“Actually, the father of mixed martial arts, if you will, was Bruce Lee. If you look at the way Bruce Lee trained, the way he fought, and many of the things he wrote, he said the perfect style was no style. You take a little something from everything. You take the good things from every different discipline, use what works, and you throw the rest away.”
In 2004, the founder of the UFC Dana White proclaimed that Bruce Lee was the father of modern-day MMA.
The myth is that some say that Bruce Lee, while he was alive, had studied many martial arts styles and supposedly adopted a lot of techniques which he thought were useful as part of his arsenal. They also mentioned that this was derived from his philosophy, which says, “Absorb what is useful and reject what is useless”. He combined his techniques becoming someone who had mixed many different styles of martial arts and called his style of fighting, Jeet Kune Do.
This actually is not true.
Now I want to debunk this myth by first asking you, why did Bruce call his martial art Jeet Kune Do? and not mix Kune Do?
The answer is obvious, the word, Jeet, does not mean to mix. What does it mean? Now we are warming up. The word Jeet is a Chinese Cantonese word meaning to intercept. Since intercept is a verb, it has a definite specific action which means to stop something or someone from doing something. In the case of combat, it means to stop someone from attacking you. The action of intercepting is far from the meaning of mixing.
So, for those of you who think that Bruce is the father of mix martial arts, think again.
Bruce did not want to mix the martial arts as a means to finish the fight quickly. He wanted to finish the fight quickly by intercepting, which in Chinese, is to Jeet. He wanted to intercept and stop his opponent cold, from advancing, while preparing to launch an attack, hence, finishing the fight even before it starts.
Bruce’s philosophy of “Absorb what is useful and reject what is useless”, sounds practical but it is a philosophy and not useful in methodology. The methodology of Jeet Kune Do is not to mix, but to intercept, or to Jeet.
So, Bruce is actually the father of intercepting, not the father of MMA, but the father of Jeet Kune Do.
PS - If you are in Los Angeles in August 16-19, I am hosting a screening of my new film “Gung Fu, JKD & MMA” as well as some other JKD and filmmaking seminars during this time. I hope you can join me. You can reserve tickets here.