Jeet Kun Do, ultimately, is not a matter of petty technique but of highly developed personal spirituality and physique. It is not a question of developing what has already been developed but of recovering what has been left behind. These things have been with us, in us, all the time and have never been lost or distorted except by our misguided manipulation of them. Jeet Kun Do is not a matter of technology but of spiritual insight and training.
A few decades ago, a young man came up with a rather interesting concept, somewhat a radical notion within the martial arts traditions. He began by questioning his own style and started looking into what fighting philosophies were doing. He looked at what each style had in common, what was effective, and what was dead weight carried on simply for traditions sake. From there he filtered out what didn’t work and merged what did into an encompassing philosophy applicable, not only to fighting, but to life in general.
Why do I bring this up in a site dedicated to growing as a man and as a Gentleman? Because it’s way past the time that we should apply this mentality to what it means to be a man and a Gentleman.
What set Bruce Lee apart was the fact that he realized he might not know all the answers, but that the answers were out there waiting for him to uncover them. He got past the egocentric mentality that limits most martial artists as they assume their style is the best, completely developed, and their teachers are infallible. He did the one thing most fighting schools teach their students never to do; to question what you are taught. He promoted the understanding of how rigid styles limit practitioners on two simple facts. The first is there exists a style containing all the answers or can be viewed as the best over the rest. The second is an acceptance that every person is different; what works for one might not work as well for another. This allowed each person to become their own master as they step away from the rigidity of a limited style; where the teacher is simply a guide offering “advice.” The student needs to interpret and internalize knowledge within their own technique and body type.
And isn’t that what the modern idea of Gentleman is? Almost every article on gentlemen starts with the typical reference to chivalry, yet how much of what we have today comes exclusively from the Knightly Orders? How much of it is still a rigid set of rules that has to be followed under penalty of law? The idea of a rigid set of social rules and regulations based on a specific cultural origin is especially questionable when you understand the global and diverse nature of modern society.
I have mentioned several times how each culture around the world and every historical era throughout time have its own version of the Gentleman’s Way. We find surprising similarities between each different versions of gentleman, yet each one has its own uniqueness as well that we can learn from.
We all start off with what was taught to us, usually limited by our immediate environment. It’s defined by our culture, our beliefs, our social standing, our regional location, and our family upbringing. That’s why, even if we all call ourselves gentlemen, we all have our own little rule book. Yet our access to limitless information and knowledge allows us to shatter those limitations. The world’s a big place that’s constantly changing and evolving, so it’s only logical to do the same to avoid being relegated due to natural selection.
We must never fall under the assumption that our “style” is the only right “style.” No single person or philosophy holds a monopoly over what it means to be a Noble Man. We must never fall under the assumption that others have nothing of value to offer us in the way of knowledge. The more we learn and understand, the more we grow as gentlemen. And it’s a gentleman’s priority to never stop growing as a person. So go out, expand your horizons, and Jeet Kune Do the shit out of the gentleman you are!