Progression in Jeet Kune Do

With the recent movie Birth of the Dragon (2017) there is once again a surge in interest in Bruce Lee and his martial art, Jeet Kune Do.

In particular, people keen on learning JKD are curious about progression in the martial art.

“How long will it take for me to master the system?”

“How many times should I train per week?”

“Is there grading / ranking in JKD?”

“What is your curriculum / syllabus like?”

“I have no experience in martial arts at all — I do not feel confident about starting JKD.”

It is only fair and smart that we request a clear road map before embarking on a new journey. This article therefore serves to address the five questions listed above.

To be perfectly honest, I can only answer them through my perspective, knowledge and experience. I can only speak for myself, as well as my lineage. I do not represent any other instructors in the JKD community.

#1 — “How long will it take for me to master/complete this system?”

& #2 — “How many times should I train per week?”

Well, how badly do you want it? Every individual learns, understands and improves very differently when it comes to  a specialized art like JKD. Furthermore, not everybody commits to their practice in the same way. Some are willing to go the full distance, some are only looking to train once per week, and some view JKD as a hobby. In fact, the majority of JKD instructors themselves are not full-time practitioners. So how far are you willing to go? Your own effort determines your mileage with the art.

Furthermore, JKD is not a system where you can “officially complete it” after hitting a quota of X training hours, or after learning X amount of moves. Bruce Lee did not design JKD to be an easily exportable system. He did, however, outline the laws of combat through both science and philosophy. As next generation practitioners of his craft, we do not say things like “we have completed the art”. We see the practice of JKD as an ongoing refinement, a lifelong cultivation and a way of life. It is not just a fighting method for the streets — that is but ONE of the many functions of JKD.

JKD is a mindset, a personal philosophy, and a way of getting to know oneself. You decide how far you want to go with it.

The JKD mantra: “Using No Way as Way, Having No Limitation as Limitation.”

#3 — Is there grading / ranking in JKD?

& #4 — “What is your curriculum / syllabus like?”

The Academy that I teach JKD at follows the Mark Stewart Rank Progression Method as passed from Bruce Lee to Ted Wong to Mark Stewart. There are five grades that are used NOT to signify rank but rather to organize our learning material in a progressive and structured way. Otherwise, it is very difficult to teach our content to the community. Disclaimer: the following content is the intellectual property of my mentor and parent organization, Sigung Mark Edward Stewart and Boxer Rebellion International respectively and may not be reproduced without permission (source: www.brijkd.com).

Ranking Levels: Ranking of Student Levels begins with 0 and continues through 5 Stages of Development; mastering the art takes a lifetime.

  • (0) Beginners — 16 Sessions of Basic Training
  • (1) Strategical Ideal with Step/Hit Tactical Emphasis — Long Ranges — First Year
  • (2) Strategical Ideal with Evade/Hit Tactical Emphasis — Middle Ranges — Second Year
  • (3) Strategical Ideal with Deflect/Hit Tactical Emphasis — Close Ranges — Third Year
  • (4) Strategical Ideal with Trap/Hit & Grapple/Hit Emphasis — Engagement — Fourth Year
  • (5) ADVANCED: Completion of all Stages, Complete Understanding — Fifth Year
  • Thereafter: Mastery of the Strategical Ideal and Total Integration of Supporting Tactics — Return to Simplicity and cycle through the preceding Stages of Development

Note: Rank is to ensure clarity of goals and direction not to connote “higher than thou” attitude. Remember rank can also be defined as “a foul smell or rotten odor”.

Please understand I am unable to include the specific details behind each Stage of Development as they will be plagiarized very quickly. Should you be keen on pursuing JKD, consider booking a personal consultation with me to discuss your progression with Jeet Kune Do.

#5 – “I have no experience in martial arts at all — I do not feel confident about starting JKD.”

This comes out a lot when speaking with complete beginners. Be assured. It is actually much easier to work with beginners because they absorb new information relatively quickly, since they tend to have a learner’s mentality and beginner’s mindset.

Martial artists with existing backgrounds tend to find it more challenging (both consciously and unconsciously) to digest the finer points of JKD, especially if their movement and thought patterns have been conditioned over many years to suit other methods.

It also helps if you have done some form of sports, because that will have contributed to your awareness, proprioception and hand-eye-coordination.

Here are some tips for those of you who are concerned:

  • Take baby steps. If you try taking on an entire course or program, it can be rather intimidating. Allow yourself to start small, such as a 30 minute non-obligatory trial class, or watch a short tutorial online on JKD. Take it light and slow, and let your momentum gradually build.
  • Get a friend to try a JKD class out with you. You will feel safer and more enthusiastic with a buddy around to have fun with and be there for you.
  • Observe a class first. This is the best and simplest way to get started. Simply take a look at how JKD classes are conducted at your area, discern if the sessions are ideal for you and above all — remember to speak to the instructor and have him address your concerns.

In summary, progression in JKD depends on two factors:

  1. Your decided level of commitment
  2. Your instructor’s ability to carve out and take you through a functional route map. Remember that as challenging as learning JKD might be for us, it is many times harder for an instructor to effectively teach, get across and impart what he has managed to learn.

For additional queries and concerns regarding progression, grading and curriculum/syllabus in Jeet Kune Do training with me, simply drop a comment below or write to me.

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