I want to use an analogy (big surprise there!) to explore some of the reasoning why Bruce Lee began using the name of Jeet Kune Do for his martial arts, why It’s not Wing Chun, and why people have a hard time seeing the difference.
As always, this is my opinion.
For our comparison, I’d like to look at the various ways we all move through the world. Since almost all do this, then it’s an analogy that will help us all gain new perspective.
We could explore all of the ways we move, but I want to focus on the run and sprint aspects.
I’m going to assign “run” to Wing Chun.
I’m going to assign “sprint” to Jeet Kune Do.
Alright, let’s explore.
So Wing Chun came before Jeet Kune Do, just like running is before sprinting. Let’s all agree with this shall we.
So here’s where I think this analogy is going to really help with a lot of the confusion.
Running and sprinting are fundamentally the same. We are doing very much the same thing mechanically when running and sprinting.
If you took a picture of a person running and compared to a picture of a person sprinting, they would look very alike.
Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do are the same in this. If you took a picture of a Wing Chun person and a picture of a Jeet Kune Do person and compared them, they’d look the same.
But here’s the first problem.
The pictures you took of the runner and sprinter are a still frame of them in action.
The pictures you likely took of the Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do people were of them posing.
Switch that to a picture of them being active. That means hitting. And when you do that, then they will look very much alike.
So are they the same? No, and for the same reasons that running and sprinting aren’t the same.
Running is a faster walk. There is a breaking point where we physically shift our gait from “walk” into “run”. But isn’t sprinting the same thing, just the next step? Yes, it is. And that’s why Jeet Kune Do isn’t Wing Chun, but also why so many are confused.
To further that thought, it also depends on the individual.
If you are going as fast as you can from point A to point B, then you would want to sprint. Bruce Lee applies this idea to his martial arts, adjusting his cultivation so that every move was sprinting from point A to point B instead of just running.
The long-distance argument. JKD doesn’t deal with long distances.
If we took our run and sprint analogy to a track and put up some hurdles (dare we call them obstructions?), then if the Wing Chun example was to quickly run around the obstacles to get to the end, then the JKD approach would be to hurdle them without breaking stride. There is a difference in how the two approach an obstacle. this isn’t perfect, but bear with me.
Let’s go back a bit and look at the differences between running and sprinting. While much of the mechanics are very similar, the output of energy and high-performance efficiency in the body is increased for a sprint.
While running has broken over from the walking gait into the longer stride of a run when a person sprints they are giving a different level of exertion.
A sprinter explodes with.....hit energy. It is a continuous series of all-out explosiveness to achieve the goal as quickly as possible. Sound kind of like Bruce Lee hitting?
And here’s where it gets confusing again.
We aren’t all Bruce Lee. Your all-out sprint might not be all that fast. It might be your fastest, but it doesn’t mean that you’re faster than someone else who’s just “running”.
Let’s keep with this example of going down the track with obstacles. There are a lot of really good Wing Chun people out there who can weave through the obstacles super fast, even at a run.
If there is an individual who has trained hard, has great mental focus, and physical qualities that lend themselves to running who dodged around the obstacles.... they could very likely reach the finish line before an awkward sprinter could hurdle the obstacles.
It always comes back to the individual. Who’s better in the moment?
Jeet Kune Do has a different approach than Wing Chun. Enough to call it something else.
It always goes back to the individual.
Maybe you just like running better than sprinting.
Maybe you want to run around something instead of over it.
Jeet Kune Do is something different from Wing Chun, just like sprinting is something different from running. But one isn’t better than the other. Not by itself. To a practitioner, one might be better than the other. Running might be better than sprinting or visa versa. That’s not even including swimming or biking or everything else.
And that is of the greatest importance. Finding the martial art that is best suited to you, whether it be Wing Chun, JKD, or something else.