We receive many emails asking us to compare JKD, Tai Chi and KCD. Often they are from JKD students (who are usually very open-minded) looking to augment their regular training and are curious about Tai Chi and its application to real self-defense.

During the Communist revolution in China, many of the Tai Chi masters went underground or emmigrated. Decades later, the government embraced Tai Chi, but as a form of group exercise. The combat aspects were repressed. As a result, much (but not all) of the Tai Chi found around the world today is lacking the combative elements. It can still be found, but it is rare. Temple-trained Master Waysun Liao in Chicago and his students are an example of real combat Tai Chi. One of his students, Dr. Drew Miller, is a great example of "real" combat Tai Chi. I met him several years ago and could tell immediately he was light years beyond some of the Tai Chi instructors I've worked out with who tended to be stiff and unresponsive. His softness is truly effective and frightening because when you push him you feel like you're falling into a black hole. When his fluidity solidifies however, his power seems far greater than his weight would offer. Which brings me to the first point about JKD.

I figured I'd stick in my 2 cents on JKD because that is what I did before Ki Chuan Do. I was beginning apprentice instructor training when I moved too far from my school to continue.

Bruce Lee's original intention (correct me if I'm wrong) was to create a formless art, to "have no way as way." This credo has evolved into "absorb what is useful". What modern JKD does in some schools is to pull techniques from many arts in order to create a more complete, holistic and well-rounded art that is not bound by the traditions of any one art. This was and is, and admirable concept. It creates better and more open-minded students. Unfortunately, although it does raise the level of the average martial artist above what was previously possible, the ultimate goal--dissolving the art, to have no way as way--can become more and more elusive. This is because your mind becomes flooded with more and more "stuff". Wing Chun on Monday, Kali on Tuesday, Muay Thai on Wednesday, Silat on Thursday and Gracie Jujistsu on Friday. You get the idea. It becomes the student's great responsibility to blend everything subconsciously. Many of them do achieve this to a lesser or greater extent, but it depends very deeply on the creative discipline of the practitioner and the insight of the instructor.

This METHOD of training JKD, however (and of course only YOU can be the judge of this!) may sometimes work counter to dissolving technique into formless, spontaneous, reactive action. John Perkins can attest to this because as a cop, he was involved in hundreds of very violent encounters, many leading to the morgue. He experienced and also saw personally how advanced technique training quickly goes out the window when the spit hits the fan. This is why he developed the "Guided Chaos" principles of KCD.

Ki Chuan Do (KCD) avoids this mental mish-mosh entirely by avoiding ALL techniques (except for the basic strikes of Close Combat)and focusing on free, natural, dynamic motion principles whose immediate goal and method of practice is to promote powerful, loose, balanced, random, creative, spontaneous and most importantly, NON-CHOREOGRAPHED martial motion based on FEEL and never on THOUGHT. So in essence, KCD begins where most martial arts end, and goes on from there.

This results, in the words of one major martial arts reviewer, in
"exponential learning." Nothing is memorized. What you learn to do, like any good musician, is how to "jam" with attitude. You take your basic, World War II-proven collection of deadly strikes and you "grease" them with KCD's concept of Guided Chaos. The end result is you fight with no thought, no nervous system lag time. You have no idea what you're going to do next, and if YOU don't, you can be sure your opponent doesn't have a clue, because you telegraph nothing. There's nothing to telegraph.

Getting back to Dr. Miller--one element that I believe is missing in some of the JKD schools and individuals I've come across or read about is the development of "internal energy." Internal energy or Chi is not a myth, it is a blending of physics and anatomy and Ki Chuan Do develops it directly--as does of course Tai Chi (IF it's taught right and many Tai Chi schools don't!!). Drew's got it.

I love JKD. It provides a tremendous vocabulary and context and atmosphere for martial skill development. In view of the above, if you're already training JKD and can't come to a KCD class, try to emphasize complete freedom in application of your skills, and augment it by training tai chi FREEFORM "push hands" with as many different practitioners as possible. Try to put the feel of Tai chi into the strikes of JKD. Strive for what Lee originally intended and dissolve yourself into water and don't get too wrapped around the axle of "mastering" all the many different arts that now fall under the JKD umbrella.

Matt Kovsky

Home of Martial Realists:
"A true link between Internal and External Martial Arts"