JEET KUNE DO — “Way of the intercepting fist”

A conversation between Grand Maestro Dan Inosanto and academician Oleg Maltsev

The Jeet Kune Do martial arts approach still fascinates many. Especially today, it seems as if there is a second wave that is no less relevant than in Bruce Lee’s day. Lee can rightfully be defined as an unparalleled figure of the 20th century: martial artist, actor, director, screenwriter, producer, philosopher, simply an outstanding individual with a great sense of humor, in combination with striking self-discipline—all in one person. In the book, Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew, written by his wife, Linda Lee, one may find the following description of the legend:

… He had such a great memory that he could tell jokes for three hours non-stop. Usually, the joke itself was not as interesting as the way Bruce dramatized it. […] It seemed that Bruce lived minutes in a minute, his life was full of life. He despised laziness and he was never in this state of mind spiritually or physically; he never wasted time.

Yes, Bruce Lee lived a brilliant but relatively short life — only 32 years (1940-1973). Recently, I translated a talk about rare and controversial topics between Bruce Lee’s most renowned student – Dan Inosanto – and Oleg Maltsev (founder of Research Institute of World Martial Art Traditions and Criminalistic Research of Weapon Handling)

“We start the attack later than the enemy but finish before him”

Jeet Kune Do Concept

Oleg Maltsev:
When we speak of Bruce Lee’s martial art, is it a system or an approach to the martial arts?

Dan Inosanto:
In my opinion, it is the philosophy — teaching conceptual things. We cannot put it into a uniform curriculum. If there is a curriculum, it can be changed to suit the individual because every person is an individual, and different tactics — different philosophies — fit different individuals. Bruce Lee’s teaching is almost a guide to help a martial artist on their journey.

Oleg Maltsev:
Could we say that Bruce did not formulate a complete, unified system during his lifetime?

Dan Inosanto:
In his lifetime he did not form a complete system, because he knew it would change from year to year, day to day. What is good in one generation might be the opposite in the next generation. I think Bruce Lee understood it and created a system that is an ongoing thing, just like the way of communication in the world has changed. Ways of communication — whether oral or written — are constantly changing from generation to generation.

Oleg Maltsev:
But would you agree that effective things remain as effective as they always were regardless of the generation?

Dan Inosanto:
There are things that would stay the same. It is like music: first, we listened to it on records, then on tape recorders, and now everyone plays it on their smartphones. The ways to listen to music have improved technologically. The same can be said about the methods of warfare. It all began with the primitive use of swords and spears, and over time people have improved their technology.


During the interview, it was confirmed that Bruce Lee himself did not write a single book. His books were written by other people based on the notes of Bruce. Dan Inosanto noted the 1972 book “Wing Chun Kung-Fu” (by J. Yimm Lee) which was ghost-authored by Bruce Lee.

When speaking of the books that will give a person the most accurate and comprehensive understanding of Bruce Lee’s teaching, Professor Dan Inosanto noted that the question is not an easy one, but personally for him the most useful books are: “Dao Jeet Kune Do” (written by Linda Lee based on Lee’s notes) and the first book authored by Dan Inosanto himself:

I think with that knowledge a student can express himself. My first book “Jeet Kune Do. The Art and Philosophy of Bruce Lee” gives guidelines and is dedicated to the philosophy, and shows how Bruce Lee’s views would change over time. Also, the book describes the foundational principles of Jeet Kune Do.

JKD is a system of progression and research and experimentation and creativity

Dan Inosanto


Oleg Maltsev:
Do I understand correctly that the most important thing is to understand philosophy?

Dan Inosanto:
I think philosophy is more important than technique, but many people will probably disagree with me.

Oleg Maltsev:
Could you please tell the main concept that is the foundation of JKD philosophy?

Dan Inosanto:
“Use no way as the way”
“Have no limitation as your limitation”
“Always use what fits your attributes”


Oleg Maltsev:
People argue about whether Bruce Lee’s technique must be repeated the way it is or if any technique could go with the Jeet Kune Do concept. What is the truth?

Dan Inosanto:
In the animal world, a python does not fight like a cobra. I think Bruce Lee wanted to teach us that you have to personalize the system for yourself. What works for one individual, may not work for others in terms of flexibility, agility, balance, coordination… all these things will affect the tactics you use. If you lack flexibility, some systems may not fit you. Also, strength is an important factor. Every system requires you to have a certain amount of strength, stamina, speed and a certain amount of skill (striking skill, punching, take down or grappling). Even if one has the skills, there has to be a strategy to implement that skill. In addition, you need to understand that age comes into play. What worked well for you when you were 20 is not going to work as effectively when you’re 30-40-50 or even 60. That is why it is not even possible to use the same physical tactics. Your training method and your method of defending yourself will change, and that is an ongoing thing. Age is a good teacher.

Oleg Maltsev:
The statement “We start the attack later than the enemy but finish before him” (Dao Jeet Kune do by Bruce Lee) is it the main tactical concept of Jeet Kune Do?

Dan Inosanto:
Yes, it is a technical ability — it takes time to “read” your opponent. A big part of training is learning how to read the intentions of a person before he strikes.

Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto
(Courtesy of Paula Inosanto)

What is important in the study and practice of Jeet Kune Do according to Grandmaestro Dan Inosanto is continuous research, self-development, awareness of your own qualities, and the ability to recognize the qualities of others. As for technique, one has to individualize it for himself and never undermine philosophy. A complete martial art makes your spirit stronger.

Many thanks to Dr. Oleg Maltsev and Grandmaster Dan Inosanto, Paula Inosanto

Author: Kanykei Tursunbaeva