); Technique Adaptation (Feint).

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