Bruce Lee Kung Fu: Jeet Kune Do and Wing Tsun

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Bruce Lee and his teacher Yip Man

Jeet Kune Do, also known as Jeet Kun Do or Jeet Kuen Do, is a Kung Fu system founded by martial artist and movie star Bruce Lee (born Lee Jun Fan; 1940–1973) in 1967. It originated from Wing Tsun Kuen (Kuen means boxing), western boxing and other genres of martial arts.

Wing Tsun has been a popular martial art system in Southern Chinese provinces since early Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). Its techniques and philosophies are the most important elements of Bruce Lee’s JKD system. For example, today the teachers of Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do schools use wooden dummies for their training classes, which Bruce Lee learnt from Wing Tsun master Yip Man in the 1960s.

Self Defense Classes for Women: History of Wing Chun

Bruce Lee learnt Wing Tsun, also known as Ving Tsun or Wing Chun, from martial artist Yip Man (1893–1972). According to Yip, Wing Tsun might be founded by a Buddhist nun, and a woman was her student. This is a story about two women and their female self defense training.

In his article History and Origin of Wing Tsun written in the 1950s, Yip Man told people a story: In early Qing Dynasty there was a girl whose name was Yim Wing Tsun (Yim is her surname and Wing Tsun the given name). Yim had become engaged to a businessman in Fujian province but a local tyrant wanted to marry her. Yim rebuffed the tyrant’s marriage offer but the tyrant insisted and tried to force her family to consent. A Buddhist nun, who was one of the best Shaolin Kung Fu players, taught Yim boxing skills, and Yim finally defeated the tyrant. Yim thereafter married the businessman and taught him the skills. Later her husband named the martial arts system after her.

From Jeet Kune Do to Wing Tsun: Tao, Techniques and Training

Wing Tsun is a Kung Fu system with direct and straightforward movements. Unlike other classical martial arts systems such as Tai Chi, Xing Yi and Ba Gua, Wing Tsun believes the simplest is best and the economy of motion. Bruce Lee accepted these philosophies (Tao) and put them in his Jeet Kune Do practices and principles.

For example, Bruce Lee stressed efficiency in Jeet Kune Do: an attack should reach its target in the least amount of time with maximum force. The techniques of low kicks can easily illustrate the Tao of These two Kung Fu systems: Jeet Kune Do and Wing Tsun prefer low kicks, as an opponent’s shines, knees and thighs are the closest to the foot, which can reduce the distance of moves and minimize the attack time. Low kicks also provide more stability and are more difficult to detect and defend against.

Sources:

  1. Yip Man, History and Origin of Wing Tsun (about 1950)
  2. Linda Lee Cadwell, the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Ohara Publications Inc. (1975)