Dan Inosanto on Ranking in Jeet Kune Do

October 13, 20150 Comments

Sifu Inosanto Sets the Record Straight

Sifu Dan Inosanto tries to calm the confusion running rampant within JKD circles. He says if you didn’t study with Bruce Lee, you can’t call it Jeet Kune Do.

By Dan Inosanto

While Bruce Lee was alive, there were only three individuals who were ever certified and authorized by him to teach the art of Jeet Kune Do. The highest-ranked instructor ever certified by Bruce Lee is Taky Kimura, who attained the level of fifth rank and is my senior. The only other instructors certified by Bruce Lee were the late James Lee and myself. Both James Lee and I were awarded thrid rank.

The most senior advanced student at this time was Ted Wong, a classmate of mine and a private, personal student of Bruce Lee, who attained the level of second rank in Jeet Kune Do. Most other students at this time were ranked in Jun Fan Gung-Fu, not Jeet Kune Do. Ted Wong was one of the few people to have achieved rank in Jeet Kune Do under Bruce.

You could receive a Jun Fan Gung-Fu certificate by training in a small group session, class session or private session under Bruce Lee, Taky Kimura, James Lee or myself. But to receive the Tao of Chinese Gung-Fu certificate or the Jeet Kune Do certificate, you had to be personally trained under Bruce Lee on a one-on-one basis. Only Bruce Lee could give this certificate in Jeet Kune Do.

That is why I have never given a JKD ranking certificate to anyone to this day. If everyone in the JKD clan would read his certificate, you will see it reads Jun Fan Gung-Fu, Jun Fan Martial Arts or Jun Fan Martial Arts (Jeet Kune Do Concepts).

A Jeet Kune Do certificate means you trained with Bruce Lee on a one-to-one basis. He reserved the right for himself; only he could give a certificate in Jeet Kune Do. Since Bruce died I cannot issue a certificate in Jeet kune Do, but I can issue a Jun Fan Gung-Fu certificate and pass on the concepts and principles that he gave me. In honor and memory of Bruce Lee I still have a Jeet Kune Do family and clan tree, which teaches the Jun Fan Gung-Fu and Jeet Kune Do concepts.

Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do certificates

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In other words, we are constantly researching and developing the goals of Jeet Kune Do Concepts, beginning with the basis of Jun Fan Gung-Fu, and exploring other existing methods with which we personally and individually come into contact. Jeet Kune Do is not a style, but way of thinking, training, researching, and experimenting. We are constantly exploring ourselves, internally and externally. I have been asked many times if I am teaching what Bruce Lee taught me, and the answer is yes and no. Bruce Lee taught everyone differently. I observed him on what he taught, what he shared and how he shared that knowledge with that individual. He was unique as a teacher, especially when dealing one-to-one. Bruce Lee taught me how to train, research and experiment for myself. This was Jeet Kune Do concepts. Some of these things can be passed on, but others are harder to disseminate because they may not fit a particular student.

To further explain, let’s compare Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do to writing a history term paper. Let’s say Bruce Lee was writing a term paper on World War II and he used seven sources to compile his material. The paper was turned in and his teacher termed the work “brilliant.” He receives an “A.” I use identical material but get a “B.” The material was there but I could not receive the same grade Bruce got by using his method. Now let’s say instead of using the books Bruce recommended, I use 15 other books and 12 magazine articles on the war for my research. Then I talked to people who were in the second World War, and I included that in my research. I also included passages from books written by a Japanese author, a German author, an Italian author, a Korean author, an English author, a French author, and views from a solider, housewife and a ssailor. Whether or not I received an “A” from my teacher depends on my ability to express myself. But regardless of the grade, I would have gained much more insight, knowledge and understanding than if I had stayed with the seven books which comprised the method used by my friend Bruce.

And this is the method I like to think I am using with the Jeet Kune Do concepts.

To follow Bruce Lee’s way would be wrong; but to use his formula for research, development and growth is a more valid way to go.

This article was published in the July 1988 issue of IKF. 

About the video: In the video, Sifu Dan Inosanto gives his thoughts on ranking in Jeet Kune Do. 

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