JKD Summit Not A Journey, An Adventure

Bruce Lees Jeet Kune Do

Stating that there is a divide within the JKD community is not new news. I have been guilty of taking sides and arguing points of view for numerous reasons. After listening to these sides and personalities go back and forth for years, I’ve realized that there has been little or no growth from it.

If you’re a fan of Bruce Lee, or a student formally or informally of JKD, you’ll have your own opinions of the myths, lessons and even specific topics such as what part Wing Chun plays in JKD. I knew that this was going to be the case when I started to interview people about Jeet Kune Do so I could increase my knowledge of the philosophy. Therefore, before each interview I clearly stated that I wanted to keep politics and personalities out of it. I was amazed by the result.

Since then, over the last handful of years, I’ve conducted dozens of interviews with JKD instructors through my JKDnewsletter.com site. It then evolved where I was able to meet with several of them in person to get some of their training on video tape, while also expanding on their stories, lessons and tips.

The goal of the JKD Newsletter was made up of three parts. First it was mainly to offer a resource to my martial arts students. I’ve always told my students, that if their instructor ever says that they know it all, run the other way. These interviews humbled me time and time again, reminding me I have a long way to go and so much more to learn. Therefore, after my original goal of keeping this just to my students, I thought, “Why not make this information open to those outside my student base over the internet?”. This led to the online version of the newsletter.

My second goal was and still is to educate myself. There is a lot I don’t know, and I’m motivated by the fact that many of these great instructors are getting up there in age, as shown by the recent passing of some incredible people. I trained privately for a very short time with Sifu Hartsell and when he passed, I was said, “Damn – I wish I would have asked him this or that…”. I know many other practitioners have recently felt that with Ted Wong and Jerry Poteet.

Thirdly, I have two young sons, and I would love to have a resource for them too. Just like my students, I want them to hear the stories, lessons, and tips right from the “horse’s mouth,” so to speak.

During the interviews, whether in person or over the phone, the instructors stayed away from the rumors, opinions, and the taking sides that has divided this incredible philosophy of such a great man. They focused on their insightful lessons, personal stories and if this were politics, “bi partisan” views of growth. Although many were hesitant to schedule a phone interview with me, and many leary of taking the time out of their day to meet me in person, everyone was relieved when I stated that I didn’t want to hear about “JKD politics”.

When I list some of the names I have interviewed, most note that I have a very, very wide spectrum of JKD Instructors and related Experts in these issues. Some would fight to the death defending JKD, and others have left the JKD circles for various reasons. If you’re a hardcore JKD follower, I doubt you’ll agree with everything every instructor says I the JKD Newsletter… and that is okay. It is actually what I wanted. Not to create tension or infighting, but to create a simple resource where people can explore, and make their mind up for themselves. I know… what a concept.

There is sometimes a fine line between truly seeking the truth and being judgmental. It is important we all respect each other’s point of view and experiences. One of my “sub goals” was to provoke thought. Within this beautiful gift of martial arts, find what works well for you, in your own arena. The challenge is to still respectfully ask the important questions, and get integrity based answers. Everyone’s viewpoint has merit, however “incorrect” you think it is, and I leave that up to the reader to make that decision for themselves.

After I logged in around 30 interviews, I started thinking to myself how great it would be to get some of these people in the same room, sharing what they have to share. I’m not talking about personal anecdotes or funny stories, but specific techniques of JKD. Immediately, a voice in my head shot back with, “Are you serious?”. Some of these people have said some pretty bad things about each other, why and how could I get them all in one room to teach?

Personally, I love a challenge, even if it means putting up with that little voice in the back of my head. I ended up selecting 17 out of the library of JKD Instructors I had, based on offering an eclectic span of ages, experiences, influences and instructional focus. Out of the 17, 15 responded positively, and said they would love to teach at such an event. The other two simply did not get back to me, and I found out one had a bad email address.

The problem was that I never expected 15 to say yes, so now I had to attempt to coordinate a mixture of people who represented a vast spectrum. Some of the 15 could not make the date, while I tried not to duplicate others who might have had similar pasts or present focuses within their training and teaching. I also took into account how fast people responded, almost like a first come first serve reasoning.

I ended up choosing five, consisting of Jim McCann, Tim Tackett, Daniel Lonero, Rick Tucci and Dwight Woods. These gentlemen had an age range from their 20’s to 70’s, some owned 300+ student schools while others taught out of their garage, some have produced DVDs while others do not, some have international seminar schedules while others seem to have the international world come to them at their place of instruction. The date was on, and the instructors were set.

I’ve hosted people for seminars before. Finding the flights, setting a budget, booking the flights, extending the budget, finding a venue, scheduling pick ups, arranging food, organizing support, etc. is a pain. I now had to do that times five, and that is not even focusing on getting anyone to show up yet. That also meant five time slots for teaching, and organizing all of those elements around those times.

I’ve been known to complicate things at times, and I didn’t want this to be an exception, so I also scheduled a separate live online seminar featuring these instructors over the two and a half day event. Even though the seminar was held a short drive from Chicago and O’Hare International Airport, I knew some people could simply not make the event.

Therefore, I had each instructor teach something different than the topic they had already taught on during the in person seminar. I attempted to pay attention to time zones and making sure things were not too early for the west coast, and not too late for the east coast. When I started to get online registrations from Malaysia and Siberia, I had less compassion for those who only had to adjust to one or two time zones.

As a result, viewers got to see these JKD Instructors teach live, back to back. We had people participating from different states across the US, and also had various countries around the world viewing online as they were able to see instructor after instructor take the stage and share their lessons. From an organizational standpoint it was chaotic. Luckily the in person seminar was being held in a ballroom right across the hall from the much smaller room we were broadcasting live from. It was still a balance trying to coordinate times, and shuffling instructors from one room to the next, and staying on time for both the in person attendees and Virtual crowd. In the end, everything went smoothly, and we received great feedback from around the world, and the in person students.

Kick boxing, close quarters, ground fighting, weapons, and every other area of combat was covered by the array of instructors. Attendees definitely got their fill of a wide spectrum of drills, techniques and philosophies. But here was the special part of this event: Some topics overlapped slightly, where attendees got to see similar information taught by different perspectives.

One example is the age old “trapping” topic, which was taught both in “old school” format, and modern day applications by two different people. Attendees got to make up their mind what worked, what didn’t and how they could add what was specifically theirs. Does that sound familiar? There was no infighting, no arguing, no “my JKD is better than your JKD”. At times I felt like I was in a JKD utopia focused on growth, not who was “right”. The question became, “What is right for the moment, your situation and you”. The same occurred with the other stand up, ground fighting and weapons topics.

One of the instructors took me off to the side during the event and told me that I’m not the first person to have several JKD instructors teach at one event. He attended a previous event like this one years ago, and observed something interesting: complete segregation. “Followers” or students of one instructor would only go to that one instructor’s time slot, and purposefully not attend others. It could have been a sign of loyalty, but in many cases it was politics. At this JKD Summit, this instructor was impressed to see the same people stayed for all five sessions, regardless of their affiliation, history or experience level.

Receiving emails before and after the event, I know about half of the attendees came to see a specific person. The incredible thing was that all of them stayed for every other instructor. There wasn’t that blind loyalty, thinking that the guy you really liked knew it all and had all of the answers. Once again, everyone learned from each other. It is easy to say you have an open mind, but actually being taught by someone you may not totally agree with takes character. As a result, I was very proud of all the attendees.

As I finally got to sit down and think back Sunday night after all flights had left, and we packed up all of our equipment and merchandise, I was very grateful. I would have loved to take the credit, but as I thought more it was the instructors and attendees who deserved the most credit for their open minds and focus on giving, not proving. Both students and instructors were just “being” not “doing” anything. Sound familiar again?

The bottom line is that we are all human, and far from perfect. Not just in our martial arts skills, but in our character. I’m not blind to think there wasn’t disagreements between instructors and even attendees. We invariably make fun of something we disagree with or don’t totally understand, whether with the purpose to show our own knowledge, or protect our ego. I’ve been guilty of both. I saw attendees take massive amounts of notes with some, and scramble to write down little tidbits of quotes from others. Everyone had their favorite instructors, but most had their favorites, plural. The point is that almost everyone got something out of every instructor. It might have just been a single technique, or a short phrase which was remembered, but it was still something.

In the end, everyone made friends, and the instructors gained several new fans. I also loved the fact that other guest instructors showed up to watch other guest instructors teach. Some of them even got together before they went live on the net, to discuss what they were going to cover, in order not to overlap and repeat. We all walked away more enlightened, not because one person showed up and preached from a soap box. We all grew not just because we absorbed what was useful, but because we rejected what was useless… with respect.

For more fun facts on the JKD summit seminar, visit JKDSummitSeminars.com.