The Cornerstones of JKD

By Cass Magda

What are the cornerstones of JKD?

My teacher Dan Inosanto once told me that one of the most important tools that Bruce Lee gave him was the ability to decide what was functional and what was not. 

He called it ... "the functional eye."

The criteria used to develop this functional eye in JKD is based on three principles of JKD I like to call the cornerstones of JKD - simplicity, directness and being non-classical. 


The first cornerstone is simplicity.

If a technique sequence against an attack takes six moves then the chances of it being used successfully in reality are slim. 

It's a simple fact that the more moves one has to make, the more chances there are of something going terribly wrong. 

So part of using simplicity as criteria is to think, "How can that six move sequence be shortened to three moves? 

And, can those three moves be shortened to two?

Modifying and changing a six-move sequence to it’s essence of one or two moves and getting the same end result is the JKD way of thinking and studying.


Next in our criteria is directness.

To be direct means having the quality of immediacy.

Bruce Lee would often demonstrate this idea by taking his wallet out and tossing it to the person in front of him.

Bruce would say, “If I throw my wallet at you, you catch it without thinking about it or catching it with a particular style or getting into a stance. You responded directly”.

What Bruce was referring to is that our martial art must be practiced until it is ingrained and part of our unconscious habits.

Then we can respond directly.

Directness can also refer to our combative structure.

So, a simple counter such as blocking an attack then hitting back may be simple but it is not very direct.

One way to improve directness is to improve the timing for the counter attack.

Try to hit just before the opponent's blow lands.

In other words, to beat him to the punch or even perhaps simultaneous block and hit.

To intercept or simultaneously defend and hit is considered the highest stage of JKD and other highly evolved systems as practiced in the Magda Institute schools.


Finally, our last cornerstone is 'non-classical.'

To be non-classical in the context of JKD thinking means to have the freedom to go outside the established classical system and break the rules of those concretized techniques or theories.

The classical system has rules and laws that say, “This is the only way to do it, and there is no better way.”

The term “non-classical” in JKD means to personalize technique.

We may angle our foot down or up for our kick depending on our own comfort, but as long as the maximum result is there, it is correct. 

What ever works at the moment is correct.

The idea of being non-classical may also mean that we modify what we already have or even create something new to solve the problem.

A good example of this is how JKD traps the opponent’s hands versus the Wing Chun system.

The JKD method traps from a very alive kickboxing type of structure.

It is fast and elusive and is also free to adhere or dispense with the centerline concept of Wing Chun.

Sometimes JKD wraps the arm, grabs it like a wrestler or boxer.

The postures, stances and hand formations of Wing Chun are barely recognizable in JKD.

JKD is concerned only with being functional.

In JKD we may absorb a theory or technique from any source but accomplish it in quite a different way. 

As a result of these modifications, the finished motion may end up either only faintly resembling or looking nothing like the original source.

The modifications change the technique, principle or training method, etc., into something unrecognizable from the style of origin, hence it becomes non-classical.

The Cornerstones of JKD Are The Criteria for Study & Analysis

"Simple, direct and non-classical" - these are the cornerstones of JKD. 

These are the criteria for our method of study and analysis of what is functional and what isn't.

This is used when analyzing other martial art techniques or trying to refine within our own system of JKD.

The cornerstones of JKD are what everything else we do is built upon.

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