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The History of BRUCE LEE'S STREET COMBAT Mixed Martial Arts

The evolution of Bruce Lee's Art as told by my Instructor Paul Vunak.

In 1959 when Bruce Lee came to America his main art at the time was Wing Chun kung fu.He immediately started working out with Americans who were larger and stronger then the partners he was used to.That's when he discovered the limitations of the traditional Chinese fighting art.

Lee ran into Dan Inosanto at the Long Beach Internationals in 1964.In addition to being a martial artist,Inosanto was a world-class athlete,capable of running the 100-yard dash in 9.4 seconds.Over the next nine years,Lee and Inosanto put their heads together to create what's now known as Jeet Kune Do.To that end,they dissected and analyzes every art and philosophy that pertained to street fighting and adopted what they deemed useful.

When Lee passed away in 1973,the mantle of JKD was officially passed to Inosanto.The following year,Inosanto opened the Filipino Kali Academy in Torrance,California.His mission was-and still is-to cultivate and refine the original process used by Lee and himself.

Three years later, I joined the school. On my first day, Inosanto pounded into my head what he believed was the most important principle in JKD: Constant growth and progression. Indeed, the words on his teaching certificate echo this concept: "Change is necessary so the practitioner can adapt to the ever-changing times and situations."

The reason JKD was and still is so effective is it's cutting edge. For example, during the mid-1970's, everyone used to kick above the waist only. The folks that were at the top of the heap in the martial arts were the fighters from the Professional Karate Association. They believed that irreparable damage would result if the knees were struck by leg kicks. We JKD students disagreed. Very few people knew much about Muay Thai in those days, but it happened to be one of the last arts Lee and Inosanto explored before Lee died.

To continue the exploration, the academy invided Chai Sirisute, a world-champion Thai boxer, to teach. We fell in love with the art. Its effectiveness was such that we incorporated it into the JKD curriculum.

Throughout the remainder of the '70s and into the early '80s, while most American martial artists were fighting from a low stance and throwing face kicks, we were slamming our opponent's front leg with the infamous Thai round kick. Right afterward, we'd clinch and throw elbow strikes and knee thrusts Thai style. That curriculum served us well right up until 1983, when we encountered the Gracies.

My first experience with Rorion and Royce Gracie left me speechless, angry and enarmored. I decided to train in their art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, full tim and became quite fanatical. A few years later, Inosanto and Larry Hartsell caught the bug. Not long after, Inosanto became Rigan Machado's oldest black belt. By 1985, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu had become an official part of our JKD curriculum. If you were a fly on the wall at the Filipino Kali Academy around that time, you'd have witnesed full-contact sparring that included jabs, crosses, kicks, clinches, elbows, knees, take-downs, arm locks, triangles and chokes. In other words, it would have looked like the mixed martial arts.

The conclusions we discovered in our JKD classes are identical to the conclusions the MMA world has discovered: Ninety-five percent of the techniques you need for one-on-one empty-hand combat come from two arts--Thai boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Don't believe it? Here are some statistics from MMA that will back up my statement. In the 700 fights that the Ultimate Fighting Championship has hosted as of this writing, there were 432 victories and 268 matches that went to a decision. Two hundred eighteen of the victories were by knockout-the result of punches, kicks, elbows or knees, mostly Thai style. Most were effected from the Thai clinch. Clearly, most of the stand up techniques come from the Thais. There were 214 victories on the ground due to submission. The stemmed from arm locks, leg locks, triangles and chokes-the staples of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Few martial artists even knew of them until Royce Gracie came along and won the first few UFC shows. Once you have the foundation of Thai boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you should spice up your game by throwing in other styles. Greco-Roman wrestling is renowned for its clinch, wing chun for its emphasis on forward pressure and savate for its full-power kicks-the kind Mirko "Crocop" Filipovic uses.

In 1989 Inosanto decided that shoot fighting might be beneficial to his students, so he arranged for Yori Nakamura to start teaching. As was the case with Muay Thai, the Japanese hybrid art quickly attracted an enthusiastic following. Four years later, Erik Paulson-in my opinion, Inosanto's all time best student-won the light-heavyweight title at the Shootfighting Championship of the World. That helped solidify the art's contribution to contemporary JKD.

So where does original JKD fit in? When the term "original JKD" is used, it's in reference to the combined curricula of the Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles Chinatown schools before Lee's death. Most JKD practicioners believe that the original curracula should be preserved and immortalized. That's why, for the past 25 years, I've made it mandatory for all my phase-one students to learn original JKD.

When I hear people ask whether original JKD is better than contemporary JKD, which is often called "JKD Concepts," I have to smile and scratch my head. That's because original JKD is contained within contemporary JKD. It's like asking, Which is better, a jab or boxing? Since the jab is part of boxing, the question doesn't make sense. Another reason for not comparing the two has to do with being fair to Lee, who's no longer around to defend his views.

Furthermore, he's no longer around to evolve. To be competitive in fighting nowadays, you must have a good clinch that focuses on the neck or the body , good takedown defense and a good ground game. They're not part of original JKD because they weren't part of the public consciousness until the first UFC took place in 1993-20 years after Lee's death.

Once you've gone through the rigors of getting your Thai boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu up to par, logic dictates that the only way to continue to progress is to cheat. The cheats that serve you best in personal combat are the stick and knife and kina mutai, the Philipine art of uninterrupted biting and eye gouging. Weapons first: Seventy-six percent of altercations involve some sort of weapon. That statistic comes from the FBI, DEA and various polive departments. When a fight begins the immediate visceral response is to reach out and grab something-a tire iron, crowbar, pocketknife, broken bottle, pool cue, ect.

That means you could be a UFC champ who's out on the town celebrating and you run into some knucklehead drunk who pulls out a knife. Chances are your octagon skills and experience won't help much. There are certain edged-weapon principles you need to know to stay alive.

Most human beings, including JKD practitioners, think survival is a good thing, so it makes sense to augment your empty-hand skills with Philippine weapons skills, both offensive and defensive. As Lee taught, in the world of combat, no one style, system or ethnicity has it all. Just as Brazilians are experts on the ground and the French are experts with their high kicks, the Filipinos are experts with cutting tools.[ I highly recommend making Kali or Escrima part of your game.

When it comes to biting and eye gouging, the Filipinos are also light years ahead. The main difference between a kina mutai bite and a plain bite is how, when and where the teeth are used. When a Kina Mutai practitioner goes to work, it's with an uninterupted series of bites. He knows the places on the body that are most vunerable, and he knows when a bite will have the greatest effect.

Example: He'll grab you with his incredible grip strength and rip into your flesh like a pit bull-using mainly his canine teeth. It's essential that he hold you in some sort of bear hug while he does this so you can't escape. Every bite or eye gouge he effects will be augmented with his right hand gripping his left wrist or vice versa for a nearly unbreakable hold. The bites will entail repeated circular flesh ripping. When applied over and over, the damage is unimaginable.

When the art's incorporated into contemporary JKD, the philosophical guidelines of the style keep you from escalating the level of violence unless you must protect your family or complete a mission-for instance, while in the military.

Please understand that my intention in writing this essay is not to add yet another name-in this case, contemporary JKD-for all of us to "fuss" over. I am, however, real big on respect. Our of respect for Bruce Lee and his opriginal students, I believe in preserving his original curriculum for posterity. I also believe that the people who've put forth three decades of sweat and blood to keep his art cutting edge deserve respect, as we are all branches of the same tree.

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