Jeet Kune Do

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Jeet Kune Do
The Jeet Kune Do Emblem
The Taijitu represents the concepts of yin and yang. The Chinese characters indicate: "Using no way as way" and "Having no limitation as limitation". This slogan incarnates the self-recursive behaviour of many Sinitic languages, which also appears incorporated into the practice of the martial art. Also, the arrows represent the endless interaction between yin and yang.[1]
Also known asJKD, Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do[a]
FocusHybrid (mixed martial arts kung fu philosophy)
CreatorBruce Lee
Famous practitioners(see notable practitioners)
ParenthoodJun Fan Gung Fu:[b] Wing Chun,[2][3] Boxing,[4][2] Fencing,[2] Arnis, Judo, Jujutsu,[5] Savate,[6] Traditional Taekwondo,[c][7] Tai Chi, Catch Wrestling[5]
Descendant artsNon-Classical Gung Fu, Wing Chun Do, Emerson Combat Systems, Wei Kuen Do, Mixed Martial Arts (modern)[8][9][10][11]
Jeet Kune Do
Literal meaning"Way of the Intercepting Fist"

Jeet Kune Do[d] is an "eclectic martial arts philosophy" conceived and practiced by martial artist Bruce Lee during his lifetime. It was formed from Lee's experiences in unarmed fighting and self-defense, as well as philosophical influence from Eclecticism, Zen Buddhism and Taoism, to serve as a new field of martial arts thought.[12][13]

Jeet Kune Do was concieved as kind of "intelligent martial art", not only in terms of fighting methods, as it aims to make the human body learn as much as possible, as if it becomes fluid "like water", and everything in the art follows that principle.[14]

The core of Jeet Kune Do mentality is aimed at "intercepting" the opponent, the action or idea of ​​wanting to "strike" the incoming attack itself. It is a set of principles to help the practitioner to make instant judgments and decisions, to improve the self of physical and on a mental level, as well as to make corresponding action responses or counterattacks.[15][16]

Significant feature of Jeet Kune Do is that it focuses on "practical application in life" and discards the routines and metaphysics of traditional martial arts.[17][18] Its fighting skills have absorbed and integrated some practical martial arts of the world, with martial arts such as Boxing, Wing Chun, Fencing and Jujutsu serving as the technical backbone of Jeet Kune Do.[19][12]

Since Bruce Lee himself never truly formalized Jeet Kune Do before he died, the Jeet Kune Do taught by later generations may deviate from his original intent. Regardless, all of the Jeet Kune Do schools still independently continue to interpret the mode of self-knowledge in accordance with the basic martial arts philosophy created by Bruce Lee.[20][21]

Overview and philosophy[edit]

Originally, Lee studied Wing Chun as well as researched other forms of martial arts and would formalize a martial art named Jun Fan Gung Fu[e] circa 1962.[22][23][24][25] However, around 1964, following his encounter with Wong Jack-man, Lee came to realize the error of binding oneself to systematized martial arts.[26][27] Following this, Lee began to passionately research in order to refine his way of practicing martial arts. In 1965, he outlined the basic concept of Jeet Kune Do.[28]

Not wanting to create another style that would share the limitations that all styles had, he instead described the process which he used to create

I have not invented a "new style," composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from "this" method or "that" method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see "ourselves". . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don't, and that is that. There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct, and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune Do is simply the direct expression of one's feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case, anchored down to a reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one's back.

— Bruce Lee[29]
Bruce Lee with Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man

Lee stated his concept does not add more and more things on top of each other to form a system, but rather selects the best thereof. The metaphor Lee borrowed from Chan Buddhism was of constantly filling a cup with water, and then emptying it, used for describing Lee's philosophy of "casting off what is useless".[30]

Lee considered traditional form-based martial arts, that only practiced pre-arranged patterns, forms and techniques to be restrictive and at worst, ineffective in dealing with chaotic self-defense situations. Lee believed that real combat was alive and dynamic.[17]

Jeet Kune Do was conceived to be dynamic, to enable its practitioners to adapt to the constant changes and fluctuations of live combat. He believed these decisions should be made within the context of "real combat" and/or "all-out sparring" and that it was only in this environment that a practitioner could actually deem a technique worthy of adoption.[17]


Unlike most other martial arts, Jeet Kune Do is not fixed or patterned. Instead, it is a concept-based philosophy with guiding principles.[12] The term Jeet Kune Do was coined and put into use in 1967 by Bruce Lee in an attempt to put a name to his martial expression. Lee wrestled with putting a name to his art as he constantly veered away from any type of crystallization (and thereby limitation) of its essence, however, the simple need to refer to it in some concrete way won out and Jeet Kune Do was born. The idea of intercepting is key to JKD, whether it be the interception of your opponent’s technique or his intent. The basic guiding principles are: Simplicity, Directness and Freedom (the form of no form).[31][12]

The following are principles that Lee incorporated into Jeet Kune Do.[32] He felt that universal combat truths were self-evident, and would lead to combat success if followed. Familiarity with each of the "four ranges of combat", in particular, is thought to be instrumental in becoming a "total" martial artist.[citation needed]

JKD believes the best defense is a strong offense, hence the principle of an "intercepting fist". For someone to attack another hand-to-hand, the attacker must approach the target. This provides an opportunity for the targeted person to "intercept" the attacking movement. The principle of interception may be applied to more than intercepting the actual physical attack; non-verbal cues (subtle movements of which opponent may be unaware) may also be perceived or "intercepted", and thus used to one's advantage. The "five ways of attack", categories that help JKD practitioners organize their fighting repertoire, comprise the offensive teachings of JKD. The concepts of "Stop hits & stop kicks," and "Simultaneous parrying & punching," based on the concept of single fluid motions that attack while defending (in systems such as épée fencing and Wing Chun), compose JKD's defensive teachings. These were modified for unarmed combat and implemented into the JKD framework by Lee to complement the principle of interception.[citation needed]


Seen in many of his film fight scenes such as in the Way of the Dragon where he fought against Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee fought in a side southpaw horse stance. His jabs and crosses came from his right hand and followed up with a lot of sidekicks. Instead of a common check seen in muay thai, Bruce uses an oblique leg kick to block a potential kick. This technique is called the jeet tek ("stop kick" or "intercepting kick").[33] He adopted other defensive concepts found in many other systems such as slipping and rolling from Western boxing and forearm blocks found in Eastern martial arts such as Kung Fu.


Lee's nimble and agile skipping-like footwork is seen in his movies. This technique was adopted from Muhammad Ali's footwork in his boxing stance.[34] This footwork can be achieved from practice using a jump rope as jumping rope imitates this nimble, jumpy action that is a quick way to maneuver your way around and away from an enemy's strikes. The footwork also has its influences from fencing.[35]

Straight lead[edit]

Lee felt that the straight lead was the most integral part of Jeet Kune Do punching, saying, "The leading straight punch is the backbone of all punching in Jeet Kune Do."[36] The straight lead is not a power strike but a strike formulated for speed. It is believed that the straight lead should always be held loosely with a slight motion, as this adds to its speed and makes it more difficult to see and block. The strike is believed to be not only the fastest punch in JKD, but also the most accurate. The speed is attributed to the fact that the fist is held out slightly making it closer to the target and its accuracy is gained from the punch being thrown straight forward from one's centerline. The lead should be held and thrown loosely and easily, tightening only upon impact, adding to one's punch. The punch can be thrown from multiple angles and levels.[37][page needed]

Non-telegraphed punch[edit]

Lee believed that explosive attacks, without telegraphing signs of intent, were most effective. He argued that the attacks should catch the opponent off-guard, throwing them off balance and leaving them unable to defend against subsequent attacks. "The concept behind this is that when you initiate your punch without any forewarning, such as tensing your shoulders or moving your foot or body, the opponent will not have enough time to react," Lee wrote.[38] The key is that one must keep one's body and arms loose, weaving one's arms slightly and only becoming tense upon impact. Lee wanted no wind-up movements or "get ready poses" to prelude any JKD attacks. He explained that any twitches or slight movements before striking should be avoided as they will give the opponent signs or hints as to what is being planned and then they will be able to strike first while one is preparing an attack. Consequently, the non-telegraphed movement is believed to be an essential part of Jeet Kune Do philosophy.[36]

"Be like water"[edit]

Lee emphasized that every situation, in fighting or in everyday life, is varied. To obtain victory, therefore, it is believed essential not to be rigid, but to be fluid and adaptable to any situation. Lee compared it to being like water, saying "Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend."[39] His theory behind this was that one must be able to function in any scenario one is thrown into and should react accordingly. One should know when to speed up or slow down, when to expand and when to contract, and when to remain flowing and when to crash. 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. Lee did not believe in styles and felt that every person and 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. It is believed that one must never become stagnant in the mind or method, always evolving and moving towards improving oneself.

Economy of motion [edit]

Jeet Kune Do seeks to be economical in time and movement, teaching that the simplest things work best, as in Wing Chun. The economy of motion is the principle by which JKD practitioners achieve:

  • Efficiency: An attack that reaches its target in the least time, with maximum force
  • Directness: Doing what comes naturally in a disciplined way
  • Simplicity: Thinking in an uncomplicated manner; without ornamentation

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. Rapidity aims to reach the target before the opponent can react, which is half-beat faster timing, as taught in Wing Chun and Western boxing.[40] Learned techniques are utilized in JKD to apply these principles to a variety of situations.

Stop hits[edit]

"When the distance is wide, the attacking opponent requires some sort of preparation. Therefore, attack him on his preparation of attack. To reach me, you must move to me. Your attack offers me an opportunity to intercept you." This means intercepting an opponent's attack with an attack of one's own instead of simply blocking it. It is for this concept Jeet Kune Do is named. JKD practitioners believe that this is the most difficult defensive skill to develop. This strategy is a feature of some traditional Chinese martial arts as Wing Chun, as well as an essential component of European épée Fencing. Stop hits and kicks utilize the principle of economy of motion by combining attack and defense into one movement, thus minimizing the "time" element.[41]

Simultaneous parrying and punching[edit]

When confronting an incoming attack, the attack is parried or deflected, and a counterattack is delivered simultaneously. This is not as advanced as a stop hit but more effective than blocking and counterattacking in sequence. Practiced in some Chinese martial arts such as Wing Chun, it is also known in Krav Maga as "bursting". Simultaneous parrying and punching utilize 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, it requires less energy to execute and utilizes an opponent's energy against him by creating an imbalance. Efficiency is gained in that an opponent has less time to react to an incoming attack, since he is still withdrawing from his attack.

Low kicks[edit]

JKD practitioners believe they should direct their kicks, as in Wing Chun, to their opponent's shins, knees, thighs, and midsection. These targets are the closest to the feet, provide more stability and are more difficult to defend against. Maintaining low kicks utilizes the principle of economy of motion by reducing the distance a kick must travel, thus minimizing the "time" element. However, as with all other JKD principles nothing is set in stone. In a typical JKD style, if a target of opportunity presents itself, even a target above the waist, one could take advantage and not be hampered by this principle.

Four ranges of combat[edit]

  • Kicking
  • Punching
  • Trapping
  • Grappling

Jeet Kune Do students train in each of the aforementioned ranges equally. According to Lee, this range of training serves to differentiate JKD from other martial arts. He stated that most but not all traditional martial arts systems specialize in training at one or two ranges. His theories have been especially influential and substantiated in the field of mixed martial arts, as the MMA Phases of Combat are essentially the same concept as the JKD combat ranges.

As a historic note, the ranges in JKD have evolved over time. Initially the ranges were categorized as short or close, medium, and long range.[17] These terms proved ambiguous and some instructors eventually evolved into their more descriptive forms, although there is a lot of disagreement on whether or not this is correct. Many believe that the 3 ranges as described above are correct as distance to a target doesn't dictate what 'tools' can be used. For example, in close range, one can still kick, in addition to punching, grappling, trapping etc. To rename 'close range' the trapping or even grappling range is conditioning the practitioner in believing that is all that should be done in that particular range.[42] So for this reason many still prefer these original three categories.

Five ways of attack[edit]

JKD's original five ways of attack are:

  1. Simple Angular Attack or Simple Direct Attack (SAA or SDA)
  2. Hand Immobilizing Attacks (HIA)
  3. Progressive Indirect Attack (PIA)
  4. Attack By Combination (ABC)
  5. Attack By Drawing (ABD)


The Wing Chun centerline.
Punching from the Wing Chun centerline.
The centerline can be expressed as the height of a triangle.
An animation of mechanical linkage to the shoulders of the triangle illustrates the importance of guarding the centerline[citation needed].

The centerline is an imaginary line drawn vertically along the center of a standing human body, and refers to the space directly in front of that body. If one draws an isosceles triangle on the floor, for which one's body forms the base, and one's arms form the equal legs of the triangle, then h (the height of the triangle) is the centerline. The Wing Chun concept is to exploit, control and dominate an opponent's centerline. All attacks, defenses, and footwork are designed to guard one's own centerline while entering the opponent's centerline space. Lee incorporated this theory into JKD from his Sifu Ip Man's Wing Chun.[43][self-published source]

The three guidelines for the centerline are:

  • The one who controls the centerline will control the fight.
  • Protect and maintain your own centerline while you control and exploit your opponent's.
  • Control the centerline by occupying it.

This notion is closely related to maintaining control of the center squares in the strategic game chess. The concept is naturally present in xiangqi (Chinese chess), where an "X" is drawn on the game board, in front of both players' general and advisors.[43]

Combat realism[edit]

One of the premises that Lee incorporated in Jeet Kune Do was "combat realism." He insisted that martial arts techniques should be incorporated based upon their effectiveness in real combat situations. This would differentiate it from other systems where there was an emphasis on "flowery technique", as Lee would put it.[44] He claimed that flashy "flowery techniques" would arguably "look good" but were often not practical or would prove ineffective in street survival and self-defense situations.[citation needed] This premise would differentiate JKD from other "sport"-oriented martial arts systems that were geared towards "tournament" or "point systems" (traditional martial art). Lee felt that these systems were "artificial" and fooled their practitioners into a false sense of true martial skill. He felt that because these systems incorporated too many rule sets that would ultimately handicap a practitioner in self-defense situations and that these approaches to martial arts became a "game of tag" leading to bad habits such as pulling punches and other attacks; this would again lead to negative consequences in real-world situations.[45][self-published source]

Another aspect of realistic martial arts training fundamental to JKD is what Lee referred to as "Aliveness". This is the concept of training techniques with an unwilling assistant who offers resistance. He made a reference to this concept in his famous quote "Boards don't hit back!" Because of this perspective of realism and aliveness, Lee utilized safety gear from various other contact sports to allow him to spar with opponents "full out". This approach to training allowed practitioners to come as close as possible to real combat situations with a high degree of safety.


To keep up with the demand of Jeet Kune Do combat, the practitioners must condition their bodies. Some exercises Lee did included Da Sam Sing or Gak Sam Sing which is a traditional method of forearm conditioning practiced in Classical Kung Fu. He also did exercises simulating a fight against a four-limbed human using the traditional Mook Yan Jong (Cantonese) used in Wing Chun.

Bruce Lee was an avid follower of Pakistani wrestler Great Gama's training routine. He read articles about him and how he employed his exercises to build his legendary strength for wrestling, quickly incorporating them into his own routine. The training routines Lee used included isometrics as well as "the cat stretch", "the squat" (known as "baithak"), and also known as the "deep-knee bend."[46]

Notable practitioners[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ On January 10, 1996, the Bruce Lee Foundation decided to use the name Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (振藩截拳道) to refer to the martial arts system which Lee founded; Jun-fan being Lee's Chinese given name.
  2. ^ This refers to knowledge when Bruce Lee promoted his early concretized system, before abandoning it and embracing inconcrete progressive development of one's fighting ability by philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. Some knowledge from Jun Fan Gung-Fu is still used in modern JKD teaching.
  3. ^ Martial arts practised in Korea during the 1940s and 1950s by the nine original kwans, or martial arts schools, before formation of Korea Taekwondo Association. In Bruce Lee's case, he learned various Traditional Taekwondo from various people. Most notable being Jhoon Goo Rhee of Chung Do Kwan style.
  4. ^ (Chinese: 截拳道; Cantonese Yale: jiht kyùhn douh; [tsìːt̚.kʰy̏ːn.tòu]), or "The way of the intercepting fist" in Cantonese, abbreviated JKD
  5. ^ As in Gung Fu of Jun-fan, which was Bruce Lee's birthname.


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  2. ^ a b c Black Belt Magazine, November 1967 issue, pages 14-20
  3. ^ Black Belt: Bruce Lee Collector's Edition Summer 1993
  4. ^ Bruce Thomas (1994). Bruce Lee: Fighting Spirit : a Biography. Frog Books. pp. 11–. ISBN 978-1-883319-25-0.
  5. ^ a b Polly, Matthew (2018). Bruce Lee: A Life. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781501187643.
  6. ^ Title: Bruce Lee - Between Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do, Author: Jesse Glover, Publisher: Glover Publications (January 1, 1976) ISBN 0-9602328-0-X ISBN 978-0-9602328-0-2.
  7. ^ Nilsson, Thomas (May 1996). "With Bruce Lee: Taekwondo Pioneer Jhoon Rhee Recounts His 10-Year Friendship With the "Dragon"". Black Belt Magazine. 34 (5): 39–43. Retrieved November 19, 2009.
  8. ^ Chris Crudelli (2008). The Way of the Warrior. Dorling Kindersley Ltd. p. 318-319. ISBN 978-14-0533-750-2. (Regarding Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)) With [Bruce Lee's] philosophy of "absorbing what is useful and disgarding what is not", Bruce Lee's influence can be seen in the dvelopment of MMA.
  9. ^ Bruce Lee’s Protégé Recalls His Humility Amid ‘Once Upon a Time’ Criticism Archived August 16, 2019, at the Wayback Machine. Variety. July 31, 2019.
  10. ^ Dana White and the future of UFC Archived October 7, 2018, at the Wayback Machine. Fight Times. October 1, 2004.
  11. ^ Stets, Michael (July 20, 2013). "The MMA World Pays Tribute to Bruce Lee 40 Years After His Death". Bleacher Report. Archived from the original on June 19, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
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  13. ^ Little, John (1996). The Warrior Within – The philosophies of Bruce Lee to better understand the world around you and achieve a rewarding life (illustrated ed.). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-8092-3194-8.
  14. ^ "Martial Art Disciplines at Hybrid Martial Arts Academy". Hybrid Martial Art. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008. Retrieved May 30, 2008.
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  17. ^ a b c d Lee, Linda (1975), The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Ohara Publications Inc., ISBN 0-89750-048-2
  18. ^ Bowman, Paul (2013). Beyond Bruce Lee: Chasing the Dragon Through Film, Philosophy, and Popular Culture. Columbia University Press. p. 66-67. ISBN 9780231850360.
  19. ^ Rafiq, Fiaz (2020). Bruce Lee: The Life of a Legend. Foreword by Diana Lee Inosanto. Birlinn. ISBN 978-1-78885-330-9.
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  21. ^ Jerry Beasley, Ed.D. (September 2003). (Black Belt Magazine) The Man Who Changed The World: How Bruce Lee Continues to Influence the American Martial Arts. p. 58. ISSN 0277-3066. Inosanto, Lee's top pupil and teaching assistant, had advanced the art of JKD in the years following his master's death...
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  25. ^ Bruce Haines (November 22, 2011). Karate's History & Traditions. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 131–. ISBN 978-1-4629-0139-5. Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
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  28. ^ "Exclusive Interview Original Bruce Lee Student James French"
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  30. ^ Pollard, Maxwell (November 1967). In Kato's Gung-fu Action is Instant. Black belt magazine. pp. 14–20.
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  39. ^ Lee, Bruce (1966). Pierre Barton Show. Hong Kong: Pierre Barton.
  40. ^ Chu, Robert (September 1991). "The Wing Chun Mind: Learn to Think Like a True Fighter". Inside Kung Fu. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013.
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  47. ^ Combs, Roger (2004), "Emerson Knives", Knives Illustrated, 18 (2): 36–41, 65–69
  48. ^ Emerson, Ernie (2006e). "IMB Academy News". IMB Academy. Archived from the original on July 4, 2007. Retrieved February 20, 2007. I first met Richard Bustillo as a fledgling student at the Filipino KALI Academy in Torrance, California in the 1970s. I had moved from Northern Wisconsin just to train at what was at the time the only full-contact fighting school in the world. This was a fighter's school and needless to say I was more than a little intimidated at our first encounter. After all, here I was in a school filled with some of Bruce Lee's original equipment in front of someone who had trained with Bruce.
  49. ^ "Glenn Danzig Satan's Child". November 10, 1999. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved October 9, 2009.
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