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Five Years of Jeet Kune Do

I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen a Bruce Lee movie start to finish. I saw Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, and loved it, but I think I was born too late to really appreciate Lee’s groundbreaking work. Instead, I was raised on a steady diet of American-made ninja movies, like Pray for Death and the aptly named American Ninja. Then came the Once Upon a Time in China movies with Jet Li and Iron Monkey with Donnie Yen. And of course, there was Jackie Chan.

Chinese martial arts movies like The Legend of Drunken Master and the lesser titled The Legend, have something American movies like Best of the Best and Kickboxer sorely lack: fun.


After five years at Austin Impact Jeet Kune Do, I’ve seen a lot of students come and go. Lately, I’ve been thinking more about what brings them to class, and ultimately, what sends them away. Were they looking for immediate self-defense, something more like Krav Maga? Or were they looking for something more regimented and serious, like Wing Chun?

What drives people to take up any martial art at all?

I took a break from Jeet Kune Do during my fourth year, mostly to clear my mind and let my body recover (and get fat), but also because, for a short period, I felt there was no one coming to class for the same reason I was, which was to have fun.

That’s the great thing about the way Sifu Forrest leads classes at AIJKD. We have goals, things we need to learn, but class is about as laid back as you can get without descending into anarchy. When I decided to come back, I started with one-on-one classes with Forrest specifically because I knew they would be fun. No newbies to train. No egos to contend with (especially mine). Just friends kicking the crap out of each other.

Later, after I rejoined the regular classes, I was happy to find more people who shared my desire to make training lighthearted and enjoyable. That’s not to say that you can’t get a good workout at AIJKD, or that you’ll be the only one taking it seriously as you train for your Amateur MMA bout. You and I just won’t be working together that often. Instead, you’ll hear me laughing and adding sound effects to my punches and kicks from across the room.

Everyone has their own reason. Self-defense, fitness, daddy issues, etc.

Right before I took my break, another student scolded me for only sparring with Lauren. My ego didn’t allow me to be eloquent with my response, so I chested up and told him to mind his own business, which is never a great thing to do in a place where everyone is learning to hurt each other.

What I couldn’t articulate then was that Lauren was one of the last people I trusted to spar with. After years of fractures, bruises, and blood, I wasn’t in the mood anymore to spend weeks recuperating because someone else was trying too hard or didn’t have control. More importantly, sparring Lauren (and others, like Forrest) was fun. With longtime sparring partners, sparring becomes more of a chess match. You know what the other is capable of, and you spend the round trying to surprise each other.

It’s endlessly entertaining, and I wouldn’t trade it for a hundred matches where I have to keep repeating take it down a notch before unloading a heavy hook and feeling shitty about it later.


So what have I learned after five years of JKD? Mostly that I should have started sooner. I was 31 years old when I joined, and I got knocked out during my second spar ever (at least, that’s how I remember it). The same year, I fractured my ribs, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. How’d you hurt yourself? Fighting! Yeah, but what I didn’t realize was that injuries stack up, as do the medical bills that come along with them. As you get older, and your responsibilities start to dominate your life, you realize that you can’t afford to get hurt. My foot still aches where I fractured it, and that’s never going away.

For some people (like the Daniel who wrote Three Years of Jeet Kune Do), JKD is a way of life. I thought it might be that for me, but the older I get, the more I realize it’s really just a hobby. It’s a way to experience first-hand the joy I see on Jackie Chan’s or Jet Li’s face as they wail away on an opponent. It doesn’t relieve stress for me; why would I want to take that out on a fellow student? I have Bob at home for that.

 Welcome to your new home, Bob. Your time here… will not be pleasant.
Welcome to your new home, Bob. Your time here… will not be pleasant.

There was a time when I was embarrassed about my motivation. I’m not an alpha male out to conquer the world with his bare fists. I’m not a my-body-is-a-temple type on a spiritual journey to become one with the universe through well-executed spinning back kicks.

These days, I don’t mind telling other students that I’m not there to be a punching bag, and that I have no interest in turning it up so they can feel the sting of getting punched in the face. That’s not what I’m about.

I’m just a guy looking to enjoy his limited time on earth. I want to socialize. I want friendly competition. I want to make noises every time I throw a punch because it reminds me of the movies.

Fortunately, there is room for everyone at Austin Impact Jeet Kune Do. Sifu Forrest is there to teach you what he knows about The Way of the Intercepting Fist, and as Bruce Lee said, you’re free to absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.

So come by, punch things, get sweaty, and most importantly, have fun.

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