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Birth of Jeet Kune Do: When It Happened and Why It Matters

Updated: May 10

Burton Richardson with Dan Inosanto
Burton Richardson with Dan Inosanto

I had the privilege of teaching several sessions at Taky Kimura’s Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute of Seattle Instructors Conference in Washington. One topic I discussed was a question that garnered much interest: When did Bruce Lee actually create jeet kune do? 

Does the answer have any bearing on our JKD training all these decades later?

It’s my opinion that understanding when and why JKD was born is extremely important if we are to master the art and then pass it on to the next generation. That’s why I decided to write this article. So when was JKD born? I’ve spoken with hundreds of authorities about this, and most agree that it happened when Lee fought Wong Jak Man in Oakland, California. Their reasoning is that because the fight was far more difficult than Lee had expected, he was inspired to change his ways. His Jun Fan gung fu, which could be classified as modified wing chun, did not hold up well against the kung fu master.

There’s solid evidence that the Oakland fight was where Lee altered his opinions on his previous modifications and, therefore, was where JKD really started. But consider this: Was that truly the birth of jeet kune do, or did it just mark the conceptualization of JKD?

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