Bruce Lee is quite often labeled as the grandfather of the modern MMA movement, so there is no surprise to me that there is some debate about whether JKD is MMA or whether MMA is better than JKD. Many even wonder if MMA would’ve been the direction Bruce took with JKD were he still alive today. Jeet Kune Do is quite often described as a mixture of many different arts, not completely dissimilar to MMA however, I believe this is false understanding of what JKD actually is. Simply stating “JKD is MMA” is showing a lack of understanding as to what the core concepts, philosophy and techniques that make up JKD are.
So how is JKD different from MMA? When someone refers to an MMA fighter they are usually speaking about the different branches of martial arts that make up that fighter’s arsenal: whether it is Jiujitsu, Muay Thai or wrestling. I, and many JKD enthusiasts, consider JKD to be a fighting style of it’s own, not completely dissimilar to how Wing Chun or Shaolin Lohan are consider separate fighting styles.
First off, there is some confusion as to how Bruce put together Jeet Kune Do. He was a student of the arts first and foremost, and therefore owned THOUSANDS of books on the subject. He studied and trained with everyone he could. It is this thirst for knowledge that may have lead many to believe that Bruce was just picking and choosing from all the different styles he studied, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In truth, Jeet Kune Do has it’s own set of core techniques and philosophies that set it far apart from many of the other fighting arts out there.
Bruce prided his system on directness and simplicity. He believed with a small arsenal of 10, well-trained tools you could get the job done better than you could with a complex system consisting of dozens of techniques. So unlike MMA which IS an amalgamation of different martial arts, Bruce Lee has crystallized Jeet Kune Do into its own system with its own core values different from anything else out there.
This phrase really helps bring to light some of the major differences in the two fighting styles. I am quite often asked what is the better martial art: Jeet Kune Do or Mixed Martial Arts? Let me get out of the way that I don’t believe in better systems; only better martial artists. If I loose a fight to an MMA fighter, it doesn’t mean his SYSTEM is better, it means HE is better and I need to train more! With that said, there are major differences in HOW the systems are applied:
In MMA, its quite obvious that a fighter with a dominating ground game will come out the victor again and again. You are in a ring squaring off against a single fighter. Take the guy down! In a street fight, taking a guy to the ground is a horrible idea. This is why JKD doesn’t emphasis ground fighting. You need to use your footwork to stay OFF the ground. The mistake I see many MMA fighters do is take a guy to the ground in a street altercation. Getting a guy in a full mount only to get a baseball bat to the back of your head from one of his buddies can’t be considered effective. My Sifu, Rain Burgess has plenty of photos of guys with horrible knife wounds in their backs because they thought taking someone to the ground was the way to go, only to find out his buddy was standing right there with a blade.
The difference in JKD and MMA is that one is a dirty, street savvy form of self defense and the other is a sport combative; meant to be practiced in the ring with rules and guidelines as to what can be used against an opponent. Look up the rules to a UFC fight, and you will see a whole list of techniques that you can use on the street to get yourself out of trouble! Many of the techniques in Jeet Kune Do, if used in the ring, would get you disqualified FAST. Bill Jee (eye strikes), groin strikes, targeting the back of the head: this is just small example of what I would use in a street fight that would get me thrown out of any MMA organization. The strikes are designed to cause maximum damage in a short amount of time. No matter how much of a rivalry two UFC fighters may have, they still want the other guy to go home to his family at the end of the fight.