The Way of the Intercepting Fist
Bruce Lee’s Modern Gung Fu Legacy
I can’t recall which was the first Bruce Lee movie I ever saw, but as a teenager I wanted to fight like Bruce Lee. I had a Ted Wong video on VHS tape, a basement gym, and the patience to learn.
What Is Jeet Kune Do?
Bruce Lee’s martial art legacy is a scientific fighting system that is modern, fast, and explosive. Bruce refined & simplified what worked for him, by using Jeet Kune Do principals. Some of the main influences to Bruce Lee include Wing Chun Kung Fu, Western Boxing, and Fencing. But to truly understand something you have to know its history. What follows is my attempt to understand my lineage. I have two sources from Bruce’s closed door group in LA: Dan Inosanto, Jerry Poteet, and Steve Golden. Bruce opened three Jun Fan Gung Fu schools in the US:
- Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute Seattle 1959
- Jun Fan Gung Fu in Oakland 1964
- Jun Fan Gung Fu in Los Angeles 1967
As the way I understand it, Jun Fan (Bruce’s Cantonese name) is Bruce’s simplified version from Ipman’s Wing Chun school. I believe that’s what he mostly taught in his first school.
Bruce called his style of gung fu “Jun Fan” in Seattle and Oakland. “Jun Fan” is his Cantonese name; “Gung Fu” means Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee’s first US student is the late Jesse Glover, who started with him already as a judo champion. It is said that he is the first authorized martial arts instructor to be trained by Bruce, but I don’t know if that is different than being personally certified by Bruce. He later developed his own method which he calls Non-Classical GungFu. Bruce’s Seattle school was more like a club. Taky Kimura became Bruce’s first Assistant Instructor (7th rank in Jun Fan Gung Fu). Taky Kimura is one of three certified instructors in Jun Fan Gung Fu. and was a very good friend to Bruce. He passed away in 1973. He certified five students, including his son who has a school in Seattle.
James Lee is another person who was personally certified by Bruce Lee and co-founded Bruce’s second school with him. James helped introduce Bruce to Ed Parker and a number of his students (see closed door group). He passed away in 1972. A notable event that happened around this time is that Bruce was challenged to fight Wong Jack Man. Bruce won, but did not like his performance, and because of this it changed the direction of his art to what would later be called Jeet Kune Do in LA.
I think Bruce Lee learned that his art was limited from the Wong Jack Man fight, and began to feel Jun Fan Gung Fu was to restrictive and decided to coined his art as JKD in 1967 in an attempt to free himself from limitations. Dan Inosanto is the third and final person to be a certified instructor by Bruce Lee under Jun Fan. He is known to also been a close friend to Bruce. Dan was the Assistant Instructor of this school and pretty much ran his school while Bruce was gone. The late Jerry Poteet was Bruce’s second student admitted to the school in LA’s Chinatown. Later Jerry was selected to be in a “closed door” elite group of five students, who trained with Bruce Lee twice a week. Ted Wong is another note worthy student who learned martial arts entirely from what Bruce taught him. I heard a rumor that Ted only learned by sparring with Bruce. It is said that he is one of only a few people to receive rank in the art of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee, but I am not sure what that means, or question if anyone has the authority to teach “Jeet Kune Do” by Bruce Lee.
The Closed Door Group
Bruce Lee had a closed door group of Ed Parker students during this birth of Jeet Kune Do. Of this group only Dan Inosanto and Steve Golden are left. I don’t know if Steve is still teaching, and if he is, I would guess it would be at a limited number. From what I can gather this group was already accomplished martial artists. I have heard that Bruce had something special in mind for them. Probably good stunt men for the movies.
- Jerry Poteet started learning JKD already a black belt in Ed Parker’s Kenpo.
- Dan Inosanto started learning JKD already a black in several martial arts including Ed Parker’s Kenpo. He is a promoter of Filipino Martial Arts.
- Steve Golden: There isn’t a lot of information to find on Steve, but I think he come from Ed Parker’s Kenpo. He seems to like the private life.
- Pete Jacobs: Has the least amount of online information, but I think he was also an Ed Parker student. He passed away in 2017.
- Daniel Lee also doesn’t have a lot of information readily available online. Fran Poteet says that he was a middleweight boxing champion of Asia, held a black belt in Ju Jitsu and Kenpo, and was a Tai Chi master before he met Bruce Lee. He was also an Ed Parker student.
Who’s Jeet Kune Do?
The three Assistant Instructors that Bruce certified in Jun Fa Gung Fu continued to teach after his death, except James who died in 1972 without certifying additional students. Kimura certified five students in Jun Fan Gung Fu. Inosanto continued to teach and certify select students. Both Kimura and Inosanto continued to teach small classes thereafter, but without using the name Jeet Kune Do.
After Bruce’s death, there seems to be subsets in the JKD community like JKD Concepts, Original JKD, Jun Fan JKD, and “my” JKD. I think it was clear by Bruce that he didn’t want his art to be a “style”. I read that prior to Bruce’s death in 1973, that he wanted his schools dismantled because he didn’t want anyone to regard his system as the “truth”. It is said that after Bruce’s death, his estate filed a lawsuit against the Inosanto Academy and trademarked “Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do” to mean that this was Bruce Lee’s JKD. Here are some other things to consider:
- Each student of Bruce Lee is different and could teach different versions of what Bruce taught them.
- Some martial artists inspired by something Bruce Lee did, like to say “this is my JKD”, while not having any formal training from a legitimate JKD source. This illegitimate source could then teach someone else.
- MMA practitioners confuse MMA with JKD, thinking that Bruce Lee is the father of MMA.
- Some original students choose to teach what Bruce Lee taught them and is what some would label as the Original JKD camp.
- Dan Inosanto choose to expand on JKD or keep it modern. Dan Inosanto holds a black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu (ground fighting), so you will most likely be training that from his side of the lineage. He would be labeled as JKD Concepts.
So if we make the distinction that this is Bruce Lee’s JKD, this is Jerry Poteet’s JKD, Dan Inosanto’s JKD, and so forth, it puts the responsibility on the student to know their lineage. This would hopefully give the practitioner a better understanding of what kind of JKD they are getting into. Jeet Kune Do can be a finger that points to something. It is just a word to signify the signifier. For me it is a promise to a teenage boy who wanted to have direction in his life. It is also marketing, but can be much deeper than that. It is the meaning that you put into it, so it can be as shallow or deep as your attention to it.
“Don’t think. FEEL. It’s like a finger pointing at the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all of the heavenly glory.”Bruce Lee
My Jeet Kune Do Lineage:
Sifu Octavio Quintero
- Location: Portland, Oregon
- Currently enrolled. Started in May, 2018.
Currently I am learning from Octavio Quintero, who is one of a handful of instructors to receive a Full Instructor Jeet Kune Do certificate in 2006 by Jerry Poteet. He is considered by many within the Bruce lee community as one of the most worthy representatives of JKD in the world. He is known from such publications as Blackbelt and Inside Kung Fu.
Octavio Quintero’s JKD was developed under Jerry Poteet and Steve Golden, who were both in a closed door group of five students under Bruce Lee. Jerry Poteet is noted for training Jason Scott Lee for his role of Bruce Lee in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. There isn’t a lot of online information about Steve Golden as I believe he keeps a more private life.
It is a unique experience for me as I have been helping with his JKD online store in exchange for private lessons, which is part of his growing Total Balance platform which he started in 2016. Total Balance is an international network of mentors dedicated to teaching The Art of JKD.
- Location: Eugene, OR
- Winter 1997: U of O Sp ST Jeet Kune Do
Adam Roberts’ JKD is from Dan Inosanto who is also a direct student from Bruce Lee and who is by many regarded as the official lineage holder of JKD. I remember destruction blocking, how to apply a proper choke hold, how to bump while mounted, and arm bars.
- Jun Fan Gung Fu
- Silat, Indonesian Arts, South East Asian Arts
- Gracie Jiu Jitsu: Original self defense system from Helio Gracie.
- Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method by Ted Wong and Richard Bustillo
“in reaction to the other’s truth, another martial artist, or possibly a dissatisfied disciple, organized an opposite approach. Soon this faction also became a large organization, with its own laws and patterns. A rivalry began, with each style claiming to possess the “truth” to the exclusion of all others.”Bruce Lee