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The Origin of JKD

There are several schools in the Portland area teaching Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do (JKD). This martial art has quite a controversial history behind it.

It is said in some Wing Chun circles that Bruce Lee was told by Ip Man not to show any Wing Chun to foreigners before Lee left Hong Kong to come to America (before Bruce Lee became famous). This was during a time when most (like about 98%) martial arts masters in China were more guarded about who learned what. Even Chinese nationals were carefully screened for worthiness. Ip Man had already risked reputation by training him because Bruce was born in the US and had some German blood in him (which had led to some discussions amongst Ip Man and his peers). Ip Man felt Bruce Lee showed “determination to learn the skills properly” so he taught him himself. At the time Ip Man was personally instructing only 6 students. The rest of the students learning Wing Chun at Ip man’s gym were being taught by Ip Man’s top students so this was quite an honor for the young Lee.

Upon gaining fame, Bruce Lee returned to Ip Man and offered to buy him a house to continue teaching Bruce more of the system as he had only begun to learn Chi-Sau and had learned little to no kicking or footwork from the system. Ip Man was in pretty bad shape from throat cancer and had little money. He turned his back on Bruce Lee (a symbolic gesture of a teacher who has been shamed by his disciple) and said “ I asked you not to show our art to foreigners. Please leave.”

Knowing that he could not learn much more about Wing Chun without Ip Man’s approval, Bruce Lee set about trying to fill in the gaps of his Wing Chun training with techniques from other systems. He had the money to learn from the best money could buy and he incorporated what he considered useful into his system.

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