CHRIS KENT / SHANNON LEE: Finding A JKD Instructor
As enthusiasm for Bruce Lee’s art grows, we are contacted by more and more people who are interested in learning and practicing Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do. Every day we receive questions like – “How can I find a JKD instructor?” and “What should I look for in a JKD instructor?”
The JKD world has changed a great deal since Bruce Lee’s passing. The human scale of the art has grown considerably – with new generations of students and instructors coming on the scene, as well as various, and sometimes disparate, JKD groups coming into existence. Numerous books and articles concerning both Bruce Lee and his art have been written. Videos and DVDs have been created, detailing various aspects of JKD. Over the years, this has resulted in confusion within the general public.
So, if you are interested in learning JFJKD, what sort of things should you look for in an instructor?
First, to be crystal clear, the Bruce Lee Foundation doesn’t make, certify or typically recommend instructors. However we can, and would like to, offer some information we feel might be helpful to anyone seeking to find a JFJKD instructor. There are several facets we feel are important with regard to any instructor. Read on.
PASSION FOR THE ART
Bruce Lee was passionate about the art he developed, and we believe that anyone teaching JFJKD should likewise exhibit a passion for the art; a passion that is visible when they are teaching the art and/or discussing it.
Lineage – A qualified instructor should be able to trace their lineage back to a legitimate source, be it Bruce Lee himself or a legitimate first generation student of Bruce Lee. We believe this is important because it is one way to ensure that the instructor you are thinking of studying with has a true and genuine foundation for their knowledge. It is an unfortunate fact that around the globe there are individuals exploiting Bruce Lee’s name, and the name of his art, whose knowledge is based solely, if not to a large extent, on merely watching Bruce Lee movies or reading books about him. It is important to understand that there is a big difference between what is commonly referred to as “cinematic JKD” and “functional JKD.”
Training Background – An instructor should be open and transparent with regard to their personal training and development in JFJKD. What type of training has the instructor had? Have they trained for a significant period of time at a legitimate training facility? (Size of the facility is not indicative of legitimacy – the location may be a professional martial art school or it may be a small group that meets in a person’s backyard or garage – Bruce himself utilized both of these methods). In the same way, is their instructor certification based primarily on seminar training or participation, or based on consistent, in-house training? (Note – This by no means should serve as the sole metric upon which an instructor’s legitimacy should be based). The fundamental point is that when you are looking for an instructor it is important that you dedicate the time and effort to find out WHO a potential instructor studied with and HOW LONG they studied with the person(s).
Technical Knowledge and Proficiency – An instructor should possess a good understanding of physical techniques and training principles of JFJKD. They should be able to convey the techniques and principles in movement and language. This also presupposes that an instructor should possess a good level of physical fitness. (Note – Many of the original students of JKD are older now, but it does not make their knowledge or instruction any less valuable. Through the use of assistants, the material can still be imparted clearly to students).
Philosophical Knowledge and Understanding – In addition to physical curriculum, an instructor should possess a good comprehension and understanding of the philosophical principles and concepts that serve as one of the foundation stones of JKD, and strive to impart these principles to their students. When appropriate, they should be able to relate various philosophical tenets directly to physical techniques and actions which are being taught. For example, “Be like water.” is not just a catchy tag line to post on Instagram. Bruce’s words have substance, meaning and can be applied precisely to the skills being taught.
Whether an instructor teaches in a commercial school or in a private backyard or garage environment, they should conduct themselves in an ethical manner, and following a code of ethics that includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- They should maintain complete transparency with regard to their qualifications, training, etc. They should represent themselves to the public in an honest manner – at no time misrepresenting their training and competence in any way that is false or misleading.
- They should strive to maintain and/or increase their knowledge and skills pertaining to JFJKD. This relates to such things as technical skills, teaching and training methodology, and philosophical understanding.
- They should show respect for other JKD instructors and practitioners, even if they disagree with their methods, ideas, etc. The Bruce Lee Foundation believes that negative behaviors such as harboring bad feelings in their students about other practitioners, and asking students to participate in negative campaigns against other instructors, only serve to create division in the JKD community and create a negative personal practice and attitude for the people involved.
- They should aim to develop in their students an appreciation of the principles of JFJKD – and foster a spirit of inquiry into the acquisition of knowledge and understanding.
- They should endeavor through their actions as an instructor to enhance the public’s regard for JFJKD.
People are different and have different reasons for coming to the art of JFJKD, as well as different goals or objectives. Therefore, it is important that a person seeking to learn JFJKD find a qualified instructor that suits their individual needs and desires. When visiting a potential training facility or interviewing a potential instructor, in addition to the material we’ve discussed, some things you might want to look at are:
Does the instructor have a good attitude? Do they foster a positive attitude among their students and in their classes? Is the instructor encouraging and optimistic while challenging their students to be their best? What about the students, do they exhibit a good attitude during training? What do they have to say about their time learning under that instructor?
TEACHING AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Does the instructor communicate clearly when teaching? Do the students understand the lessons and what is being asked of them in class? Do the lessons being taught seem to make sense?
What size are the classes, big, small? Does the class size fit well with you? Does the instructor give individual attention and feedback during lessons? Does the instructor adapt the teaching to the needs and strengths of individual students?
Finding a good, qualified instructor is extremely important for anyone sincerely interested in learning Bruce Lee’s art and philosophy of JFJKD. So take the time to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before deciding on a course of action. We hope this information proves helpful to you, and best of luck on your JKD journey.
Chris Kent has dedicated his life to the art of Jeet Kune Do, and is considered one of the worlds leading instructors and practitioners. Chris has also generously donated countless hours of his time, energy and expertise to the Bruce Lee Foundation in the areas of high level strategy and sharing his unique approach to self liberation, and JKD, with our community through seminars and workshops. Learn more about Chris here.
Chris has also created an online JKD Training Advisor, “designed to help people comprehend the true nature of Jeet Kune Do and serve as a non-biased source of information for individuals who seek to increase their understanding and comprehension of Jun Fan Gung Fu and Jeet Kune Do”. Learn more about the JKD Training Advisor here.