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Jeet Kune Do Training & Historical Research: Fencing's Influence on Bare-Knuckle Savate, Boxing, and Wing Chun

Updated on October 11, 2016

Bruce Lee's martial art of Jeet Kune Do is referred to as a personal system of fighting based on the arts boxing, fencing, and Wing Chun. The assumption here is there are three totally different arts. They are and they aren't. Fencing is the grandparent to modern boxing. Old-time bareknuckle boxing was based on fencing without the foil. The arrival of gloves changed the sport forever, but the fencing influence (and modifications) remain. The Kung Fu system of Wing Chun has many elements of rapier fencing and footwork. The hand positioning is similar in many ways to bareknuckle boxing. The influence of the Butterfly Swords is significant as well.

Traditionally, bladed weapons played a major role in the evolution of empty-hand fighting arts. Since people are not as well-versed in sword arts anymore, an understanding of how fencing and other weapons systems/sports contributed to combat arts is lost. Many do not even realize the classical form of French Savate has a strong fencing influence as well. In the JKD world, some do put heavy emphasis on savate training but their number has diminished in recent years. Those who do train in the art focus on the modern ring sport version. Very, very few people inside and outside of the Jeet Kune Do and Savate community know the "old savate" methods and techniques. Sadly, like so many classical fighting systems through history, the world moves on and these arts become lost or forgotten.

Savate Video Notes

The above video details a few notes about fencing's influence on savate, boxing, and Wing Chun. It is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion on a very long and detailed subject. Rather, it just a demo designed to raise some points. The information on the video is for demonstrational and informational purposes only. Do not train any martial arts techniques without qualified or experienced instruction, training equipment, medical clearance, and the like.

History Lessons and the Martial Arts

Not everyone is going to be interested in history lessons about boxing, savate, Wing Chun, fencing, and the like. Questions arise why is it important to learn about old fighting methods that have morphed into something new as culture, times, and taste change. For one, there is always something that can be extracted from fighting arts of antiquity. Changes and alterations may be required, but there are things that do have a timeless value to them. The mechanics of a vertical bare-knuckle fist strike are designed to prevent unnecessary injury to the hand. Reducing the chance of an injury is not exactly and outdated concept.

Secondly, learning history provides an interesting perspective on the path that eventually led to where we are today. This can influence the learning and teaching process immensely.

Third, since when is knowledge a bad thing? Bruce Lee may not have practiced every single art he researched or read about, but he was certainly well-read on the martial arts. His knowledge comes across when he spoke and wrote about the subject and this did help set him apart from contemporaries immensely.

That's one of the reasons he is still remembered.


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