I was preparing for last week's classes when I came across the quote above. In the JKDAA, we consider the two simultaneous aspects of our training to be self-protection and self-perfection. Sometimes training tends toward the former, other times the latter, but we also try to keep both in mind. We can see how this mindset echoes the mindset Sijo Bruce Lee wanted to lay out for those following the path of Jeet Kune Do through his words above.
Last week in class, we were focusing on the JKDAA's military combatives curriculum, called Rapid Assault Tactics. The first purpose of our tools would seem to be the one we should have in mind then. Self-protection in a combative situation, be it the battlefield or civilian self-defense, can involve the annihilation of the opponent in front of us. The first purpose of our tools; kicks, punches, chokes, would be use in literal, physical combat. That is then contrasted with the second purpose of internal development that Sijo speaks of. This contrast is not wrong, the first use of our tools does certainly involve actual application in hand to hand combat...but to end the discussion there is to ignore the further clarification that Sijo explains, "the annihilation of things that stand in the way of peace, justice and humanity."
Certainly, for the soldier, annihilation of the things that stand in the way of peace, justice and humanity may involve engaging in actual combat to remove a dictator from power. For the rest of us, there may come some point in time in which we need to actually fight for these lofty goals, but to say that our training to annihilate the things that stand in the way of peace, justice and humanity is limited only to actual physical combat is reductionist and limiting. It would seem to create a false dichotomy between the two purposes that Sijo lays out.
While the language of these goals may seem conceited, it is actually very much fitting with both the Zen Buddhist aims of Jeet Kune Do as well as the Southern Chinese martial arts views of martial virtue and the Confucian emphasis on the individual's roll in society. The two aims of your natural weapons that Sijo lays out are not necessarily just a contrast of physical versus mental, but of external forces and internal forces. Seen in that light, these two aims aren't two separate things, but parts of a united whole.
So how does training in Jeet Kune Do help me to annihilate the things that stand in the way of peace, justice and humanity? By by destroying impulses toward base self-preservation, I learn to seek the preservation of my neighbor as well, instead of placing myself in conflict with him. By destroying the things bothering my mind, I become at peace with myself, rather than becoming a force of aggression in my community. By overcoming my own greed, angry, and folly I put myself in a place from which I no longer stand in the way of peace, justice, and humanity. From this place, I can act in my own community to sue for peace, to work for justice, and stand for the virtues of human decency.
The opponent in front of us may be a literal person. For those of us not involved in military or law enforcement, it is hopefully something that never happens. So do you spend your life training for a few moments of actual fighting, or does following the path of Jeet Kune Do have an impact on every moment of your life every day?
News & thoughts from Maryland Jeet Kune Do!