Cross training is a term that has been long used in the athletic community Coaches, whether amateur or professional, have long acknowledged the benefits of exposing their athletes to training methods, concepts and strategies of sports other than those they are training their teams or athletes in. From my early school days through my college sports, cross training was not only accepted, but encouraged. However, this was not the case in the very traditional and close-minded martial arts community of the 1950s and '60s. There were few martial artists who dared to look into arts other than the one they represented. Among those who did see the value of cross training was Mr. Ed Parker, my Kenpo karate instructor. My Sifu, Bruce Lee, was another.
Decades ahead of his time in his fervent pursuit of martial arts knowledge, Sifu Bruce Lee literally left "no art unexamined and researched." Sifu Bruce had the most extensive martial arts library of anyone I have ever met. Not only did his collection consist of martial arts books, but also of body building, nutritional and philosophical publications.
During my training with Sifu Bruce Lee, he was always introducing me to various books that would help my growth in the martial arts and in my personal life. One of these books was The Art of War by Sun Tzu, which contains many principles and concepts that are still valid today.
In this book, Sun Tzu states, "Some people are intelligent in knowing themselves, but stupid in knowing their opponents and with others it's the other way around; neither kind can solve the problem of learning and applying the laws of war".
If you only know yourself and the system you practice, you are only 50% prepared. Sifu Lee knew that, to understand and deal with combat, you must know what other styles and individuals practice and specialize.
During my course in training with Sifu Bruce, he was always researching and experimenting with different tactics and modes of attacks. Sometimes Sifu Bruce would have me attack him in a method from a system or style he was unfamiliar with, to see what response he would instinctively react with.
When I first started training with Sifu Bruce, he was in the midst of creating a "system" of combat that centered around a modified form of Wing Chun -- a blending of his modifications and ideas on the strategies of Western boxing, and then using the principles and tactics for Western fencing. He took kicking from different systems, including Chinese and non-Chinese systems, then customized it for himself.
He was into investigating every known system that he was exposed to during that time period. During this time, he even taught me different sets and forms from a few Chinese systems. He then moved away from this type of training.
I have read in some martial arts publications that he didn't practice the Filipino martial arts such as Eskrima and Kali, and he therefore didn't integrate these arts into his personal system of Jeet Kune Do. While this is true, he was exposed to Filipino martial arts many times by me and, although he may not have put it into his personal system of combat, he did on many occasions practice with me the single stick, double stick and olisi toyuk (nunchaka).
Many people say I taught him the olisi toyuk (nunchaka), single stick and double stick. I like to say I shared with him and demonstrated and practiced with him. We also experimented with light sparring with single stick, double stick and olisi toyuk. So, in my opinion, he practiced the Eskrima and Kali on a small scale to research it, and to put elements of the nunchakas, double stick and single stick in his movies.
You will also read in martial arts publications that Sifu Lee only used Chinese martial arts. Again, this is incorrect.Techniques he modified, equipment he used and principles and concepts he utilized were from many different disciplines and systems.
The best eight examples where Sifu Bruce drew techniques, strategies, principles, concepts, tactics, training progressions and training exercises are:
2. Western fencing
3. French savate
4. Japanese judo
5. Japanese jiu-jitsu
6. Western wrestling
7. Muay Thai elbow and knee
8. Head bun of Burmese bando
An uneducated person may not recognize these elements in Sifu Bruce's personal system because he blended it so well for his personal expression of his Jeet Kune Do. To me, he is like one of those Smoothie juice drinks in a health food store. All you can see is the Smoothie and not all the vitamins, amino acids, or protein powder that might have been mixed into it. A martial artist may not recognize the Judo and Jiu-Jitsu element in it because he enters differently using the Western Boxing and Wing Chun to flow into the throws of Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Chin Na, and then flowing into the submission jocks and chokes.
Sifu Bruce was constantly evolving. When I trained with him in 1964, he didn't possess the alive footwork that he later used. This came about through experimentation and constant practice. I remember when he coined the terms for his foot work, such as step and slide advance, step and slide retreat, etc.
Sifu Bruce Lee practiced what he preached, living by his own creed:
1. "Jeet Kune Do utilizes all ways and is bound by none."
2. "Jeet Kune Do is finding the cause of your own ignorance.
3. "Using No Way as Way" and 'Having no limitation as limitation."
4. '"Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is specifically your own."
It is important that a student in Jeet Kune Do have a good foundation in the Jun Fan method of Gung Fu before he expands, explores and "absorbs what is useful" for his own personal system of Jeet Kune Do.
After a student has a good understanding of the Jun Fan method, I feel it is important for the student not to adhere strictly to the techniques, principles, concepts and strategies of Sifu Bruce Lee.
Each student must depart on his own journey to find what is workable for him in philosophy, technique, tactics, strategies and principles in the Jun Fan method and then explore other methods that interest him.
You have often heard people quote Sifu Bruce Lee saying, "Jeet Kune Do is not the accumulation of knowledge, but hacking away at the unessential." But do they truly understand what they preach? For the accumulation of knowledge and hacking away at the unessential is not a product, but a process. It is a continual process that lasts our entire lives. We are constantly accumulating and eliminating, then again accumulating and eliminating. I practice arts other than Jun Fan and Jeet Kune Do -- such as Silat, Kali, Muay Thai, Savate, Shoot Wrestling, Bando and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu -- so I am criticized by people because they say this is accumulating, and that Jeet Kune Do is an eliminating process. You practice the entire system because it is part of the curriculum and it interests you, but you never embrace the entire system; you embrace what works for you in that system that you are practicing.
In the words of my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor, Rigan Machado, "You don't fit into the Jiu-Jitsu; you make the Jiu-Jitsu fit you." In other words, the entire Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu might not fit you so you must take the parts of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to fit you.
Remember that Bruce Lee was "a finger pointing to the moon," As he said, "Don't gaze on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory." I like to think that Sifu Bruce was a really good finger pointing to the moon.