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Tao of Jeet Kune Do Book Review – The Art of Street Fighting

Monday, December 29th, 2008



Tao of Jeet Kune Do Cover Image


“Jeet Kune Do is training and discipline towards the ultimate reality in combat.

Jeet Kune-Do is the only non-classical style of Chinese Kung Fu in existence today. It is simple in its execution, although not so simple to explain. Jeet means ‘to stop, to stem, to intercept,’ while Kune means ‘fist’ or ’style,’ and Do means ‘the way’ or ‘the ultimate reality.’ In other words–’The Way of the Intercepting Fist.” – Bruce Lee

The Book
The Tao of Jeet Kune Do is the posthumously published collection of notes scribbled down by Bruce Lee, mostly compiled in a six-month stay in a hospital after having injured his back and later compiled by his wife Brenda Lee into the book you see in the picture above. This book is a culmination of Lee’s lifetime of study in the martial arts spanning numerous styles and forms. Both his library, that contained thousands of martial arts books and his practical experience all come through in this volume.

Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do is as revolutionary and influential a work to the study of hand-to-hand combat as Sun Tsu’s Art of War is to warfare. Just as the Art of War was encompassing with its detailed analysis of troop movements, supply lines, terrain and troop morale, the Tao of Jeet Kune Do exhaustively explores all that goes into a fist fight, covering cardiovascular conditioning workouts, weights, proper stances, movement, mechanics of the punch and kick, parries, ripostes, feints and cadence.

The underlying philosophy of JKD is to be “formless.” That is not to be limited by a specific style and to take what you find useful and throw away the rest. Thus, JKD is a personal study, as much a philosophy of as it is a style of fighting. Tao of Jeet Kune Do is the definitive guide to fighting and for those who have not read it, it will change your conceptions of personal combat forever.

JKD embodies what street fighting really is. No maneuver is off-limits; this includes eye-gouges, strikes to the groin, shin and throat.

The book prepares you for both mentally and physically for a physical confrontation. It stresses that you throw away styles and use simple and direct movements in offense and defense. The basics are covered in the beginning of the work and continue to steadily progress to more advanced techniques and the intricacies of combat.


“In JKD, one does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.

Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum. It is the halfway cultivation that leads to ornamentation. Jeet Kune-Do is basically a sophisticated fighting style stripped to its essentials.” – Bruce Lee

Unique to this book is that when Lee tells the reader how he does a technique it is always followed by an explanation as to why it is the most effective way that he has found of achieving the ultimate goal of winning the fight.

One of the revolutionary ideas Bruce Lee had was that since ninety percent of the punching and kicking was done from the lead hand and leg, therefore a fighter should adopt a southpaw stance to better utilize the strength of their stronger side. JKD boasts one of the best fighting stances in all of martial arts with the on-guard position. It is the perfect balance between attack, defense and mobility.

Bruce Lee’s hastily written notes and caricatures litter the pages and many readers have complained that the work is disorganized and not easily approachable. The reason behind this is that the Tao of Jeet Kune Do was never meant to be a standalone work. Three other books, Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method, Vol. 2: Basic Training, Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method, Vol. 3: Skill in Techniques, Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method, Vol. 4: Advanced Techniques are intended to be read concurrently with it.

I would highly recommend that all people at least take a look at his most approachable work in his series, Basic Training. It is brimming with instructional photographs of the man himself displaying his various techniques and training. While Basic Training is the most accessible work, Tao of Jeet Kune Do is the most important of the series because it outlines the guiding philosophies of JKD, hence my recommendation of this book.


“Too much horsing around with unrealistic stances and classic forms and rituals is just too artificial and mechanical, and doesn’t really prepare the student for actual combat. A guy could get clobbered while getting into this classical mess. Classical methods like these, which I consider a form of paralysis, only solidify and constrain what was once fluid. Their practitioners are merely blindly rehearsing routines and stunts that will lead nowhere.

I believe that the only way to teach anyone proper self-defence is to approach each individual personally. Each one of us is different and each one of us should be taught the correct form. By correct form I mean the most useful techniques the person is inclined toward. Find his ability and then develop these techniques. I don’t think it is important whether a side kick is performed with the heel higher than the toes, as long as the fundamental principle is not violated. Most classical martial arts training is a mere imitative repetition – a product – and individuality is lost.

When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.” – Bruce Lee

See my other related articles also:
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Book Review of Craig Thompson’s Blankets
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