teaching JKD

I have a question central to the idea of "teaching" techniques of "JKD". I will give my own understanding of an answer, but I would like to hear others' views.

I building my question on these assumptions:

1) There IS a most effective/efficient way for a single person to perform a single technique (whatever that techniques is).

2) The most E/E way for ONE person to perform a given technique is NOT necessarily the same as it is for another person (who has a different body type, personality, or attributes).

3) JKD is about finding the E/E way for each individual.


How, then, can a JKD teacher instruct techniques, if the "best" way for a student to perform it will be unique to that individual?

My own interpretation of the answer:

A JKD instructor, when teaching the mechanics of a technique, should teach a "standard variation" of the technique that does the following:

-It should show the student how to use their body to generate E/E power (to a basic level).

-It should help the student develop fundamental movement by training it.

-It should help the student pay attention to the details of the technique.

-It should help the student understand the purpose of the technique in application.

OK, I think that sums my understanding. How do you view the issue?


Here's my 2 cents:

Although I offer a PFS/JKD class, I don't "teach" JKD, in the sense that I'm handing over specific TECHNIQUES, which are to be doled out once the student has reached a specific rank, and comes from a specific book titled "The Secret Techniques of JKD as Codified/Non-Codified by The Friend of A Student Whose Neighbor was the hair-stylist who took privates from Bruce Lee."

I believe the ultimate goal of a JKD class is to teach proper fighting STRATEGIES so that the student can achieve a deeper UNDERSTANDING of what can happen in a fight. By exposing a student to an environment that allows them to EXPERIENCE, first-hand, what can happen in a fight, THEN they can create their own personal ideas, principles, templates, etc. Less emphasis on JKD technique, and more emphasis on JKD strategy (occupying centreline, longest tool to nearest target, emphasis on interception, etc.). The more a student experiences for themselves what works and doesn't work in real time, the more they grow as true martial artists.

Also, I believe an initial understanding of strategy helps the student classify the techniques they're learning that's application-based, rather than trying to remember them via techniques for one belt, techniques for another belt, etc. This classification also helps in understanding when it is optimal to use a particular technique, and when it is not. That too becomes a personal preference based on experience.

Ultimately, I think all a JKD "teacher" can offer his students is a chance to discover for themselves what works, what doesn't work, and what works for them. Run regular sparring sessions, controlled-scenario training (self-defense or sportive), offer different strategies and applications from other disciplines, that's what a good JKD teacher can do.

I think a student should run for the hills once he hears his JKD teacher says "This is a JKD technique."

4 Ranges,

I understand exactly what you're saying. I also agree that "JKD techniques" is kind of a misnomer. However, I have a "but".

What if you have a student with no prior experience? He does not attend any of your other classes. He does not study Muay Thai or BJJ or Savate. He only wants "JKD", whatever that means to him.

If in JKD class you only teach attribute and strategy development, this student will not have any techniques to apply those benefits and ideas to. He will not have any experience with which he can appreciate the theories.

There must be techniques to give a context to JKD. If the student does not know ANY attacks, how can they use a simple attack? An attack by combination? An attack by drawing?

Which comes around to the original question.....what attacks should one teach?


I coach in a similar way to 4 Ranges. Scott Sonnon has had a HUGE influence on me in this area.

"What if you have a student with no prior experience?"

Doesn't matter, that's why he's there...to GAIN experience.

"He only wants "JKD", whatever that means to him."

His lack of experience will prevent him from knowing what is JKD and what's not, so go about coaching as usual.

"If the student does not know ANY attacks, how can they use a simple attack?"

That assumes that people aren't intrinsically capable. They are. EVERYONE can hurt someone, it's not a special, elite "talent".

The training should revolve around drills and not techniques. Techniques will arise and have to be demonstrated as (to use the recent term used on the RMAX site) "Dynamic Profiles". In other words, to clarify the principle or concept techniques will be shown.

For example...let's say you want to work on your "hands" and defense. You begin by saying: "I'm going to punch you in the face, do whatever you can to not get hit there." Do a round of this. Let him use all the natural responses he has. (Lightly of course.)

Most likely it will be full of errors & look like shit. But he will do some things well, and show some raw abilities that look promising. In addition, you now have all the data necessary to begin and have something to work with.

You have a prescription SPECIFIC to that individual. You aren't going to cover something he already understands, and you don't want to neglect something he doesn't understand...this sort of drill will clarify WHERE he stands w/o you being redundant or negligent.

You will know whether he flinches a lot, stands in place, turns away, has no balance, etc. With this data, you now ask him how he could NOT get hit. Let him come up with a few ideas and MOST likely he will come up with an appropriate answer: "RUN!!!" LOL! or "move my head out of the way". Either way he will feel involved, motivated, etc.

Work on some of his ideas. Then show a few of your own. Cover a principle/concept...fundamentals....let's say keeping the measure or distance. Tell him to use footwork...keep moving...create space, of course if he hasn't already suggested something similar.

Do rounds of this...let him express himself through natural movement...not something you dictated to him...not something you downloaded to the robot.

If he NOW makes a technical error (crosses his feet, starts with the wrong foot, stands upright, etc.) you then give a technical demonstration...show him a specific step...have him do a few follow-up reps, put it back in the drill, and have him work on it.

Incrementally add intensity and complexity.

Don't take away people's intrinsic quality of being capable. Don't remove their individuality by dictating techniques to them to use as a sole means for instruction. It's OK to SHARE techniques that have worked well with you, but they are NOT gospel for all...best case scenario is that the person can use that technique you have shared w/o change, but most likely a personal modification will go on.

So where does a coach fit in? His syllabus/curriculum should dictate the direction of the training and make sure that no area is neglected. He should not hand down techniques.

By telling someone what to do, you are ignoring their personal prefences/nuances/abilities and the cycle of ignorance continues by making the athlete dependent on the coach instead of self-sufficient/aware/responsible & confident in his own ability & promoting the coaches ego.

Years ago, I read one of Matt's interview's where he mentioned that there was one book in particular that was a guideline for coaching. A book called "Coaching For Performance" by John Whitmore. So I went and bought the book the next day and it has been alongside me since then. If there are any coaches that DON'T have it...you should be ashamed!!! ;-) GET IT!

The first key point he says a coach should do is to raise the awareness of the athlete. Telling them what to do (dictating techniques) denies them the awareness and doesn't do them as much service as ASKING them what they could do. Don't take away mental effort from the athlete!!!!!

Here is a GREAT example of what he talks about:

"Fred, go and get a ladder. There's one in the shed."

What does Fred do if he finds no ladder there? He returns and says, "There's no ladder there."

What if he ASKED instead, "We need a ladder. There's one in the shed. Who is willing to get it?"

Fred replies "I will", but when he gets there there is no ladder. What will he do this time? He will look elsewhere-but why? Because he feels responsible. He WANTS to succeed. He will find the ladder for his own sake, his own self-esteem. What I did was give him a CHOICE to which he responded."

So Fred "invented" techniques (looked in other places) to get the end result. Now what if that "boss" said: "Fred, there's a ladder in the shed. Get it. If it's not there, look on the side of the house. If it's not there, look on the other side. If it's not THERE, look inthe garage. If it's not there look in the cellar, if it's not there look in the truck If it's...."

See what I'm saying?

Now, IF Fred looked in a ton of places and didn't find the ladder, he could come back to the "boss" and the "boss" could give a few suggestions of his own.

Of course, if you want to do JKD, you will have to do the opposite of everything I just said.

If you would rather dictate a style/agenda then by all means, do all the mental work, remove participation, responsibility, creativity, individuality, expression, innovation, self-efficiency, & opportunity.

OR...you could walk the path of discovery together. The "big brothers" (those w/ more experience) can point, ask, lift up, encourage, and coax the lesser experienced in a brotherhood of personal growth.

The more people I train with, the more I realize I suck and less I know. The thought of standing on the pedestal handing down techniques turns my stomach. It is utterly arrogant, pompous, egotistical.

However, an environment where EVERYONE contributes ideas, shares, (ridicules & hazes as well...but that's another story!!), and is like motivated is one that promotes growth.

Of course, this is MY personal approach to "coaching". Keep in mind I say coaching in the conext that EVERYONE that trains in my gym is called a coach. I tell them that on the first day. It's not Indians and a chief. Granted, my experience exceeds that of those that come down here, so I spend much of my time (though decreasingly as time goes on) "coaching"...sharing ideas, asking questions, helping out. More of a director than a coach.

It seems my 2 cents just became 2$!!! Oops!

All the best,


edited for sheer volume of grammatical & spelling errors, as well as typos

Like Aus said, we coach in a similar fashion. Of course in my savate classes and bjj classes the emphasis on technique is of the utmost importance. This is where a lot of the tools are learned, sharpened, and applied within a specific context that drills the necessary attributes (conditioning, timing, etc.).

But with the PFS/JKD class, there's more emphasis on how the person modifies the technique via strategy, in order to accomodate a DIFFERENT set of scenarios that are not necessarily covered in the component classes (2 on 1 standup, 2 on 1 ground, weapons- standup, weapons-ground, etc.).

Like Aus said about telling someone to find a ladder, when I give a beginning student a specific strategy (preserve the distance, intercept, then control the weapon arm, ie. LOOK FOR THE LADDER), and realizing that certain natural and conditioned tools don't do the job (the cross takes too much time, their footwork is too linear, they're too eager to close, i.e. CAN'T FIND LADDER), they often make the proper adjustments (use the jab or eye jab, stay on the balls of the feet, more lateral movement, enter after an interception, i.e. LOOK ELSEWHERE FOR THE LADDER). This is where the student really discovers things for themselves (through good coaching and constant exposure), and also where the individual really shines.

I have one student that straightblasts so efficiently that the HKE seems unnecessary. But I have another student who has such good timing on the entry that the straightblast is redundant for him. This is where the student becomes more "liberated" of old habits and old notions. I've noticed that the more a student advances, the less importance the term "JKD" seems to have with them.

Good coaching, constant scenario training, and perseverance and ingenuity on the student's part often leads to good results. Don't get me wrong, technique is EXTREMELY important, but in my JKD class, it's not the MOST important.

4 Ranges


"I have one student that straightblasts so efficiently that the HKE seems unnecessary. But I have another student who has such good timing on the entry that the straightblast is redundant for him. This is where the student becomes more "liberated" of old habits and old notions. "

Imagine how much time you would be wasting, if you treated them all the same and covered the material regardless of who you were working with? In other words, you cared for the curriculum more then their performance.

If you want to learn a "style" then you have to go by the technique route. No doubt about it.

"If you want to learn a "style" then you have to go by the technique route."

Also, if you want to TEACH a style, then it's really important to know all the ins and outs of technique and application. It's good to absorb and modify what works for you, but if you want to teach people of different sizes and shapes a particular style (let's say savate), then you have to also absorb what DOESN'T work for you, because you may just end up having a student for whom this works.

I took a bjj private with Dave Adiv, and I asked him about sweeps. He wasn't a big fan of them for himself, because he felt he didn't have the leverage in his legs. But he proceeded to teach me textbook sweeps regardless, complete with details and set-ups.